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….
November 9, 2013 § 20 Comments
A nice haul from the local used book store and various internet sources…. After Effinger’s masterpiece What Entropy Means to Me (1972) I was desperate to get my hands on another one of his novels (or short story collections — Relatives is not supposed to be as good but, perhaps it will prove the critics (well, namely John Clute) wrong.
Miriam Allen deFord was a prolific 50s short story writer. Xenogenesis (1969) is the only published collection solely of her stories — thankfully it’s graced with a wonderful Richard Powers cover.
Despite the hideous cover, Michael Bishop’s first novel A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975) is generally considered quite good. I’ve already read and reviewed Dan Morgan’s average but inventive SF thriller Inside (1971) but included it in this post anyway because I had yet to reach my four new acquisitions for a post.
Have you read any of these novels? If so, what did you think?
1. Relatives, George Alec Effinger (1973)
(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition) « 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 »
September 30, 2013 § 11 Comments
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1965 edition)
3.75/5 (Collated rating: Good)
Almost all SF fans have read Walter M. Miller, Jr.’s masterpiece A Canticle for Leibowitz (1959) but few indulge in his shorter works. By 1957 Miller had virtually quit publishing new SF (A Canticle is comprised of novellas published between 1955-1957). His only later work published later was Saint Leibowitz and the Wild Horse Woman (1997) completed by Terry Bisson and released posthumously.
The View From the Stars (1965) — containing five short stories, two novelettes, and one novella — is a cross section of his most productive decade. Although I found that none of the works included should be considered masterpieces, “I, Dreamer” (1953), ”Dumb Waiter” (1952), ”Big Joe and the Nth Generation” (1952), and ”The Big Hunger” (1952) were wonderful. All the others are readable « Read the rest of this entry »
September 16, 2013 § 14 Comments
(Earle Bergey’s cover for the February 1953 issue of Science Fiction Adventures, ed. Philip St. John — i.e. Lester del Rey)
Make sure to take a peek at Part I if you haven’t already.
Crashed spaceships! Our heroes forced to trek across desolate landscapes, fight giant robots, and evil aliens…. Or, aliens stumble from the wreckage of their flying saucers — unusual green matter emanates while the flames reach ever upward. I suspect that if I were a kid in the era of pulp SF magazines I would have snatched everyone with a crashed spaceship regardless of the often dubious contents.
I am generally no fan of Kelly Freas but his cover for the July 1957 issue of Science Fiction Stories, is one of my favorite action/adventure type SF covers. Unusual aliens on the back of a massive turtle alien swimming through lava « Read the rest of this entry »
September 10, 2013 § 30 Comments
(Stephen Miller’s cover for the 1968 edition)
There’s a small pile of novels on my shelf that wait ever so patiently to be reviewed months and months after I’ve read them — J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962), Robert Silverberg’s The Masks of Time (1968) and Dying Inside (1972), David R. Bunch’s Moderan (1972) (among others), and, until now, William Tenn’s Of Men and Monsters (1968). Perhaps I was put off by the three mysterious pages filled with small chicken scratch composed by some earlier reader– “224 PKNY, 248 MINCED, 219 M in OKST” — that hinted at some arcane undercurrents or masonic messages that had alluded me. Perhaps it was my confusion over Tenn’s Heinlein-esque female character, who, in a work of satire, could indicate something so much more progressive than « Read the rest of this entry »
Adventures in Science Fiction Art: Spacewomen of the Future (flying spaceships + exploring alien landscapes + delivering galactic mail), Part II
August 27, 2013 § 23 Comments
(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the February 1953 issue of Space Stories, ed. Samuel Mines)
Part II of my Spacewomen of the Future series – Part I.
In my first installment I discussed the stereotype of the 40s/50s SF pulp heroine — for example, she shrieks at the evil alien while the man has to rescue her or despite her education, she spends her time serving the men coffee on the spaceship (there’s a cringeworthy scene along these lines in It! The Terror From Beyond Space (1958), dir. Edward L. Cahn). Hopefully these cover art depictions will complicate the stereotype. Of course, I have not read all the contents of magazines/novels bellow so I can not speak for the portrayals within the texts. In the stories they could potentially be astronauts in the service, scientists, civilian love interests, colonists, partners of the male astronauts, etc…
I have somewhat arbitrarily decided for thematic reasons that “Spacewomen” is a woman in a space uniform of the future or « Read the rest of this entry »
August 16, 2013 § 13 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1973 edition)
Nominated for the 1973 Hugo Award for Best Novel
(Hugo Award related tangent: how Silverberg’s Dying Inside lost to Asimov’s The Gods Themselves is beyond me. There Will Be Time is the lesser of the three)
Frequent readers of my reviews will have noticed my general dislike of time travel themed SF. I have two central qualms: Firstly, I am frustrated by the tendency of authors to expound endlessly on the nuances of the particular temporal theory they have chosen to deploy; secondly, the common obsession with “understanding how the past really was” strikes me as an incredibly superficial/fallacious analysis of the nature of history and historical thinking — individuals today cannot understand “the true nature of the present” simply by existing in it yet alone a different historical period. Rather, perspective taking, « Read the rest of this entry »
July 23, 2013 § 12 Comments
(Ley Kenyon’s cover for the 1953 edition of Adventures in Tomorrow (1951), ed. Kendell F. Crossen)
Since the release of the TV series Under the Dome (2013-), based on Stephen King’s 2009 novel by the same name, there has been a resurgence of interest in domed cities. And for good reason — the trope is one of the most popular of science fiction artists and authors since the 30s (and probably earlier). Not only do the societal implications and visual allure of the trope of a domed outpost on a harsh planet or a domed city amidst the ruins of Earth arouse the creative authorial juices but also generate some fantastically « Read the rest of this entry »