April 17, 2014

Review: Five Billion Years of Solitude by Lee Billings

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Where did we come from as a species, and where is the party headed? What’s the expiration date for life on Earth, and just how common — or rare — are we? Those are the big questions in modern day science. This week’s review tackles the latest thinking concerning all of these weighty subjects and more. Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars by science journalist Lee Billings is a fascinating look at the state of the field. We’re talking astrobiology and the search for extraterrestrial life and intelligence, a truly interdisciplinary endeavor that encompasses all of modern science from physics and astronomy to biology and psychology. [Read more...]

Review: Operation Shield by Joel Shepherd

Out on April 8th!

If there’s one thing we love, it’s a non-stop space opera action adventure. Military science fiction has really come of its own over the past decades, as first popularized by Robert Heinlein and his classic Starship Troopers.

But what of the soldiers themselves? And what of a world where soldiers are custom tailored to fight and die? This week, we’re excited to bring you our review of the latest Cassandra Kresnov novel out from author Joel Shepherd and Pyr Books entitled Operation Shield. [Read more...]

Review: A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton

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So, you think you know maps? Author and historian Jerry Brotton will show you otherwise. This week’s review takes us through a fascinating trip back through history from an unusual perspective. A History of the World in 12 Maps looks at how we’ve perceived the surface of this planet we inhabit throughout the ages, and how we’ve grappled with depicting it over the millenia. [Read more...]

Review: The Enemy Within by Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Out this coming April.

Ready for political intrigue?

This week, we break tradition a bit from our usual review of science and science fiction books to journey back into the tie-dyed era of the early 1960s and a murder mystery that takes the reader into the darkened recesses of Washington politics. [Read more...]

March 2013: This Month in Science Fiction

Ahh, the month of March has arrived. A time of growth, renewal and taxes. Spring is in the air, although it may not feel it for those of you stranded in snowier climes. And yes, we do indeed realize that for folks down under in the southern hemisphere, the reverse is true, as this month marks the onset of Fall. [Read more...]

Review: Mission to Mars by Buzz Aldrin

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America’s premier space pioneer has a vision for space exploration.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin has been there. A veteran of Gemini 12 and Apollo 11, Aldrin was the second man to walk on the Moon after Neil Armstrong and has since been a vocal proponent of manned space exploration.

And it shows, in his breathtaking new proposal for man in space entitled Mission to Mars: My Vision for Space Exploration. [Read more...]

Review: The Man Who Sold the Moon & Orphans of the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein

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This week, we return to “Lessons from Science Fiction 101,” with a look at a master of scifi.

We’re talking, of course, about American science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein. One of the “Big 3” next to Clarke and Asimov when it comes to golden age science fiction, no one was better a weaving in sociological issues into their future mythology. [Read more...]

Astro-Vid Of the Week: Down with Daylight Saving Time

Time for sundown on DST? (Photo by author)

This coming weekend, most of North America will perform that yearly Spring ritual of setting their clocks one hour ahead to Daylight Saving Time, or DST.  Now reckoned as the second Sunday of March, the DST shift for 2014 on March 9th falls nearly as early as early as it can this year, missing that mark by just one day. And three Sundays later, the European Union follows suit, shifting forward to Summer Time on March 30th. [Read more...]

Review: An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth by Col. Chris Hadfield

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By now, you’ve seen the video.

Last year, astronaut Chris Hadfield’s cover of David Bowie’s Space Oddity went viral on YouTube. This capped a hugely successful stint for Hadfield aboard the International Space Station for the Canadian Space Agency astronaut, and a great ad hoc publicity campaign via social media. [Read more...]

February 2014: This Month in Science Fiction

Boy, how about that recent polar vortex, huh? It’s a good thing that February is the shortest month of the year, at least from the climatic perspective of residents in the northern hemisphere. Of course, we’re writing this from our sunny refuge in Florida, where a “cold snap” means that one must dig through the backs of closets through the strata of clothing to don a light jacket before heading out. Oh, the inconvenience of it all, I know. Hey, we’ve paid our dues living many a decade in Alaska and Maine, and have since arrived at the same conclusion as many semi-retirees that movement to Florida isn’t just a good idea, it’s the law. [Read more...]

Review: The Forever Engine by Frank Chadwick

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Saddle up and batten down those airship hatches… steampunk and alternate science fiction timelines lay ahead in this week’s review.

We’ve said it before, and we’ll briefly paraphrase ourselves once again. Steampunk is a genre that’s crying out for a flagship franchise. And it’s ironic that, with the legions of Con fans dressing techno-retro, there’s still not a Star Trek or Star Wars caliber series to quench the fans seeming thirst for all things steampunk. [Read more...]

Review: Mars, Inc. by Ben Bova

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It’s a destination that always seems to be “20 years away.”

But just how will we get to Mars? And why should we go? Science fiction author Ben Bova’s most recent book Mars, Inc.: The Billionaire’s Club out from Baen Books shows us just how those first steps might be made. [Read more...]

Review: Empress of the Sun by Ian McDonald

Out on February 4th!

Ever wonder just how many alternate realities are out there? Are there universes were JFK was never assassinated, or strange dystopian worlds where Justin Bieber is President of the United States? Though strange (and terrifying) to contemplate, it sure does explain the bizarre goings on in this here plane of reality, such as why the Biebe’s a celebrity in this one… [Read more...]

Review: The Man-Kzin Wars XIII Created by Larry Niven

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Galactic interspecies war has never been hotter. And one of the most enduring conflagrations in modern scifi-dom has been between humanity and the cat-like Kzinti. The Kzin were first introduced by science fiction author Larry Niven in his 1966 short story “The Warriors,” and went on to become frequent players in his Known Space stories, including his classic novel Ringworld. [Read more...]

January 2014: This Month in Science Fiction

Welcome to 2014! Yeah, I know, we will spare you the spiel about how we’re all supposed to have flying skateboards by now. Still, it is strange to think about just how many science fiction red-letter dates are coming right up. It’s just plain hard to be a prophet of the future, though perhaps all of those science fiction dystopian futures never in fact came to pass because scifi authors warned us about ‘em in the first place… or did they? [Read more...]

Review: Life at the Speed of Light by J. Craig Venter

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Genetic engineering may well be the next big revolution of our age. Sparked with the discovery of the DNA double-helix by Watson and Crick in 1953, we may just now be on the edge of being able to custom tailor life.

And no one has been farther out on the cutting edge of that revolution than geneticist J. Craig Venter. This week, we take a look at Mr. Venter’s latest book, Life at the Speed of Light: from the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life out from Viking Press. Mr. Venter is the author of a Life Decoded and the CEO and founder of Synthetic Genomics Inc. [Read more...]

Review: Fire Season by David Weber & Jane Lindskold

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Feline-esque alien species are an under-appreciated realm of extraterrestrials in modern science fiction. And if the prevalence of kitten pics on ye ole internet is any indication, we just can’t get enough of cats. But alien races, such as Larry Niven’s Kzinti of his Known Space/Man Kzin Wars saga, show us just how disagreeable sentient alien cat species just might be. [Read more...]

Review: From Dust to Life by John Chambers & Jacqueline Mitton

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How did “we” come to be? How did lowly hydrogen atoms congregate together to eventually build laptops and blog about the cosmos? The formation of our solar system is a key to this mystery, a riddle that we just now may finally have the hard data to solve. This week, we take a look at From Dust to Life: The Origin and Evolution of the Solar System by John Chambers and Jacqueline Mitton out from Princeton University Press. [Read more...]