Free downloads!

I just put my first batch of free ebooks up at the following page:
Free Sci-Fi ebooks
The first batch consists of Edgar Rice Burroughs first 5 John Carter of Mars books. They are freely downloadable in Mobipocket, html or pdf formats. If you’ve never read the John Carter stories, think of a cross between Tarzan, Buck Rogers, and Alan Quartermain. Remember they were written in the ’20s, so the science is pretty absurd, but for raw adventure there’s not much better.

The 10 Greatest Science Fiction Novels of All Time…

Top ten lists are always cool, so I started thinking about the 10 Sci-Fi novels that have had the greatest impact on my personally. At first I thought that I might have trouble coming up with 10, but just the opposite ocurred. I actually had a hard time narrowing down the list. Do I include I, Robot but not The Caves of Steel? Does Neuromancer make the cut? In the end after thinking hard and long. I came up with 10 novels. This is my personal list, and yours may be different. I included novels without regard for content matter, author, or theme, and put in those that had the greatest effect on me personally. These novels made me think about myself, and my place in the Universe. They made me examine what kind of person I am and who I want to be. That’s really the purpose of all “great” literature. It holds up a mirror, and allows us to examine what we see there in a different context. Who knows, if you haven’t read some of these, then you might just find out something about yourself.No. 1- Starship Troopers by Robert Heinlein
Far from being a simple story about galactic war. Starship Troopers is a vast exploration of how a society protects and administers itself. Heinlein comments on crime and punishment, education, and what makes offer his life up for the protection of his society. On the most basic level, it’s a great read, a thrilling adventure story. But on a deeper level, it’s what Science Fiction is all about, examining ourselves and our society in a different context.

No. 2 – The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
Granted it’s three books rather than one, but the books really don’t stand alone. Each operates in an overall context that’s defined by the trilogy as a whole. This is really a great read, and is breathtaking in it’s scope. I’m still amazed that Asimov began this trilogy in 1942. There have been numerous sequels to the original trilogy, but they don’t seem to have the impact that the first three novels do.

No. 3 – Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card
Ender’s Game is especially poignant as it explores the capabilities of children. One of the main themes is that children operate in an environment in which they are fully and completely formed sentient beings. Adults tend to treat children as though they are incapable of complex thought or emotion, but it is children who eventually save humanity. In Card’s foreword he says that children do not think of themselves as children. They think of themselves as people.

No. 4 – Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein
If you haven’t guessed it by now, I’m a huge fan of Heinlein. Stranger in a Strange Land may be his crowning achievement. It is certainly the most critically acclaimed of his works. The story of a human being not raised among humans and forced to confront the actuality of his species is profound.

No. 5 – Have Spacesuit, Will Travel by Robert Heinlein
This one really turned me on to science fiction as a child. It is almost (but not quite) a children’s story, concerning a young man who finds himself involved in an interplanetary conspiracy. This story blazes along and is reminiscent of the non-stop action of the Saturday serials that used to play in movie theaters across the US.

No. 6 – War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
This is the one that started it all. Wells created many of the themes that Sci-Fi writers rely on to this day, and this may be one of the most copied. The invasion of Earth by technically advanced, yet bloodthirsty (literally) aliens, is still a tremendously moving tale. Even the Deus Ex Machina that saves humanity in the end, offers a compelling look at the nature and interaction of life in the universe.

No. 7 – The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
Again, a war story that is not about war. Haldeman was a Vietnam veteran when he wrote this story of an inter-galactic war that rages throughout the centuries. Relativity throws a few wrenches into the works however, as it takes several hundred years of objective time to learn the results of a battle. The hero watches life move on in great leaping bounds as he is only able to revisit Earth every couple of hundred years, and he feels less and less a part of his own race.

No 8. – Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
In a world where Firemen start fires and having a good time is the highest ideal, Bradbury forces us to look at our increasingly disjointed and isolated lives. Is pleasure possible without pain? Is it enough to simply exist without examining the meaning behind your actions and your life?

No. 9 – Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
Pure, unadulterated fun. This trilogy, containing 4 books, (which gives you some idea of it’s seriousness) is a parody of everything Sci-Fi. From the Robots with GPP (Genuine People Personalities) to the little white mice who actually run the galaxy and perform experiments on human scientists by recording their reactions to a mouse in a maze, these books blast everyone equally. I fully believe that we wouldn’t have South Park on television today, if these books hadn’t been written. And to see how pervasive these books are, go to Google and type in “what is the answer to life the universe and everything”.

No. 10 – Dune by Frank Herbert
An epic novel that combines Science Fiction, Mysticism, Ecology and Evolution, Dune treats the reader to an amazing world. If you’ve only seen the movie, then you missed out completely. Dune is an intensely detailed story, epic in it’s scope and brilliant in it’s description of a different universe.

