Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
07/28/17 -- Vol. 36, No. 4, Whole Number 1973

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted.
All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for
inclusion unless otherwise noted.

To subscribe, send mail to
To unsubscribe, send mail to
The latest issue is at
An index with links to the issues of the MT VOID since 1986 is at

        Up To (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        GALAXY and AMAZING Magazines Available Free On-Line
        My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for August (comments
                by Mark R. Leeper)
                by Dale L. Skran)
        A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT by Becky Chambers (audio book
                review by Joe Karpierz)
        THE GOD WAVE by Patrick Hemstreet (book review
                by Dale L. Skran)
        DUNKIRK (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Scholastic Aptitude Test (letters of comment
                by Dale L. Skran and Jim Susky)
        Jumpers and Pinafores (letter of comment by xx)
        This Week's Reading (THE GREAT GOD PAN, VACATION GUIDE TO
                (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Up To (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

I heard a TV ad for a (probably quack) diet plan.  They said, "Lose
up to 15 pounds in the first month guaranteed."  This is truthful
advertising.  I am certain it is a fact.  What does "up to" mean?
If you lose twelve pounds, that is in the range up to fifteen.  If
you lose only five pounds, that is still consistent with the
promise.  In fact if you gain five pounds they can still say they
have fulfilled the guarantee.  What does "up to" really mean?  It
means the amount you will lose is LESS THAN OR EQUAL TO fifteen
pounds.  The guarantee puts an upper bound on your success.  They
guarantee you will not lose more than fifteen pounds.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: GALAXY and AMAZING Magazines Available Free On-Line

AND SCIENCE FICTION, GALAXY MAGAZINE was one of the most important
science fiction digests in 1950s America.  Ray Bradbury wrote for
it--including an early version of his masterpiece FAHRENHEIT 451--
as did Robert A. Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, Frederik Pohl, Theodore
Sturgeon, Cordwainer Smith, Jack Vance, and numerous others.

Now a fairly decent collection of issues (355 in total) is
available for your perusal at for absolutely free. It's
not complete yet, but it's close."

More at .

Ya' say ya not satisfied?  Ya say ya want more fo' ya money?  There
also is an archive of AMAZING.  More on this at


TOPIC: Science Fiction (and Other) Discussion Groups, Films,
Lectures, etc. (NJ)

August 10: THE MARTIAN (2015) & THE MARTIAN by Andy Weir,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
August 11: HAROLD AND MAUDE (1971), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
September 14: QUATERMASS AND THE PIT (1967) & "Aficionado"
        by David Brin,,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
September 28: THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY by Genevieve Cogman, Old Bridge
        (NJ) Public Library, 7PM
October 12: SOLARIS (1972) & SOLARIS by Stanislaw Lem,
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
October 13: THE EXORCIST (1973), Middletown (NJ) Public Library,
November 9: CAT PEOPLE (1942) & "The Bagheeta" by Val Lewton
        (available in Marvin Kaye's WEIRD TALES and Peter Haining's
        VAMPIRE OMNIBUS), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 5:30PM
November 10: CACHE' (2005), Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
November 16: THE FOREVER WAR by Joe Haldeman, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM
December 8: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946) or JOYEUX NOEL (2005),
        Middletown (NJ) Public Library, 12N
January 25, 2018: OLD MAN'S WAR by John Scalzi, Old Bridge (NJ)
        Public Library, 7PM

Northern New Jersey events are listed at:


TOPIC: My Picks for Turner Classic Movies for August (comments by
Mark R. Leeper)

Another month and another of my very subjective selection of films
to watch out for.  I have two movies I can recommend, both dating
back to the 1950s.  One is a hard-bitten story of longshoremen on
the docks of Manhattan, filmed on location.  It is shot in black
and white with a kind of gritty realism that one rarely sees any
more.  The other film will introduce you to Marabunta, the biggest
monster in 1950s film--twenty square miles of agonizing death,
brought to you by George Pal.

