Archive for the ‘Dust Jacket’ Category

Hugo Awards Month Introduction

Posted by Richo On July 25, 2011 ADD COMMENTS


Beginning Wednesday, and for the next 5 weeks, your dedicated reviewers at Dust Jacket will be casting their eye over the 2011 Hugo Award nominees. 5 novels in 5 weeks, all leading up to the announcement of this year’s winner at Worldcon 2011 on August 20th.


Named after Science Fiction pioneer and Amazing Stories editor Hugo Gernsback, the Hugo Awards are the world’s preeminent literary SF awards. Established in 1953 and held annually since 1955, the Hugos are awarded for excellence in the field of science fiction and fantasy. In essence, the Hugo Awards are the Oscars of science fiction and fantasy literature.

The list of past winners of the Hugo Awards reads like a who’s who of SF literature – Arthur C Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Orson Scott Card, Philip K. Dick, Roger Zelazny, Ursula K. Le Guin, William Gibson, Larry Niven.

Many of the genuine classics of the genre have won the award: Dune, The Demolished Man, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, Lord of Light, Ringworld, Ender’s Game. So far, we’ve reviewed 3 of the award winners both on the website and in our podcasts – The Dispossessed, RendezvousWith Rama and The Forever War. The Foundation Series, which we reviewed in our inaugural podcast, was also awarded a special Hugo for Best All-Time Series.

The Hugos are the most prestigious awards in science fiction literature, the best the genre has to offer. If we’re to compile the list of greatest SF novels of all time, it’s important not just to look at the classics, but search for modern masterpieces as well.

The Hugo Awards represent the best of the best. Let’s see how 2011 stacks up.


Five novels have been nominated as the best Science Fiction of 2010-11. The nominees are:

Blackout/All Clearby Connie Willis

Feed by Mira Grant

The Dervish House by Ian McDonald

Cryoburn by Lois McMaster Bujold

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin


Our Hugo Award reviews will follow the same basic structure of all Dust Jacket reviews, with one additional feature thrown in for good measure; not only will we be reviewing the novels themselves, but we’ll look at what chance we think each novel has of taking home the big prize.

Once the winner is announced, we’ll follow up with a review of last year’s winning novels: The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi and The City and the City by China Mieville. How will 2011 stack up against the previous year’s Hugo winners?


So join us on Wednesday as we launch into Hugo Awards Month with our review of Lois Bujold McMaster’s Cryoburn.

The Forever War

Posted by Richo On July 22, 2011 4 COMMENTS

Welcome to the fifth installment of Dust Jacket, our regular revue of the best that Sci-Fi literature has to offer. This week, we’re stepping onto the battlefield with Joe Haldeman’s 1974 classic The Forever War.

As always, I’m joined by Luke, the world’s harshest critic, but also the man who recommended I read this novel in the first place. So thanks to Luke and let’s get on with the review.


William Mandela is a university student conscripted into an elite military force to fight a war against an alien race known as the Taurans. After a grueling training regime, he and his fellow soldiers are sent to do battle on harsh alien worlds against their alien enemies. They travel via ‘collapsars’, a wormhole-like experience that allows ships to travel at near-light speed, covering thousands of light years in seconds. This form of travel creates massive relativistic effects; while only a year or two passes for Mandela and his fellow soldiers, decades pass on Earth.

Mandela forms a bond with Marygay Potter, a fellow soldier who becomes his companion and lover. Attempting to return to civilian life after their tour of duty, Mandela and Marygay find a world drastically changed from the one they left. Overpopulation, food wars, embracing of homosexuality as a means of reducing population growth; all these things leave the soldiers feeling as outsiders. They re-enlist in the military to escape society, accepting the soulless comfort of military life over a society that no longer has a place for them.

Slowly, the reluctant Mandela begins to see the futility of war, and the dramatic effects it has on his life. Each return to Earth heightens his alienation and isolation, and losing contact with Marygay enhances those feelings further.

Eventually, humanity develops cloning techniques, which results in the creation of a new species – Man. Man develops the means of communicating with the Taurans, only to discover that the war was a misunderstanding caused by a random series of events and a total lack of communication.

This new race of Man establishes colonies for the disillusioned soldiers, who no longer fit into society. With the war over, Mandela is reunited with Marygay on one of the colonies. The story ends on a hopeful note, with the announcement of the birth of William and Marygay’s first child. The year is 3143.


The Player of Games

Posted by Richo On June 19, 2011 1 COMMENT

Welcome to the fourth instalment of Dust Jacket, our regular foray into the world of Sci-Fi literature. As always, I’m joined by Luke, self-confessed sci-fi junkie and world’s harshest critic.

