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Laugh Lines Hardcover – July 1, 2008
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The Starcrossed (1975) is a novel about the creation and production of a Hollywood 3-D Sci-Fi series. The technology is an improvement on prior efforts by the same inventor, but with royalties. Nonetheless, the shows are terrible according to both the critics and SF fandom. Naturally, Murphy's Law and human perversity dominate the whole process despite efforts by the creator, the producer, the director, and the technical advisor to make it a true masterpiece.
Cyberbooks (1989) is a novel about the invention of the first electronic book and the efforts to produce and destroy the product. Again, Murphy's Law and human perversity are very evident.
"Crisis of the Month" (1988) is about the Crisis Command Center, a secret organization that provides media around the world with a single point of focus in their sensational reporting. The CCC has run out of crises to feed the ever hungry media and is desperately trying to find another.
"The Great Moon Hoax" (1996) explains the reasons for the American effort to reach the Moon in the 1960s. The Martians had something to do with it.
"The Supersonic Zeppelin" (1974) relates the rise of a supersonic lighter-than-air project and the political consequences. The idea itself dates back to the 1920s, but it had one major flaw. In this story, that flaw is corrected, but human nature raises many political issues.Read more ›
The remaining brief stories are gently amusing, with some requiring familiarity with USA politics and history to get the most out of them. In fact, all stories are very much USA centric and readers that remember the 1970's will enjoy the book more so than younger readers.
Given how long ago these stories were written, they have held up very well, which shows how good the author is at identifying and portraying basic human behaviours in an entertaining manner as well as having reasonable skills at predicting the future.
For those that enjoy Ben Bova's work, it shows what he was capable of 20 - 40 years ago. I'd rate this book between 3 and 4 stars but finally decided to go with 4 stars as these stories resonated well with my technical background and industry experience.
Laugh Lines is a reprint compilation which includes the novels The Starcrossed and Cyberbooks as well as several humorous short stories.
Based on a true story, with names changed to protect the guilty and one innocent (Harlan Ellison), The Starcrossed is a very witty satire of the entertainment industry. At several points I actually had to put the book down I was laughing so hard!
The novel was written in 1975, and while some things may seem slightly dated it doesn't matter at all since the basis of the satire, namely the industry and human nature, haven't changed at their core.
I highly recommend this book!
Bova says he has been writing science fiction for so long that some of his fiction has become fact. This is true for Cyberbooks (as you read it on your Kindle).
But mostly it is a satire of the publishing industry in the late 1980s. It is dated in many respects but individual scenes make it worth reading all the way to the end.
Also, if you know any programmers, statisticians, or mathematicians, make them read A Slight Miscalculation. I laughed out loud.