Robert Holdstock’s first science fiction novel, the anthropologically inclined Eye Among the Blind (1976), contains kernels of his later genius. His abilities, according to critics such as John Clute, are fully manifested in works such as his fantasy novel Mythago Wood (1984).
At first glance Eye Among the Blind has the trappings of intellectually inclined “heavy” anthropological SF in the vein of Ursula Le Guin and Michael Bishop. It tackles themes such as colonization, alien collaboration with the colonizers, aliens who do not choose to engage with the colonizers, humans who choose to live among the aliens, humans who study the aliens but are reluctant to appreciate (or take seriously) those whom they study, Continue reading Book Review: Eye Among the Blind, Robert Holdstock (1976)→
Note: A slightly shorter version of this review will appear in Big Sky, # 4 (a fanzine put together by Pete Young).
On the surface, Michael Bishop’s anthropologically inclined science fiction appears deceptively simple. In his first novel and unacknowledged masterpiece A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975), the premise (moving an alien people from a planet) evolves into a vast and complex anthropological tapestry filled with stories within stories creating an almost claustrophobic doubling of characters. In Stolen Faces (1977) the biological mystery of a virulent disease grows, tumor-like, into a brilliantly nightmarish exploration of bodily and societal decay and the gravimetric forces of memory.
Snatched all but one of these up at a 1$ SF hardback clearance sale at my local bookstore. The other, Watson’s The Jonah Kit (1976) came via The Dawn Treader Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI.
I am not usually interested in Galactic Empires but the collection seems to have some intriguing short authors—for example, Lafferty, Davidson, Shaara, etc whose works I have no been that exposed to. I look forward to slowly working my way through both volumes.
I also acquired my first Robert Holdstock novel, Where Time Winds Blow (1981). Seems intriguing.
My schedule has finally calmed down a little so expect a slew of book reviews in the coming days/weeks…
1. Galactic Empires, Volume I, ed. Brian Aldiss (1976)
“[Michael Bishop's] early stories and novels display considerable intellectual complexity, and do not shirk the downbeat implications of their anthropological treatment of aliens and alienating milieux” — John Clute, SF Encyclopedia
Michael Bishop (b. 1945) [official website] is no stranger to critical success for both his novels and short SF: he has won the Nebula Award twice (“The Quickening” and No Enemy But Time) and picked up nine Hugo nominations and an additional thirteen Nebula Nominations. Two of his more famous novels, the above mentioned No Enemy But Time (1982) and Transfigurations (1979), were selected for inclusion and republication in the Gollancz Masterwork List. Although Bishop has not published a novel since the Hugo-nominated Brittle Innings in 1994, he received a Nebula nomination for his novelette “Vinegar Peace, or, The Wrong-Way Used-Adult Orphanage” (2008) as recently as 2010!
According to a list compiled by Ian Sales [here] only a handful of SF anthologies have hit print solely featuring women authors—none were published before 1972 and, surprisingly, few after 1980 (there seems to be a resurgence in the last few years). The Crystal Ship (1976) ed. Robert Silverberg, is one of these. It contains the three novellas by three important SF authors who got their start in the 70s: Marta Randall, Joan D. Vinge, Vondra McIntyre. The latter two achieved critical success: Joan D. Vinge won the Hugo for her novel The Snow Queen (1980) and Vonda N. McIntyre won the Hugo for her novel Dreamsnake (1978). Marta Randall, on the other hand, despite her Nebula nomination for the intriguing Islands (1976) remains to this day lesser known.
The rest are fun but not high on my list of must reads. I’ve never been a fan of A. E. Van Vogt (could not tolerate the inarticulate labyrinth of a novel The World of Null-A) but the Powers cover on The War Against the Rull (1959) was fun.
I’ve heard good things about Edgar Pangborn, although people seldom discuss West of Eden (1953), perhaps with good reason.
Fletcher Pratt’s Invaders from Rigel (1932) is one of those AMAZING covers but incredibly dubious reads. Even the back cover is rather non-sensical.
1. Transfigurations, Michael Bishop (1979) (MY REVIEW)
Between 1974 and 1990 Gordon R. Dickson’s collection Ancient, My Enemy (1974) was reprinted eleven times. The reason for this “popularity” is beyond me considering I found that a grand total of three of the nine stories were solid while the rest were poorly written cliché-ridden magazine filler… Dickson had the ability to write some great short SF—for example, Mike at Potpourri of SF Literature adores his collection In the Bone (1987). But Ancient, My Enemy gives little indication of his talent and generally lacks the insight that his novels such as The Alien Way (1965) possess.