Tag Archives: pulp

Book Review: The Worlds of Frank Herbert, Frank Herbert (1970)

(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1977 edition)

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

I have long been a fan of Frank Herbert.   In my youth I scarfed down Dune (1965) and all its sequels and cried (metaphorically) when his son Brian Herbert made  a mockery of his vision.  I even read the more dubious novels in Herbert’s canon: from The Green Brain (1966) to the co-written (with Bill-Ransom)  novels of the Pandora sequence i.e. The Jesus Incident (1979), The Lazarus Effect (1983), and The Ascension Factor (1988).  I have found many of his non-Dune novels worth reading (Destination: Void (1966) and The Dosadi Experiment (1977), etc).

More recently I have started to read/review the handful of his novels I missed as a child—so far the solid and unexpectedly complex The Eyes of Heisenberg (1966) and the lesser Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Skull (connected to mysterious contraptions + looming above all + the moon mutated)

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(Richard Weaver’s cover for the 1972 edition of Dreadful Sanctuary (1948), Eric Frank Russell)

THE SKULL. The bones of the dead, the empty sockets gazing at us, a deathly gaze….  I have collected for your [horror filled] enjoyment a vast variety of SF skulls: the moon mutated into a skull, the half-skinned skull as part of mysterious contraptions, photographs of real human skulls interspersed with statuary and wigs, bizarre pink skulls pulsating with green radiation-esque Continue reading

Book Review: Three Novels (variant title: Natural State and Other Short Stories), Damon Knight (1967)

(Alan Peckolick’s cover for the 1967 edition)

3/5 (Collated Rating: Average)

Damon Knight’s Beyond the Barrier (1964) was so egregious that I have stayed away from his work until recently.  Around a year ago I acquired Three Novels (1969)—containing the two novellas “Rule Golden” (1954) and “Natural State” (1951) and one novelette “The Dying Man” (variant title: Dio”) (1951)—in order to start my reappraisal of the supposed Grand Master of the genre.  I have his collection Far Out (1961) and his novel A For Anything (variant title: The People Maker) (1959) on my shelf.

Although this selection of his 50s short fiction is far superior to Beyond the Barrier only one of the stories made any lasting impression: the philosophical and ruminative immortality themed tale, “The Dying Man.”  With that in mind it might be worth tracking it down in another place of publication, for example the thematic multi-author collection Immortals (1998) ed. Jack Dann and Gardner Dozois.   There is a chance that the other two novellas in Three Novels will satisfy fans of Knight’s Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Josh Kirby’s Astronauts (1957-1976)

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(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1970 edition of The Reproductive System (variant title: Mechasm) (1968), John Sladek)

It has been too long since I collated a cover art post…  I have a love hate relationship with Josh Kirby’s work.  He tends to be on the comedic side, for example, he provided covers for a large percentage of Ron Goulart’s DAW titles (The Wicked Cyborg, etc) and Prachett’s Discworld novels.

However, for a brief window of time in the 60s and 70s he produced some gorgeously surreal depictions of astronauts and and astronaut transformations.  His cover for the 1970 edition of The Reproductive System (variant Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CV (Russ + Spinrad + Malzberg + Kornbluth)

Dawn Treader bookstore haul part II [part I]!  A batch of my favorite authors: Norman Spinrad, Joanna Russ, Barry N. Malzberg, and C. M. Kornbluth.  Two novels and two short story collections!

…and some fun covers.

Thoughts?

1. No Direction Home, Norman Spinrad (1975)

(Charles Moll’s cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “A GHASTLY WORLD… AN ULTIMATE ORGASM… A COSMIC NIGHTMARE… Bone-chilling, mind-shattering science fiction that will take you Continue reading

Book Review: Sign of the Labrys, Margaret St. Clair (1963)

(William George’s cover for the 1963 edition)

2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)

Margaret St. Clair was one of a handful of prolific women SF authors who started publishing short fiction in the late 40s—her first SF story was “Rocket to Limbo” for the November 1946 issue of Fantastic Adventures.  From the late 50s to the early 70s she published eight slim novels, mostly Ace Doubles (paired with authors such as Philip K. Dick and Kenneth Blulmer).  Regardless of her earlier publishing prowess—by the publication date of Sign of the Labrys (1963) she had four novels in print and somewhere around 125 short stories—Bantam Books felt the need to include the following back cover:

“WOMEN ARE WRITING SCIENCE-FICTION!

