Book Review: Juniper Time, Kate Wilhelm (1979)

April 11, 2014 § 45 Comments

(Bob Aulicino’s cover for the hideous 1979 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

Nominated for the 1980 Nebula Award

“Everything that is, Robert had said, must be.  Every cycle must be completed, must lead to the next cycle.  He had talked about times when the desert had been drier than it now was, times when it had been lush and wet, and there had been no questions in his mind that this too must be” (170-171).

At the heart of Kate Wilhelm’s Nebula-nominated novel Juniper Time (1979) is the notion of historical cyclicality at both the macro- (earth cycles) and the micro- (human historical time) levels.  The near future mysteriously drought stricken world where Wilhelm is an important juncture of two such cycles.  The macrocycle concerns devastating world-wide desertification, which is most caused by a natural cycle but the precise nature of which is unknown.  The microcycle concerns a shift in human populations in the drought stricken countries: mass migrations towards coasts as the springs and rivers of the hinterlands turn to mud.  In this world the farmer, in the past linked tightly to his fields, abandons his traditional position in American society and moves to a cluttered and violent state « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCVIII (Lafferty + Zelazny + Zebrowski)

March 24, 2014 § 34 Comments

…a wonderful haul from Half Price Books.

More Lafftery (I will read Past Master soon, I promise)!

Two more Zelazny novels!

And a Zebrowski collection…

I love hearing your thoughts/comments.

1. Past Master, R. L. Lafferty (1968)

(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1968 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Billenium, J. G. Ballard (1962)

March 10, 2014 § 22 Comments

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1962 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

Billenium (1962), J. G. Ballard’s first collection of short stories, contains three masterpieces of the 50s/60s: “Billenium” (1961), “Build-Up” (variant title: The Concentration City) (1957), and “Chronopolis” (1960).  The first is a deadpan satire on overpopulation, the second a fantastic Borgesian depiction of an endless city that stretches (literally) in all directions, and the third a vision of a city that had enough and revolted against time.  I preferred these three ruminations, that unfolded in evocative and decaying urban spaces, to the three decadent and baroque stories—”Studio 5, The Stars” (1961), “Mobile” (variant title: “Venus Smiles”) (1957), and “Prima Belladonna” (1956)—from his famous Vermillion Sands sequence.  The remaining four are all readable.

As with J. G. Ballard’s first novel masterpiece, The Drowned World (1962), the sense of decay and malaise that permeate majority of the stories in Billenium is gorgeously « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Immortality Themed SF Novels/Short Stories Resource Posted

February 16, 2014 § 5 Comments

  

I while back I put out a call for SF novels/short works on immortality to add to a preliminary list I put together.  Due to my lack of knowledge of newer SF and uncanny ability to forget relevant previously read works I eagerly added your suggestions.  And Marta Randall’s Islands (1976) motivated me to finally post  it…

Here’s the LIST!

If you can think of any that I might be missing be sure to « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Islands, Marta Randall (1976)

February 15, 2014 § 13 Comments

Screen shot 2014-02-02 at 9.35.15 AM

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1976 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

Nominated for the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel

*Note: I read the 1980 Pocket edition which, according to Locus, was modified (to what extent I do not know) from the original 1976 first edition.

Marta Randall, the first female president of SFWA, is one of numerous female science fiction writers from the 70s that are seldom read today.  A while back Ian Sales alerted me to Randall’s work in his very positive review of A City in the North (1976) on SF Mistressworks.  Recently, while looking for unread works on my immortality-themed SF list (here), I came across the Nebula-nominated Islands (1976).

One of the more effective ways to write about the ennui « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCI (Ballard + MacLean + Aldiss + Watson)

January 31, 2014 § 32 Comments

One of the better groups of acquisitions in a while!  After Katherine MacLean’s masterpiece Missing Man (1975) I was very excited to come across a collection of her late 40s and 50s short stories.  Unfortunately, my edition — from 1973— had such an awful cover that I couldn’t put in on this post.  Instead, I put the first edition cover by Paul Lehr which is simply gorgeous….

Ballard collections are always welcome!  I have all of his short works in a single volume but the Powers cover is top-notch.

One of Ian Watson’s most famous novels…

And an unknown work by Brian Aldiss,  Enemies of the System (1978)…  Has anyone read it?  I suspect it will be the weakest book of the bunch.

1. The Diploids, Katherine MacLean (1962)

(Uncredited — but looks like Lehr — cover for the 1962 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »

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….

3. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959): A strange satire of the bomb shelter…  Everyday surrealism. « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Men Inside, Barry N. Malzberg (1973)

December 28, 2013 § 9 Comments

(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Caveat: If a perverse (and Freudian) metafictional (and literary) retelling of Otto Klement and Jerome Bixby’s Fantastic Voyage replete with filmic flashbacks does not intrigue you then stay away….

There are few SF authors who utilize metafictional elements as gleefully and effectively as Barry N. Malzberg.  Beyond Apollo (1972), his masterpiece, is a labyrinthine sequence of 67 short chapters of a novel written by the main character who may or may not be recounting real (imagined?) events.  While in In the Enclosure (1973) the excruciating paranoia that permeates the pages and the impossible escapes that transpire, recounted as if they were entries in a diary, could indeed be generated by an external force—the exact nature of which is unknowable—implanting memories.  Revelations (1972) was entirely comprised of a sequence of documents (interview transcripts, diary fragments, epistolary fragments) « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Downstairs Room and Other Speculative Fiction, Kate Wilhelm (1968)

December 23, 2013 § 10 Comments

(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1968 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

By the late 60s Kate Wilhelm’s SF moved from generally uninspiring pulp (à la the collection The Mile-Long Spaceship) to psychologically taught and emotive mood pieces exploring the almost existential malaise of daily existence and the disturbing effects of “programmed” lives (especially the housewife).  The fourteen short-stories in The Downstairs Room and Other Speculative Fiction (1968) (the term “speculative fiction” was coined by Judith Merril in the 60s) comprise a snapshot of Wilhelm’s best New Wave work.  It should be noted that not all are SF.

Although some are less engaging than others, her harrowing portrayal of starlets subjected to endless psychological torments at the whims of their viewers in “Baby, You Were Great” (1967) (Nebula nominated) and the evocative tapestry of daydreams « Read the rest of this entry »

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