George Pal is a film producer known for films with some sense of
wonder.  His was the second science fiction film of the 1950s,
DESTINATION MOON being beaten to the boxoffice by ROCKETSHIP X-M.
But in the 50s he also made WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE, WAR OF THE WORLDS
and in 1960 THE TIME MACHINE.  After he made WAR OF THE WORLDS he
made some films of genre interest even if they were not really
science fiction.  In 1953, immediately following WAR OF THE WORLDS
he produced HOUDINI and in 1954 he produced THE NAKED JUNGLE.
Sadly HOUDINI and THE NAKED JUNGLE are not seen much any more.  But
Monday, August 7, at 8 PM TCM is running THE NAKED JUNGLE.  Now the
melodramatic and lurid title of the film may be one reason the film
is so little seen these days but it is a top-flight adventure film.

THE NAKED JUNGLE is Pal's adaptation of the suspenseful short story
"Leiningen Versus the Ants" by Carl Stephenson.  The story tells of
a Brazilian cocoa plantation besieged by a huge swarm of army ants.
One character describes the horde as, "twenty square miles of
agonizing death."  They are called Marabunta and will eat a
plantation down to lifeless twigs.  Leiningen (played by Charleton
Heston) is determined not to lose his plantation that he grew from
scratch.  Those familiar with the story may be a little
disappointed that the plot is padded out with the subplot of the
arrival of Leiningen's mail order bride (Eleanor Parker).

Incidentally the "twenty square miles" guy is William Conrad, a
very popular voice on CBS radio at the time on "Escape" and
"Suspense."  The story was so popular Escape dramatized it three
times with Conrad playing Leiningen.  The story was also done on
Suspense with a different actor.

[I try not to put spoilers in my film descriptions.  Through the
first half of the film what Marabunta is is kept deep and
mysterious.  However, since I thought it was important to say this
film was based on this famous story, it sort of tells you what the
threat is.  It is not killer pineapples.]

Shakespeare's plays seem to be mostly about royalty and people of
high rank in society.  Dramas we see have shifted to stories about
more common people.  The 1950s brought us some films about
hardworking laborers who had race issues and were prayed upon by
crime.  The best of these and also the best remembered is probably
ON THE WATERFRONT.  One of the more rewarding ones was EDGE of THE
CITY (1957).  The film is shot on the docks to add a texture of
realism. John Cassavetes plays a new stevedore who is bullied by
his boss (Jack Warden), but also finds a friend in another boss
played by Sidney Portier.  Warden's bullying gets worse when
Cassavetes goes to work for Portier.  Warden does not like to see a
white man working for an African-American.  This was the first film
directed by Martin Ritt, who went on to direct THE FRONT and NORMA
was based on a television play "A Man Is Ten Feet Tall."  Leonard
Rosenman provides the powerful score.  At the time there were not
too many stories of blacks and whites being close friends.  TimeOut
complains that Poitier's character is "whiter than white."
[Thursday, August 10, 12:00 noon]

What's the best film of the month?  There is no obvious choice.
One film that gets better each time I see it is SHIP OF FOOLS
(1965). The year is 1930 and the passengers of a ship to Germany
live in the shadow of what would turn into a world war.  They live
their separate lives but there are reflections of the war that is
to come.  Stanley Kramer directs.  [Friday, August 25, 3:30 PM]



L. Skran)

Based on French comic you've never heard of--"Valerian and
Laureline"--and directed by Luc Besson (LE FEMME NIKITA, THE
PROFESSIONAL, THE 5TH ELEMENT) Valerian has landed in the local box
office like a ton of bricks.  Reportedly the most expensive
independent film ever made--$209M--VALERIAN has not impressed the
critics--and is likely to sink without a sequel.

This is not the best SF movie you are going to see this year, and
Dane Dehaan as Valerian is unimpressive.  A small, thinly built,
almost rat-like man, he is miscast as a dashing James-Bond like
hero, forced to spout cliched lines that might work if spoken by
someone like Chris Pine.  Cara Delevingne looks nothing like the
comic character, but does a better job at living the part than
Dane, although this is in part true only because Dane does so

Having said all this, if you are an SF fan and/or a comic fan, you
absolutely must go see this visually awesome movie.  The screen
explodes with fantastic effects and visions never before put on
screen.  Don't worry about the odd dialog or the choppy, perhaps
comic derived episodic nature of the plot.  Just sit back and enjoy
a visual feast that is almost without parallel. VARERIAN is far
better than many other films promoted as being impressive to the
eyes.   The plot is not bad--and is certainly better than that of
AVATAR, for example.  The movie is overlong but just enjoy it for
what it is--something beautiful that you will not soon see the like
of again.

