Updates: Year in Review (Top Ten SF Novels + Top Ten Short Stories/Novelettes/Novellas + other categories)
January 1, 2014 § 23 Comments
Everyone likes lists! And I do too…. This is an opportunity to collate some of my favorite (and least favorite) novels and shorter SF works I read this year. Last year I discovered Barry N. Malzberg and this year I was seduced by…. Well, read and find out.
Top Ten Novels
1. We Who Are About To…, Joanna Russ (1976): A scathing, and underread, literary SF novel by one of the more important feminist SF writers of the 70s (of The Female Man fame).
2. A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975): A well-written anthropological clash of cultures novel. Slow, gorgeous, emotionally engaging….
December 28, 2013 § 9 Comments
(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1973 edition)
4.5/5 (Very Good)
Caveat: If a perverse (and Freudian) metafictional (and literary) retelling of Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby’s Fantastic Voyage replete with filmic flashbacks does not intrigue you then stay away….
There are few SF authors who utilize metafictional elements as gleefully and effectively as Barry N. Malzberg. Beyond Apollo (1972), his masterpiece, is a labyrinthine sequence of 67 short chapters of a novel written by the main character who may or may not be recounting real (imagined?) events. While in In the Enclosure (1973) the excruciating paranoia that permeates the pages and the impossible escapes that transpire, recounted as if they were entries in a diary, could indeed be generated by an external force—the exact nature of which is unknowable—implanting memories. Revelations (1972) was entirely comprised of a sequence of documents (interview transcripts, diary fragments, epistolary fragments) « Read the rest of this entry »
December 20, 2013 § 15 Comments
Stopped briefly in St. Louis to peruse a used book store and came across these… Another work by one of my new favorite SF authors, Michael Bishop. Short stories by Frank Herbert, and an intriguing post-apocalyptical vision by Andrew J. Offutt (with a fantastic Powers cover).
Unfortunately, Malzberg’s lesser novel Tactics of Conquest (1974) — according to later admission expanded from a short story in only four days! — tempted me, but it was only one dollar…
1. Stolen Faces, Michael Bishop (1977)
(Steve Hickman’s cover for the 1978 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »
November 13, 2013 § 33 Comments
MPorcius, a frequent and well-read commentator on my site, has started transferring his numerous amazon reviews and writing new reviews of classic SF (a substantial portion is pre-1980s) to his blog. Please visit him and comment on his posts!
queue rant: I’ve noticed a surprising lack of frequently updated classic SF blogs online. Yes, many bloggers occasionally dabble in the distant era of SF glory or publish yet another review of the obligatory masterpieces because they appear on a some “best of” list (Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, etc). However, few are devoted to the period and make it a point to write reviews of books that very few people will ever actually read due to their obscurity i.e. blogs that don’t sell out by churning out reviews of new Tor releases (I have declined their offer) or endless 4/5 or 5/5 starred let’s pat each other on the back reviews of self-published (and generally awful) ebooks « Read the rest of this entry »
October 6, 2013 § 16 Comments
Part 5 of 5 acquisitions posts covering my haul from Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ve saved some good ones for the end — namely, Mark S. Geston’s Out of the Mouth of the Dragon (1969). I’ve previously reviewed his first novel — Lords of the Starship (1967) — which was a relentlessly dark vision that showed great promise. Besides the work of Stanislaw Lem, I know very little about non-English language SF so I snatched up a copy of Rene Barjavel’s Future Times Three (1944). According to some critics, his treatment of time travel proved profoundly influential.
The other two novels are somewhat bigger risks. Brian N. Malzberg’s The Empty People (1969), written under his pseudonym K. M. O’Donnell, is one of his first SF novels and supposedly quite average. And, Piers Anthony’s Macroscope (1969) strikes me as a rather bloated, pseudo-spiritual, New Wave extravaganza (but not in a good way) — we’ll just have to see.
1. Out of the Mouth of the Dragon, Mark S. Geston (1969)
(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1969 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »
September 24, 2013 § 14 Comments
Part 2 of 5 acquisition posts covering my massive haul from Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor Michigan…. I suspect that if I lived nearby I’d slowly migrate their entire SF collection to my shelves. Two books below are by unknown authors (or at least to me) — Charles Runyon and D. Keith Mano. Runyon is supposedly average to bad (one of my risk buys) while Mano polarizes readers — he tends to be rather right wing in his views so it’ll be intriguing to see what he does with the dystopic future in The Bridge (1973). But, as with Runyon my expectations are low.
On the other hand, Malzberg’s The Men Inside (1971) seems to be one of his stranger works — I look forward to it. And despite how well-known Michael Bishop is I’ve yet to read any of his works so I’ll be reading Beneath the Shattered Moons (1976) soon.
1. The Men Inside, Barry N. Malzberg (1971)
(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1971 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »
May 19, 2013 § 43 Comments
Here are my seven favorite metafictional science fiction novels. By metafiction I’m referring to devices such as breaking the fourth wall (characters addressing the audience), the author addressing the reader, a story about a writer writing a story, a story containing another work of fiction within it, a work where the narrator reveals himself or herself as the author of the story, narrative footnotes, etc….
I’d love to hear your favorites (they don’t have to be novels)!
Obviously, these types of experimental works only appeal to some readers (especially fans of the sci-fi New Wave movement of the late 60s and early 70s) but I personally love seeing experimentation in an often — dare I say — stylistically stale genre. Often, the metafictional aspects do not prevent authors from deploying traditional narratives.
My top seven (and an honorable mention):
1. Beyond Apollo, Brian N. Malzberg (1972) (REVIEW) — what you read is most likely the novel written by the main character. However, he’s most likely insane so attempting to get AT the true nature of his voyage to Venus is purposefully layered… Complicating the matter is how unreliable of a narrator he is and the fact that he’s tells many versions of the same story. Malzberg pokes fun at pulp science fiction throughout — which he clearly enjoyed as a child.
2. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner (1968) — the metafictional aspects are rather hidden in this New Wave masterpiece (my single favorite sci-fi novel). Brunner’s vast (in scope and depth) mosaic of invented book fragments, advertising jingles, and narrative portions are interspersed with news articles taken from his own day — including the school shooting at the University of Texas in 1966. Of course, as readers we’re geared to imagining that everything « Read the rest of this entry »
April 8, 2013 § 19 Comments
On the cross, a future prophet (or false one)? A martyr for a lost cause? Or, some future priestly emissary of the Catholic church dispensing law on those gathered…. Perhaps some transformation of man to a godly state all hallowed and arrayed with religious accouterments of faith? I’ve gathered a fun collection of science fiction prophets mostly decked out / depicted in distinctly Christian style.
My favorite is Robert Foster’s cover for the 1970 edition of Behold the Man (1969) by Michael Moorcock…. And Gray Morrow’s cover for the 1970 edition of This Immortal (variant title: And Call Me Conrad) (1965) contains a fascinating color scheme — although there isn’t any mold on the figure’s face as Zelazny « Read the rest of this entry »