All reviews copyright 1984-2014 Evelyn C. Leeper.
FOUNDATION'S FEAR by Greg Benford:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 12/13/2002]
I read Greg Benford's FOUNDATION'S FEAR, the first of the "Second Foundation Trilogy" (even though it precedes the first "Foundation Trilogy"). The Foundation parts were okay, but the "Voltaire/Joan of Arc" segments and the "pan" segment broke up the flow completely and had (apparently) little to do with the main story. I had heard that this was a problem with this volume, but that the other two (FOUNDATION AND CHAOS by Greg Bear and FOUNDATION'S TRIUMPH by David Brin) are much more focused. We'll see.
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IN THE OCEAN OF NIGHT by Gregory Benford:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 09/26/2014]
IN THE OCEAN OF NIGHT by Gregory Benford (ISBN 978-0-446-61159-6) was this month's science fiction choice. Coincidentally, the book, though written in 1977, is mostly set in 2014. (Well, it turns out that in the second edition, that was moved to 2034, but then it's less interesting to read in 2014.) The novel is not supposed to be a study of Earth in 2014, of course--it is primarily a first contact novel. But when one reads about how there are no more private cars because of fuel shortages/conservation, it is impossible to avoid comparing that with the actual current situation. And when a character in *2019* says he cannot get used to giving a dollar bill for a newspaper and getting no change, well, one has to smile at Benford's optimism.
To order In the Ocean of Night from amazon.com, click here.
MICROCOSMS edited by Gregory Benford:
[From "This Week's Reading", MT VOID, 07/30/2004]
In his introduction to the original anthology MICROCOSMS (ISBN 0-7564-0171-2), Gregory Benford mentions such classics of the sub-genre as Theodore Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God", Frederik Pohl's "The Tunnel Under the World", and James Blish's "Surface Tension"--all of which are must-reads. And the first story, Jack McDevitt's "Act of God", has definite echoes of Moskowitz's story. It is also one of the strongest stories. (This isn't a big surprise. The conventional wisdom for na anthology is to put the strongest story first, the second strongest last, and the rest in-between, in general trying to separate pairs of stories that are too similar.)
Geoffrey A. Landis's "Ouroboros" is computer-based, but unlike some of the other computer-based stories here, is a true microcosm (rather than just a virtual reality situation). While clever, it was also a bit obvious, and also dependent on what may at first appear to be proofreading problems.
Most of the stories in MICROCOSMS, however, seem more about something other than what I would consider microcosms. Robert J. Sawyer's "Kata Bindu" does seem to draw somewhat on "Surface Tension"--but also perhaps on David Brin's "The Crystal Spheres". Pamela Sargent's "Venus Flowers at Night" has a virtual reality that someone in our world experiences, not a microcosm in the sense I would use it. Russell Blackford's "The Name of the Beast Was Number" suggests the idea of a microcosm, but never goes anywhere with it. Robert Sheckley'a "A Spirit of Place" is a limited society, but not a microcosm as I would use the word. Tom Purdom's "Palace Resolution", George Zebrowski's "My First World', Paul Levinson's "Critical View"--they're all something like microcosms without actually being them. And Howard V. Hendrix's "Once Out of Nature" isn't even science fiction so far as I can tell.
Jamil Nasir's "Dream Walking" is somewhere on the border, and related, I think, to H. L. Gold's "Mind Partner"--though not quite as extreme. In fact, the whole idea of recursion seems to be connected to macrocosms, even since Augustus de Morgan wrote, "Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite 'em, And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum, And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on, While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on."
And in "The We Who Sing", Stephen Baxter seems to draw on Olaf Stapledon in what I suppose could technically be called a microcosm, although it could be considered a macrocosm just as easily.
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