VALERIAN is highly recommended.  I'm rating it with dual ratings:
visual impact: +4, and the movie per se: +1.  DO NOT MISS THIS
MOVIE.  I recommend the 3D version.  [-dls]


TOPIC: A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT by Becky Chambers (copyright 2016,
Harper Voyager, 384pp, ASIN: B01CNLOZ3G, ISBN-10: 0062569406, ISBN-
13: 978-0062569400, narrated by Rachel Dulude) (excerpt from the
Duel Fish Codices: an audio book review by Joe Karpierz)

A CLOSED AND COMMONT ORBIT is the second of Becky Chambers'
"Wayfarers" series.  It has been shortlisted for the Clarke Award
as well as being a finalist for Best Novel for the Hugo Award.  The
first Wayfarers novel, THE LONG WAY TO A SMALL, ANGRY PLANET--book
which I did not read--turned out to be a very popular space opera.
The things I'd been reading about A CLOSED AND COMMON ORBIT
indicated that it was not necessary to read the first book to read
this one. While that made me feel a bit better about reading it for
the Hugo Award, I was a little leery because in my long history of
reading science fiction, I've found that even if a book is said to
stand alone, it typically doesn't. This one, however, fits the bill

The story takes place not long after the events of ANGRY PLANET
(I'm going to shorten it to that, since I really don't feel like
typing that over and over again).  The story is written in one of
the classic forms of following two separate characters and
eventually bringing them together near the end of the book.  One of
the characters is Lovelace, an AI on the ship Wayfarer who wakes up
in a new body with no memory of what happened on the Wayfarer--or
that there even *was* a Wayfarer.  The other character is Jane 23,
who eventually becomes just Jane, who is a cloned child who works
for what appears to be an illegal operation gathering scrap and
trying to turn it into something useful. The kids are watched over
by despotic "Mothers", who supervise the work and punish the girls
for bad behavior.  The children disappear after they reach 12 years
old.  Nothing is said about what happens to them, but the reader
can surmise that it can't be good.

Lovelace, once she discovers who she is--and was--changes her name
to Sidra as part of the effort to build herself a new life.  She's
new to the social interaction scene, and unlike we regular humans
who just have to learn how to deal with regular humans, Sidra must
learn how to interact with numerous alien species.  Sidra has been
befriended by Pepper and Blue, who try to help her along with her
acclimation.  Blue is an artist while Pepper fixes things.  They
both have their own shops and their own way of dispensing advice
and help to Sidra.  Sidra goes through a gamut of growing pains
while trying to experience all those new sensory inputs.  She even
shows a bit of a rebellious side as she wants to modify her
internal code so that she isn't compelled to tell the truth.
Jane escapes the mothers while on a forbidden overnight adventure
to determine what she saw when there was an explosion at the
factory in which she worked.  She ends up on a derelict shuttle,
and is befriended by the ship's AI, Owl. Owl is Jane's mentor.
Jane, like Sidra, is trying to find her way in a strange world, as
she has no experience with anything outside her fellow clones
(although she doesn't know them as that) and the factory in which
she works. She escapes when she is 10 years old, and it is amusing
to watch her grow up through the years.  Chambers' depiction of a
surly, moody, rebellious teenager is spot on.

ORBIT (see ANGRY PLANET) is fun, lighthearted space opera--although
now that I think about it, not much of it happens off planet--that
investigates what it's like to grow up and assimilate oneself into
a strange society.  This isn't a traditional space opera as much as
it is a character study, a view of a slice in time of the lives of
two individuals who come together for a common cause at the end of
the novel.  There is a plot, but there isn't.   Chambers definitely
has someplace she wants to go, and she knows how she wants to get
there, and there is a direct line from point A to point B for both
Sidra and Jane--and really, it's no spoiler for me to tell you that
Pepper is Jane all grown up--but there is no conflict central to
the novel.  The reader is just along for the ride.

Rachel Dulude provides a bright, happy, shiny voice to the story.
Her reading of the Jane portion of the story is appropriate and
spot on, as her voice starts out as if it is telling a child a
story, then changing it as Jane grows up through the teenage years
and beyond.  She didn't noticeably change voices for each
character, but that was okay as her narration made the story flow
and kept it interesting.

