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 »
November 5, 2013 § 12 Comments
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1974 edition)
Dan Morgan’s output appears to have been mostly forgotten even by the most dedicated fans of the genre. And unfortunately, no collections of his short stories (he published around 40) were released in his lifetime. John Clute’s assessment of his work — “Though he was not a powerful writer, and though he never transcended the US action-tale conventions to which he was so clearly indebted, it is all the same surprising that Morgan has been ignored” — rings true in regards to the sole novel of his I have read, Inside (1971).
Inside is a tightly-plotted action tale that plays out layered (almost painfully entropic) levels of delusion. The neatly packaged premise never goes beyond the strictures « Read the rest of this entry »
Book Review: Chronocules (variant title: Hot Wireless Sets, Aspirin Tablets, the Sandpaper Sides of Used Matchboxes, and Something that Might have been Castor Oil), D. G. Compton (1970)
August 10, 2013 § 6 Comments
(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1970 edition)
D. G. Compton has long been one of my favorite SF authors. Regrettably, his readership remains small and he has ceased publishing SF. Novels like The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973) and Synthajoy (1968) are first rate masterworks with Farewell, Earth’s Bliss (1966) and The Steel Crocodile (1970) close behind. All of his works have a distinctly English feel with solid, and occasionally beautiful, prose.
Chronocules (1970), with its outrageous variant title Hot Wireless Sets, Aspirin Tablets, the Sandpaper Sides of Used Matchboxes, and Something that « 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 »
November 24, 2012 § 8 Comments
My San Antonio, TX haul….
I’ve read multiple of Shaw’s books in the past — they are often intriguing on the conceptual level but fall apart during delivery (Ground Zero Man, One Million Tomorrows)…. But, the back cover of Shadow of Heaven (1969) was intriguing enough to grab a copy.
The multiple Farmer novels I’ve read (most of the Riverworld series and Traitor to the Living) were trash. But, I’m willing to give him another go — against my better judgement.
Heinlein is overrated but readable and Stephen Lanier’s Hiero’s Journey (1973) is supposed to be an intriguing post-apocalyptical tale….
1. Shadow of the Heaven, Bob Shaw (1969)
(George Underwood’s cover « Read the rest of this entry »
November 23, 2012 § 4 Comments
(H. R. Van Dongen’s cover for the 1980 edition)
Barrington J. Bayley’s novels — I’ve reviewed Collision Course (1973), Empire of Two Worlds (1972), The Fall of Chronopolis (1974), The Pillars of Eternity (1982), and Star Winds (1978) — are characterized by extremely inventive concepts, generally poor characterization, and an uncanny lightness combined with a dose of visceral brutality. In the works of his I’ve read so far he never leaves the galactic empire/space opera format and is utterly uninterested in extrapolating potential or possible future technology.
Along with Doris Piserchia’s The Billion Days of Earth (1976) and Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s The Light That Never Was (1972), The Garments of Caean is one of the most off-the-wall strange space operas « Read the rest of this entry »
October 7, 2012 § 8 Comments
(John Cayea’s cover for the 1974 edition)
Over the years I’ve deluded myself into becoming a John Brunner completest — around twenty-five of his novels line my shelves and I’ve read most of them over the years. At his best he’s without question one of the great masters of the genre — Stand on Zanzibar (1968), The Sheep Look Up (1972), etc. are evidence of this. However, in-between his social science fiction masterpieces are a plethora of unsatisfying attempts at traditionalist space opera. In these works Brunner never fully leaves his pulp roots although he occasionally tries to inject a dose of hard science, (pseudo) intellectualism, and social commentary.
Total Eclipse (1974) fits this mold. A group of scientists attempt to figure out the mystery of a highly advanced race which has apparently, died out. Character interactions are painfully silly along the “Oh heroic main character, you’re a genius let me jump into your bed” sort of « Read the rest of this entry »
Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XXXIX (Priest + Brunner + Crowley + Wallace + Duncan)
September 29, 2012 § 14 Comments
Ah, what a delightful group! A few from my father, a few from Marx books which I hadn’t posted yet…. Priest and Crowley’s novels involve fascinating worldscapes — a world winched across the horizon, a world at the top of a pillar… Both are considered among the better stylists in science fiction and fantasy.
And, my 22nd (?) Brunner novel! The Stone That Never Came Down (1973) — from his glory period of the late 60s-early 70s (this period produced Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, Shockwave Rider, The Jagged Orbit).
And two more impulsive finds — Ian Wallace’s Croyd (1967) — a reader claimed it was one of the best sci-fi novels of the 60s, and thus due to my intense curiosity, I had to find a copy. And Dark Dominion (1954), I know little about David Duncan — he wrote only three sci-fi novels in the 50s. His work is described by SF encyclopedia as “quietly eloquent, inherently memorable, worth remarking upon.”
And the covers!
1. The Inverted World, Christopher Priest (1974)
(Jack Fargasso’s cover for the 1975 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »
Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Spacewomen of the Future (fixing spaceships + fighting aliens + charging across barren landscapes)
September 12, 2012 § 29 Comments
(Don Sibley’s cover for the November 1950 issue of Galaxy)
When we conjure the image of a 40s/50s science fiction pulp heroine we often imagine a character who has to be rescued by men from aliens, shrieks and clings to any man nearby, and is always in a state of undress. I’ve included one cover, for the sake of comparison, that I find to be an exemplar of this type of sexist (and racist) depiction below (Alex Schomburg’s cover for the January 1954 issue of Future Science Fiction): white woman wrapped in only a towel stalked by an evil alien obviously painted with African-American facial characteristics (heavy on the sexual predation vibe) — the reader is supposed to buy into the racial stereotypes and thus be titillated by the fear she must feel.
I’ve selected a wide range of mostly pulp magazine covers depicting spacewomen of the future (I’ve loosely decided that this means women in space, in spacesuits) that tend to buck the trend « Read the rest of this entry »