Thursday, March 19, 2015

2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

(hb; 1982: second novel in the Space Odyssey quadrilogy)

From the inside flap:

"When 2001: A Space Odyssey [was first published, it] was recognized as a classic. . . [It spawned] a host of questions. . .

"Who or what transformed Dave Bowman into the Star Child? What purpose lay behind the transformation? What would become of the Star Child?

"What alien purpose lay behind the monoliths on the Moon and out in space?

"What could drive HAL, a stable, intelligent computer, to kill the crew? Was HAL really insane? What happened to HAL and the spaceship Discovery after Dave Bowman disappeared?

". . . Now all those questions and many more have been answered. . . in this. . . sequel [to 2001: A Space Odyssey.]"


Writing a sequel to a widely-loved, landmark book can be a thankless task, as expectations  are often high for said continuations. No doubt, Clarke had some sense of this when he set to work on 2010.

Thankfully, this second entry in the Space Odyssey quadrilogy is a worthy continuation of 2001.

2010, while not as initially dramatic as the first book, has many of the same characters who were in, or mentioned in, 2001. Not only that, it has that slow-build, well-foreshadowed sense of menace, mystery and urgency that made the first book such a compelling read -- and it has enough updated real-life science to keep it interesting for "hard" science fiction readers, as well. The ending (intense and intriguing in its hair-raising action) is a satisfactory progression of the first book, and -- without pandering to the must-have-a-sequel urge -- sports a natural finish that inherently welcomes another book, as the mystery of this Odyssey (as well as its stakes) have been raised to an entirely new level.

Like 2001, 2010 is worth owning. Followed by 2061: Odyssey Three.


The film version, 2010, was released stateside on December 7, 1984. Peter Hyams, the film's director, also wrote its screenplay.

Roy Scheider played Dr. Heywood Floyd. John Lithgow played Dr. Walter Curnow. Helen Mirren played Tanya Kirbuk. Bob Balaban played R. Chandra. Elya Baskin played Maxim Brajlovsky.

Keir Dullea reprised his role as Dave Bowman. Douglas Rain once again voiced  HAL 9000.

Mary Jo Deschanel played "Betty Fernandez, Bowman's Wife". Dana Elcar played Dimitri Moisevitch. Madelyn Smith Osborne, billed as Madelyn Smith, played Caroline Floyd. Taliesin Jaffe played Christopher Floyd.  

Candice Bergen, billed as Olga Mallsnerd, voiced SAL 9000.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

(hb; 1968, 1999: first novel in the Space Odyssey quadrilogy)

From the inside flap:

"From the savannas of Africa at the dawn of mankind to the rings of Saturn as man ventures to the outer rim of our solar system, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a journey unlike any other."


2001: A Space Odyssey is a landmark novel -- not just as a science fiction work, but as a multimedia work, as it was born of a collaboration between auteur Stanley Kubrick (who lensed and co-scripted the cinematic version of 2001) and Clarke. While Clarke penned this Kubrick-prompted expansion on Clarke's tell-don't-show 1950 story "The Sentinel," Kubrick was pre-production crafting his film version: it is a shared, then-fact-extrapolated and cooperative vision between the two men (though there are differences between the two works).

With 2001 (book and film), Clarke and Kubrick successfully negotiated the tricky balance between science fiction, science fact and action, something a relative few accomplish, much less on an epic level -- and 2001 is an epic drama, not just in its cinematic story scale, but in its intent: Clarke's prose has a wry humored, warm humanity imbued within its fast-moving, bordering-on-poetic tale-telling, making this highly visual and mainstream work immersible not only for nerdy science majors but for average readers (like myself) who would usually shy away from "hard" (detailed, science-factual) science fiction.

This is one of my all-time favorite reads, one worth owning. It has three sequels, the first of which is 2010: Odyssey Two.


The resulting film was released stateside on April 8, 1968. Stanley Kubrick, who directed the film, co-scripted it with Arthur C. Clarke (as noted in the above review).

Keir Dullea played Dr. Dave Bowman. Gary Lockwood played Dr. Frank Poole. William Sylvester played Dr. Heywood R. Floyd. Leonard Rossiter played Dr. Andrei Smyslov. Robert Beatty played Dr. Ralph Halvorsen.

Douglas Rain voiced HAL 9000. Frank Miller voiced "Mission Control".  An uncredited Vivian Kubrick played "Squirt -- Floyd's Daughter". An uncredited Ivor Powell played V.F. Kaminsky. An uncredited Kevin Scott played Miller.

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

**Peter Baltensperger's microstory Or Then the Thunder was published in Pink Litter ezine

Peter Baltensperger, whose Nocturnal Tableaux* graced the Microstory A Week site in October 2012, has had another microstory published: Or Then the Thunder, on the recently relocated Pink Litter site.

Thunder is a romantic, sexually explicit and mood-effective piece about a woman whose storm-born desires** electrify and heighten her memories and hopes.

If you are a legal adult and are so inclined, check this story out!