Will I go back and read ANGRY PLANET?  Probably not.  Did I like
ORBIT?  I did.  And that's what matters.  [-jak]


TOPIC: THE GOD WAVE by Patrick Hemstreet (book review by Dale
L. Skran)

This first novel comes with hyperbolic quotes on the cover and a
jacket blurb that introduces the idea of a scientific experiment
that induces superhuman abilities.   As part of my practice of
picking up an occasional first novel that appears intriguing, I
bought it off the shelf at B&N.  In spite of all of the above, THE
GOD WAVE is at best competent.

The writing per se is not the issue.  WAVE violates one of the
basic rules of adventure fiction, which is to immediately put your
main character in a difficult yet interesting situation, and watch
as they dig themselves out of the hole.  Instead Hemstreet opens
with a very long buildup to the action which appears intended to
help you to care about the rather large cast of characters.  Alas,
the characters never move beyond thin nerd and scientist
stereotypes, and simply are not engaging.  The action picks up
somewhere around page 50, but even then seems pedestrian and
muddled.  You will find the average X-man or Avengers comic has
more depth than this stuff.  THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATOO is a
good example of a novel that starts out very slowly, but once it
gets going there is engaging characters and taut action.  THE GOD

WAVE also suffers from being the first of apparently several books,
and simply stops at a contrived resting point without resolving
very much.  The only potentially interesting aspect of the book is
that our heroes split into two groups, one of which has to fight
and the other run.  This may eventually be developed into a
Magneto/Xavier type conflict, but is just started in this book.

Overall, I don't recommend THE GOD WAVE.  [-dls]


TOPIC: DUNKIRK (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: In an unusual stylistic view, Christopher Nolan writes and
directs his re-creation of one of the most heroic retreats in
history.  400,000 British soldiers had been fighting in Europe and
now were surrounded by Germans, stranded on the beaches of near the
French town of Dunkirk where they were vulnerable to attack from
the land, sea, and air.  At the same time as he is telling the
story, Nolan does some strange experiments with cinema time that
the inattentive viewer (like me perhaps) might easily miss.
Rating: +3 (-4 to +4) or 9/10

Dunkirk is an odd choice for a patriotic account of the British in
WWII.  Usually films about World War II engagements are about major
victories like MIDWAY or occasionally defeats like TORA! TORA!
TORA!.  DUNKIRK is a film about a retreat.  Was it glorious?  Well,
it was after the Brits had disastrously bitten off more than they
could chew in Europe and could not get the support they needed to
protect them as they backed off.  They were lined up on the beach
at Dunkirk where they could be picked off like clay pigeons in a
shooting gallery.  They were staring across the English Channel
from Dunkirk to Britain, nearly defenseless.  They waited
skittishly to be evacuated, but no rescue appeared to be
forthcoming.  The eventual rescue was not the stuff of great
victory and glory.  In fact why it was not a horrendous defeat is a
question still hotly debated today.

What did happen was that the British military mobilized ships to
pick up the waiting soldiers and effect a rescue.  But what made
the operation particularly memorable is the large number of
civilian volunteers who took private boats and crossed the channel
themselves at risk to their lives as they rescued the waiting
British troops.  The small boats were in deadly danger from the
Luftwaffe patrolling the skies above.  The battle began May 26,
1940, and finally ended on June 4, with about 198,000 British and
140,000 French and Belgian troops being evacuated from Dunkirk.
Readers may remember the Dunkirk beach scenes recreated for the
film ATONEMENT (2007).

Was the rescue glorious?  To a great extent it was certainly
heroic.  The film documents an expedient retreat.  There also was
the fact that everybody knew that the Brits needed a great victory
at that point.  But great victories were in short supply just then.
The Dunkirk evacuation gave the public not just an action to be
proud of, it was one in which ordinary civilians valiantly banded
together to have a part in providing a victory.

DUNKIRK is an unusual war film in that it was shot with very
subjective sensory points of view with liberal use of hand-held
cameras and subliminal sound.  This gives the film the viewer a
feel of what it was like.  The film has a sort of you-are-there
immediacy.  The film actually takes a trick or two from "found
footage" films.  Long stretches we see have no word spoken.
Director/writer Christopher Nolan lets a scene explain itself
without words.  What dialog there is is spoken in thick accent.
That adds to the realism, but makes parts of the film hard to
follow.  The style is much like that used in DAS BOOT (1982).

