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Full title The Abominable Earthman [permalink]
Language English
Author Frederik Pohl (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 1963
Pages 159
Synopsis

The Abominable Earthman contains five short stories, and one long-ish one (taking up the bulk of the book).

The Abominable Earthman, the titular story, is about what happens when green-skinned aliens conquer Earth in a short span of time, and the adventures of a small group of people who are trying to overthrow them.

We Never Mention Aunt Nora is about a most curious pregnancy and an aunt who we don't talk about...

A Life and a Half is about a very bleak future which runs very efficiently, alright, but about which something else is off.

Punch is a strange little story about benevolent aliens.

The Martian Star-Gazers reads like an anthropology report on the previous inhabitants of Mars.

Whatever Counts, the longest of the stories, is about a group of colonists and the crew who are hauling them to Aleph Four, a satellite of a Jupiter-like planet a long way off (the journey takes eighteen years). There's also a rhinoceroid alien race of graceful and fast creatures who lack any kind of subconscious who feature prominently (to say more would spoil).

Three Portraits and a Prayer is a very short story about a dying scientist, his doctor, and an evil millionaire.

Review

Unfortunately, almost all the short stories fell rather flat for me. It's all very well written, but some of the stories left me wondering what the point was. The Martian Star-Gazers stood out for me. There's not a whole lot of action in it, but the way it's written made it very interesting to read. It's written almost as thought it were a piece of anthropology, describing Martian mythology and the stars in their skies and what it meant to them. Whatever Counts, the longest story in the collection, also stood out. There aren't too many main characters and Pohl develops them in style: In the end, one really does care about them and their motives, and the aliens, the Gormen, are enigmatic and fit the story very well.

I can't recommend this one unless you really want those two stories. However, you're probably better off buying another Pohl collection with those two in them.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • The Abominable Earthman
  • We Never Mention Aunt Nora
  • A Life and a Half
  • Punch
  • The Martian Star-Gazers
  • Whatever Counts
  • Three Portraits and a Prayer
Full title Airframe [permalink]
Language English
Author Michael Crichton (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1997
Original publication year 1996
ISBN 0-345-41299-0 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 431
Synopsis

A passenger plane goes into a series of deep dives and climbs, killing three and injuring many. The novel spans the week following the accident, and follows the team who tries to clear it up.

Images Back of Airframe.Spine of Airframe.Front of Airframe.
Full title Cosmos [permalink]
Language English
Author Carl Sagan (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Astronomy, biology, chemistry, history, physics and science
Publication year 1985
Original publication year 1980
ISBN 978-0-345-33135-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 324
Synopsis

Cosmos is, as its title suggests, a book about the Cosmos. It's based upon (and can be considered a companion to) the TV series of the same name. There are thirteen chapters, each corresponding to the thirteen episodes.

The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean is setting the tone for the rest of the book. Sagan discusses the Cosmos on its largest scales, putting the Earth in perspective. He then discusses early attempts to measure the size of the Earth.

One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue is about evolution and our own species. It discusses various potential biologies that could be evolved on other worlds and muses on the implication of all this.

In the chapter Harmony of the Worlds, Sagan really shines. This chapter deals with astrology, astronomy, and the histories of both. (Sagan was an astronomer.) He explains Kepler's Laws, goes into the geocentric vs heliocentric models of the Solar System, and the history of planetary observation and theory-making.

Heaven and Hell is all about comets and asteroids. Sagan discusses the Tunguska event and the impact craters on the Moon, among other things.

Blues for a Red Planet is about Mars in fiction and fact. He goes into the canali of Giovanni Schiaparelli and Percival Lowell, H. G. Well's The War of the Worlds, and the Barsoom novels of Edgar Rice Burroughs. He then discusses the Mars probes and the potential for terraforming Mars.

Travelers' Tales is about the sailing ships and the discoveries made during the Age of Exploration, with respects to astronomy and the study of the Cosmos.

The Backbone of Night is a discussion of myths from around the world on the creation and system of the Universe, veering into a discussion of the scientific explanations (and the evidence). There's a very charming three pages of imagined inner monolog by a curious and primitive ancestor dealing with his explanation for the stars. The chapter title is a reference to the name for the Milky Way that the !Kung people of the Kalahari desert use for it.

