May 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1968 edition)
2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)
Recently I procured a handful of Daniel F. Galouye’s novels (here) for a few dollars on ebay because I enjoyed his first novel Dark Universe (1961), which is an underread/underrated classic of the early 60s. In an effort to rekindle public interest in Galouye’s small ouvre (he died at 54 due to war injuries and was unable to write much in the last ten years of his life), he received the Cordwainer Smith Rediscovery Award in 2007. Unfortunately, Galouye’s fast-paced sci-fi thriller A Scourge of Screamers (variant title: The Lost Perception) does not measure up to the claustrophobic and well-plotted social rumination (with a good dose of action) that is The Dark Universe.
The most redeeming feature is Paul Lehr’s harrowing depiction of mental anguish « Read the rest of this entry »
May 19, 2013 § 43 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 »
May 18, 2013 § 17 Comments
(Vincent di Fate’s (?) cover for the 1972 edition)
4.75/5 (Very Good)
Nominated for the 1973 Nebula Award
Simply put, Norman Spinrad’s The Iron Dream (1972) is a fantastic alternate history novel. However, unlike a standard “what if this happened instead and now let’s write a traditional narrative” alternate history, The Iron Dream is organized around a powerful metafictional conceit which explicitly serves to satirize pulp science fiction and fantasy and condemn its lurid nature and Spinrad would argue, racist inclinations.
The premise is straightforward: after the Great War (WWI) Hitler comes to the United States (and thus WWII never happens) and becomes a science fiction illustrator. Eventually he starts writing science fiction and articles in fanzines. However, he’s considered by the establishment to be little more than a hack writer and lives the rest of his life in squalor. It is only after he dies (from symptoms related to syphilis) that he receives any critical success. What you read is Hitler’s 1954 posthumous Hugo-winning novel (which he wrote in six weeks), The Lord of the Swastika, along with a short pseudo-scholarly “afterward to the « Read the rest of this entry »
May 6, 2013 § 12 Comments
(John Cayea’s cover for the 1976 edition)
4.5/5 (Very Good)
“‘They want to kill us all, you know. They’re trying [...]. The government. Men. You.’ Still his eyes searched hers. ‘We’re no use to them. Worse than useless. Poachers. Thieves. Polygamists. We won’t be sterilized. There’s no good in us. We’re their creation, and they’re phasing us out. When they can catch us’” (33).
While reading John Crowley’s Beasts (1976) I was reminded of the life of Stephan Bibrowski (1891-1932) à la Lionel the Lion-faced Man. Stephan was afflicted with hypertrichosis (most likely) which caused his entire body to be covered with hair. His mother was so horrified at his appearance – which she believed was caused because she saw her husband mauled by a lion while she was pregnant « Read the rest of this entry »
April 20, 2013 § 6 Comments
(Richard Powers (?) cover for the 1960 edition)
Robert Sheckley deftly manipulates — in a mere (but dense) 127 pages – a plot straight from the pulps involving prison planets and gladiatorial fights against terrifying robots into a scathing and artfully constructed work of satire. Similar skills were apparent in his masterful collection Store of Infinity (1960) where traditional sci-fi situations such as colonization of alien worlds, robot rebellions, post-apocalyptical wastelands, and time-travel (among other tropes) are imbued with witty wordplay and biting social « Read the rest of this entry »
April 14, 2013 § 14 Comments
(Keith Robert’s cover for the 1966 edition)
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 »
March 1, 2013 § 24 Comments
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.
February 23, 2013 § 20 Comments
(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1971 edition)
The Sea is Boiling Hot (1971), George Bamber’s sole novel length contribution to the genre (thankfully), is the unabashedly pornographic version of the ecological disaster, humanity cooped-up in massive domed cities, let’s all get lobotomies to escape the horrors of the world science fiction. As in, large portions of the narrative are endless sex scenes all gussied up with the accouterments of ecological “message” science fiction.
Unfortunately the sex scenes are there, in all their endless variation, simply to titillate to the reader rather than a necessary part of world building/character analysis — I’m thinking of Silverberg’s « Read the rest of this entry »
Book Review: Who Can Replace a Man? (variant title: Best Science Fiction Stories of Brian W. Aldiss), Brian W. Aldiss (1965)
February 13, 2013 § 10 Comments
(Don Puchatz’s cover for the 1967 edition)
4/5 (collated rating: Good)
(note: I apologize for the extended time I’ve spent away from my blog – preparing for my dissertation proposal defense concurrent with a massive influx of grading derailed my sci-fi reading for the last few weeks)
Seven of the 1950s short stories in Brian W. Aldiss’ best of collection Who Can Replace a Man? (1965) I’ve reviewed before in No Time Like Tomorrow (1959) and Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960). However, the collection contains seven additional 50s and 60s novellas/short stories that make up the majority of pages. I’ve indicated the old material in the review with an asterisk « Read the rest of this entry »