One film cannot follow more than a small fraction of the stories of
the Dunkirk action.  Instead we follow three plot threads: one on
the water, one on the land, and one in the air.  Nolan carefully
orchestrates the sound design in each of these environments.  It
has some texture and a tempo that is a bit overwhelming.  On the
other hand Hans Zimmer's film score probably would not stand on its
own.  It is non-melodic.  It seems there is a constant minimalist
musical texture for the film like it was produced in a machine.
When something is exciting or suspenseful Zimmer simply picks up
the tempo, playing the same sound only faster.  The score serves as
a pulse for the film, marking off time.

Since his first film MEMENTO (2001), Nolan usually plays with time
in his films.  He experiments while going from one of the three
threads to another.  One thread covers a single day, one covers
more than a week, one is somewhere in between, though the stories
are told in parallel going from one thread to another.

The film has a very moving performance by Mark Rylance (of BRIDGE
OF SPIES and WOLF HALL).  He shows the courage and sacrifice of a
civilian volunteer who is taking his small boat into the
conflagration that most people would leave to the military.  Nolan
acting veterans Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy are on hand.  Murphy
shows the deep psychological price soldiers are called on to pay.
Kenneth Branagh has not much to do but is the personification of
the British anxiety, worrying for its 400,000 risked soldiers.

Most characters remain nameless, so the viewer is cautioned to pay
close attention to faces.  The film is entirely humorless and
drenched in subdued colors.  This (appropriately enough) makes the
whole film a downbeat experience.  But Nolan uses unusual and new
techniques to make the viewer feel as if she/he is actually
experiencing the action--for better or worse.  This is one of the
great WWII films.  I rate DUNKIRK a +3 on the -4 to +4 scale or

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Scholastic Aptitude Test (letters of comment by Dale
L. Skran and Jim Susky)

In response to various comments on the SAT in the 07/21/17 issue of
the MT VOID, Dale Skran writes:

Several comments on the SAT:

Like all such tests, you will do much better if you are familiar
with the way the questions are asked.  When I first took the PSAT,
I did not score especially well in math, and it was quite obvious
to me that this was in part due to my unfamiliarity with a SAT
favorite, the "quantitative comparison" question.  After buying a
$20 book and doing a few practice tests, I raised my math score
something like 100 points when I took the SAT.

Above a score of 700, SAT math scores mean almost nothing.  My son
took the SAT several times, but was never able to get above 750.
However, scores at this level mean you are getting one or two
questions wrong out of the entire test!!!  Anyone who thinks that
getting 780 rather than 740 really means something is deluded.  And
of course SAT math scores are not good predictors of mathematical

The SAT in general, but especially the Math SAT, dresses up easy
questions in complex window-dressing.  Thus, in many ways a high
SAT score mostly suggests an ability to score well on SATs, and to
decode complex SAT questions, rather than reflecting underlying
academic knowledge or core intelligence.  But of course, it does
require intelligence to decode those tricky SAT questions.

The old SAT verbal tests was a pretty good proxy for how much you
read.  In my view, just reading a lot of books pretty much assured
you of a score over 700.  With the many changes in the SAT over the
years, this may or may not be true.

The SAT has been re-normed and revised so much it is unclear how a
score from 1980 compares to a score from 2017.  I am certainly
suspicious of any claims based on SAT average scores changing over
the years.

Everything I have read suggests that the SAT is a decent measure of
how much schooling you have had, and a decent predictor of future
college grades.  Further, my own experience suggests that there is
a meaningful difference in academic ability between someone with
SAT 500s and someone with SAT 700s.  However, the SAT is overly
verbal and will not give good results for immigrants. The gold
standard for culture-free testing is something call Raven's
Progressive Matrices, which is entirely non-verbal.  Unfortunately,
in 2015 the questions for the RPM were leaked to the Internet, so
this test can no longer be considered reliable going forward.

And Jim Susky writes:

In 1975 and '76 I twice sat for the "SAT". Scores were 660/690,
630/750--verbal/math. The engineering school I attended got the
second set of scores. I discovered the 660 verbal was good for
Composition 101 credit, so I did not sign up for that. In my fifth
year I turned in evidence of the 660 and thus cheated myself of Dr.
Parshall's tutelage.

