The Big Time

By Fritz Leiber

Rating: 3 stars

Greta was plucked from her life just before it ended to become part of a war across time and space: the Change War, where two factions, the Spiders and the Snakes, are battling for control, changing history as it suits their cause. Greta is an Entertainer (part hostess, part call girl, part psychologist) in a recuperation Place outside time and space, but her latest group of recuperating soldiers are going to be a handful…

One of the first things that struck me about this book was that it was from a female perspective, which is unusual for the time, given that it was written by a man, and also that that perspective (although coloured by the prejudices of the 1950s) is actually fairly convincing. It’s also not quite what you think it is. The Change War and time travel form just the background and setting for what turns out to be more like a mystery or a thriller, with some pretty philosophical overtones.

Despite these good points, the book never became anything more than a shoulder shrug for me, never raised itself for me to really get engaged by it and I suspect that although the high concept behind it may linger in the mind, the story itself will fade away pretty quickly.

Book details

Publisher: Ace Books
Year of publication: 1958

Starry Rift

By James Tiptree Jr.

Rating: 5 stars

This is a collection of three novellas set in the same shared future history, with linking narration between them. All three stories describe stories around the edge of a Federation containing both Humans and aliens, at an area of space where stars are rare, and has something of a frontier feel to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but am struggling to say much about it. Although the technology Tiptree describes has dated, the characters and their interactions and motivations have not and prove to be a strong attraction. You feel for and with all of them and even the alien couple in the linking narration are warm and engaging.

It’s often said that Tiptree’s literary strength was in her short stories, and this book does nothing to disprove that hypothesis.

Book details

ISBN: 9780747400899
Publisher: Sphere
Year of publication: 1986

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