Travels in Space and Time is about the immensity of space and time. It begins with a discussion on constellations and astrology, and has a wonderful illustration of how a constellation (in the example, The Big Dipper) would look from other angles and in other eras. It then launches into an extended explanation of the speed of light and the various paradoxes attending it (such as time dilation).

The Lives of the Stars is about atoms, chemistry, and the lives of the stars (ahem), meaning the fates and types of stars (white dwarfs, neutron stars, supernovas, etc.).

The Edge of Forever lives up to its title. Its subject matter is the beginning of time, the extent of the Cosmos, and a very entertaining discussion on higher dimensions (reminiscent of, even directly referent to, Flatland). It also discusses mythological theories on the nature of time and the Cosmos.

The Persistence of Memory is about information, in the form of DNA and brains.

Encyclopaedia Galactica is really about galactic citizenship. It goes into UFOs, SETI, the Drake equation, and contact with other intelligent beings (what it would look like and what the implications would be). This is one of the more interesting chapters.

The book ends on a somewhat morose note with Who Speaks for Earth? The chapter deals with the planet and its various challenges, most conspicuously nuclear weapons and what to do about the potentiality of our destroying ourselves. After so many chapters of uplifting speculations and explorations of immensity, this chapter is a very sobering read.

Review

Where to start? When I watched the TV series in 2007 I was utterly blown away, and the book is even better. Being a book it's also much more detailed. If you've read anything by Sagan you know what to expect, but this work is simply breath-taking in its breadth and depth. It's personal, uplifting, educational, interesting... If you want to get a (biased, in a good sense) overview of the history of ideas and science, go read it.

Images Back of Cosmos.Spine of Cosmos.Front of Cosmos.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • I The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean
  • II One Voice in the Cosmic Fugue
  • III The Harmony of the Worlds
  • IV Heaven and Hell
  • V Blues for a Red Planet
  • VI Travelers' Tales
  • VII The Backbone of Night
  • VIII Travels in Space and Time
  • IX The Lives of the Stars
  • X The Edge of Forever
  • XI The Persistence of Memory
  • XII Encyclopaedia Galactica
  • XIII Who Speaks for Earth?
  • Appendix 1: Reductio ad Absurdum and the Square Root of Two
  • Appendix 2: The Five Pythagorean Solids
  • Further Reading
  • Index
Full title Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? [permalink]
Alternative title Blade Runner
Language English
Author Philip K. Dick (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1982
Original publication year 1968
ISBN 0-345-35047-2 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 216
Images Back of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.Spine of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.Front of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.
Full title Expedition to Earth [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Anthology, science fiction and short stories
Publication year 1982
Original publication year 1953
ISBN 0-345-31057-8 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 165
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Structure [Toggle visibility]
Full title To Open the Sky [permalink]
Language English
Author Robert Silverberg (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Publication year 1967
Pages 222
Synopsis

The story, despite taking up a meager two hundred pages, is pretty epic, spanning almost a century, and follows a small cast of long-lived characters. Earth has colonized Venus and Mars, and two religious factions, The Brotherhood of the Immanent Radiance and its offshoot Transcendent Harmony both have a piece of the puzzle that would allow man to reach the stars. In reality, the religious orders are merely fronts for scientific research (to say much more would spoil). Their icons and litanies and prayers are entirely scientific, and merely take on the clothing of a religious order. The book opens with The Electromagnetic Litany, which I can't help but quote in its entirety:

And there is light, before and beyond our vision, for which we give thanks.

And there is heat, for which we are humble.

And there is power, for which we count ourselves blessed.

Blessed be Balmer, who gave us our wavelengths. Blessed be Bohr, who brought us understanding. Blessed be Lyman, who saw beyond sight.

Tell us now the stations of the spectrum.

Blessed be long radio waves, which oscillate slowly.

Blessed be broadcast waves, for which we thank Hertz.

Blessed be short waves, linkers of mankind, and blessed be microwaves.

Blessed be infrared, bearers of nourishing heat.

Blessed be visible light, magnificent in angstroms. (On high holidays only: Blessed be red, sacred to Doppler. Blessed be orange. Blessed be yellow, hallowed by Fraunhofer’s gaze. Blessed be green. Blessed be blue for its hydrogen line. Blessed be indigo. Blessed be violet, flourishing with energy.)

Blessed be ultraviolet, with the richness of the sun. Blessed be Xrays, sacred to Roentgen, the prober within.

Blessed be the gamma, in all its power; blessed be the highest of frequencies.

