December 8, 2013 § 26 Comments
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1979 edition of Crompton Divided (variant title: The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton) (1978), Robert Sheckley)
Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1979 edition of Robert Sheckley’s Crompton Divided (1978) was the inspiration for this post. I found the cover many years ago while looking through Lehr’s entire (mostly brilliant catalogue) and was intrigued. The man, comprised of puzzle-like pieces that slowly morph into the swirls of his clothes, stares at us with hybridized eyes — a planet, a pupil — while one missing puzzle piece allows the viewer a glimpse of a barren landscape. His brain, entirely a puzzle, is complete, but are his senses crumbling?
Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1971 edition of Larry Niven’s collection All the Myriad Ways (1971) is even more fantastic — the puzzle pieces (bones, faces, limbs) dangle in the air « Read the rest of this entry »
November 27, 2013 § 10 Comments
This post is a call for readers to submit their favorite immortality themed science fiction NOT included on my list below (and even examples they did not care for so I can make this a more substantial resource). I’ll make a page with all the information I receive for easy consultation soon (INDEX of similar pages/articles).
A while back I started gathering a list of titles — via SF Encyclopedia, other online resources, and my own shelves — on immortality themed SF. I have always been intrigued by the social space (one plagued by violence and despair or buoyed by the hope of a better future) that the possibility of immortality might generate.
I would argue that the single best example of social effects that the possibility of immortality might create is Clifford D. Simak’s Why Call Them Back From Heaven? (1967). In similar fashion, James Gunn’s The Immortals (1962) takes place in a world where immortals do exist, they skirt « Read the rest of this entry »
November 26, 2013 § 4 Comments
(George Barr’s cover for the 1972 edition)
At the Seventh Level (1972) is part of a loose sequence of novels that feature Trigalactic Intelligence Service agent Coyote Jones and his voyages to various worlds. Although this sequence ostensibly has the trappings of SF space opera, Suzette Haden Elgin subverts the genre conventions so that the premise functions as a polemical feminist text with satirical underpinnings. At the Seventh Level is an important installment in a long line of “women as slaves trapped in vast repressive patriarchy propped up by appeals to tradition and brute force” type novels which, some might argue, culminated in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985). It is important to note that there were many novels on similar themes before Atwood’s acknowledged masterpiece hit « Read the rest of this entry »
Book Review: And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees (variant title: Beneath the Shattered Moons), Michael Bishop (1976)
November 19, 2013 § 6 Comments
(Jonathan Weld’s cover for the 1976 edition)
Michael Bishop’s And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees (variant title: Beneath the Shattered Moons) (1976) is a melancholic and allegorically inclined parable about a coming cataclysm that threatens a programmed and hierarchically rigid society (accomplished via genetic modification). Bishop’s voice is an intensely humanistic once, futuristic technology is present but not a central concern…. The simple but effective plot is the perfect vehicle for his moralistic ruminations: a man forced into action, a world compelled — despite the external forces at play — to adapt.
And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees is the first of Michael Bishop’s works I have read and I am definitely intrigued enough to place his supposedly superior Nebula-nominated first novel, Funeral for the « Read the rest of this entry »
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 »
October 17, 2013 § 8 Comments
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1958 edition)
C. L. Moore’s Doomsday Morning (1957) — she’s best known for her revolutionary 1930s works including “Shambleau” (1934) and the “Jirel of Joiry” sequence — is perhaps her most ruminative and traditional SF novel (she tended to write more fantastical SF and fantasy). Unfortunately, she quit writing around the time of the death of her husband and frequent collaborator Henry Kuttner (they often published under the pseudonym Lewis Padgett). And her second husband forbid her to write altogether…
Moore creates a finely wrought dystopic vision where an oppressive future government utilizes communication networks to spread its tentacles across the United States. Against this backdrop intriguing characters come to life. Her descriptions of the political backdrop remain minimalistic which is surprising for SF of the 50s which often resorts to lengthy descriptive lectures. Instead, the true extent of the government’s « Read the rest of this entry »
October 8, 2013 § 16 Comments
(Uncredited cover for the 1961 edition of Earth Abides (1949), George R. Stewart)
Note: if anyone can identify the artist for the first three downright spectacular covers I’d be very very happy. I’m positive that they match stylistically (the vague human shape, the cityscape, the brush strokes, the textures). Two of the three covers were made for Signet press and all three are from the early 1960s. I suspect if I perused the covers from the Signet catalogue from that era I’d find even more…. Perhaps it’s the work of Sanford Kossin? He was producing covers for Signet around the same time.
And now The Vaguely Defined Looming Man Shape « Read the rest of this entry »
October 6, 2013 § 16 Comments
Part 5 of 5 acquisitions posts covering my haul from Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan. I’ve saved some good ones for the end — namely, Mark S. Geston’s Out of the Mouth of the Dragon (1969). I’ve previously reviewed his first novel — Lords of the Starship (1967) — which was a relentlessly dark vision that showed great promise. Besides the work of Stanislaw Lem, I know very little about non-English language SF so I snatched up a copy of Rene Barjavel’s Future Times Three (1944). According to some critics, his treatment of time travel proved profoundly influential.
The other two novels are somewhat bigger risks. Brian N. Malzberg’s The Empty People (1969), written under his pseudonym K. M. O’Donnell, is one of his first SF novels and supposedly quite average. And, Piers Anthony’s Macroscope (1969) strikes me as a rather bloated, pseudo-spiritual, New Wave extravaganza (but not in a good way) — we’ll just have to see.
1. Out of the Mouth of the Dragon, Mark S. Geston (1969)
(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1969 edition) « 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 »