April 20, 2013 § 6 Comments
(Richard Powers (?) cover for the 1960 edition)
Robert Sheckley deftly manipulates — in a mere (but dense) 127 pages – a plot straight from the pulps involving prison planets and gladiatorial fights against terrifying robots into a scathing and artfully constructed work of satire. Similar skills were apparent in his masterful collection Store of Infinity (1960) where traditional sci-fi situations such as colonization of alien worlds, robot rebellions, post-apocalyptical wastelands, and time-travel (among other tropes) are imbued with witty wordplay and biting social « 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 »
February 16, 2013 § 21 Comments
(The hideous uncredited cover for the 1977 edition)
5/5 (Masterpiece: *caveats below*)
We Who Are About To… (1976) is the third of Joanna Russ’ science fiction novels I’ve read over the past few years. For some reason I was unable gather the courage to review The Female Man (1975) and might have been too enthusiastic about And Chaos Died (1970). We Who Are About To… is superior to both (although, not as historically important for the genre as The Female Man). This is in part because Russ refines her prose — it is vivid, scathing, and rather minimalist in comparison to her previous compositions — and creates the perfect hellish microcosm for her ruminations on the nature of history, societal expectation, memory, and death.
Highly recommended for fans of feminist + literary « Read the rest of this entry »
October 13, 2012 § 16 Comments
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1960 edition)
3/5 (collated rating: Average)
The concept behind Brian Aldiss’ short story collection Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960) is intriguing. Take previously published stories (in this case from magazines in the late 50s), graft them together by means of mini-introductions, and arrange them so they fit into a future history framework à la Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men (1930) or Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy (1951-1953).
The quality of the stories makes the format less than successful. Only three stories are worth reading — ‘Secret of a Mighty City’ (1958), ‘Out of Reach’ (1957), and ‘All « Read the rest of this entry »
September 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
More Marx Book purchases along with some random 99 cent thrift store finds (Raymond Z. Gallun + M. John Harrison) that seemed intriguing enough. I will eventually get to M. John Harrison’s magnum opus series of novels, Virconium– beginning with The Pastel City (1971) — but, as always, I approach an author’s masterpieces through an often circuitous manner. I suspect my Malzberg find will be of a lesser quality than either Beyond Apollo (1972) or Revelations (1972).
I reviews I’ve found online of Gallun’s The Eden Cycle (1974) proclaim it an underrated masterpiece — with layers of virtual reality, etc. I’ll read it soon…
As always, have you read any of these? If so, what did you think?
1. The Day of the Burning, Barry N. Malzberg (1974)
(Don Ivan Punchatz’s cover « Read the rest of this entry »
August 19, 2012 § 2 Comments
(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1960 edition)
Over the years I’ve found Philip K. Dick’s early novels hit or miss. Along with The World Jones Made (1956), Dr. Futurity (1960) (expanded from the 1954 short story “Time Pawn”) is the least satisfying of his novels I’ve read so far. My total PKD consumption is extensive — around 20 novels and at least 60 short stories.
Time travel is by far my least favorite major science fiction trope. However, in many of Philip K. Dick’s novels and short stories time travel is transformed into something surreal and often, downright fascinating. But unlike his later novels, the trope in Dr. Futurity is an endlessly laborious plot device. Our hero doctor, Jim Parsons, is constantly whisked back and forth in time with hardly a moment of rest or discussion. « Read the rest of this entry »
August 14, 2012 § 12 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1959 edition — I suspect it might be David Davies)
Edmund Cooper’s Seed of Light (1959) is less of a traditional narrative of the voyage of a generation ship as are its fellow generation ship novels of the 40s/50s. The best examples are Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop (1958) and Robert Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky (1941). Seed of Light is more like a piece of pseudo-history interlaced with fragments of narrative of varying effectiveness. The work is best described as a thematically-linked series of novellas tracking the future development of man in broad strokes à la Brian Aldiss’ Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960). Unfortunately, Cooper’s original splicing of the generation ship theme onto a Future History template (made popular but Olaf Stapleton and Isaac Asimov among others) is extremely uneven. Some portions are involving while others are plagued by laborious epoch-spanning pseudo-historical lectures.
Because each part is a separate novella (the last two are more closely « Read the rest of this entry »
June 12, 2012 § 14 Comments
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1968 edition)
Although known for his famous young adult Tripod Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), John Christopher produced a substantial corpus of science fiction works for older readers — most notably, the post-apocalyptical tale No Blade of Grass (1956). The Long Winter (1961), one of Christopher’s lesser known works, is on the surface another post-apocalyptical novel (or sorts). However, the post-apocalyptical elements are subsumed by a bitting satire on colonial and post-colonial British attitudes towards their colonies. The publication date of 1962 is of vital importance in understanding the work. Nigeria gained its independence from the British in 1960, Ghana in 1957, and South Africa in 1961.
A large percentage of the reviews I’ve read complain that they « Read the rest of this entry »
June 4, 2012 § 7 Comments
(Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1976 edition)
Even after the underwhelming Journey to the Center (1982) I decided to give Brian M. Stableford a second chance. Unfortunately, The Florians (1976), the first in a six novel series about the adventures of the starship Daedalus, is even less impressive. Both works contain a potentially fascinating premise around which the barest framework of a story is cobbled. At least Journey the Center maintained some sense of wonder and excitement despite its incredible brevity, poor prose, disappointing ending, and dull characters. The Florians, on the other hand, fails to conjure « Read the rest of this entry »