Jumping through Technorati Hoops

My web guy says that submitting my blog to sites like Technorati can help increase the Cyborgelf’s exposure. So I’m doing that now. Technorati makes you place some code into a post on your blog, in order to “claim” it. So here we go:

Technorati Profile

OK, so now what happens? You’re guess is as good as mine, I’ll just have to wait for all the millions of people to start swarming the elf.

Free ebooks for all!

When I started this blog, I really wanted to concentrate on “classic” Science Fiction, Heinlein, Tolkien, de Camp, etc… But I also want it to be a sort of reading diary. I read a lot, and I switch back and forth from old sci-fi to new, fantasy to space opera and even into thrillers and more mainstream stuff. So, I’ll just have to see how this “Classic science fiction” blog evolves.

Tor books has been giving away free ebooks for a little while now, mainly as a response to Baen’s free library. So I finally signed up with Tor, to get some new swag. If you’re not familiar with Baen’s library, it’s a database of older Baen titles that you can download for free. You can browse through the database and pick and choose what you are interested in. Tor has gone the “ebook of the month club” route, every month you get an email with a link to an ebook that you can download. No real choice in the matter, but hey, I’m not complaining about FREE.
In any case, one of Tor’s recent offerings was “Flash” by L.E. Modesitt. I’ve seen his stuff on the shelves, but never read him, but I’ll read damn near anything that’s free.

Modesitt apparently works some themes into the majority of his writing. One of the main ones is ecology, the natural balance of the world. The Earth of “Flash” is ecologically unbalanced, a large number of people having died due to extreme climate change, drought, famine, etc… What I like about it, though is the fact that life goes on. Even though the Earth is partially blighted, people continue in their daily lives. Business and government move forward and humanity adapts. That’s really one of the great themes of Science Fiction to my mind, the adaptability of the human race. No matter what momentous changes occur, we as humans, adapt and just keep getting on with our lives. It’s been true throughout history, but I wonder if it’s really that simple. Will we eventually be overcome, either by nature or our own violence? Or will we be able to overcome that terrible enemy, the future?

WordPress Sucks!!!!

OK, so I’m a little bit of a geek, but not a huge one. My webhost sent me an automated message that my WordPress (blogging software) installation was out of date and did I want to upgrade. Sure, why not, I figure they know what they’re doing. Alas, (I love using that word) after I updated, nothing worked. I couldn’t post, I couldn’t read anything, I couldn’t make any changes. I called my web guy, Rich and he checked things out and said that WP (WordPress) was having a spot of bother with their newest upgrade. In any case, it pissed me off, I mean, the whole point of this blogging stuff is that you don’t have to be a super geek programmer to do it, right? I’m putting myself out there day after day, and I just want the stuff to work, I don’t have the time or the money (Rich is good, but he ain’t free, although I get a break for every link I give him.) to troubleshoot this crap.

So, I’ve switched from WordPress to Nucleus. So far, I like Nucleus better, even though it’s been a bit of a pain to migrate everything over, and some of the older stuff may not have made it in one piece. Anyway, I think it’s funny that all these open-source yahoos keep griping about Microsoft, but their stuff just works, you know. I know that has nothing to do with Sci-Fi, but I wanted to explain why the blog may look different, or show up differently in your feed, even though my web designer (I’m building up a lot of credit with this one) is working on a new template. In any case, to give you clue about the next post…L.E. Modesitt.

Help meeee….

OK, all you loyal readers out there (all 1 of you) I woke up this morning thinking of a book that I read many years ago, and now can’t remember the title or author. Basically it was the story of a gentleman who works for a sort of Magical Environmental Protection Agency. He stumbles across an illegal magic dumping operation and eventually saves the day. Like I said, the details are a little fuzzy, but I remember it being a surprisingly good read, and I’d like to have another shot at it. However, I need some help finding it. I’d really like to find it as an ebook, but I’ll take what I can get. This happens to me a liot, I’ll start thinking about something that I read years ago, and get all wistful and nostalgic for the good ole’ days of 2005 or something, then I can’t find the darn thing. Google has helped tremendously, as I can usually track it down starting from some generic keywords, but I’m stumped on this one. Seriously, if anyone knows what this book is (it might even be a short story, not sure), please let me know.

I can’t write as fast as I read!!!

I am really trying to keep this thing up to date, but I’m really finding that I can find more time for reading than I can for blogging. I suspect this is true of most bibliophiles so I’m really not that concerned with it. Since my last post, I left Asimov behind, (Technically, I read the entire Foundation series, 3 books even though there are many continuations of the series). I know this is supposed to be a Science Fiction & Fantasy blog, but I got hold of “The Dogs of War” by Frederick Forsyth, in ebook format, and I got hooked. I don’t know if Frederick’s picture is close to reality or not, but he certainly portrays a convincing portrait of the world of mercenaries. From “Dogs” I went straight to “Day of the Jackal” which details a plot by a French terrorist organization to assassinate Charles de’Gaulle. Really good stuff, although if you’re a fan of Tom Clancy, you may find it a bit simple-minded. Still, for the mid 60’s this is real techno-thriller. I found myself laughing at some of the tech stuff even though the suspense just kept me in thrall. In any case, I think I’ll probably read “The Odessa File” before leaving Forsyth and getting back to the cyborg elf’s world.

