I’ve read this author’s Brave Story and The Book of Heroes and what I noticed then was that I preferred the shorter book of the two, because it was more focused and had fewer unnecessary digressions. Logically I should prefer a collection of short stories to the novels and indeed that is the case.
The Earth of the near-future has faster-than-light travel of a particularly powerful sort; the entire Milky Way is just 90 days from Earth. Habitable worlds are common enough1 and much to the Dominion of Earth ‘s surprise generally inhabited. How to adapt when there are millions of alien civilizations on the Dominion’s doorstep?
When I began rereading this, I had only the vaguest of recollections about it, that it was in some way connected to the author’s more famous “Of Mist, and Grass, and Sand” and Dreamsnake, that it was set in the last city on a barren Earth abandoned by the civilized peoples of the Sphere and that was about all. I therefore had a certain level of trepidation because while I had fond memories of having had fond memories of this, the lack of specifics meant there was no assurance the suck fairy would not have visited it. I am happy to say that I can see why I liked this so much almost forty years ago.
Embarrassing confession time: from time to time people have sent me books to read in my spare time and I accept them, despite knowing I never get around to reading books in my spare time because I try hard never to have spare time. NEVER. I have had a e‑copy of A Digital Divide long enough to misplace it (I bought a new copy, along with a couple of other Spangler books) and I never got around to reading it because I am a terrible person.
Spangler is probably best known for A Girl and Her Fed, which shares a universe with this novel. As it happens, I’ve never read A Girl and her Fed so any elements that would leap out at a fan of that strip were missed by me.
1949’s Red Planet takes us to a Mars far more habitable than the real one, an inviting if challenging world whose ancient civilization seems to have little issue sharing Mars with a handful of human colonists from Earth. Changes are coming for the colonists, changes that will cast a stark light on the assumptions the humans have about their hosts.
Search for the Star Stones is an omnibus of two linked Norton novels, 1968’s The Zero Stone and 1969’s Uncharted Stars. Many of Norton’s books shared an ancient universe where the history of technological civilizations began long before humans appeared and would presumably long continue once we fell into dust with the rest. While the Zacathans managed to survive through two million years, such longevity is not the usual case and most of the civilizations that rose and fell, lumped together as a misleadingly unitary term “Forerunner”, are known only through enigmatic relics.
2022 AD: thousands of players around the world flock to log onto Sword Art Online, a cutting edge Virtual Reality Massively Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Game. They soon discover the VRMMORPG has features that even beta-testers like Kirito had no inkling of, the most obvious of which is the total absence of any way to log out of the game.
His reunion with his family having not gone entirely well, the man using the name Poldarn flees back to the Empire he fled in the first book. People familiar with the series thus far might ask if that is an entirely sensible idea on Poldarn’s part; sadly, Poldarn’s talents do not lie in the field of ratiocination or even “learning from experience”.
Desiring to leave behind his life as an agent of chaos and doom – I misspoke, as an incarnation of the god of chaos and doom – Poldarn settles down in what he hopes will be a quiet life working for a bell works. Bells seem harmless enough, right? But there is no knife that does not turn in Poldarn’s hand; he is such that a job in a fluffy teddy bear factory would lead to the death of half the country.
The second of the juveniles, Space Cadet is from 1948 but more improved over Rocket Ship Galileo than the passage of one year would warrant.
By 2075, the Earth unified, although not as peacefully as in Rocket Ship Galileo; Denver is a crater, as are other cities. The current peace is enforced by the Patrol and naïve Matt Dodson wants to be one of its many officers. Happily for Matt, he is one of the few good enough for the Patrol to consider but when we meet him, on his way to the academy, he has no idea if he will be one of the majority of washouts or if perhaps he can be polished into the sort of young who might kill a million of his fellow citizens in nuclear fire.
Lee Killough may be comparatively obscure now but in the 1970s she was one of a cohort of hard SF writers discovered by Del Rey. Later on she turned to horror and what would have been called urban fantasy if she had written it 20 years later but it was her SF that I loved.