John Hertz Reviews
The City and the Stars PDF Print E-mail

Arthur C. Clarke, The City and the Stars (1956)

Reviewed by John Hertz
December 2006

Reprinted from the amateur publication Challenger; copyright remains with the author. Used by permission.

What is a classic? Can we have any in science fiction? I've suggested we can if we make a book, or a painting, or whatever may be s-f, which outlives its own time: in which merit appears even after times have changed, after the currents which may have buoyed up an artwork have passed.

The City and the Stars has been continuously in print for fifty years. The current Gollancz edition has 256 pages, a nice mathematical fillip. In a 2000 introduction Sir Arthur, as he that year became, called it his best-loved work.

It is a work of marvels great and small. As it opens, our hero Alvin is on a far future Earth; the city of Diaspar has been a billion years in the form we meet, a fraction of its age. This immortal city, so encompassing, so big, we rightly suspect is a fraction of this book. There are stars. The story is told so well in so few words as to be another marvel. Clarke never quotes Quantity of labor has nothing to do with art; he does quote No machine may have any moving parts.

Last Updated ( Friday, 29 April 2016 )
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The Glass Bead Game PDF Print E-mail

Herman Hesse, The Glass Bead Game (1943)

Reviewed by John Hertz
August 2013

Reprinted from the amateur publication The Drink Tank; copyright remains with the author. Used by permission.

The Glass Bead Game (also published in English as Magister Ludi) is largely neglected among us. Yet it won its author Hermann Hesse a Nobel Prize; it is one of very few good s-f novels by an outside writer; indeed it is a masterwork.

Last Updated ( Friday, 17 June 2016 )
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The End of Eternity PDF Print E-mail

Isaac Asimov, The End of Eternity (1953)

Reviewed by John Hertz
November 2007

Retrieved from the Internet Archive (originally at Collecting Science Fiction Books; copyright remains with the author). Used by permission.

       Here is Margaux wine gleaming red through the glass, with the flavor you can’t decide whether to call strong or delicate and the breath of violets. Here is Japanese nigirimeshi, seaweed around a triangle of rice holding in its careful blandness a sharp center, perhaps a salted plum.

       Asimov at Noreascon III, the 1989 World Science Fiction Convention in Boston, told us that while he had by then published 400 books, of which only 75 were s-f, he considered himself an s-f author. By his death in 1992 it was 500.

       He is represented in each of the ten categories of a library’s Dewey Decimal System except philosophy. He used to say a good joke could do more to provoke thought than hours of philosophical discussion.

       This book is dedicated to Galaxy editor Horace Gold, who rejecting it as a short story provoked its rewriting as a novel. It has been translated into Russian (1966), Hebrew (1979), Finnish (1987), and Spanish (2004).

Last Updated ( Monday, 11 April 2016 )
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Three Days to Never PDF Print E-mail

Tim Powers, Three Days to Never (2006)

Reviewed by John Hertz
March 2007

Retrieved from the Internet Archive (originally at Emerald City; copyright remains with the author). Used by permission.

In the 17th Century we thought drama should be governed by three unities, of place, time, and action. A hundred years later we were already wondering how valid they were as laws, but as guides they could strengthen focus in the theater, a main virtue there.

Last Updated ( Monday, 11 April 2016 )
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The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet PDF Print E-mail

Eleanor Cameron, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet (1954)

Reviewed by John Hertz
July 2011

Retrieved from the Internet Archive (originally at Collecting Science Fiction Books; copyright remains with the author). Used by permission.

Flight has been loved for decades. It is on dozens of children’s-book lists.

Upon publication The Atlantic (Dec 54, p. 98) called it “a perfectly made fantasy.... most realistic description of a trip that two boys make in their own space ship. I felt as if I were right there with them.” Four pages earlier the same reviewer praised Dr. Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who, and ten pages earlier her editors praised Ben Shahn’s Alphabet of Creation.

The New York Times Book Review (4 Nov 54, pt. 2 p. 30) said “scientific facts are emphasized in this well-built story. Since they are necessary to the development of the story the reader absorbs them naturally.” Just above was praise of Walter Brooks’ Freddy and the Men from Mars.

Coming from outside the s-f community this is high praise, and these reviewers show taste.

Hugo-winning editor Ellen Datlow has applauded Flight. So has novelist Walter Mosley. It has strangeness and charm.

Last Updated ( Monday, 11 April 2016 )
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