A thoroughly enjoyable assemblage of old-time science fiction.



A collection of sci-fi short stories about Mars, from the late 19th century through the 1960s, including tales from H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury, and others.

In the 1880s, Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli noted that Mars’ surface seem to show a number of straight lines. The word he used to describe them (canali, meaning “channel”) was mistranslated in English as “canal.” The idea of Martian canals—and with it, the possibility of intelligent life—seized fiction writers’ imaginations. This collection chronicles this golden age of Martian fiction, which would last until NASA’s Mariner 4 spacecraft took close-up pictures of Mars’ surface in 1965, ending speculation about life on the red planet. The collection is prefaced with a history of Mars in fiction, and each story in the collection leads off with interesting biographical details about its author and what specific scientific ideas of the era may have informed its writing. For example, “Crucifixus Etiam” by Walter M. Miller Jr. (best known for A Canticle For Leibowitz) is prefaced with 1940s-era details of the Martian atmosphere; the story features a common idea among writers of the time—that Peruvians, Chileans, and Tibetans, who were already used to breathing similarly rarefied air, would make ideal Mars colonists. Despite the advanced age of some of these tales, they’re sure to keep the interest of modern readers. The sole exception is E.C. Tubb’s 1955 story of Mars colonization, “Without Bugles”; although well-written, its portrayal of a manly, stoic hero and the woman who loves him feels dated. By contrast, Bradbury’s 1950 “Ylla,” a tense, taut portrait of an unhappy Martian woman and her jealous husband, feels as if it could have been written today. Other stories by less well-known authors also shine: “The Great Sacrifice,” written by George C. Wallis in 1903, tells an exceptional story of intelligent beings on Mars putting their entire planet into the path of a deadly meteor storm, destroying themselves so that Earth may survive.

A thoroughly enjoyable assemblage of old-time science fiction.

Pub Date: Oct. 22, 2018

ISBN: 978-0-226-57508-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Univ. of Chicago

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2018

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A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.


Are we not men? We are—well, ask Bigfoot, as Brooks does in this delightful yarn, following on his bestseller World War Z (2006).

A zombie apocalypse is one thing. A volcanic eruption is quite another, for, as the journalist who does a framing voice-over narration for Brooks’ latest puts it, when Mount Rainier popped its cork, “it was the psychological aspect, the hyperbole-fueled hysteria that had ended up killing the most people.” Maybe, but the sasquatches whom the volcano displaced contributed to the statistics, too, if only out of self-defense. Brooks places the epicenter of the Bigfoot war in a high-tech hideaway populated by the kind of people you might find in a Jurassic Park franchise: the schmo who doesn’t know how to do much of anything but tries anyway, the well-intentioned bleeding heart, the know-it-all intellectual who turns out to know the wrong things, the immigrant with a tough backstory and an instinct for survival. Indeed, the novel does double duty as a survival manual, packed full of good advice—for instance, try not to get wounded, for “injury turns you from a giver to a taker. Taking up our resources, our time to care for you.” Brooks presents a case for making room for Bigfoot in the world while peppering his narrative with timely social criticism about bad behavior on the human side of the conflict: The explosion of Rainier might have been better forecast had the president not slashed the budget of the U.S. Geological Survey, leading to “immediate suspension of the National Volcano Early Warning System,” and there’s always someone around looking to monetize the natural disaster and the sasquatch-y onslaught that follows. Brooks is a pro at building suspense even if it plays out in some rather spectacularly yucky episodes, one involving a short spear that takes its name from “the sucking sound of pulling it out of the dead man’s heart and lungs.” Grossness aside, it puts you right there on the scene.

A tasty, if not always tasteful, tale of supernatural mayhem that fans of King and Crichton alike will enjoy.

Pub Date: June 16, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-2678-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Del Rey/Ballantine

Review Posted Online: Feb. 10, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2020

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If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be...


Some very nice, very smart African-Americans are plunged into netherworlds of malevolent sorcery in the waning days of Jim Crow—as if Jim Crow alone wasn’t enough of a curse to begin with.

In the northern U.S. of the mid-1950s, as depicted in this merrily macabre pastiche by Ruff (The Mirage, 2012, etc.), Driving While Black is an even more perilous proposition than it is now. Ask Atticus Turner, an African-American Korean War veteran and science-fiction buff, who is compelled to face an all-too-customary gauntlet of racist highway patrolmen and hostile white roadside hamlets en route from his South Side Chicago home to a remote Massachusetts village in search of his curmudgeonly father, Montrose, who was lured away by a young white “sharp dresser” driving a silver Cadillac with tinted windows. At least Atticus isn’t alone; his uncle George, who puts out annual editions of The Safe Negro Travel Guide, is splitting driving duties in his Packard station wagon “with inlaid birch trim and side paneling.” Also along for the ride is Atticus’ childhood friend Letitia Dandridge, another sci-fi fan, whose family lived in the same neighborhood as the Turners. It turns out this road trip is merely the beginning of a series of bizarre chimerical adventures ensnaring both the Turner and Dandridge clans in ancient rituals, arcane magical texts, alternate universes, and transmogrifying potions, all of which bears some resemblance to the supernatural visions of H.P. Lovecraft and other gothic dream makers of the past. Ruff’s ripping yarns often pile on contrivances and overextend the narratives in the grand manner of pulp storytelling, but the reinvented mythos here seems to have aroused in him a newfound empathy and engagement with his characters.

If nothing else, you have to giggle over how this novel’s namesake, who held vicious white supremacist opinions, must be doing triple axels in his grave at the way his imagination has been so impudently shaken and stirred.

Pub Date: Feb. 16, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-06-229206-3

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: Nov. 4, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 15, 2015

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