Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXXI (Vinge + Gerrold + Zelazny + White)

December 23, 2013 § 17 Comments

Part 1 of many: Half Price Books in Dallas, TX (the second best bookstore, after Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, MI for SF I have ever come across).  Gift card courtesy of fiancé’s mother = LOTS OF SCIENCE FICTION.  There could not be a better gift….

Everyone reads Robert Zelazny’s This Immortal (1966) and Lord of Light (1967), but who has read Isle of the Dead (1969)?  Thematically it seems similar to Lord of Light…  I have high hopes.  James White’s SF is always above average — and a fund cover from Dean Ellis makes that an auto-buy.  Although I disliked David Gerrold’s Space Skimmer (1972) my father swears Yesterday’s Children (1972) is somewhat readable.

I enjoyed Joan D. Vinge’s The Summer Queen (1980), tolerated her first novel The Outcasts of Heaven Belt (1978), so I suspect her two novella collection Fireship (1978) will be worthwhile…


1. Isle of the Dead, Robert Zelazny (1969)

(Leo and Dianne Dillon’s cover for the 1969 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXV (Heinlein + Sheckley + Anderson + Zebrowski)

October 27, 2013 § 3 Comments

A fun bunch of thrift store finds and gifts….  I’m most excited about Robert Sheckley’s novel Immortality, Inc. (1958) — not only is the cover gorgeous (the initials read LSG but I can’t figure out who the artist might be) but Sheckley is fast becoming a favorite of mine (for example, the short story collections Store of Infinity and The People Trap).

I know very little about George Zebrowski’s novels.  So, I’ll approach The Omega Point (1972) with a tad bit trepidation.  Has anyone read him?  If so, what do you think?

I’ve read Heinlein’s The Man Who Sold the Moon but I have a much later edition and sort of enjoy the standard pulp cover for the 1951 edition.

And another Anderson classic….

1. Immortality, Inc., Robert Sheckley (1958) (MY REVIEW)

(Uncredited — brilliant — cover for the 1959 edition) « Read the rest of this entry »

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Vaguely Defined Looming Man Shape

October 8, 2013 § 17 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 »

Book Review: A Pail of Air, Fritz Leiber (1964)

September 23, 2013 § 19 Comments

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1964 edition)

4/5 (Collated rating: Good)

My only previous exposure to Fritz Leiber was his enjoyable and highly experimental Hugo-winning novel The Big Time (1958) — an unusual story (evoking a one-act play) whose characters are soldiers recruited from all eras of history relaxing in between missions during a vast temporal war.  The same sort of invention and incisive wit abounds in the collection A Pail of Air (1951).  Against a post-apocalyptical backdrop that runs throughout most of the stories, Leiber’s stories are chimeric (and satirical) parables on a vast spectrum of themes — the mechanization of the future, gender relations, endless war, media saturation…  The stories shift between whimsical delight and gut-wrenching despair.

This collection of eleven stories from the early 50s to the early 60s is highly recommended for all SF fans — especially the title story  “A Pail of Air” (1951),  “The Foxholes of Mars” (1952), « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Deep, John Crowley (1975)

September 1, 2013 § 15 Comments

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1976 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

The Deep (1975) was John Crowley’s first published novel and his first of three SF works from the 70s (The Deep, Beasts, Engine Summer).  He is best known for Engine Summer (1979) and his complex/literary fantasy – Little, Big (1981) and the Ægypt sequence (1987-2007).  In the two novels of his I’ve read (the other is Beasts), Crowley’s prose is characterized by an almost icy detachment, an adept construction of unusual images, and dialogue that says only what is needed.

The Deep deploys, in minimalistic fashion, the standard tropes of the fantasy genre mixed with distinctly SF elements: namely, an android visitor whose blood “was alive — it flowed  « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: Approaching Oblivion, Harlan Ellison (1974)

August 3, 2013 § 53 Comments

(Leo and Diane Dillon’s cover for the 1974 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Good)

Ellison’s stories punch where it hurts.  Approaching Oblivion (1974) is filled with transfixing tales about violent future racism (“Knox”), humanity’s last moments (“Kiss of Fire”), the desperate desire to change one’s own past (“One Life, Furnished in Early Poverty”), a last rebel against the militarizing system (“Silent in Gehanna”), and familial rivalry within a vast arcology (“Catman”), etc…

They are terrifying and vicious, immersive and gut-wrenching, and span from baroque far future speculations to near future warnings.  Above all, they are well-written and intelligent.  Many are infused with (pseudo) autobiographical content and lament the societal ills « Read the rest of this entry »

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Future Archaeology and Mysterious Artifacts (Alien + Human)

August 1, 2013 § 21 Comments


(Hannes Bok’s cover for the  Space Science Fiction [UK], Volume 1 No. 4 (1953), ed. unlisted)

A spaceship arrives on Mars…  After a cursory initial exploration, the human astronauts conclude that the planet has always been barren and uninhabited.  But in some chasm or scattered in desolate plain, a column is found, and rows of mysterious buildings, and a pulsating crystal…  An abandoned outpost of an alien society?  Or, Earth’s mysterious forebearers…  Summaries such as this one proliferate the dusty SF paperbacks on back shelves of used book stores and the closets of SF fans — the variations are countless.

Queue my cover art theme: The future discovery of mysterious ruins/artifacts « Read the rest of this entry »

Updates: My 7 Favorite Metafictional Science Fiction Novels

May 19, 2013 § 48 Comments

Here are my seven favorite metafictional science fiction novels. By metafiction I’m referring to devices such as breaking the fourth wall (characters addressing the audience), the author addressing the reader, a story about a writer writing a story, a story containing another work of fiction within it, a work where the narrator reveals himself or herself as the author of the story, narrative footnotes, etc….

I’d love to hear your favorites (they don’t have to be novels)!

Obviously, these types of experimental works only appeal to some readers (especially fans of the sci-fi New Wave movement of the late 60s and early 70s) but I personally love seeing experimentation in an often — dare I say — stylistically stale genre.  Often, the metafictional aspects do not prevent authors from deploying traditional narratives.


My top seven (and an honorable mention):

1. Beyond Apollo, Brian N. Malzberg (1972) (REVIEW) — what you read is most likely the novel written by the main character. However, he’s most likely insane so attempting to get AT the true nature of his voyage to Venus is purposefully layered… Complicating the matter is how unreliable of a narrator he is and the fact that he’s tells many versions of the same story. Malzberg pokes fun at pulp science fiction throughout — which he clearly enjoyed as a child.

2. Stand on Zanzibar, John Brunner (1968) — the metafictional aspects are rather hidden in this New Wave masterpiece (my single favorite sci-fi novel).  Brunner’s vast (in scope and depth) mosaic of invented book fragments, advertising jingles, and narrative portions are interspersed with news articles taken from his own day — including the school shooting at the University of Texas in 1966.  Of course, as readers we’re geared to imagining that everything « Read the rest of this entry »

Book Review: The Ice Schooner, Michael Moorcock (1969)

April 14, 2013 § 18 Comments


(Keith Robert’s cover for the 1966 edition)

3.25/5 (Average)

The Ice Schooner (1969) is the second of Michael Moorcock’s novels I’ve read — the first was the equally unremarkable adventure The Warlord of the Air (1971).  The Ice Schooner, an homage to seafaring  works of Joseph Conrad, functions as a standalone novel without the trappings of Moorcock’s multi-verse mythology.  Despite the lack of explicit connection between this novel’s hero and the “eternal champion” character archetype that features in so many of his works, one could argue that Konrad Arflane displays many of the same « Read the rest of this entry »

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