User Profile

Keith Stevenson

keithstevenson@books.theunseen.city

Joined 1 year, 6 months ago

I'm the author of the sf thriller Horizon. I'm also publisher at coeur de lion publishing and a past editor of Aurealis - Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy Magazine from 2001 to 2004. I hosted 30 episodes of the Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction Podcast, and edited and published Dimension6 the free Australian speculative fiction electronic magazine from 2014 to 2020.

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Lucy Kissick: Plutoshine (2022, Orion Publishing Group, Limited) 2 stars

Terraforming - the megascale-engineering of a planet's surface to one more Earth-like - is now …

Defies expectations but not in a good way

2 stars

I tried hard to finish this book. I got to eighty per cent. But in the end I gave up because I just didn’t care about how it ended. Plutoshine defies expectations, but not in a good way.

Which is a shame, because on paper the story sounded really interesting: a project to commence terraforming Pluto by building a giant space mirror that focuses the energy of the distant sun, and the possibility of finding indigenous life beneath the frozen oceans.

The book has been described by some as ‘Hard SF’ but it’s not. There is some authentic scientific detail scattered through the narrative but it’s real focus is on a dysfunctional family living in the first human settlement on Pluto and what happened to leave Clavius, the father and the settlement’s founder, in a coma and the youngest child – Nou – traumatized and unable to speak. Again, this …

Robert Harris, Roy McMillan: The Second Sleep (AudiobookFormat, 2019, Random House Audio) 4 stars

Intriguing but ultimately unfulfilling

4 stars

It’s impossible to talk about The Second Sleep without SPOILERS, so stop now if you intend to read the book.

The book starts as described. Fairfax is making his way on an old mare through the rain-soaked English countryside to officiate at the funeral of the priest of Exmoor village. We think we’re in 1468 CE but throughout the first chapter, little facts crop up that seem out of step with that time period, with the result that at chapter end we realise we are in the future.

Our civilisation crashed in or around 2022 and was followed by two centuries of ‘dark ages’ after which humanity managed to rebuild a semblance of civilisation, though it is one where the church rules with an iron-hand, having declared the cataclysm of 2022 the end times foretold in the Book of Revelations and as a result outlawed the technology of the ancients …

avatar for keithstevenson Keith Stevenson boosted
Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed (EBook, 2009) 4 stars

E-book extra: In-depth study guide.Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek …

A political thought experiment

3 stars

The cover blurb for The Dispossessed makes it sound like a thrilling exciting narrative, filled with tension and action:

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life—Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

But that's not what it is, and it's certainly not Le Guin's focus. This is clear in the way she avoids what might be the more dramatic elements of the story, or distances us from them in how they are portrayed. The story is bookended by two examples of that. The opening …

Ursula K. Le Guin: The Dispossessed (EBook, 2009) 4 stars

E-book extra: In-depth study guide.Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek …

A political thought experiment

3 stars

The cover blurb for The Dispossessed makes it sound like a thrilling exciting narrative, filled with tension and action:

Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life—Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.

But that's not what it is, and it's certainly not Le Guin's focus. This is clear in the way she avoids what might be the more dramatic elements of the story, or distances us from them in how they are portrayed. The story is bookended by two examples of that. The opening …

avatar for keithstevenson Keith Stevenson boosted
C.J. Cherryh: The Pride of Chanur (Alliance-Union Universe) (Paperback, 1982, DAW) 5 stars

No one at Meetpoint Station had ever seen a creature like the Outsider. Naked-hided, blunt …

The Pride of Chanur

5 stars

The Pride of Chanur is a first contact chase drama that’s told with breakneck pacing while also unfolding a complex and richly detailed piece of worldbuilding. In turn, the worldbuilding heightens our understanding of the stakes and tensions inherent in the action, and so it too propels the plot along.

Cherryh’s approach to worldbuilding in The Pride of Chanur (and in other books of hers I’ve reviewed like Heavy Time and Hellburner) is to let her fully-formed worlds show themselves to the reader through dialogue and action that primarily serve the plot. Her characters live in the world and work out what is happening based on that lived experience. They don’t discuss or explain things that are obvious to them, so we as readers need to keep on our toes. The characters’ understanding of the events unfolding around them is often limited due to their situation. And we don’t know …

C.J. Cherryh: The Pride of Chanur (Alliance-Union Universe) (Paperback, 1982, DAW) 5 stars

No one at Meetpoint Station had ever seen a creature like the Outsider. Naked-hided, blunt …

The Pride of Chanur

5 stars

The Pride of Chanur is a first contact chase drama that’s told with breakneck pacing while also unfolding a complex and richly detailed piece of worldbuilding. In turn, the worldbuilding heightens our understanding of the stakes and tensions inherent in the action, and so it too propels the plot along.

Cherryh’s approach to worldbuilding in The Pride of Chanur (and in other books of hers I’ve reviewed like Heavy Time and Hellburner) is to let her fully-formed worlds show themselves to the reader through dialogue and action that primarily serve the plot. Her characters live in the world and work out what is happening based on that lived experience. They don’t discuss or explain things that are obvious to them, so we as readers need to keep on our toes. The characters’ understanding of the events unfolding around them is often limited due to their situation. And we don’t know …

C.J. Cherryh: Hellburner (Paperback, 1993, Grand Central Publishing, Questar Science Fiction, Warner Books) 5 stars

Review of 'Hellburner' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

Hellburner is a direct sequel to Heavy Time and, according to Cherryh, these are the only two books that need to be read in order, which says something about how she's constructed the whole Company Wars saga with multiple entry points into the narrative.

Cherryh takes the same approach as Heavy Time, which I think bears out the general theme of the little guy trying hard to piece together what the hell is going on while at the mercy of people and systems far more powerful than they are. It's told in very close third person POV, which can be hard going at times, but it gives a good sense of the characters being trapped and fighting to survive.

The hints and revelations they do manage to uncover point to an extraordinarily detailed set of machinations, powerplays and political maneuverings around the success or otherwise of the Hellburner project. …