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Reviews in Collection: Millennial Reviews (35)

Millennial Review XIV: Stardance by Spider and Jeanne Robinson (1979)

Stardance  (Stardance, book 1)

By Spider Robinson & Jeanne Robinson  

26 Jan, 2000

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Stardance
Spider and Jeanne Robinson
the Dial Press/James Wade, 1977,78,79
218 pages

Die-hard fans of S&JR might want to skip this one.

Synopsis: Charlie Armstead, video artist is introduced to Shara Drummond by her sister Norrey. Shara has talent but is physically unsuited to dance as it is done in the late 20th century. Charlie and Shara form an alliance to sell Shara's dance commercially but they fail to find a market niche. Charlie turns to drink and Shara disappears from his life.

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Millennial Review XIII: The Byworlder by Poul Anderson (1971)

The Byworlder

By Poul Anderson  

25 Jan, 2000

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The Byworlder
Poul Anderson
Signet, 1971,160 pages

Synopsis: it is somewhere between around 2002 and 2010. No significant wars have been fought in ages. Technology is advancing nicely and significant breakthroughs have occurred in the technology of teaching. The relative international calm was broken three years before the book opens by the arrival of a Bussard ramjet from Sigma Draconis. The ramjet is a hybrid ramjet/photon drive of extreme power, and the great powers are very interested in not letting the ship fall into any one nation’s hands, since the drive could be used to erase whole cities from existence casually. To everyone’s immense frustration, the Sigman”, as the ET is called, is apparently not very interested in communication with humans, spending far more time zipping around the solar system than trying to talk to humans.

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Millennial Review XI: Systemic Shock by Dean Ing (1981)

Systemic Shock  (Ted Quantrill, book 1)

By Dean Ing  

23 Jan, 2000

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Systemic Shock
Dean Ing
Ace, 1981,
298 pages

I was going to review the entire trilogy but Life Is Too Short plus I want to save up my bile for the Baxter HC that justcame in [1].

Synopsis: It’s 1996 and the entire world is about to go pear-shaped. Young Ted Quantrill is a teenage boy scout out with his officious and incompetent scout master when WW IV starts [WW III was General Sir John Hackett’s 1985 WW III]. The book follows several main points of view: Quantrill’s, Boren Mills’ [an intelligence officer], Sandy Grange’s [a 9 year old girl at the beginning of the story], Eve Simpson [teen holostar sex kitten], and an omniscient narrator writing from some point after WW IV. Don’t know much about that last except he’s an American and possibly a Mormon.

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Millennial Review X: The Persistence of Vision by John Varley (1978)

The Persistence of Vision

By John Varley  

22 Jan, 2000

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The Persistence of Vision
John Varley
The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy, 1978

I’m cheating: after reading even a light bus-crusher like Eon I wanted something I could knock in an hour. This is a review of the short story The Persistence of Vision (tPoV), not the collection tPoV. The collection is very good and I recommend it but be warned it is out of print.

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Millennial Review VII: The Texas-Israeli War: 1999 by Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop (1974)

The Texas-Israeli War: 1999

By Jake Saunders & Howard Waldrop  

21 Jan, 2000

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The Texas-Israeli War: 1999
Jake Saunders and Howard Waldrop
Del Rey, 1974
209 pages

Synopsis: In 1983, the Treaty of Oslo led to the widespread downsizing of the world’s nuclear arsenals. People being people, the nuclear WMD were replaced with chemical and biological weapons. In 1992, an escalating series of wars starts when Ireland dopes British water with LSD: by the end of the war 90% of the world has died and Israel is the sole industrial nation functioning. The US is embroiled in a Texan civil war and the land-hungry Israelis have signed up on both sides as mercenaries, trading their high tech military skills and weapons for promises of land and money.

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Millennial Review VI: The Judgment of Eve by Edgar Pangborn (1966)

Judgment of Eve

By Edgar Pangborn  

20 Jan, 2000

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The Judgment of Eve
Edgar Pangborn
Dell, 1966
159 page
I’m cheating: depending on how you take the evidence, The Judgment of Eve could be set anywhere from around 2000 to 2020 and the narrator is living centuries in the future.

Synopsis: Eve lives with her mother and an idiot named Caleb in the New England woods twenty years after a small nuclear war and a plague have destroyed civilization and reduced the human population to the bare edge of sustainability. Eve is 28 when the first visitors arrive: Kenneth, who is near-blind, old Claudius, whose arm was crippled when a building fell on him and Ethan, friend of Kenneth. There is some friction over Eve. The solution, arrived at by her mother reading fairy tales, is that Eve will set a quest. She tells the three to leave and return in the fall to tell her what love is.

