March 17, 2013 § 19 Comments
(Uncredited (Powers?) cover for the 1957 edition)
Pebble in the Sky (1950), Isaac Asimov’s first published novel, is a revision of the earlier short story ‘Grow Old With Me’ published in the late 1940s. The novel itself takes place in the vast Galactic Empire based at Trantor that features in so many of Asimov’s short stories and novels — most famously, Foundation. Although I am generally unimpressed with Asimov’s science fiction, Pebble in the Sky contains intriguing world building and an elderly man as the main character which is rather rare in sci-fi (albeit, this does not prevent a silly romance between the other younger main characters from providing the novel’s emotional core). But, most appealing to me, Asimov moves away from the all too simplistic dichotomy of good vs. bad « Read the rest of this entry »
March 12, 2013 § 10 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1960 edition)
4.5/5 (collated rating: Very Good)
Robert Sheckley’s collection Store of Infinity (1960) contains eight remarkable short stories — three of which are near masterpieces. Sheckley’s visions are satirical, mordant, and replete with vivid imagery conveyed in solid prose. A few selections remind me of the lighthearted (yet thought-provoking in content) robot fairy tales by Stanislaw Lem – for example, those collected in The Cyberiad (1965) — although Sheckley’s visions are less whimsical.
‘The Price of Peril’ (1958), ’Triplication’ (1959), ’The Store of the Worlds’ (1959), and ’If the Red Slayer’ (1959) are must reads for any « Read the rest of this entry »
March 10, 2013 § 18 Comments
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1954 edition)
In countless Star Trek episodes a shattered piece of technology is miraculously resurrected (or a non-related piece of technology is transformed into an inter-dimensional portal) rescuing stranded one-time antagonists who learn, through their shared struggles, to finally get along. Jerry Sohl’s Costigan’s Needle (1953) takes this classic scenario to an even more preposterous level.
As a kid I adored Jules Verne’s Mysterious Island (1874), disliked Robinson Crusoe (1719), and despised Perseverance Island; or, The Robinson Crusoe « Read the rest of this entry »
March 3, 2013 § 8 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1973 edition)
4.5/5 (Very Good)
Robert Silverberg’s late 60s and early 70s science fiction novels were often well-wrought ruminations on acute social alienation. For example, In Dying Inside (1972) a man slowly loses his telepathic abilities and thus, a core component of his identity. In The Man in the Maze (1969), a man rendered incapable of interacting with other humans, goes into self-imposed exile. In Thorns (1967), two manipulated/modified souls (a man surgically altered by aliens and a young girl who’s the virgin mother of hundreds of children), find strange solace in each other’s company. In The World Inside (1971), our heroes feel disconnected from the unusual world they’ve grown up in — and rebel in their own ways.
The Second Trip (1971) subverts this theme. Instead, our hero desperately attempts to re-integrate himself into society (as his persona has been designed to do), to come to grips with his laboratory « Read the rest of this entry »
February 23, 2013 § 20 Comments
(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1971 edition)
The Sea is Boiling Hot (1971), George Bamber’s sole novel length contribution to the genre (thankfully), is the unabashedly pornographic version of the ecological disaster, humanity cooped-up in massive domed cities, let’s all get lobotomies to escape the horrors of the world science fiction. As in, large portions of the narrative are endless sex scenes all gussied up with the accouterments of ecological “message” science fiction.
Unfortunately the sex scenes are there, in all their endless variation, simply to titillate to the reader rather than a necessary part of world building/character analysis — I’m thinking of Silverberg’s « Read the rest of this entry »
February 20, 2013 § 35 Comments
(Robert E. Schulz’s cover for the 1966 edition)
3/5 (collated rating: Average)
After reading Joanna Russ’ nihilistic downer (but brilliant nevertheless) We Who Are About To… (1976) I needed to decompress with some 30s pulp. I’m generally not a fan of pulp unless it attempts to integrate social science fiction elements or creates a vibrant/otherworldly sense of wonder. Thankfully, this collection of Stanley G. Wienbaum’s stories contains one of the most influential pulp science fiction shorts due to its descriptions of aliens — ‘A Martian Odyssey’ (1934).
For anyone interested in the history of the genre and 30s pulp, « Read the rest of this entry »
February 16, 2013 § 21 Comments
(The hideous uncredited cover for the 1977 edition)
5/5 (Masterpiece: *caveats below*)
We Who Are About To… (1976) is the third of Joanna Russ’ science fiction novels I’ve read over the past few years. For some reason I was unable gather the courage to review The Female Man (1975) and might have been too enthusiastic about And Chaos Died (1970). We Who Are About To… is superior to both (although, not as historically important for the genre as The Female Man). This is in part because Russ refines her prose — it is vivid, scathing, and rather minimalist in comparison to her previous compositions — and creates the perfect hellish microcosm for her ruminations on the nature of history, societal expectation, memory, and death.
Highly recommended for fans of feminist + literary « Read the rest of this entry »
Book Review: Who Can Replace a Man? (variant title: Best Science Fiction Stories of Brian W. Aldiss), Brian W. Aldiss (1965)
February 13, 2013 § 10 Comments
(Don Puchatz’s cover for the 1967 edition)
4/5 (collated rating: Good)
(note: I apologize for the extended time I’ve spent away from my blog – preparing for my dissertation proposal defense concurrent with a massive influx of grading derailed my sci-fi reading for the last few weeks)
Seven of the 1950s short stories in Brian W. Aldiss’ best of collection Who Can Replace a Man? (1965) I’ve reviewed before in No Time Like Tomorrow (1959) and Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960). However, the collection contains seven additional 50s and 60s novellas/short stories that make up the majority of pages. I’ve indicated the old material in the review with an asterisk « Read the rest of this entry »
February 3, 2013 § 17 Comments
(Sandy Kossin’s cover for the 1960 edition)
Beyond This Horizon (magazine publication 1942, novelized 1948) was Robert A. Heinlein’s second published novel and one of the few non-juvenile works he published until the late 50s and early 60s. Interesting tangent: Starship Troopers (1959) was originally conceived as a juvenile but rejected by his normal publisher due to its more serious content.
Unfortunately, Beyond this Horizon is plagued by an utterly contrived « Read the rest of this entry »