This week, we’re turning our attention to The Player of Games, the second of Ian M. Banks 8-novel Culture series.


The Player of Games is the second of Iain M. Banks Culture series. The Culture is a vast transhuman society populated by both humans and sentient robotic drones that provides for all the basic needs of its citizens, allowing them to explore all the worldly pleasures lie has to offer, and to pursue their interests freely.

Jernau Morat Gurgeh’s interests, bordering on obsession, lie in the playing of strategy-based games, for which he has few equals. His status as a gamer affords him great prestige and celebrity within the Culture. This prestige, however, is not enough; he wants to go down as the greatest gamer of all time.

Playing a complex game against fellow gamer Olz Halp, Gurgeh is tempted into cheating by Mawrhin-Skel, a particularly devious and manipulative drone. In doing so, he leaves himself open to blackmail by Skel.

Fearing the repercussions of his actions, Gurgeh is forced to accept an offer from the Culture’s Special Circumstances branch – the espionage division of the Culture. He is to travel to the Empire of Azad, an Empire that may pose a potential long-term threat to the Culture. There, he will compete in their grand tournament, the defining cultural event for the denizens of Azad. So great is the status of the game that the victor is appointed Emperor.



Posted by Richo On June 13, 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to this special third edition of Dust Jacket. During our #0 edition podcast, the Nerd Culture Podcast crew reviewed the first three novels in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series. Lauded as one of the greatest sci-fi series ever written, Foundation has the unique honour of being the series awarded the Best Series of All Time by the Hugo Awards, beating out such luminaries as Lord of the Rings and the Lensmen saga.

Here’s a summary of just some of what the NCP crew had to say. For the full review, check out our #0 edition podcast at iTunes.


Set more than 13,000 years in the future, humanity has built a vast galactic Empire. So great is this Empire that Earth has been all-but forgotten. Unfortunately, the Empire is on the verge of collapse due to internal decadence, strife and complacency.

Only one man has the foresight to see the inevitability of this collapse: mathematics professor Hari Seldon. Seldon has developed a complex system known as psychohistory, which mathematically predicts the behaviour of large populations over vast periods of time. Using this system, he predicts both the Empire’s collapse and the 30,000 years of barbarism that will follow. But with the proper preparation and planning, he calculates this period could be reduced to a mere 1,000 years.

On a planet on the far edge of the galaxy, he establishes the Foundation, ostensibly as an organisation dedicated to preserving the knowledge of humanity in a vast galactic encyclopaedia. His real intent in establishing this group, however, is to set in motion the Seldon Plan, which will see the Foundation world emerge as the centre of a new, more benevolent Second Empire in 1,000 years time.

Placed on trail and exiled from the Empire for his beliefs, He records a series of messages highlighting key moments in these thousand years, key challenges humanity will have to face if his plan is to succeed.

As his predictions come true, we see the Seldon Plan in action over several hundred years. As the Empire collapses, smaller kingdoms are formed. Later still, The Foundation becomes the pre-eminent power in the galaxy due to its knowledge of atomic power. Asimov guides us through the emergence of the merchant barons, threats from within and without, and the mystery of the Second Foundation, established by Seldon independent of the first.


The City and the Stars

Posted by Richo On June 4, 2011 ADD COMMENTS

Welcome to the second installment of Dust Jacket, Nerd Culture Podcast’s fortnightly review of the greatest Sci-Fi novels of all time. I’m joined by Luke Walker, NCP regular and world’s harshest critic.

This week, we’re turning our eye to Arthur C. Clarke’s 1956 classic The City and the Stars.


Diaspar is the final refuge of mankind, a sprawling cityscape protecting its inhabitants from the ravaged earth that lies beyond its protective dome. In this seemingly Utopian world, there is no poverty, no disease, no strife. The city is run by an artificial intelligence known as the Central Computer, allowing the citizens of Diaspar dedicate their long lives to art and creativity.

The Diasparans are essentially immortal. They live for thousands of years, never aging or dying. When they grow tired of life, their consciousness is absorbed into a vast memory bank, where it is stored for centuries, until it is reborn in fully grown bodies created by matter replicators.

Despite this seeming utopia, Diaspar is culturally stagnant. The city has remained the same for countless millennia.

Our protagonist is Alvin, an anomaly in this seemingly perfect world. He lives in a culture that can easily tend to his every need, yet remains discontent. He feels trapped within his utopian society and longs to explore the world beyond Diaspar.

Escaping the confines of the city, he begins to unlock the mysteries of his world and discover the secret billion year history of humanity. Along the way, he discovers new cities, ventures into space, and meets whole new life forms.