Another wonderful batch including two novellas by Kate Wilhelm in the collection Abyss (1971).
A Norman Spinrad novel, The Men in the Jungle (1967), courtesy of the MPorcius, the proprietor of MPorcius Fiction Log. I sent him a portion of my wall of shame (i.e. worst SF novels) and got a few worthwhile ones in return…
Another Vance novel courtesy of MPorcius as well—one of the Demon Prince novels. Do I have to read them in order?
And Brian N. Ball’s first novel, Sundog (1965). I thought Singularity Station (1973) was unadulterated pulp fun.
So the Spinrad novel critiques pulp and Ball revels in pulp…
1. Abyss, Kate Wilhelm (1971)
(Lou Feck’s cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading
I do not own many SF magazines from the 40s-70s. The reasons are as follows: 1) Novels tended to be serialized which means I have to track down multiple magazines to read an entire novel. 2) The novels were often radically altered for their first book form publication (think, Herbert’s “Dune World” (1963) that later became Dune (1965). Thus, I rather own the later novel form that wasn’t as constrained by the strictures of magazine form. 3) I love short story collections and would rather own the entire collection than read a singleton story.
(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1952 edition)
After Jack Vance’s recent passing I decided that as an informal remembrance I’d review one of his novels. However Big Planet (1952), the only unread novel of his I had on my shelf, is from early in his career and far from the level of his best works. Of his novels I’ve read, Wyst: Alastor, 1716 (1978) and the loose sequel to Big Planet, Showboard World (1975) were the most satisfying. The Blue World (1966), Marune: Alastor, 933 (1975), and City of the Chasch (1968) were all enjoyable adventure tales set in fantastic worlds. I recommend those — along with his more famous novels — before picking up a copy of Big Planet.
Over the course of its publication history Big Planet was cut and modified multiple times from its original magazine form. A restored text was published in 1978… Unfortunately, I read the 1957 Ace Continue reading
I love the idea of a community of science fiction reviewers — so I’ve put together a list of a handful of book review blogs focused on classic/slightly more esoteric science fiction. Obviously there are plenty of great blogs I’ve omitted that have reviews of new releases or only occasional vintage science fiction…. Or, blogs that refrain from reviews of vintage science fiction unless participating in certain reading challenges….
Please visit them, comment on their reviews, and browse through their back catalogues.
1] Speculiction….: An under visited /commented on blog with quality book reviews of classic science fiction — however, the reviewer, Jesse, is limited by the lack of older science fiction available to him in Poland. I especially enjoyed his reviews of Ballard’s “beautifully strange enigma” that is The Crystal World (1966) and of course, my favorite science fiction novel of all time, John Brunner’s magisterial Stand on Zanzibar (1968). An index of his reviews can be found here. He also has a good mix of newer science fiction reviews as well.
2] The PorPor Books Blog: SF and Fantasy Books 1968-1988: I find this blog Continue reading
(Vincent di Fate’s cover for the 1975 edition of The Other Side of Tomorrow (1973), ed. Roger Elwood)
My second composite cover post — here’s a link to Part I if you missed it. I’ve included a few covers by Vincent di Fate who has always been one of my favorite illustrators of the 1970s. His cover for The Other Side of Tomorrow (1973) is top-notch. A conglomerations of screens are placed on a barren stylized landscape where two figures gaze intently at them. Each screen shows a different scene, a space station, spaceships, a boy’s contemplative face, an old man — and, a ringed planet looms in the background. Whether or not the screens illustrate individual stories in the collection is unclear — regardless, the composite nature of the illustration is Continue reading
(Don Sibley’s cover for the November 1950 issue of Galaxy)
When we conjure the image of a 40s/50s science fiction pulp heroine we often imagine a character who has to be rescued by men from aliens, shrieks and clings to any man nearby, and is always in a state of undress. I’ve included one cover, for the sake of comparison, that I find to be an exemplar of this type of sexist (and racist) depiction below (Alex Schomburg’s cover for the January 1954 issue of Future Science Fiction): white woman wrapped in only a towel stalked by an evil alien obviously painted with African-American facial characteristics (heavy on the sexual predation vibe) — the reader is supposed to buy into the racial stereotypes and thus be titillated by the fear she must feel.
I’ve selected a wide range of mostly pulp magazine covers depicting spacewomen of the future (I’ve loosely decided that this means women in space, in spacesuits) that tend to buck the trend Continue reading
(Eric Ladd’s cover for the 1978 edition)
Wyst: Alastor 1716 (1978), the second book of the Alastor Trilogy I’ve read, is more involving, satirical, and thought-provoking than Marune: Alastor 933 (1975). Each book takes place in the same star cluster so there’s no need to read them in order. As with every Vance book I’ve had the pleasure to read, the world is vibrant, detailed, and believable. And also with every Vance book I’ve had the pleasure to read, an unoriginal political intrigue-driven plot is grafted with varying degrees of success onto the world.
A Description of Wyst
The Alastor trilogy takes place in the Alastor cluster, a dense collection of stars ruled by the Connatic (who makes a brief appearance in this novel) from his palace on Numenes. Wyst, Alastor 1716, is comprised of the urban center Uncibal in Arrabus where the egalist utopian society resides, large rural regions with small Continue reading
(Darrell Sweet’s cover for the 1975 edition)
Even though I’ve previously read only three of Jack Vance’s lesser known works, The Showboat World (1975), The Blue World (1966) and City of the Chasch (1968) I’ve come to appreciate his world building and solid story telling abilities. Marune: Alastor 933 (1975), although not the best of his Alastor trilogy, is no exception. I recommend the work for all fans of space opera, “fantasy in space,” and fans of Vance’s more famous works who haven’t yet tracked down other works of his substantial catalogue.
Brief Plot Summary (limited spoilers)
This work of space opera takes place in the Alastor Cluster, a node Continue reading
As always Half Price Bookstore in Northern Austin, TX yielded a wonderful collection of sci-fi paperbacks… I bought Doomsday, 1999 (1962) solely on the cover art — cool looking city exploding… Richard Cowper’s Profundis (1979) on recommendation of my friend 2theD at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature who waxed prophetic (hopefully)/intellectually about to joys of this seldom read author (well, his fantasy at least). I personally, do not have high hopes considering the questionable nature of the back flap blurb. My previous Williamson experiment, Trial of Terra (1962), had promise so I picked up one of his supposedly best works, Bright New Universe (1967). And well, Vance is Vance and thus almost always worth reading….
1. Doomsday, 1999 (variant title: Midge), Paul MacTyre (1962)
(Uncredited cover for the 1963 Continue reading