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Mindswap Mindswap by Robert Sheckley
reviewed by Greg L. Johnson
The nature of reality, and the consequences of living in a universe where reality seems to depend to some extent on our own perceptions and expectations is one of those topics that inspires writers to deep and serious discussions packed with insight into the human condition and its place in a hostile universe. Thank goodness, then, that Robert Sheckley came along to skewer all those pretentious and serious discussions with a series of novels that took serious subjects and mixed them all up into one hilarious concoction that left his readers certain that even if the nature of reality is not readily comprehensible, it sure is funny.

Dispatches From Smaragdine Dispatches From Smaragdine: December 2006
a column by Jeff VanderMeer
In this month's column from Smaragdine, Jeff attends one of the November Awards ceremonies, provides both a video and digital interview on France and the Interstitial Movement with Sebastien Guillot, Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman and, in his spare time, gives us fiction reviews of books by Jay Lake and Matthew Hughes.

American Morons American Morons by Glen Hirshberg
reviewed by Victoria Strauss
Glen Hirshberg's strengths as a writer are his skill in creating a tangible atmosphere of dread -- in part by alienizing the everyday, revealing the horror that lurks behind even the most familiar things -- and his ability to make his stories seem larger than they are. More than many writers, he succeeds in creating characters who you believe have lives and histories that extend beyond the boundaries of the particular incident he has chosen to relate.

The Small Picture The Small Picture
TV reviews by David Liss
With Lost on break until February, it seems like a good time to take a step back and take stock of where the show is and where it may be going. And ABC is filling the space with the 13-episode series Day Break which attempts to combine the sense of mystery of its time-slot-mate with the compelling action of 24.

World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks
reviewed by Steven H Silver
Using the format of an oral history, it tells the story of the most disastrous world-spanning war the world has ever known. From its beginnings in the remote village of New Dachang, China, the books's characters chronicle the spread of a strange disease that turns humans into zombies. The only way to stop one is to destroy its brain. The disease, and the threat to humanity, expands exponentially and no place on earth is safe.

Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction Star Wars: Darth Bane: Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn
reviewed by David Maddox
Amidst the turmoil and ongoing war with the Old Republic and the Jedi, an angry, lone miner on the planet Apatros named Dessel finds his destiny. Son to an abusive father, trapped in never-ending debt to a faceless corporation, Des has become hard, mean and vicious to survive in the Outer Rim. Although he has always had precognitive senses, a violent turn of events with a Republic ensign puts him on the run.

Phantom Phantom by Terry Goodkind
reviewed by Lise Murphy
This book picks up where Chainfire left off. Kahlan Amnell is forgotten by all of humanity except Richard, her beloved husband. But others, randomly chosen, can also see and remember Kahlan. Richard has finally convinced Zed, Cara, Nicci, Ann and Nathan that the woman to whom he is intensely devoted actually exists. During a mission to find out what is happening with the world, Richard also begins the final battle as the prophesy foretold.

Farthing Farthing by Jo Walton
reviewed by Sherwood Smith
Jo Walton's novels are all quite different from one another. If any observation can be made about her work, it is that she has a gift for taking a familiar storyline and crossing it with an unexpected trope to present something not just new, but that informs and thus transcends the elements she draws upon.

Stranger than Fiction Stranger than Fiction
a movie review by Rick Norwood
Stranger than Fiction could be based on a Theodore Sturgeon story from Unknown or it could be based on a Charlie Kaufman screenplay, but actually it is an original script by Zach Helm, who prior to this film has written one TV movie Rick never heard of, acted in one TV episode Rick didn't see, and directed one film that won't be out until next year.

Stranger than Fiction The Fountain
a movie review by Rick Norwood
The Fountain is not fantasy or science fiction. It is the story of a doctor whose wife is dying, and who foolishly tries to save her life instead of enjoying their last days together. That's it. So, why is it being reviewed for a science fiction web site? Why, to save you seven dollars and fifty cents, of course. Rick is always thinking of you.

Babylon 5.1: Televison Reviews Babylon 5.1
TV reviews by Rick Norwood
Rick offers his thoughts on the recent story lines of Heroes and Lost and how that of Witchblade applies. He also gives us a list of what to watch on TV in December.

First Novels

The Patron Saint of Plagues The Patron Saint of Plagues by Barth Anderson
reviewed by Nathan Brazil
Set 55 years from today, it's part medical thriller, part speculative fiction, and part apocalyptic prophecy. The plot concerns a new virus, agricultural ruin and invasive biotech, complicated by radically altered religious and political divisions. The latter occur between a buoyant Mexico and a US where the economy has all but collapsed. The reason for this fall has to do with the farming methods used by American producers, which have left their crops vulnerable. When blight strikes, American agriculture is dealt a near fatal blow, reducing the nation to almost third-world standards.

Second Looks

Macrolife Macrolife by George Zebrowski
reviewed by David Hebblethwaite
Living on planets is a precarious business. You never know when some quirk of geology or a stray rock falling from the sky will put paid to your species; not forgetting evolutionary pressures pushing you who-knows-where, and sundry other ravages. So it's pretty much inevitable that a civilization wishing to survive in the long term must become space-faring. But what then?

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