We give thanks for Planck. We give thanks for Einstein. We give thanks in the highest for Maxwell.

In the strength of the spectrum, the quantum, and the holy angstrom, peace!

Images Back of To Open the Sky.Spine of To Open the Sky.Front of To Open the Sky.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Blue Fire 2077
  • The Warriors of Light 2095
  • Where the Changed Ones Go 2135
  • Lazarus Come Forth 2152
  • To Open the Sky 2164
Full title The Winds of Change: ...And Other Stories [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Anthology and science fiction
Publication year 1984
ISBN 0-345-31188-4 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 277
Images Back of The Winds of Change.Spine of The Winds of Change.Front of The Winds of Change.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  1. About Nothing
  2. A Perfect Fit
  3. Belief
  4. Death of a Foy
  5. Fair Exchange?
  6. For the Birds
  7. Found!
  8. Good Taste
  9. How It Happened
  10. Ideas Die Hard
  11. Ignition Point!
  12. It Is Coming
  13. The Last Answer
  14. The Last Shuttle
  15. Lest We Remember
  16. Nothing for Nothing
  17. One Night of Song
  18. The Smile That Loses
  19. Sure Thing
  20. To Tell at a Glance
  21. The Winds of Change
Full title Ringworld [permalink]
Language English
Author Larry Niven (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Ringworld (1/4)
Publication year 1970
ISBN 0-345-33392-6 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 342
Synopsis

A group of four individuals (two humans and two aliens) end up together on an expedition to a ringworld, a huge structure around a sun, akin to a slender rubber band around a speck of sand. The book chronicles their adventures on it.

