Books: Friday Roundup

This week we have two short stories featured in the June 2009 issue of Analog: Science Fiction and Fact and a recommendation for one of my favorite authors.

Monuments of Unageing Intellect, Howard V. Hendrix - I liked it. It's a play on the whole "If we were immortal would we pine to be mortal?" question, but it's a good one. Hendrix succeeds in connecting the ideas of immortality with the timelessness of artistic genius and he paints some pretty beautiful scenes while doing it. I'm not too familiar with Hendrix's work as a writer, but after reading this story I think I want to be.

The Affair of the Phlegmish Master, Donald Moffitt - A fun and interesting story advancing the question of what the super rich would do if the very fabric of space and time was their playground. Moffitt's speculation: spend lavishly on commissioned paintings from the world's most legendary artists. Probably not too far off. But are the paintings of these alternate artists "true" works? Is the beauty of an object derived from the object alone or the soul and essence of the artist invested in it? Moffitt juggles all these questions against a jaunty dialogue between three persons who travel back in time to hire out the services of the famed Dutch baroque artist Johannes Vermeer. Probably my favorite read of the week.

Recommendation of the week: Ilium/Olympos by Dan Simmons
If you've read any of Simmons's books, you know they are a commitment.
But they're nearly always worth it. The Ilium/Olympos cantos is no exception. In the 1000+ pages that the two novels span, Simmons paints a fascinating alternate reality pitting humans against the divine and sets the conflict against a remarkably vibrant interstellar backdrop. Part Greek myth, part space opera and part historical fiction, these are the two books that could stand up as Simmons's defining work. Essential reading for any fan of the space opera genre. Bonus points if you're a classics buff -- you'll fall in love with his depictions of the old Greek heroes and his humorous portrayal of the gods.

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