(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1968 edition)
Nominated for the 1969 Nebula Award for Best Novel
Joanna Russ’ first published novel Picnic on Paradise (1968) delightfully subverts traditional SF pulp adventure tropes. Although not as finely wrought as The Female Man (1975), And Chaos Died (1970), or her masterpiece We Who Are About To… (1976), Picnic is worthwhile for all fans of feminist SF and the more radical visions of the 60s.
Unfortunately, the metafictional implications/literary possibilities of the Alyx sequence Continue reading Book Review: Picnic on Paradise, Joanna Russ (1968)
(Wilson McLean’s cover for the 1972 edition)
4.25/5 (collated rating: Good)
1970 was a wonderful year for short SF. Nebula Award Stories Six ed. Clifford D. Simak (1971) contains a selection Nebula-nominated and winning works from the three short fiction award categories: three novelettes, three short stories, and one novella. The novelette and novella winners are included. No short story award was given out although Gene Wolfe’s “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories” (1970) deserved to win. I apologize in advance, I hold no love for sword-and-fantasy—the great appeal that Fritz Leiber’s “Ill Met in Lankhmar” (1970) conjures for readers is lost on me.
I was also impressed by the two “second tier” authors in the collection: Harry Harrison and Keith Laumer. Both of their efforts were mature and evocative. Although, Joanna Russ’ “The Second Inquisition” (1970) blows them out of Continue reading Book Review: Nebula Award Stories Six, ed. Clifford D. Simak (1971)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1976 edition)
2.5/5 (Collated rating: Bad)
Homeward and Beyond (1975) is comprised of four novelettes, four short stories, and one novella. According to an article I read recently on the Wall Street Journal, Poul Anderson was one of only five authors in the 50s that made enough writing SF without needing a day job—and he was the only one who made a “good living” (he made more money than Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke, etc). This incredible production did not always yield quality. Homeward and Beyond is by far one of the poorer Anderson collections I’ve encountered—on the level of The Horn of Time (1968) and nowhere close to Time and Stars (1964)—despite the presence of his Hugo/Nebula-winning novelette “Goat Song” (1972).
Brief Plot Summary/Analysis (*some spoilers*)
“Wings of Victory” [Technic History] (1972) 2/5 (Bad) serves as the first contact story between human Continue reading Book Review: Homeward and Beyond, Poul Anderson (1975)
(Peter Goodfellow’s cover for the 1977 edition)
3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)
Robert Holdstock’s first science fiction novel, the anthropologically inclined Eye Among the Blind (1976), contains kernels of his later genius. His abilities, according to critics such as John Clute, are fully manifested in works such as his fantasy novel Mythago Wood (1984).
At first glance Eye Among the Blind has the trappings of intellectually inclined “heavy” anthropological SF in the vein of Ursula Le Guin and Michael Bishop. It tackles themes such as colonization, alien collaboration with the colonizers, aliens who do not choose to engage with the colonizers, humans who choose to live among the aliens, humans who study the aliens but are reluctant to appreciate (or take seriously) those whom they study, Continue reading Book Review: Eye Among the Blind, Robert Holdstock (1976)
(Nik Puspurica’s cover for the 1960 edition)
Frederik Pohl’s best early SF was produced with his frequent collaborator C. M. Kornbluth—the most notable of which include the masterpiece The Space Merchants (1953) and Gladiator-In-Law (1954). The solo work I have read so far from the same period does not reach the heights of his Kornbluth collaborations but rather fluctuates between downright dull satires with intelligent dogs in the vein of Slave Ship (1956) to solid but unspectacular satire about higher education, Drunkard’s Walk (1960). As of this moment in my SF reading career I place Pohl’s editorial work above his 50s/early 60s solo SF. That said, I have not read any of his short fiction.
Recommended for fans of 50s/60s Continue reading Book Review: Drunkard’s Walk, Frederik Pohl (1960)
(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1970 edition)
4/5 (collated rating: Good)
A solid collection of seventeen short stories and one novelette by one of my favorite New Wave authors, Norman Spinrad. Although the collection seldom reaches the heights of his inventive and original alt-history novel The Iron Dream (1972), The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde (1970) is still a wonderful showcase of his earliest short fiction. However, Spinrad’s relentlessly bleak outlook on Earth’s future will not appeal to all SF readers. I only recommend the collection for fans of experimental late 60s SF, the New Wave movement, and bleak satires of societal ills (count me in!).
The best include: “Technicality” (1966), a war against pacifist aliens who wield horrific but non-lethal weapons; “The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde” (1969), an absurdist pastiche of the bastardization of ideology and societal decadence; and “Dead Continue reading Book Review: The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde, Norman Spinrad (1970)
(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1973 edition)
4.5/5 (Very Good)
Naomi Mitchison’s first science fiction novel, Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962), is a brilliant episodic rumination on the nature of non-violent interaction with alien species that challenge (and transform) conceptions of ourselves and others. Although R. S. Lonati’s cover for the 1964 Four Square edition suggests a pulp adventure—replete with flashy spaceships, explosions, and traditional adventure—Memoirs is cut from an altogether different cloth.
The first sentence of the novel narrows in on Mitchison’s central themes:
“I think about my friends and the fathers of my children. I think about my children, and I think less about my four dear normals than I think about Viola. And I think about Ariel. And the other. I wonder sometimes how old would be if I counted the years of time blackout during exploration (5).”
Continue reading Book Review: Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962)