MT VOID 09/04/98 (Vol. 17, Number 10)

MT VOID 09/04/98 (Vol. 17, Number 10)

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Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
Club Notice - 09/04/98 -- Vol. 17, No. 10

Table of Contents

Outside events: The Science Fiction Association of Bergen County meets on the second Saturday of every month in Upper Saddle River; call 201-447-3652 for details. The New Jersey Science Fiction Society meets on the third Saturday of every month in Belleville; call 201-432-5965 for details.

MT Chair/Librarian:
       Mark Leeper   MT 3E-433  732-957-5619
HO Chair:     John Jetzt    MT 2E-530  732-957-5087
HO Librarian: Nick Sauer    HO 4F-427  732-949-7076
Distinguished Heinlein Apologist:
       Rob Mitchell  MT 2E-537  732-957-6330
Factotum:     Evelyn Leeper MT 3E-433  732-957-2070
Back issues at
All material copyright by author unless otherwise noted.

URL of the week: David Brin's home page. See a review of his latest, HEAVEN'S REACH, later in this issue. [-ecl]

Guys: In keeping with my editorial of July 4 I notice that Borders Books (in Naperville, Illinois) has out on display the book HOW TO DUMP A GUY by Fillon and Ladowsky. The book appears to be a useful guide to any woman who wants to end a relationship with a man. There is no equivalent book HOW TO DUMP A GAL by anyone by anyone. In fact when is the last time you heard anyone called a "gal?" Why is it so much worse to call a woman a gal than to call a man a guy? [-mrl]

Jury Duty: It was the humorous morning story on Public Radio last week, but I am not sure I find it very funny. I think I will have to retract something I said in this column.

Be warned I may have given some bad advice in this space some time ago. I was talking about jury duty and how to avoid it if you really want to. I suggested that if you really did not want jury duty you say in all sincerity on the papers you fill out "I support my local law enforcement officers and I promise to vote 'guilty.'" The law tells you that you have to vote one way or the other on a jury, but it does not mandate any specific decision process. It is unethical to decide to give a rubber stamp guilty vote, but it is not illegal. It is perfectly legal to place a lot of faith in your local law enforcement officers. And if you want to use that for a decision process, who can tell you that it is illegal?

Admittedly I never actually tried saying I promised to vote guilty. But apparently there was a similar case to this just this last week. There was a guy who really did want to get out of jury duty. Now, he was on kidney dialysis, and that would have gotten him off. But he was of a playful frame of mind and he instead made a statement on his written jury materials that he hated blacks, police, and judges. He undoubtedly thought this should disqualify him, as indeed it should have. Instead he was cited for contempt of court and sentenced to fifty hours of public service.

Now I don't mean to defend someone who hates blacks, policemen, and judges. Well, ... yes, I do. You can in this country legally hate anyone you want. I won't say that it reflects well on you, but it is legal. There is not much you can legally do about fulfilling the hatred, thank goodness, but there is no law against hatreds. But if someone does have the hatreds, do we really want him or her on juries? I think not. Few of these people are going to self- identify. But if they are willing to self-identify, it seems stupid to say they will be charged with contempt of court. That just sends a message to keep their hatred secret and go ahead and serve on the jury. If someone is willing to admit bigotry they really should be free to disqualify themselves from jury duty.

Of course, this is not to say they necessarily should self- identify. The little bit of Thomas Jefferson in me thinks that even a bigot has a point of view that should be represented on a jury. I think Thomas Jefferson would say that they should not be impelled to disqualify themselves. Even bigots should be able to express themselves in the legal system. There was just enough of the impish crypto-anarchist in Jefferson to nicely season our laws. Jefferson thought that every once in a while someone should come along and blow things up and change the natural order. A little revolution now and then is good for the country. Given a choice between the country being free or running smoothly, he was happy to sacrifice the smoothness for freedom. So he would have said that you want bigots on juries once in a while to shake things up and because they should have their views represented if they so wish. However, if a person wants to disqualify himself due to the extremity of his views he should have that right.

But that has somebody worried. The fear is that if anyone can disqualify himself as a prospective jury member then we will not have enough people willing to serve on juries. But does it make sense to threaten someone with punishment for contempt of court if they dare be honest and say they would render a biased vote? That just sends a message that they should be on the jury and gives them a green light to let their biases rule their votes. I would like to see someone appeal this decision of last week since I think it hurts the system. [-mrl]

HEAVEN'S REACH by David Brin (Bantam Spectra, 1998, $24.95, Hardcover, 447pp, ISBN 0-553-10174-9) (a book review by Joe Karpierz):

David Brin is considered one of the modern day masters of the science fiction field. His reputation was based on his early Hugo Award winning novels STARTIDE RISING and THE UPLIFT WAR, both in his Uplift Universe. Various other of his novels have been Hugo nominees, such as THE POSTMAN. There have been others, but none has been particularly worthy of the award, in my opinion, except for THE POSTMAN. In other words, the shine has come off the star; the works haven't been quite as good as those early winners.

Then along came what Brin is calling his "Uplift Storm Trilogy": BRIGHTNESS REEF (which was a Hugo nominee), INFINITY'S SHORE, and now the finale of the story, HEAVEN'S REACH. I've heard and read Brin say that he did not set out to write a trilogy; it's not what he does. At the recent Baltimore Worldcon he apologized to those of us sitting in the audience at his reading for doing this, claiming that this was the first time he had written a novel without doing an outline. Without an outline, the story got away from him. He vowed never to do it again.

