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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 05/08/98 -- Vol. 16, No. 45
Table of Contents
MT Chair/Librarian: Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 firstname.lastname@example.org HO Chair: John Jetzt MT 2E-530 732-957-5087 email@example.com HO Librarian: Nick Sauer HO 4F-427 732-949-7076 firstname.lastname@example.org Distinguished Heinlein Apologist: Rob Mitchell MT 2D-536 732-957-6330 email@example.com Factotum: Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-2070 firstname.lastname@example.org Back issues at http://www.geocities.com/~ecl. All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.
URL of the week: http://www.primenet.com/~somtow/index.html. S. P. Somtow's home page. His latest, DARKER ANGELS, is reviewed in this issue. [-ecl]
Free Inside: Last week I was talking about the nifty free things we used to get inside boxes of cereal when I was growing up.
Some Free Insides demonstrated principles of science, assuming the cereal company could do that cheaply enough. Of course they didn't tell the kids that they were learning. I remember Post Rice Crinkles had a little plastic pipe like a bubble pipe, but at the far end were a little plastic basket and a plastic ball. You blew into the pipe and the ball would float on air. Somehow the ball would not fall off the column of air demonstrating what I guess is a Bernoulli Principle. But Post didn't want to explain physics to the kids so they just said something like it was a Magic Pipe. And kids believed it since to a six-year-old the Bernoulli Principle is really advanced science. And any sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic, as Arthur C. Clarke has pointed out. One wonders how many of those kids grew up to be physicists and are out there doing science. Now that I think about it, how many grew up to believe in magic and are calling the psychic hotlines?
Another premium was a piece of very bad photographic paper in a little black envelope. You were supposed to take an object like a key and put it on top of the film and then take it out in the sun for a few minutes. The shadow of the key would be preserved on the film. Then there was the time that Cheerios was sponsoring THE LONE RANGER. The back of the box would be a numbered page of comic art in which the Lone Ranger makes some marvelous deduction. Inside the box in secret writing told how he did it. For example he is chasing some bad guys by their horses' hoof-prints. To throw him off the bad guys intentionally rode over a path were there were a lot of Indian horses through. Yet the Lone Ranger followed just the right hoof prints found the bad guys. All this you could read in the store. But... how did the Lone Ranger follow just the right hoof-prints? The secret clue was inside the box. You would pull out a piece of paper that looked blank. You filled a bowl with water and dropped the piece of paper into it. When the paper got wet it revealed the writing on it. There were something like five numbered clues. This was story number eight so you read Clue Eight and it said in verse--I guess verse made it more mysterious: "The Ranger got the outlaws because he knew/Indians their horses do not shoe."
That one was simply a piece of treated paper so the words changed color when wet, but the Free Insides were often made of real materials. I don't remember any ever being made of wood, though I suppose that it would not be far-fetched for a cereal to give something like a pencil. But they often were made of plastic and sometimes even metal. You had to be able to get to them by feel. I have heard there were kids who would wait for the Free Inside to plop into their bowl. My parents wanted me to wait. Not me. As soon as I got that box home I would stick my dirty little paw into the box and rummage around until I felt the cellophane wrapper. Some cereal companies would make it easy for you and put the Free Inside toward the top. Most would put it toward the bottom so that the wait-for-ploppers would be encouraged to eat the cereal quickly to get their bonus sooner.
These are all memories of my formative years. I will see if I can get all these old memories into a perspective for next week. [- mrl]
DARKER ANGELS by S. P. Somtow (Tor, ISBN 0-312-85931-7, 1998, 381pp, US$24.95) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):
Walt Whitman. Zombies. Abraham Lincoln's funeral. Voodoo. Lord Byron. A panther woman. Edgar Allan Poe. And who better to write about all this but a Thai writer?
Only in America.
Well, yes, but all this makes DARKER ANGELS a hard book to review. I liked it a lot, but much of that may be due to the presence of Walt Whitman as a character. I find Whitman fascinating, not just as a poet, but as an observer of the Civil War. And DARKER ANGELS has a lot of that sort of observation of the Civil War, even if it is leavened with voodoo.
But if you're not a Whitman fan, I'm not sure how you'll react to this. The structure is very complex with Griffin Bledsoe telling Tyler Tyler telling Jimmy Lee Cox telling Zachary Brown telling Mrs. Grainger about the strange goings-on. (Or something like that--I can't be sure this was quite this nested. There may have been some pops on the stack I missed.) The atmosphere is there, but the late appearance of Lord Byron and Edgar Allan Poe was in some way the straw that broke the camel's back, and I have to say that there's just too much going on here to make a satisfactory novel for most people.
But I can't *un*-recommend this either. Ultimately, all I can is that here is what this. If you think it sounds interesting, give it a try. If you think it would give you a headache, give it a miss. [-ecl]
DINOSAUR SUMMER by Greg Bear (Warner Aspect, ISBN 0-446-52098-5, 1998, 325pp, US$23) (a book review by Evelyn C. Leeper):
This is billed as an alternate history, and it is in the sense that its premise is that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's LOST WORLD was non- fiction, and dinosaurs did survive on a Venezuelan plateau. But it's not alternate history in the sense of looking at what changes there would be in society because of the change.
This is not so much a complaint as a warning. If you like alternate histories for that sociological aspect, you will be disappointed in DINOSAUR SUMMER. It is more aimed at the person who enjoyed THE LOST WORLD and wants to read more about dinosaurs and the lost plateau. The story starts out in a dinosaur circus, but that seems mostly to allow Bear to introduce his human, reptilian, and avian characters before heading back to the plateau. Some of the latter two are real, others are fictitious, and you probably can't tell the players without a scorecard, which Bear provides in an afterword.
I was really looking forward to this book, but found it a disappointment. Perhaps I was looking for more change in society than the fact that KING KONG flopped. As an adventure novel, it starts off very slowly, and doesn't offer the reader much to carry hold her interest. I suppose if you really like dinosaurs, they will carry the book, but I found DINOSAUR SUMMER a disappointment. [-ecl]
Mark Leeper MT 3E-433 732-957-5619 email@example.com
Quote of the Week:
If law school is so hard to get through... How come there are so many lawyers? -- Calvin Trillin