*Nocturnal Tableaux also appears in Baltensperger's story/vignette anthology Inside from the Outside.

**a.k.a. brontophiliacs: People who "get off" when storms are raging.


Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Green Kangaroos by Jessica McHugh

(eBook; 2014)

From the back cover:

"Perry Samson loves drugs. He’ll take what he can get, but raw atlys is his passion. Shot hard and fast into his testicles, atlys helps him forget that he lives in an abandoned Baltimore school, that his roommate exchanges lumps of flesh for drugs at the Kum Den Smokehouse, and that every day is a moldering motley of whores, c*ntcutters, and disease. Unfortunately, atlys never helps Perry forget that, even though his older brother died from an atlys overdose, he will never stop being the tortured middle child.

"Set in 2099, The Green Kangaroos explores the disgusting world of Perry’s addiction to atlys and the Samson family’s addiction to his sobriety."


Kangaroos is a surreal, erotic and plot-twisty novel that brings to mind the cyberpunkiness of William Gibson's writing (albeit in a more mainstream way), as well as the bleak circumstances and humor that are often infused in William S. Burroughs's vivid-slippery worlds-within-worlds works. Its characters become more interesting as the novel progresses, and the ending is hopeful and realistic about the nature of addiction, making this engrossing, entertaining book even more worthwhile -- excellent read, worth owning.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

**Three of my poems were republished in the anthology Poems To F*ck To

Three of my older romantic poems -- Invited; action, as well as It comes down to this, every time and Salvation (previously published as Oh, Emma) -- were republished in the anthology Poems To F*ck To (editors: Jason Brain and Chelsea Cohen).

Poems also contains Rick Lupert's travel- and verseworks-clever piece England, one of my favorite poems in this anthology.

This sexy, playful and loving collection, put out by Poetry In Motion Publishing House, can be purchased at Createspace and Amazon.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

The Black House by Patricia Highsmith

(pb; 1981: story anthology)

From the back cover:

"Eleven sinister stories reveal Patricia Highsmith's characters breaking the social laws (often unconsciously) and paying the price.

"They are victims trying to behave like protagonists -- and the results are often fatal."


One of the things that makes Highsmith's work so compelling is her ability to underline even the most mundane situations with mounting unease, with her crisp, chilly and clever writing -- writing that is on display in most, if not all, of the stories in this collection. What's missing, in most of Black's stories, is the zinger finishes she often attaches to her better works.

None of these stories are bad. Most of them are good, if not excellent. However, the bulk of their endings are too low-key, flat and (often) predictable, when compared to the effective, increasing-tension set-ups that precede them: in short, if you are a reader who puts as much stock in tale finishes as their set-ups, purchase Black used and at low cost or check it out from the library. If you are a reader who forgives meh endings as long as everything else in the story works, this collection may appeal to you.

While I was disappointed by this anthology, I don't feel like I wasted my time reading it, as I am a fan of Highsmith's work.  Her output is interesting, even when it's deeply flawed, largely the case with Black.

Stand-out stories:

1.)  "I Despise Your Life": A party-it-up, twenty-year old musician (Ralph Duncan) desperately tries to bridge the gap between himself and his disapproving father (Steve), only to make matters worse. Great story, with a great end-line.

2.)  "The Dream of the Emma C": The at-sea rescue of a beautiful woman (Natalie Anderson) sets an all-male boat crew on violent edge. Good, intense read.

3.)  "Old Folks at Home": Relations quickly sour between a demanding elderly couple (Mamie and Albert Forster) and their well-meaning, if unrealistic, caretakers (Herbert and Lois McIntyre, whose house the Forsters live in). Darkly, hellishly funny story, with an honest-about-human-nature finish.

4.)  "The Black House": In Canfield, New York, a young man's innocent curiosity about a local landmark endangers him. This is my favorite story in the bunch, one that brings together nostalgia, effective symbolism, youth (and the generational gaps it inspires) and the dangerous emptiness of clique talk. I especially love that the bar -- where much of said talk takes place -- is called the White Horse Tavern, in contrast with the titular abode. Excellent, masterful work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Girl on the Loose by G.G. Fickling*

(oversized pb; 1958, 2012: second novel in the Honey West series)


Another fun, sometimes dark-in-tone and action-frantic novel from Fickling*, this time featuring kidnapped babies, look-alike blondes, Las Vegas gangsters, ticked-off cops (particularly Lieutenant Mark Storm, Honey's could-be romantic interest) and other fast-'n'-furious twists that are tightly, wildly plotted and sometimes hard to keep up with. This is a good (if borderline Fifties character-sexist) afternoon-beach read, one that's worth your time if you purchase it as an inexpensive omnibus volume (like I did) or borrow it from the library.

Followed by A Gun for Honey.

[*G.G. Fickling is actually a husband-and-wife writing team: Forrest and Gloria Fickling. "G.G." refers to the wife's first and middle name: Gloria Gautraud. They used these initials to keep the gender of the author(s) vague.]