I, for one, hope he finds his outline skeleton in a hurry. The trilogy suffered from bloat; he didn't need three books to tell the story. On the other hand, the way it turned out, a novel seemed to be the right length to tell the portion of the story that ended up in HEAVEN'S REACH. Maybe that's because he set so many things up when the story got away from him that he *needed* an entire novel to tie things together, so it seemed appropriate. I don't know.

What I do know is that HEAVEN'S REACH is the best of the three books. When Brin set about writing it, he said to the folks on his emailling list that it was a return to old fashioned space opera. He wasn't lying. You want exploding stars? You got them. You want exotic and weird aliens? You got them? You want Dyson Spheres? You got weird looking ones. You want intergalactic (to heck with interstellar), interdimensional adventure? You got it. You want warring alien races fighting over the fate of Earth? You got them. You want far reaching implications for the fate of the universe? You got those too.

This is the kind of stuff that I started reading sf for, and the kind of thing that Brin has gotten away from in recent years. I guess that the reason this book is better than the other two in the trilogy is that he crams all that stuff into 440 pages with no letup. Oh yeah--he also sets stuff in motion for the next Uplift book, whenever that might be, by dropping several hints along the way that implied that "if you this is big and weird, you ain't seen nuthin' yet."

The story follows action on several fronts. From the weird dimension of E space, where the inhabitants are memes that result from the thoughts of the living creatures who visit there, to the ship "Streaker" as it carries it's mysterious cargo found in the Shallow Cluster--which started all the religious/fanatical wars over ancient beliefs about the Progenitors (that billions of years old ancient race that started the Uplift process), to Earth space where our home planet is under siege by factions who wish to destroy the wolflings (a term used to describe a race which claims to have uplifted itself, as the humans have), to..... well, you get the point.

HEAVEN'S REACH is space opera adventure as befits the "Golden Age" of science fiction, and is Brin's best novel in many years. But therein lies the rub. I'd like to nominate this novel for the Best Novel Hugo, but so much of it depends on what preceded it in the prior two novels in the series that it really doesn't stand on its own. It's frustrating that what may end up being one of the better novels that I read in 1998 may not really deserve the Best Novel Award.

Would I recommend this novel? Only if you've read the other two books in the series. Would I recommend the series? Uh, only so you can get to this novel. Kind of circular, isn't it? The story the trilogy tells is a worthy addition to the Uplift Saga (and for those who aren't aware, the prior books, in publication order, are SUNDIVER, STARTIDE RISING, and THE UPLIFT WAR), and if you're into the Uplift Universe, then yes, by all means, read it. It's worth reading the trilogy just for the satisfaction of getting to the last installment. [-jak]

Once we are past the framing sequence the scene shifts to 16th Century France where a widower father, Auguste (played by Jeroen Krabbe) very deeply loves his precocious eight-year-old daughter Danielle (Anna Maguire). So that his daughter will have a family he marries the enigmatic Rodmilla (Angelica Huston). Very soon after the marriage Auguste dies. Flash forward ten years and the household under Rodmilla's rule has a very definite pecking order. Danielle (now Drew Barrymore) is basically just a servant. In a rather nice variation on tradition only one of the stepsisters, Marguerite, is beautiful, vain, and cruel. The other sister, Jacqueline, is rather plain, but decent and sympathetic to her stepsister. Her heart is good though she rarely has the courage to say anything. Jacqueline is just one position above Danielle in the house pecking order. Everything in the house is ruled over by Rodmilla, who sees things her own way. As she goes back on a promise she says, "Nothing is final until you are dead. And then I am sure God negotiates."

To rescue a house servant, Danielle must pose as a woman of the court and in that guise she captures the attention of Prince Henry (Dougray Scott). He is amazed that this woman is willing to argue with her prince. And he is more amazed that when she argues she invariably wins. For once it seems that what a prince finds stimulating is a woman's intellect, not her looks. This variation on the traditional fairy tale has among its revisions that there is no fairy godmother protecting Cinderella. Instead, visiting court is none other than Leonardo da Vinci (Patrick Godfrey) and he comes off nearly as magical. I guess that Leonardo was about as close as you could get to wizardry in the 1500s without it actually being wizardry.

Drew Barrymore is reasonable as Danielle, though neither the director nor the camera really coaxes much deep pain or emotion from her. She has a sort of hurt-child look that might be acceptable for this role, but does not quite work in the scenes in which she is supposed to be a formidable fighter or look stunning. Speaking of stunning, the stepmother is also supposed to be attractive according to the script and while Angelica Houston is a good character actor, it is never clear why Auguste is so taken with her. Her acting does have the fairy tale villain feel, however, an artifact of films like THE WITCHES. And she does qualify as one of the better features of this film. Dougray Scott is something of a surprise. Initially he comes off as just a handsome hunk without a lot of acting talent. But he does have a very expressive face, when he bothers to use it. That could make him a very enjoyable comic actor in the style of Hugh Laurie. Also along for the ride is Timothy West, one of those solid British actors who will always turn in a quality performance. Having Jeanne Moreau in the framing sequence does a lot for the film. She certainly is one of the great ladies of French cinema.

EVER AFTER is something of a surprise. Nothing great here, but it is a pleasant film to watch and is nicely visualized. I give it a 6 on the 0 to 10 scale and a +1 on the -4 to +4 scale. [-mrl]

                                   Mark Leeper
                                   MT 3E-433 732-957-5619

Quote of the Week:

     The elegance of a theorem is directly proportional
     to the number of ideas you can see in it and
     inversely proportional to the effort it take to see
                                   -- George Polya