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Keith Stevenson

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Joined 7 months, 1 week 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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Keith Stevenson's books

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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 …

The Dispossessed (EBook, 2009) 5 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 …

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 …

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. …

Heavy Time (Paperback, 1992, Grand Central Publishing) 4 stars

Review of 'Heavy Time' on 'Goodreads'

4 stars

The Klondike days of asteroid mining are long over and it's getting harder to make a living with the government and corporations slapping regulations over routes, assays, claims, flight certification. A lot of it the name of safety, but really it's all about Earth controlling the Belt and easing the freelancers out.

This might sound like something out of the Expanse, but it’s the premise for CJ Cherryh’s Heavy Time, the first prequel to her Hugo-winning Downbelow Station which - together with over twenty other Alliance-Union novels - charts a story of humanity’s future that spans multiple worlds and centuries of time.

James SA Corey acknowledged the debt the Expanse owes to Cherryh’s books in a recent Twitter exchange:

Are you a fan of CJ Cherryh? I’ve started reading her stuff and wondered if maybe she was an influence of yours. Spacers, stationers, and belters; interesting similarities there.

— …
Across realtime (Paperback, 1994, Millennium) 5 stars

Anthology containing The Peace War and Marooned in Realtime.

Review of 'Across realtime' on 'Goodreads'

5 stars

In 1984, I read Vernor Vinge's Peace War when it was serialised in Analog Magazine. Years later elements of that story still stayed with me and - since this was the age of e-books - I decided to read it again. For obscure reasons, the novel and its follow up Marooned in Realtime were not available on any platform I cared to search, including Gollancz's own SF Gateway site (although his Zones of Thought series was readily available).

I would have given up, but it niggled at me, so I finally bit the bullet and bought a dead tree copy - the compendium Across Realtime. I'm glad I did.

Like the best science fiction, Across Realtime riffs off a simple idea: the bobbles. These are shiny spheres that are created by a bobble generator. They can be any size (depending on the power available) and they can last for …

Inhibitor Phase (2021, Orion Publishing Group, Limited) 3 stars

Review of 'Inhibitor Phase' on 'Goodreads'

3 stars

As one of Alastair Reynolds's more sarcastic characters, such as Scorpio the Hyperpig - or Triumvir Ilia Volyova - might say, 'you don't read Alastair Reynolds for the breakneck, frenetic pacing.' His dialogue also tends towards the wordy. But you do read Alastair Reynolds for the jaw-dropping concepts.

In the case of Inhibitor Phase, the title promises to bring some kind of significant event - or maybe even a denouement - to this cosmic scourge, which is a huge drawcard. The Inhibitors emerged as the main protagonists of Reynolds's Revelation Space Trilogy, sort of like souped-up versions of Fred Saberhagen's Berserkers or the Doomsday Machine from the Star Trek TOS episode of the same name.

The story starts promisingly enough with an unexpected visitor to a colony in hiding from the Inhibitor machines and a tense negotiation for one of the colonists to take a trip to find a …