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Millennial Review V: The Year of the Quiet Sun by Wilson Tucker (1970)

The Year of the Quiet Sun

By Wilson Tucker  

20 Jan, 2000

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The Year of the Quiet Sun
Wilson Tucker
Ace, 1970
252 pages

A note on the cover art of the edition I have [copyright 1970 but priced $1.95 so somewhat later]: I think it is an early Whelan but there’s no credit and if there was a signature on the cover art, it’s been cropped. Minor peeve: it gives away a plot point not hinted at until page 129, I think and not made explicit until the end of the book. Bah.

I don’t think I much cared for this in the 70s. Too depressing. I still bought a lot of Tucker’s books because in the 1970s one could not be too choosy as the current variety didn’t exist. Tucker, near as I can tell, stopped writing professionally a long time ago and it is a damn shame: The Year of the Quiet Sun has held up well in the last thirty years and even though the future it shows never happened, that doesn’t matter. This is a fine book.

I think the reason I can hammer through these books so quickly is that the language is lean and functional. Even the Silverberg I have in the stack which is his attempt to show he has literary chops, is only about 80,000 words and while the introduction says it meanders, I bet it won’t be anything like the bloated monsters published today. No room. Tucker has less than three hundred pages to make his points and he uses all of them. Probably no market for this kind of writing today. Customers want big, padded bus-crushers that make them feel they are getting value for their nine bucks.

The Year of the Quiet Sun is nominally set in the late 1970s. The Bureau of Standards has a time machine. They recruit Brian Chaney, a futurologist, among other things [He’s in deep hot water for finding and translating a bit of midrash on which the Book of Revelations was clearly based] and two other men to use the Time Displacement Vehicle to explore the next thirty years.

Even by 1978, it’s clear that this TL has diverged from ours significantly: the war in South East Asia has continued and been escalated, the Chinese are involved and a small exchange of nuclear warheads has occurred: one kiloton nuke from the Chinese and two megaton nukes in retaliation. The H‑Bomb strikes are classified: nobody in the US is supposed to know about them. Again, a book of its time: parallels are there with Korea and the bombing of Cambodia.

If the classification has worked, the only people ignorant of the H‑Bombs are the civilians: nuclear bombs have distinctive signatures and scientists the world over must have known and been compelled to keep quiet.

President Meeks, a weak and self serving man, orders the first probe to be to 1980, to see if he will be re-elected. The three men are originally intended to arrive at about the same time. Instead, Chaney arrives first and heads off to Chicago where he discovers the city is divided by a wall built by black rioters. He does some library research into the riot and returns to the base. The other two pursued their own interests, discovering that the Joint Chiefs of Staff attempted a coup which was foiled by suspiciously well prepared FBI. It is suggested that the obvious source for the information was the time travellers.

An amusing note: there’s a plain reference to an old actor” who ran and lost in the 1980 election.

Cheney is disheartened to discover that the woman who recruited him, Katrina, will marry one of the other researchers, Saltus.

The next set of trips will be to 4 July 1999, 24 November 2000 and the last, Chaney’s trip, sometime after 2000 as Cheney does not care.

The first trip ends disastrously: the military man, Moresby, has landed in the middle of a war zone. A group known as Ramjets is attacking the base and has called in a nuclear strike on Chicago. He never gets the news back, dying in a skirmish with the Ramjets. He discovers before he dies that the Ramjets are black revolutionaries in league with China.

The second trip is more successful: Saltus gets home to Katrina. He discovers a little more about the events of 1999 and is nearly killed in a chance encounter with Ramjets.

Chaney arrives well past the year 2000. He explores the area, startling a white family outside the base fence. As soon as they see him, they flee. Soon after he find a grave which he believes belongs to either Saltus or Katrina. Two people approach; they are Arthur and and Kathryn, the children of Saltus and Katrina and the family has been waiting for him since civilization collapsed.

He meets with Katrina, now old. She gives him the disastrous history of the late 20th century, ending in a civilization leveling global war. She explains who the Ramjets were, and why the family fled: Chaney is black and no surviving white family will risk trusting a black man. Worse, Chaney never return home: the TDV has been sent beyond the ability of the people back home to retrieve him and he is marooned after the fall.

This was a surprisingly effective book. The romance is a few pages but conveys the events of 40-odd years. Chaney’s disappointment at his predestined failure to woo Katrina is well communicated but not sappy. The unstoppable stupidity which ends civilization seems credible, given a state of overt internal and external war lasting almost half a century. This is a world which makes pretty much all of the wrong choices. It is hard to come up a cogent review that communicates how good this book is but it is very good and people should look for their own copies.

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