March 23, 2013 § 18 Comments
(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1962 edition of Starman’s Quest (1958), Robert Silverberg)
Some of my favorite cover art posts over the last two years were on the theme of cities — Elevated Cities (Part I, Part II), Domed Cities (Part I, Part II, Part III), Doomed Cities (Part I, Part II, Part III), and Ice-Covered Cities. I’m starting a new series on science fiction cities – The City on the Horizon — I already have two additional posts lined up on the theme.
The City on the Horizon — a glimmer of hope for beleaguered travelers, an beacon of habitation of an unknown civilization on an alien world, an organic mass rising from the desert sands, or a refuge of the ultra wealthy rising majestic from a slum… The possibilities are « Read the rest of this entry »
March 18, 2013 § 17 Comments
An overpopulation themed novel (at least for part) by Gordon R. Dickson….
A supposedly underrated/dark novel by Brian M. Stableford (according to some, one of his best)…
An early novel in Keith Laumer’s famous Retief sequence…
And a fun juvenile by Lester del Rey….
1. The Outposter, Gordon R. Dickson (1971)
(Bruce Pennington’s cover for the 1976 edition)
From the back cover: “Destination: Oblivion. The Lottery played no favorites — if a person’s number came up, he joined the rest of the losers marked for exile from the overcrowded « Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
March 1, 2013 § 24 Comments
I love the idea of a community of science fiction reviewers — so I’ve put together a list of a handful of book review blogs focused on classic/slightly more esoteric science fiction. Obviously there are plenty of great blogs I’ve omitted that have reviews of new releases or only occasional vintage science fiction…. Or, blogs that refrain from reviews of vintage science fiction unless participating in certain reading challenges….
Please visit them, comment on their reviews, and browse through their back catalogues.
1] Speculiction….: An under visited /commented on blog with quality book reviews of classic science fiction — however, the reviewer, Jesse, is limited by the lack of older science fiction available to him in Poland. I especially enjoyed his reviews of Ballard’s “beautifully strange enigma” that is The Crystal World (1966) and of course, my favorite science fiction novel of all time, John Brunner’s magisterial Stand on Zanzibar (1968). An index of his reviews can be found here. He also has a good mix of newer science fiction reviews as well.
Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Look, I’m Actually a Robot (chest flaps, faux skin, mechanical brains)
February 24, 2013 § 12 Comments
(Gray Morrow’s cover for the the December 1964 issue of If)
One of Philip K. Dick’s trademark narrative devices is a character’s realization that they are not human as they previously believed but rather a robot — for example in one of my favorite sci-fi short stories, ‘Impostor’. Generally these bewildered robots float to the ceiling and explode, which has to be one of the more terrifying and cataclysmic revelations possible (the knowledge itself and the devastation caused).
Unfortunately, cover artists don’t attempt to depict that sort of “look, I’m a robot” type « 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 »