June 16, 2013 § 10 Comments
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1965 edition)
3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)
Time and Stars (1964) is a wonderful collection of short works by one of the greats, Poul Anderson. Anderson is best known for hard science fiction novels such as Tau Zero (1970) as well as fast paced pulp adventures exemplified by his Dominic Flandry (à la James Bond in space) sequence which he started in the 50s.
Only one of the six shorts in the collection was subpar — ‘Escape from Orbit’ (1962) – which did not rise above the traditional we need to rescue some stranded astronauts plot. All the others — for example, Hugo winning novella and well-told tale of a balkanized American Pacific coast ‘No Truce of Kings’ (1963), the fantastic evolved mechanical life forms in ‘Epilogue’ (1962), and the wit of ‘The Critique of Impure Reason’ (1962) — make the collection worthwhile for fans of classic science fiction (and obviously, fans of Poul Anderson). The novella ‘Epilogue’ is the best of Anderson’s works « Read the rest of this entry »
June 5, 2013 § 21 Comments
Gifts! From my fiancé!
Four more wonderful books… I can’t wait to read J. G. Ballard’s The Burning World (1964) and Poul Anderson’s short story collection Time and Stars (1964)… Ballard is a genius and Anderson is a solid writer who always produced fun plot-driven works (I suspect his Hugo nominated There Will Be Time (1973) will be similar). Also, despite my general frustration with Clifford D. Simak’s ouvre, I’m intrigued by Why Call Them Back From Heaven? (1967)….
Enjoy the two Powers covers!
1. The Burning World, J. G. Ballard (1964)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1964 first edition) « Read the rest of this entry »
May 30, 2013 § 2 Comments
(Don Maitz’s cover for the 1981 edition)
Richard Cowper’s science fiction (and fantasy) was recommended to me by 2theD over at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature (be sure to follow him!). But ever since I procured a copy of Profundis (1979) more than a year ago, I’ve passed over it when searching for my next read — perhaps due to the silly “Three Kinky Kittens, talented sexboats with uninhibiting charms” blurb on the back cover (“uninhibiting” isn’t even a word) in addition to Don Maitz’s uninteresting 80s cover art… Tangent: Maitz drew the pirate for the Captain Morgan Rum brand.
However, Profundis proved to be a highly involving science fiction parable set in a post-apocalyptical « Read the rest of this entry »
Book Review: The People Trap (full title: The People Trap and other Pitfalls, Snares, Devices, Delusions, as Well as Two Sniggles and a Contrivance), Robert Sheckley (1968)
May 28, 2013 § 4 Comments
(Photo Media’s cover for the 1968 edition)
4/5 (collated rating: Good)
Although Robert Sheckley’s collection The People Trap (1968) does not approach the heights of Store of Infinity (1960), there are plenty of gems and the overall quality should compel any fan of satirical 50s/60s science fiction to find a copy. Sheckley’s stories are characterized by delightful wit (despite serious themes such as the effects of colonization, technology, and nuclear disaster), surprising twist-endings, a penchant for intellectual mind-games (especially his 60s stories), and often hilariously hapless « Read the rest of this entry »
Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. LXV (Spinrad + Coney + Cummings + an anthology containing short stories by Pohl, Knight, Aldiss, et al.)
May 26, 2013 § 7 Comments
My first book from the 80s in many a year! But, I’m on a Norman Spinrad kick so when I saw it for one dollar at the store I had to snatch it up his post-apocalyptical vision Songs from the Stars (180)…. The premise is rather hokey but perhaps a quality writer like Spinrad can imbue it with some vigor.
I’m most excited about The Ninth Galaxy Reader, ed. Frederik Pohl (1966) (twelve short stories from the Galaxy Magazine) due the top-quality author line-up — Brian W. Aldiss, John Brunner, Richard Wilson, Damon Knight, Philip Kose farmer, Harry Harrison, Frederik Pohl, Lester Del Rey, Roger Zelazny, C. C. MacApp, Larry Niven, and R. A. Lafferty….
1. Songs from the Stars, Norman Spinrad (1980)
(Uncredited cover for the 1982 « Read the rest of this entry »
May 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1968 edition)
2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)
Recently I procured a handful of Daniel F. Galouye’s novels (here) for a few dollars on ebay because I enjoyed his first novel Dark Universe (1961), which is an underread/underrated classic of the early 60s. In an effort to rekindle public interest in Galouye’s small ouvre (he died at 54 due to war injuries and was unable to write much in the last ten years of his life), he received the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2007. Unfortunately, Galouye’s fast-paced sci-fi thriller A Scourge of Screamers (variant title: The Lost Perception) does not measure up to the claustrophobic and well-plotted social rumination (with a good dose of action) that is Dark Universe.
The most redeeming feature is Paul Lehr’s harrowing depiction of mental anguish « 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 »
May 18, 2013 § 17 Comments
(Vincent di Fate’s (?) cover for the 1972 edition)
4.75/5 (Very Good)
Nominated for the 1973 Nebula Award
Simply put, Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream (1972) is a fantastic alternate history novel. However, unlike a standard “what if this happened instead and now let’s write a traditional narrative” alternate history, The Iron Dream is organized around a powerful metafictional conceit which explicitly serves to satirize pulp science fiction and fantasy and condemn its lurid nature and Spinrad would argue, racist inclinations.
The premise is straightforward: after the Great War (WWI) Hitler comes to the United States (and thus WWII never happens) and becomes a science fiction illustrator. Eventually he starts writing science fiction and articles in fanzines. However, he’s considered by the establishment to be little more than a hack writer and lives the rest of his life in squalor. It is only after he dies (from symptoms related to syphilis) that he receives any critical success. What you read is Hitler’s 1954 posthumous Hugo-winning novel (which he wrote in six weeks), The Lord of the Swastika, along with a short pseudo-scholarly “afterward to the « Read the rest of this entry »
May 16, 2013 § 17 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1970 edition of When Two Worlds Meet (1970), Robert Moore Williams)
A while ago I put together a post on the theme of Models, Dolls, and Mannequins in cover art. Little did I know that Curtis Books (a rather minor publisher of generally minor authors) and Born, a Dutch imprint, used a substantial number of cover compositions comprised of manipulated photographs/collages etc of plastic toy spacemen in unusual alien environments. Also, a few more major publishers/magazines — Four Square Science Fiction and Analog Science Fiction Science Fact — had their own take on the theme.
I find these covers very charming and fun (sort of like a science fiction B-film from the 50s) — not necessarily artistic masterpieces. They certainly evoke childhood games with toy figurines — perhaps placed in the lawn or sandbox or amongst the grass. I’ve included a few from my previous post and another can be found in my post « Read the rest of this entry »