ORIGINAL! BRILLIANT!! DAZZLING!!!

Women are closer to the primitive than men.  They are conscious of the moon-pulls, the earth-tides.  They possess a buried memory of humankind’s obscure and ancient past which can emerge to uniquely color and flavor a novel.  Such a woman is Margaret St. Clair, author of this novel.  Such a novel is this, SIGN OF THE LABRYS, the story of a doomed world of the future, saved by recourse to ageless, immemorial rites…

FRESH! IMAGINATIVE!! INVENTIVE!!!”

Unfortunately, Sign of the Labrys is a disappointing read.   The post-plague world is dark and creepy and for the first half an uncanny (palpable) tension permeates.  But, ultimately the fantastic setting, revisionist stance on the normal pulp gender dynamics, are weakened by a disjointed (verging on amateur) narrative filled with Wiccan “craft” practices and references.  As other reviewers have pointed out, one could easily substitute the Wicca magic with the pulp SF staple “psi-power” and I agree Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CIV (Yarbro + Priest + Farmer + Malzberg)

Ann Arbor’s Dawn Treader Book Store contains the best used SF collection I have encountered in my perambulations (fortunately, I live far away or else I would empty my bank account).  Prepare for its manifold and manifest joys (multiple parts over the next month or so)!

What a haul!  I have yet to read a Chelsea Quinn Yarbro novel—this one is her most famous work so I look forward to it despite the creepy wolf/man with blood on the cover.  Also, Farmer has somewhat redeemed himself in my eyes with Strange Relations (1960)—thus, the metafictional account of a man who recreates the Burrough’s Tarzan tales sounds like an experimental New Wave SF novel right up my alley.

As does Christopher Priest’s Indoctrinaire (1970)…  I think I will read this one before I tackle Inverted World (1974) that I acquired a while back but never felt like reading.

And, I bought FOUR novels by one of my favorite authors, Barry N. Malzberg—the first is On a Planet Alien (1974).  Will read this one soon.

Thoughts?  Have you read any of the novels?

1. False Dawn, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1978)

(Gary Friedman’s cover for the 1978 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: The Empty People, Barry N. Malzberg (as K. M. O’Donnell) (1969)

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(Howard Winters’ cover for the 1969 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

“Inspecting a few she found that they were about what she had expected: the science-fiction books seemed to be full of nonsense about extraterrestrials or flights into space, the damnedest silliest stuff imaginable, and the sex part was sheer filth.  There was no question about it; there was no other way to describe those books” (12).

Science fiction as delusion.  More specifically, chapters replete with SF plots with evil aliens with interchangeable names and megalomaniacal claims to power culled straight from the pulps are delusions.  Imagined (perhaps?) by an average American man with “metastases” (14) growing in his brain while a concerned, albeit cheating, normal American housewife waits at his bedside.  The Empty People (1969) is considered Barry N. Malzberg’s (writing at K. M. O’Donnell) first SF novel.  However in the vein of his more famous Herovit’s World (1973), the most convincing interpretation of the novel suggests that the SF elements (purposefully clichéd and vaguely explained) are mere manifestations and torments of a diseased mind.

Originally Malzberg had aspirations to become a playwright and was even awarded multiple university playwright fellowships but was unable to break into the literary market.  Thus, he tried his hand at science fiction in the late 60s with some success (his most famous work would be published in the early 70s).  I would suggest that Malzberg’s palpable frustration writing SF can be found throughout the novel.  In The Empty People pulp science fiction plots, in their most general formulations, serve as instruments of repression Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CII (Disch 2xs + Anderson + Pollack)

My fiancé picked these up for me as she perambulated through Dallas, TX—the birthplace of Half Price Books.  And, easily the best one in the country.

Two more Disch novels to add to my collection (I only owned Camp Concentration).  The cover and cover blurb for On Wings of Song (1979) is terrifyingly bad—the contents are supposedly magisterial.

I have no idea if Rachel Pollack’s Golden Vanity (1980) will be any good—looks like average space opera.

And, who can resist Poul Anderson?

Thoughts?

1. Echo Round His Bones, Thomas M. Disch (1966)

ECHORB1967

(Uncredited cover for the 1967 edition) Continue reading