Fast forward to 1996. I saw an SAT prep manual in a bookstore,
opened it, found that I could do the math problems with no pencil,
and got curious about how I might perform 20 years after I first

We'd gotten 28.8kb/s Internet service in Dec 1995, so I did a
little looking around, thinking that the SAT was an objective
"standard" measure over the 20 years. I found that the SAT had been
"renormed"--a euphemism for diluted, so that "standard" was not
actually a standard.

Somewhat later, I discovered that one could join Mensa by turning
in a pre-1983-ish SAT scores (instead of the usual "IQ test").

Unlike the National Merit Test (which was a bear) the SAT is not a
rigorous math test and has no significant time-pressure. Much like
a near-4.0 GPA in high-school math, it does not distinguish between
those in
the 95th and 99th percentile (or perhaps a narrower upper range). I
suspect, had I taken the SAT after lunch, instead of a sleepy 8AM,
both my math scores would have been higher (and math scores in
general). Still, I doubt whether engineering professionals at age
58 would get higher scores than they did at 18--rust, excel, and
all that.

I think I would certainly perform better now at the Verbal test. I
wonder whether those old mid-70s tests are out there? One would not
need an answer key--but the scoring metric would be necessary.

Mark responds:

I help students and can do most of the problems without benefit of
pencil myself.  The SAT test relies very little on computation.  It
is mostly can you see relationships and manipulate structures.  It
also tries not to require memorization which is why they have those
rarely needed geometrical formulas at the beginning of the test.

If you want to take the SAT again to see if you are better or worse
than originally, well, forget it.  As Heraclitus said, you cannot
step in the same river twice.  The test has been modified over the
decades since you took the test the first time.  Beating your high
school self will not illicit much of a reaction from him.

But you can compete against your current self by finding lots of
puzzles and tests over the internet.  Poke around sites like

Look at websites that use the words "math" and "Olympiad".  You can
find lots of puzzles to sharpen your wits.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: Jumpers and Pinafores (letter of comment by Paul Dormer)

In response to Evelyn's comments on jumpers in the 07/21/17 issue
of the MT VOID, Paul Dormer writes:

[Evelyn wrote,] "Actually, I think what we call a jumper is called
a pinafore in the UK.  It is designed to be worn over a blouse.

Pinafore dress, actually.  A pinafore is a protective cover for a
dress, a bit like an apron.

A jumper in the UK is a top, a bit like a sweater, usually knitted.

Hence the old joke:

What do you get if you cross a sheep with a kangaroo?

A woolly jumper.  [-pd]


TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

A quickie look at a few books I've read, since the bulk of my
reading will be covered in a theme article (next week, I hope):

THE GREAT GOD PAN by Arthur Machen (ISBN 978-1-535-41671-9) is
supposed to be a classic of horror fantasy, but whether it is the
archaic style or something else, I did not find it horripilating at

Koski (ISBN 978-0-143-12977-6) is part fact, part fiction.  The
premise, obviously, is fiction--there are no tours to other bodies
in the solar system.  Most of the physical description of what one
will find (temperature, surface features, and so on) are factual.
The descriptions of underground hotels, rock-climbing expeditions,
and parachuting through the atmospheres are pure fiction.  I just
attended a panel at NorthAmeriCon '17 on "Off-World Vacation Spots"
that may have been inspired by this (I am not sure of the
scheduling), and I wish had been more like this.  (Brother Guy
Consolmagno's part of it was, at least.)  My con report should be
out soon, so you can compare and contrast.

MISERABLES by David Bellos (ISBN 978-0-374-22323-6) covers not only
the story of the writing of the novel, but the history of France
that shaped it, as well as explanations of monetary units,
clothing, names, and other details that readers may miss or
misunderstand.  In particular, Bellos discusses why the title is
one of only a handful of foreign titles not translated into English
when their books are.

Bellos has one rather strange writing quirk: he sometimes uses the
first person singular.  Obviously, a biographical work describing,
for example, searching for a lost manuscript would have more use of
the first person singular but usually a writer of non-biographical
non-fiction writes in the third person.  For example, he says "many
people doubt this is what Hugo intended" (if he does not
necessarily agree) or "it is doubtful that this is what Hugo
intended" (if he does).  But Bellos will write, "I doubt this is
what Hugo intended."  I am not saying there is anything wrong with
this, but it is a much more informal style than one usually finds
in such works.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           You have come into a hard world.  I know of only one easy
           place in it, and that is the grave.
                                          --Henry Ward Beecher