SCIENCE FICTION, FACT, AND FABLE

By

Minds, Machines and Evolution, by James P. Hogan. New York: Bantam/Spectra. 324 pp. $4.50. In his memoir ``Getting There from Here,'' James P. Hogan sums up what first motivated him and all the ``hard'' science-fiction fans who will relish this collection: ``Science worked. It delivered.'' Twenty-five pieces of fiction and fact focus not only on the open-ended exhilaration of technology but also the need for a responsible society that uses science and is not used by it. Stories of human/machine interaction combine with the stimulating title essay to make us think carefully about thinking itself. Hogan as artist as well as crusader might admonish a Brutus of the computer age that our faults lie not in our ``star wars,'' but in ourselves. Rumors of Spring, by Richard Grant. New York: Bantam/Spectra. 458 pp. $4.50.

It is the trees' last stand. The Great Carbon Forest sends rhizomes of ``rabid oak'' to reclaim an earth wasted by its most destructive species. No wood like this has ever been dreamed or seen: orchids above, pooka within, scent of ``dittany-of-Crete'' all around. Groby the engineer groping toward truth, Tatty the ragged remnant of real nobility, Narthex the noxious are but a few in an antic cast of thousands - animal, vegetable, and mineral - that includes holographic ghosts and disarming herbal drawings. ``Rumors of Spring'' begins with a quest and ends with a consummation devoutly wished that unites not only tree-crossed young lovers Robin and Vesica, but also the soul of the wood and the spirit of science. His cautionary futurefable is a marvelous ``green thought in a green shade.'' Bio of an Ogre: the Autobiography of Piers Anthony to Age 50, by Piers Anthony. New York, Ace. 297 pp. $17.95.

Piers Anthony lays his bias on the line, assails the authorities he bitterly fought to find his own - and dares us to like him in spite of himself. Freudians will seize on parents who all but abandoned him, fellow writers on the feud fires he fans, and fans on every painful detail of how he strove for control in life and art. Adolescents will empathize with the originator of the Blue Adept books, which have swept them with a tide of wit and values they are all the better for. At Winter's End, by Robert Silverberg. New York: Warner Books. 404 pp. $17.95.

Recommended: Seven science lessons from Doctor Who

If planetwide extinctions occur every 26 million years, who inherits the earth? Not humans, who have left a mindbending computercity legacy for a feisty young hominid posterity whose ``tails'' are organs of mind-to-mind communion. Will they cannibalize the high-tech leftovers of the past or recapitulate the savageries of human evolution in order to come into their own?

Hresh of the endless questions is the fiery, wise youth programmed, after millennia of tribal half-life in subterranean caves, to lead. ``At Winter's End'' is a lyrical meditation on strategies from superstition to science that ensure species survival and the personalities, from fey priestess to mindless warrior, that arise at need. Silverberg's vast ruminative talent produces (as usual) some forgettable rambles amid unforgettable insights into intellection and the human condition.

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