Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCI (Ballard + MacLean + Aldiss + Watson)

One of the better groups of acquisitions in a while!  After Katherine MacLean’s masterpiece Missing Man (1975) I was very excited to come across a collection of her late 40s and 50s short stories.  Unfortunately, my edition — from 1973— had such an awful cover that I couldn’t put in on this post.  Instead, I put the first edition cover by Paul Lehr which is simply gorgeous….

Ballard collections are always welcome!  I have all of his short works in a single volume but the Powers cover is top-notch.

One of Ian Watson’s most famous novels…

And an unknown work by Brian Aldiss,  Enemies of the System (1978)…  Has anyone read it?  I suspect it will be the weakest book of the bunch.

1. The Diploids, Katherine MacLean (1962)

(Uncredited — but looks like Lehr — cover for the 1962 edition)

From the back cover for a later edition: “Here is science fiction reading at its best — including these chilling tales that are almost too frightening real:  CLiff Baker had been away on the Pluto Project for a long time.  When he returned to Station A, he found everyone humming and talking in a weird discordant way…  After the great peace the conformity syndrome grew and grew.  If you wore your hat backwards you were a seditioner, and then the vigilantes went to work….  They were from another planet but very similar to human life on Earth.  Only there was one terrible difference….  Part of Ronny wanted to continue playing Indian games.  Dr. Purcell concentrating on secret equations that he wanted to pass on to responsible posterity.  Which one would win?”

2. Enemies of the System, Brian Aldiss (1978)

(Peter Goodfellow’s cover for the 1981 edition)

From the back cover of a later edition: “NIGHTMARE UTOPIA.  Transformed by the perfect system of Biological Communism, a new man has inherited the planet Earth — Homo uniformis (Man ALike Throughout) to whom passion, violence, and doubt are all things unknown.  In celebration of the one millionth anniversary of Utopi, fifty-two elitists make a voyage to a distant planet to spread the message of BioCom.  But on Lysenka II a strange and terrible test awaits the perfect visitors from Earth.  or in the wilds of that and lurks the last mutant children of an ancient savage species.  They are called Homo sapiens, the deadly…”

3. Billenium, J. G. Ballard (1962)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1962 edition)

From the back cover: “J.G. Ballard is the brightest new star to shine among today’s top writers of science fiction.  Only Brian Aldiss, Theodore Sturgeon, and Arthur B. Clarke can rival him in his uncanny mastery of this fantastic new world.  In BILLENIUM, you will read stories in which: A piece of sculpture takes on a life of its own, but it just wouldn’t stop growing…  Time has become the greatest of all evils, and the possession of a time-piece has become the deadliest of all crimes…  A young man goes on a strange voyage to the west, arriving at his destination the very moment of his departure…”

4.  The Embedding, Ian Watson (1973)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the inside flap: “The ancient omen of a cosmic birth that shook the universe.  As man’s destiny danced with the drug-inspired visions of a tribal priest deep in the Amazon jungle, his birthright was being optioned by an alien sales agent from outer space.  At that same instant humanity’s survival hung on the fulfillment of a mystical omen.  The supernatural, ultra-shocking coming of a mutant messiah.  THE EMBEDDING…. AN ULTIMATE EXPERIENCE BEYOND MIND OR MATTER.”

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32 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCI (Ballard + MacLean + Aldiss + Watson)”

    1. I haven’t catalogued mine either. These are just posts of the new books I’ve acquired. But, I’ve yet to buy duplicate copies of anything so my memory is serving me well, at least for now!

    1. Well, I also create lists of books I want (often 400 + items) and I’ve memorized exactly what’s on each list so I simply buy books from them. At this point I sort of know exactly what has been published in the decades I enjoy (40s-70s) because I’ve looked through the entire publication histories of the major SF presses…. One of many obsessions ;) haha

      1. Just curious – as you search through publishers in isfdb how do you know what you want, esp. if its by an unknown author? There aren’t any descriptions of the books, so unless I see a cover I like or an author I already know, I don’t know which books to look for.

  1. I’ve got that ’62 edition of The Diploids – it’s one of my favorite covers in my collection. Haven’t read the book yet, but based on your recommendation of MacLean, I should make it a higher priority.

    1. I’m not sure her 50s SF is as high caliber as that one 70s novel (and the novella it was expanded from). I definitely recommend the novel. I will read the collection soon (next three or four books). If only I could get around to reviewing Strete’s If All Else Fails…. (1980) and Brunner’s Double, Double (1969).

      1. Well I’m doubly jealous then! Mass-market Balllard collections are kind of hard to come by, in my experience. Nice haul. I’m also curious but kind of skeptical about that Aldiss book; he can be hit or miss in ways that can be hard to predict.

      2. Spoiler for my next acquisition post — I also picked up a copy of Vermillion Sands ;) I’m telling you, the Half Price Books in Dallas, Texas (the founding one) is one of the best Used Bookstores for SF I have ever been to. The only reason I wished I lived in Dallas… haha.

  2. I should also add that, after reading your review, I found a copy of Maclean’s “Missing Man” which I have yet to read, but am eager to get to, soon hopefully. Will look forward to hearing how her earlier short fiction pans out.

    1. Both my father and I (the only people I know who’ve read it) thought it was wonderful. It definitely fills the unjustly forgotten category. Why no one reads it is beyond me. And a very positive depiction of disability as well…

  3. Oh, I really dig Paul Lehr’s cover for The Ebedding; intriguing as always!
    His cover for Clifford D. Simak’s A CHOICE OF GODS has that same, spooky forest thing going on…most excellent!

    1. I always thought that the Berkley Choice of Gods cover was by Di Fate. The division of the composition into distinct, monochromatic areas is typical of his work from that period. And the robot and architecture concepts look more like his design sense than Lehr’s.

  4. Fascinating stuff. I am not a collector myself but I love SF novels and films.

    I read the earlier comments on cataloguing. My father owns 3000+ classical music records and CDs. He started cataloguing them on a simple Excel database and it has helped him immensely. He converses with fellow classical music aficionados around the world and they share copies of their music with each other. He says the database is invaluable for checking things up. And it’s a real pleasure to keep updated.

    Just a thought!

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