Retrospeculative View 1988

Some of the Speculative Short Fiction from 1988:

isaac_asimovs_science_fiction_198807Kirinyaga, by Mike Resnick (Hugo Award for best Short Story)

The Skin Trade, by George R.R. Martin (World Fantasy Award for best Novella)

Schrödinger’s Kitten, by George Alec Effinger (Hugo & Nebula Award for best Novelette)

The Last of the Winnebagos, by Connie Willis (Hugo & Nebula Award for best Novella)

Bible Stories for Adults, No. 17: The Deluge, by James K. Morrow (Nebula Award for best Short Story)

Surfacing, by Walter Jon Williams

Do Ya, Do Ya, Wanna Dance, by Howard Waldrop

Peaches for Mad Molly, by Steven Gould

Movies/television 1988:

TotoroWho Framed Roger Rabbit, a hyper mix of live action and animation.

Beettlejuice, a bizarre movie that my eldest daughter loves to watch as Halloween approaches.

Willow, a movie I’ve never been able to watch for more than a few minutes.

The Land Before Time. My youngest daughter remembers this movie fondly.

My Neighbor Totoro, a Hayao Miyazaki masterpiece and a family favorite.

Akira, a landmark animé film.

Some noteworthy Novels from 1988 that I haven’t read:

 Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold, (Nebula Award winner). A novel from the Vorkosigan Saga. The novel deals with the creation of Quaddies, genetically modified humans with four arms. The Quaddies were intended as space laborers, but antigravity technology rendered them obsolete and they became slaves. A sequel, Diplomatic Immunity, was published in 2002 (both are included in a 2007 omnibus, Miles, Mutants and Microbes). Update (20151107): I read this novel a couple of weeks ago. If interested, you can read my review.fallingfree250

Islands in the Net, by Bruce Sterling (John W. Campbell Memorial Award). A cyberpunk novel that is probably dated, but well-worth the time invested reading.

Four Hundred Billion Stars, by Paul McAuley  (P.K. Dick Award (tie)). Features a human telepath, a planet that was re-engineered and seeded by unknown aliens, and an attacking alien force.

Wetware, by Rudy Rucker (P.K. Dick Award (tie)). A ‘biopunk’ novel, the second in the  Ware Tetralogy, (1982’s Software, 1997’s Freeware, and 2000’s Realware).

Desolation Road, by Ian McDonald, (his first novel). An excellent writer, but I haven’t read this book.

Koko, by Peter Straub (World Fantasy Award). I haven’t read it (I’m not a horror devotee), but I’ve heard it is good

Foucault’s Pendulum, by Umberto Eco. The author writes challenging, but worthwhile books.

Mona Lisa Overdrive, by William Gibson. The third book in his Sprawl trilogy. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books (Neuromancer and Count Zero); oddly, I haven’t read this one.

Noteworthy novels from 1988 that I did read:

Red Prophet, by Orson Scott Card (Locus Fantasy Award). The second book in Card’s The Tales of Alvin the Maker series (alternate history/fantasy set in early 19th Century America). I enjoyed Red Prophet, but not as much as the first book in the series (Seventh Son). Although the series contained some interesting sections, I lost interest around the third or fourth book…

Great Sky River, by Gregory Benford. This is the third in Benford’s Galactic Center series (a 6-volume series written from 1977 – 1995). I enjoyed the series (I can’t remember if I read all the books), but I don’t recall all the details: it involves evolved/transhuman families and intergalactic AIs who want to exterminate humanity. The series began on Earth, but the surviving humans are on a planet close to the Galactic Center in Great Sky River.

 The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul, by Douglas Adams. The second fantasy-detective novel in the Dirk Gently series (the first was Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency). The title comes from a description in Douglas Adams’ novel Life, the Universe and Everything, and is a depiction of Bowerick Wowbagger’s boring immortal life (it is also probably an allusion to Dark Night of the Soul, the poem by  Saint John of the Cross). This is an enjoyable novel, but not up to the standards of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.Story_of_the_Stone

The Story of the Stone, by Barry Hughart. The second in Hughart’s exceptional fantasy series (set in ‘an ancient China that never was’), which follows the exploits of Number Ten Ox (the narrator, an unusually strong peasant) and Master Li (a Sage with a slight flaw in his character). Highly recommended, along with Bridge of Birds (1984) and Eight Skilled Gentlemen (1990).

The Player of Games, by Iain M. Banks. I enjoy Bank’s writing, although even his best science fiction novels tend to be flawed gems. The Player of Games is my personal favourite (the second offering in his Culture series): it follows the tribulations of Gurgeh, a famously skilful game player, who is blackmailed by Mawhrin-Skelinto (a somewhat unstable drone) into accepting an assignment with the Culture’s Special Circumstances (the “dirty work” department of the Culture’s society). This would certainly have been my pick for my favourite novel of the year if it hadn’t been for…

My pick for Retrospeculative Novel of 1988:

Cyteen, by C.J. Cherryh (Hugo Award & Locus Science fiction winner). This is one of my favourite science fiction novels. Cyteen is a highly psychological novel, and the plot is difficult to explain in a short review, but I’ll give it a try…

cyteenAriane Emory, one of fourteen Specials (certified geniuses), is murdered. With the aid of Denys and Giraud Nye, Emory ran Reseune, a scientific compound that creates computer-trained clones called azis (note: the computer training uses ‘tapes’, a dated aspect that must be overlooked to enjoy the novel). Another Special, Jordan Warrick (a former co-worker and bitter-rival of Emory) is suspected of murdering her. Jordon is likely innocent, but he confesses in order to protect his cloned son, Justin, and an azi, Grant, who is raised as Justin’s brother (though the relationship between Justin and Grant is deeper than brotherly love…).

Emory was involved in important research and, in an attempt to regain her knowledge, Ari, a clone of Emory, is produced. Ari is raised in an exacting manner in order to mature with the identical nature/nurture characteristics as Emory.

The novel explores psychological and political motivations; at times, I think I felt a psychological disorientation similar to that of characters in the book.

Initially, I wasn’t drawn into the novel, but I’m glad I persevered: after the first 50-100 pages I was totally absorbed.  C.J. Cherry has written several well-known science fiction books, but — in my opinion — this is her master-work (note: the author wrote a sequel in 2009 (Regenesis), but I haven’t read it yet).

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