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Structure [Toggle visibility]
  1. Louis Wu
  2. And His Motley Crew
  3. Teela Brown
  4. Speaker-to-Animals
  5. Rosette
  6. Christmas Ribbon
  7. Stepping Discs
  8. Ringworld
  9. Shadow Squares
  10. The Ring Floor
  11. The Arch of Heaven
  12. Fist-of-God
  13. Starseed Lure
  14. Interlude, with Sunflowers
  15. Dream-Castle
  16. The Map Room
  17. The Eye of the Storm
  18. The Perils of Teela Brown
  19. In the Trap
  20. Meat
  21. The Girl from Beyond the Edge
  22. Seeker
  23. The God Gambit
  24. Fist-of-God
Full title 2010: Odyssey Two [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Space Odyssey (2/4)
Publication year 1984
Original publication year 1982
ISBN 0-345-30306-7 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 335
Images Back of 2010.Spine of 2010.Front of 2010.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Author's Note
  • I * Leonov
    • 1. Meeting at the Focus
    • 2. The House of the Dolphins
    • 3. SAL 9000
    • 4. Mission Profile
    • 5. Leonov
  • II * Tsien
    • 6. Awakening
    • 7. Tsien
    • 8. Transit of Jupiter
    • 9. The Ice of the Grand Canal
    • 10. A Cry from Europa
    • 11. Ice and Vacuum
  • III * Discovery
    • 12. Downhill Run
    • 13. The Worlds of Galileo
    • 14. Double Encounter
    • 15. Escape From the Giant
    • 16. Private Line
    • 17. Boarding Party
    • 18. Salvage
    • 19. Operation WINDMILL
    • 20. Guillotine
    • 21. Resurrection
  • IV * Lagrange
    • 22. Big Brother
    • 23. Rendezvous
    • 24. Reconnaissance
    • 25. The View From Lagrange
    • 26. Probation
    • 27. Interlude: True Confessions
    • 28. Frustration
    • 29. Emergence
  • V * A Child of the Stars
    • 30. Homecoming
    • 31. Disneyville
    • 32. Crystal Spring
    • 33. Betty
    • 34. Valediction
    • 35. Rehabilitation
    • 36. Fire in the Deep
    • 37. Estrangement
    • 38. Foamscape
    • 39. In the Pod Bay
    • 40. "Daisy, Daisy..."
    • 41. Graveyard Shift
  • VI * Devourer of Worlds
    • 42. The Ghost in the Machine
    • 43. Thought Experiment
    • 44. Vanishing Trick
    • 45. Escape Maneuver
    • 46. Countdown
    • 47. Final Flyby
    • 48. Over the Nightside
    • 49. Devourer of Worlds
  • VII * Lucifer Rising
    • 50. Farewell to Jupiter
    • 51. The Great Game
    • 52. Ignition
    • 53. A Gift of Worlds
    • 54. Between Suns
    • 55. Lucifer Rising
  • Epilog: 20,001
  • Acknowledgments
Full title 2061: Odyssey Three [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Space Odyssey (3/4)
Publication year 1989
Original publication year 1988
ISBN 0-345-35879-1 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 271
Images Back of 2061.Spine of 2061.Front of 2061.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Author's Note
  • I * The Magic Mountain
    • 1. The Frozen Years
    • 2. First Sight
    • 3. Reentry
    • 4. Tycoon
    • 5. Out of the Ice
    • 6. The Greening of Ganymede
    • 7. Transit
    • 8. Starfleet
    • 9. Mount Zeus
    • 10. Ship of Fools
    • 11. The Lie
    • 12. Oom Paul
    • 13. "No One Told Us to Bring Swimsuits..."
    • 14. Search
  • II * The Valley of Black Snow
    • 15. Rendezvous
    • 16. Touchdown
    • 17. The Valley of Black Snow
    • 18. Old Faithful
    • 19. At the End of the Tunnel
    • 20. Recall
  • III * Europan Roulette
    • 21. The Politics of Exile
    • 22. Hazardous Cargo
    • 23. Inferno
    • 24. Shaka the Great
    • 25. The Shrouded World
    • 26. Night Watch
    • 27. Rosie
    • 28. Dialog
    • 29. Descent
    • 30. Galaxy Down
    • 31. The Sea of Galilee
  • IV * At The Water Hole
    • 32. Diversion
    • 33. Pit Stop
    • 34. Car Wash
    • 35. Adrift
    • 36.The Alien Shore
  • V * Through the Asteroids
    • 37. Star
    • 38. Icebergs of Space
    • 39. The Captain's Table
    • 40. Monsters from Earth
    • 41. Memoirs of a Centenarian
    • 42. Minilith
  • VI * Haven
    • 43. Salvage
    • 44. Endurance
    • 45. Mission
    • 46. Shuttle
    • 47. Shards
    • 48. Lucy
  • VII * The Great Wall
    • 49. Shrine
    • 50. Open City
    • 51. Phantom
    • 52. On the couch
    • 53. Pressure Cooker
    • 54. Reunion
    • 55. Magma
    • 56. Perturbation Theory
    • 57. Interlude on Ganymede
  • VIII * The Kingdom of Sulfur
    • 58. Fire and Ice
    • 59. Trinity
  • IX * 3001
    • 60. Midnight in the Plaza
  • ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  • Addendum
Full title 3001: The Final Odyssey [permalink]
Language English
Author Arthur C. Clarke (author)
Publisher Ballantine Books
Categories Novel and science fiction
Series Space Odyssey (4/4)
Publication year 1998
Original publication year 1997
ISBN 0-345-42349-6 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 274
Images Back of 3001.Spine of 3001.Front of 3001.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Prologue: The Firstborn
  • I. Star City
    • 1. Comet Cowboy
    • 2. Awakening
    • 3. Rehabilitation
    • 4. A Room with a View
    • 5. Education
    • 6. Braincap
    • 7. Debriefing
    • 8. Return to Olduvai
    • 9. Skyland
    • 10. Homage to Icarus
    • 11. Here Be Dragons
    • 12. Frustration
    • 13. Stranger in a Strange Time
  • II. Goliath
    • 14. A Farewell to Earth
    • 15. Transit of Venus
    • 16. The Captain's Table
  • III. The Worlds of Galileo
    • 17. Ganymede
    • 18. Grand Hotel
    • 19. The Madness of Mankind
    • 20. Apostate
    • 21. Quarantine
    • 22. Venture
  • IV. The Kingdom of Sulfur
    • 23. Falcon
    • 24. Escape
    • 25. Fire in the Deep
    • 26. Tsienville
    • 27. Ice and Vacuum
    • 28. The Little Dawn
    • 29. The Ghosts in the Machine
    • 30. Foamscape
    • 31. Nursery
  • V. Termination
    • 32. A Gentleman of Leisure
    • 33. Contact
    • 34. Judgement
    • 35. Council of War
    • 36. Chamber of Horrors
    • 37. Operation DAMOCLES
    • 38. Preemptive Strike
    • 39. Deicide
    • 40. Midnight: Pico
    • Epilogue
  • Sources and Acknowledgments
  • Valediction

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