Oh yeah, I saw a t-shirt that I loved the other day, so I’m introducing a new feature to the blog: The Spoiler of the Day! Here’s the inaugural Spoiler:

Snape kills Dumbledore!

Did Asimov Get It?

Ok, so I’m not actually blogging as fast as I am reading. I finished the first three “Foundation” novels last week, and I’m just getting around to talking about them. I’ll try to do better in the future. In any case, most of the time, Sci-Fi novels just shouldn’t contain this level of commentary on the human condition. Asimov threw it all in here, the conflict of left and right brain, the dichotomy between the man of action and the man of reason, the co-existence of economic and military power, etc… In essence, I wonder if Man (capitalization mine) will be so predictable three millenia from now. The people that Asimov describes are the same people we know from down the street, and it gives me pause… Are we that far along on the evolutionary scale, that our actions (from a sociological standpoint) are fixed? Surely 3,000 years in the future, our society will have different mores, different norms, so that our descendants will not react exactly as we might have. But, after some two million years, our reactions are still firmly based in physical reactions to danger, the lust for power, wealth, and how those things impact our social status. Surely our descendants will be of a higher mind… I hope, otherwise, what is the point. An endless, three thousand year quest for more power, more wealth, bigger dicks? Come on Isaac, give us some credit.

The Foundation of Asimov

Holy Lord, is Foundation an amazing piece of literature or what. Isaac Asimov is on my short list of greatest Sci-Fi authors of all time (although as a practicing scientist, he actually wrote much more non-fiction). However, I had never read his Foundation series. So to remedy this shortcoming, I recently downloaded the ebook, and I finished the first volume today. It’s amazing! Foundation began as a series of stories in Astounding magazine in 1942. Given the state of technology at the time, Asimov’s prescience is scary. Imagine a fully fleshed out Galactic Empire dependent on Nuclear Power and with a “heavy mineral” based economy; Now imagine some kid writing it in 1942!

In any case, Foundation is based on the premise that a future prodigy named Hari Seldon perfects a branch of mathematics known as psychohistory. Psychohistory defines a mathematical symbology for representing the flow of history or for modelling the behavior of large groups of people (basically, and there is some progress in this direction even now, given a statistically large enough population the basic outline of the future of that population can be mapped) and Harry models the next several thousand years and discovers that the empire will fall. He sets about creating a “Foundation” whose aim is to shorten the inter-regnum between the fall of the present Empire and the rise of a new one. Without his foundation, he predicts that there will be thirty thousand years of galactic barbarism, but he plans on shortening that time to 1,000 years. The first volume, Foundation, outlines Seldon’s plan and introduces us to the planet Terminus, where the foundation is founded. Basically, (and remember the book was developed from a serial in Astounding magazine) the first volume is a series of short stories which detail the adventures of key Foundation personnel and their descendants. We leave this volume, somewhere around 200 years into the Foundation Era, and the Galactic Empire is already crumbling.

I leave it to my readers to delve into the novels themselves. What I really want to talk about here are the themes behind some of Isaac Asimov’s greatest work. Asimov himself said that he got the basis of the stories from Gibbon’s “Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire”, and we see here the inevitability of the decline of civilization. I wonder if anyone has ever charted the cyclical nature of empire (is it a sine curve, do you think?) ? I also see many parallels between Rome, this galactic empire and a modern United States. Without etting too political, the main reason for the fall of Asimov’s empire is stagnation. The pinnacle has been reached; in science, art, engineering, social interaction, so where is there to go from here but down. Gibbon himself (and if you can read Gibbon without falling asleep, more power to you) seems to draw the conclusion that man, at least political man, needs a challenge. Once all challenges are removed, man becomes lazy and proceeds to allow the barbarians in. So what do you think, are the barbarians at the gate? And do we have the initiative to keep them there, or do we roll over and let them in?

What the hell is a CYBORGELF

Silly, I know, but to me the little fella sums up the main distinction in science fiction. Sci-Fi has always fallen into two distinct categories, one might be called “Swords and Sorcery” and the other “Space Opera”. I know, I know, that’s an oversimplification but it illustrates the major differences in the two camps. In any case, you’re probably a devotee of one or the other, and you may even be one of those militants who thinks Tolkien is God and Heinlein is crap. Continue reading What the hell is a CYBORGELF