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DeLillo mars the book a little with overly portentous intellectual meditations by one of the CIA operatives on the nature of plots—murderous or fictional—and by Jack Ruby's hopelessly awkward Jewish-gangster manner of speaking. But these are flaw-specks in a book that is genuinely dread-filled—a story that everyone knows he doesn't really know, and which DeLillo worries, and prods, and deepens with sure artistry.

Not a sequel to the original Fantastic Voyage a movie novelization , which Asimov chooses to ignore completely; the upshot isn't too much more than a sclerotically talky retread. In the 21st century, the superpowers coexist peacefully—so why do the Russians choose to kidnap frustrated brain researcher Albert Morrison no one believes his advanced theories? Well, genius scientist Shapirov, the inventor of miniaturization, lies in a coma, the victim of an experimental accident; the Russians need Morrison's expertise in order to tap the thoughts of the dying Shapirov he was on the point of a dramatic breakthrough.

The problem is that Morrison doesn't believe in miniaturization and, indeed, is terrified at the prospect. Still, after some judicious blackmail, he agrees to enter a specially-built submarine, along with its stereotyped crew, hearty Dezhnev, manipulative Boranova, Finno-Russian Kaliinin, and obsessive Konev: they will be shrunk to molecular size and injected into Shapirov's comatose brain. After various adventures—unsurprising stuff to fans of the first Voyage—they reemerge, the mission apparently a failure and Shapirov dead, with a mildly surprising twist ending still to come.

Like much of Asimov's recent output: a novel-sized conversation, scientifically more credible than FVI but just as tepid plot-and-drama-wise. It slips down easily enough but leaves no lingering impression. A short story that first appeared in , expanded and polished to a high gloss. A handful of islands in a planetary ocean, Thalassa is a colony derived from a robot seedship sent from Earth centuries ago, just before the sun went nova.

With few environmental challenges, the Thalassans have developed a peaceful but stagnant culture. Then a ship arrives from Earth: the huge Magellan, powered by "quantum drive" it derives energy from the quantum fluctuations of space itself ; traveling at the speed of light, Magellan left Earth just before the final nova bearing a million colonists preserved in cold-sleep.

Magellan has stopped off at Thalassa on its way to the distant planet Sagan Two in order to renew its shield. Moving at the speed of light, the ship could be destroyed by the strike of a mere grain of dust, so it carries ahead of it a cone-shaped shield of ice to absorb such impacts. The story of the interaction between the Thalassans and the crew of Magellan is often an absorbing one, set forth in a supple and pleasingly surefooted narrative, peopled with characters who are well developed but so-so nice even when they're angry. What the book glaringly lacks, like Odyssey Two , is conflict and drama; Clarke's efforts in that direction—a potential mutiny aboard Magellan, the hitherto undiscovered presense of maybe-intelligent "scorps" sea scorpions in Thalassa's oceans—fall flat.

Still, there's much to admire here—not least Clarke's dream of civilization without fossilized hatreds and violence—and his vast audience won't be disappointed. Clarke's Odyssey yarns, like Herbert's Dune and Asimov's Foundation, have been self-perpetuating if, thus far, unimpressive.

The far superior Kubrick movie overshadowed ; was inventive but flatly undramatic. This, happily, is the most gripping and stimulating entry to date. Savvy readers will be tipped off by the title date: yes, Halley's comet is returning to the inner solar system. Aboard state-of-the-art spaceship Universe, a crew of scientists—including Heywood Floyd, now ancient but still fit, thanks to years of low-gravity living—will rendezvous with, and land on, Halley's comet.

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Meanwhile, astronomers in the Jupiter system observe the appearance of a huge, enigmatic mountain on the moon Europa. Readers will recall that, in , the intelligence controlling the ubiquitous monoliths turned Jupiter into a mini-sun in order to foster the development of intelligent life on Europa; humans were warned to keep off. Then, a ship touring the Jovian moons is forced to crash-land on Europa by a fanatical Afrikaner saboteur.

Well, the embittered, vengeful Afrikaners booted out of South Africa have learned that the mountain on Europa is made of—pure diamond! An irresistible prize as far as the Afrikaners are concerned. Ship Universe speeds to the rescue—but what of the ban against landing on Europa? Will the still-mysterious, immensely powerful monoliths interfere? With starchild Dave Bowman and computer Hal waiting in the wings, Clarke provides intriguing and satisfying answers. The all-round best Odyssey so far. Indeed, Clarke, with an absorbing blend of scientific extrapolation and events that generate their own tension, has returned to something like Vintage form after years in the fictional doldrums.

Heinlein's back in form, with a most refreshing and satisfying blend of ideas and storytelling. Church fundraiser and lovable bigot Alex Hergensheimer, on an ocean cruise through Polynesia, follows on a bet some native firewalkers across a bed of burning coals, then collapses unconscious—and wakes in a parallel Earth, where he has the identity of shady wheeler-dealer Alec Graham. And this is just the prelude to a whole series of world-shifts, wherein Alee and Margrethe usually arrive unclad and penniless, surviving by their wits and menial toil.

Despite their plight, Alec's faith in God and the Bible never wavers though he does rail at whatever cosmic prankster is persecuting him ; he concludes that Judgement Day is approaching, and warns those who will listen to repent.

