CanVention 22 and the Aurora Awards
If It's Tuesday,
this must be TOR
Cosmonaut Keep by Ken Macleod
The Alchemists Door
by Lisa Goldstein
ed by Harry Turtledove
by Stanley Schmidt
Logic by Laurie J. Marks
Iron Grail by John Woodstock
The Sacred Pool by L. Warren Douglas
The Sky So Big And Black by John Barnes
Spaceland by Rudy Rucker
Straw Men by Michael
Sisters of the Raven by Barbara Hambly
To Trade The Stars
The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, Ellen Datlow and
Murder Mysteries. Original short
story and radio play by Neil Gaiman. Graphic story script and art by P.
Journal of Pulse Pounding Narratives
& Metropolis Essay
Reign of Fire
by Stanley Schmidt
Tor Hardcover: ISBN
0312877269 July 2002
Review by Ernest Lilley
336 pages List price
Purchase this book at
Analog Editor Stan Schmidt’s
first book in 16 years is good solid SF, but not inspired. Basically it’s
1950s (or earlier) Aliens-in-orbit-deliver-ultimatums-to-humanity story,
set in a near future in the NYC/Hudson Valley area, at least at the start.
Schmidt has added cell phones, the internet and nanotechnology (mostly the
alien's) as well as changed (arguably) the mix of characters. The human
who makes first contact by getting stung by an alien probe imitating an
insect is a retired engineer, the bug expert he goes to "could almost
qualify as a fossil herself" and the heroine is a Hispanic woman in her
thirties who had once wanted to be an astronaut, but settled for medical
technology…Even the president is a melting pot of America, though he seems
to have missed the black vote in demographics.
Still, the bright young Nanotechnologist is your basic 50's geek guy,
though married (evidentially there will be no romance in the future), and
the rabid military type appears to still a middle aged white guy. Some
things never change.
The story begins on on a bluff overlooking the Hudson River, in a public
garden a few hours north of New York City and a few decades in our future.
Lester Ordway, who always wanted to discover something, sees what looks
like a hummingbird, or a big bug, but like none he's ever seen before. As
he wonders about it, it's wondering about him too, and it stings him
between the eyes, knocking him unconscious and downloading his memory at
the same time, but not before he grasps it in his hand, from which it's
pried in the emergency room. There is repeats the performance on a smaller
scale, zapping all the staff in the area.
Though most of the hospital personnel don't want to admit anything
happened, medical technologist Pilar Ramirez agrees to help Lester hunt
for an explanation, a hunt that Takes Lester and Pilar back from the
Hudson Highlands to the relative safety of a Science Fiction Convention
(Where better to talk openly of alien invasion?) to the bowels of
Washington…where much of the action is conducted in a 1950s style dialog
in a sealed "war-room".
The aliens seem to know ever move we make, every breathe we take, as
they're watching us. Their nanobots can scramble computers, rewire brains,
and wreak havoc on biological, ecological and technological systems at
will. Just how do you fight an enemy like that? Especially one that claims
to just want to watch, wants to be left alone?
So the story becomes a tale of how us plucky monkeys turn the tables on an
alien invader and what we gain, and lose, in the process.
The epilogic ending makes the book a bit more twisty, and a bit more fun,
but otherwise it's solid construction keeps it from reaching for the stars
as far as one might have hoped.