Short works

Books : reviews

John M. Ford.
Web of Angels.
Tor. 1980

rating : 6 : unfinishable
review : 6 April 1999

Grailer is a child prodigy, able to reach the forbidden Fourth Literacy with his computer access. At the age of nine he is rescued and trained by a variety of strange characters before the dreaded CIRCE agents can kill him. But once grown, he must eventually face his fate.

I really expected to like this book, given the other John Ford novels I've read and enjoyed. But I just couldn't get into it. Set in an unpleasant high-tech interstellar civilisation, where decadent long-lived humans seem to have nothing better to do than dress up, play games, and kill each other, it is told in a particular flowery elliptical fractured style that I find unrewarding to read. So I gave up at the end of chapter 6. (However, I did appreciate the fact that a plausible mechanism was put in place to allow the VR Hounds to kill a hacker through a computer terminal.)

John M. Ford.
The Scholars of Night.
Tor. 1988

A classic novel of technological espionage, human betrayal, and the persistence of history

Nicholas Hansard is a brilliant historian at a small New England college. He specializes in the life and work of the Elizabethan playwright Christopher Marlowe. But Hansard has a second, secret career with The White Group, a “consulting agency” with shadowy government connections. There, he is a genius at teasing secrets out of documents old and new. To call him merely a code-breaker would be an understatement.

When Hansard’s work exposes one of his closest friends as a Russian agent, and the friend then dies mysteriously, the connections seem all too clear. Shaken, Hansard turns away from his secret work to lose himself in an ancient Marlowe manuscript. Surely, a lost four-hundred-year-old play has nothing to do with a modern-day murder.

He is, it turns out, very wrong.

John M. Ford.
Growing Up Weightless.
Bantam. 1993

rating : 2.5 : great stuff

An excellent rites of passage novel, set on the moon, spoilt for me only by the fact that I didn't understand the ending.

Gregory Benford, John M. Ford, Nancy Springer, eds.
Under the Wheel.
Baen. 1987


Gregory Benford. As Big as the Ritz. 1986
Clayton Donner gets invited to visit the strange experimental world of the Brotherhood, but they don't realise that he is an astrophysicist, able to understand how the world works.
John M. Ford. Fugue State. 1987
Nancy Springer. Chance. 1987

John M. Ford.
The Final Reflection.
Titan. 1988

rating : 3.5 : worth reading

A superior Star Trek novel, with ST:TOS characters appearing only in cameo, focusing on Klingons (before they were good guys).

John M. Ford.
How Much for Just the Planet?.
Titan. 1987

rating : 3.5 : worth reading

The inhabitants of a planet rich in Dilithium wants neither the Federation nor the Klingons, so resorts to rather original tactics to discourage them. That notorious Star Trek novel of Gilbert and Sullivan slapstick.