Eventually the Last Trumpet does indeed sound: Alec is summoned bodily up into heaven, becoming to his astonishment a saint; but Margrethe is nowhere to be found, so poor Alec descends into hell, feeling ever more Job-like; and a sympathetic and helpful Satan finally takes Alec before an ineffable being a super-God , who agrees that Alec's faith has been tested and found true. Despite a few jarring or illogical moments: a limber, complex, and economical novel that disarms and often compels—with Heinlein's best theology-shaded fantasy since Stranger in a Strange Land.


Heine , by Stanislaw Lem. In A Perfect Vacuum , Leto offered a collection of reviews of nonexistent books. Here, in a companion book of sorts, he concocts introductions to nonexistent books, complete with sample pages, plus an introduction to introductions in general. It first appeared in Polish in And each entry displays a different facet of the formidable Lem talent. The first introduction concerns a bizarre volume of pornographic soft-focus X-ray plates.

Next, with deadpan glee, Lem presents a scientist breeding bacteria that communicate in Morse code and foretell the future.

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A treatise on computer-generated literature includes machine-neologisms like "horseman" centaur and "piglet" a filthy rooming house. Golem decides it doesn't want the job "the best guarantee of peace is universal disarmament" , and instead settles down at MIT to deliver a set of devastating lectures on humanity's shortcomings; finally, then, its intelligence having progressed beyond human comprehension, Golem destroys itself.

Don't look for stories, here, or fiction in any orthodox sense—but this is weirdly satisfying entertainment, with the remarkable Lem variously at his profound, provocative, or comic best. Updike once more, as in A Month of Sundays, is writing in homage to Hawthorne. In a small Rhode Island shore-town, Eastwick, three divorced women and mothers in their late thirties—Jane Smart, a cellist; Alexandra Spofford, a sculptor of small gift-y figurines; Sukie Rougemont, a gossip columnist for the local newspaper—make up a coven: "In the right mood and into their third drinks they could erect a cone of power above them like a tent to the zenith, and know at the base of their bellies who was sick, who was sinking into debt, who Was loved, who was frantic, who was burning, who was asleep in a remission of life's bad luck.

And so begin the sabbats, presided over by Darryl—in the hot-tub, on the tennis court, over spicy hors d'oeuvres and sensual massages. But when Jenny, the grown daughter of Sukie's dead lover, arrives to settle her parents' estate, and stays to become Darryl's wife, the magic turns from harmless white to specific black. The witches are jealous, bemused; Jenny soon contracts cancer in accordance with voodoo-doll rituals; when Jenny dies the witches suffer guilt; the town rises up against them with some counter-witchery of its own.

Updike seems to suggest that all women are potential witches. And, frightened by their own powers, the three turn to conjuring up new husbands for themselves. Updike treats much of this as no more than a bagatelle—with some measure of doodling.

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But the novel works best when Updike turns it into Hawthorneesque natural allegory. The witches are body-aware, air-alert, fluid-filled creatures, completely attuned to biology—which allows Updike to write about nature rank or pretty, raw or stable more gorgeously, with more painterly effects, than he's ever allowed himself before. But what you keep coming back to, on nearly every page, is Updike's landscapist's paintbox—which is grand and lush and astonishingly fluid. Despite the basic triteness of its premise and its backdrop: another technically scintillating novel from the author of Kindred and the Patternmaster series.

Clay's Ark , the first interstellar spaceship, returns carrying a deadly alien parasite and crashes in the desert; only pilot Eli survives. Transformed by the parasite, he is stronger and faster than before and nearly invulnerable. But the alien unmercifully drives him to infect others.

There's a powerful sexual compulsion too.

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So Eli takes over an isolated desert community, hoping to confine the disease there while shanghai-ing occasional new recruits—such as thoughtful doctor Blake Maslin and his daughters, self-reliant Rane and leukemia-stricken Keira. Soon, then, all three are infected; aware of the alien nature of the parasite, they try to escape.

But a vicious bandit gang intervenes The parasite's victims are sympathetic—with superior abilities, tenderness, and the will to fight against their alien-inspired compulsions. On the other hand, these characters look terrible; they eat raw meat, carry contagion, produce non-human offspring. Rome was crushed and entombed large portions of the ancient city remain buried to this day. The Forum was not fully excavated until AD.

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Question: Could the two catastrophes that snuffed out the Roman Empire and devastated the world have been caused by consecutive passages of Comet Halley? Actually Procopious write of the and subsequent events which is frost, famine and clouded sun. The Elder Edda and Gildas write of fire and Gildas tell that the cities is tumbled down. Then the Justinian Plague hits. With the Roman Empire being heavily urbanized the effect in a time of no medication is so terrible as to give rise to a new religion that can only relate the events in laments unintellible to historians and a few surviving written accounts — Elder Edda and Gildas — and make the Bishops take over local rule and administration within the Empire.

The Roman Army living as armies does in camps is destructively hit as armies always is and must be reorganized and foederati invited to help resettle and defend the Empire. Ultimately giving rise to France, Germany etc. The exact date is somewhat of less importance — discovering the cause of the downfall is important and then chronology may be reset. Accepting this fact is so difficult to do because we are all used to an absolute established chronology but if the foundations is build on wet sand..! The retro-calculation element is trying to figure out where the planets are at each observed return.

If electrical forces are responsible and magnetic force is inseparable from electric as the two cannot exist without the other in isolation then we are dealing with quite a different dynamic. The problem is that this dynamic is not presently observed.