Tag Archives: paperbacks

Book Review: The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde, Norman Spinrad (1970)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1970 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

A solid collection of seventeen short stories and one novelette by one of my favorite New Wave authors, Norman Spinrad.  Although the collection seldom reaches the heights of his inventive and original alt-history novel The Iron Dream (1972)The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde (1970) is still a wonderful showcase of his earliest short fiction. However, Spinrad’s relentlessly bleak outlook on Earth’s future will not appeal to all SF readers.  I only recommend the collection for fans of experimental late 60s SF, the New Wave movement, and bleak satires of societal ills (count me in!).

The best include: “Technicality” (1966), a war against pacifist aliens who wield horrific but non-lethal weapons; “The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde” (1969), an absurdist pastiche of the bastardization of ideology and societal decadence; and “Dead Continue reading

Book Review: Memoirs of a Spacewoman, Naomi Mitchison (1962)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Naomi Mitchison’s first science fiction novel, Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962), is a brilliant episodic rumination on the nature of non-violent interaction with alien species that challenge (and transform) conceptions of ourselves and others.  Although R. S. Lonati’s cover for the 1964 Four Square edition suggests a pulp adventure—replete with flashy spaceships, explosions, and traditional adventure—Memoirs is cut from an altogether different cloth.

The first sentence of the novel narrows in on Mitchison’s central themes:

“I think about my friends and the fathers of my children.  I think about my children, and I think less about my four dear normals than I think about Viola.  And I think about Ariel.  And the other.  I wonder sometimes how old  would be if I counted the years of time blackout during exploration (5).”

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXVI (Le Guin + MacApp + Farmer + Anthology)

In my youth I read Ursula Le Guin like a madman—somewhere in the intervening years I misplaced my copies of her short story collections.  So, while voyaging to a nearby city (with Half Price Books) I decided to snag one—The Compass Rose (1982) contains mostly 70s short stories.  Excited.

I have been presently impressed with *some* of Philip José Farmer’s work—namely, Strange Relations (1960)—-so I could not resist a “best of” collection.

I am perhaps most excited about David Gerrold’s edited collection Generation: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction (1972).  Contains a wide range (and almost equal ratio of male/female authors) of fascinating stories.

 I bought C. M. MacApp’s Secret of the Sunless World (1969) due to the title and the amazing Berkey cover.  Now that I sat down and transcribed the back cover I rather dissuaded from picking it up anytime soon…

1. The Book of Philip José Farmer, Philip José Farmer (revised 1982, 1973)

(James Warhola’s cover for the 1982 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: The Monadic Universe, George Zebrowski (1977)

(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1977 edition)

2.75/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Average)

A while back I picked up a copy of George Zebrowski’s The Monadic Universe (1977) for my friend 2theD at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature to supplement his suitcase of SF books he buys every year before heading back to Thailand.  Before I sent it to him I read a single story “The History Machine” (1972) and was intrigued enough to buy the collection for myself.

Bluntly put Zebrowski’s post-apocalyptical, polluted, environment going to hell futures are dull and resort to random violence, sinister women characters, and lengthy information dumps.  The stories containing metaphysical thought-experiments are slightly more successful although the lack of articulate prose weakens their power.  I only recommend three Continue reading

Book Review: The Many Worlds of Barry Malzberg, Barry N. Malzberg (1975)

(Jack Faragasso’s cover for the 1975 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

The Many Worlds of Barry Malzberg (1975) contains eleven short works of which four (“Initiation,” “Management,” “Reconstitution,” and “After the Unfortunate Accident”) were original to the volume and have not been published elsewhere.

My first exposure to Barry N. Malzberg’s massive short fiction catalogue was a mixed bag.  But even the least intriguing of his works contain literary prose and unsettling scenes…  I recommend this collection for a handful of the stories (although the best can be found elsewhere): namely, “The Union Forever” (1973), “Reconstitution” (1975), “Death to the Keeper” (1968), and”Closed Sicilian” (1973).  

I found Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXIV (Wilhelm + Spinrad + Ball + Vance)

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…

Thoughts?

1. Abyss, Kate Wilhelm (1971)

(Lou Feck’s cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: Journey Beyond Tomorrow (variant title: The Journey of Joenes), Robert Sheckley (1962)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1962 edition)

4.75/5 (Very Good)

“Beyond a doubt, Joenes himself was an actual person; but there is no way of determining the authenticity of every story told about him.  Some of the tales do not appear to be factual accounts, but rather, moral allegories.  But even those that are considered allegorical are representative of the spirit and temper of the times” (vii).

Robert Sheckley’s third novel Journey Beyond Tomorrow (1962)—after Immortality, Inc. (1959) and The Status Civilization (1960)—is a wildly successful episodic novel that plays to his strengths as a short story author.  In a similar but less radical manner as George Alec Effinger’s What Entropy Means to Me (1972), Sheckley subverts the notion of narrative truth and by so doing explores the complex nature of Continue reading