Tag Archives: space opera

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

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

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CVIII (Malzberg + Bishop + Sheckley + White)

What a haul!  Three are from numerous previous expeditions to choice used book havens….  And I caved in and bought Malzberg’s The Destruction of the Temple (1974) on abebooks because his seldom reprinted works are hard to find.

Sheckley’s Journey Beyond Tomorrow (1962) is near the top of my reading list.  Supposedly one of his best.

And, who can resist Michael Bishop’s magnum opus, No Enemy But Time (1982)?!?

And James White is always solid…

Thoughts?  Anything particularly worth reading?

1. The Destruction of the Temple, Barry N. Malzberg (1974)

(Uncredited cover for the 1974 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: The Centauri Device, M. John Harrison (1974)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1980 edition)

4/5 (Good)

I can only imagine the shock that readers received and still receive (according to amazon reviews) after diving into M. John Harrison’s The Centauri Device (1974) expecting a standard space opera.  This is a subgenre where the anti-hero still has not found a firm place to roost…  You know the rubric: Empathizing with the hero.  Positivism.  Saving the world.  The good guys win.

I suspect the shock to the system that Stephen R. Donaldson’s leprous and bitter (and reluctant) savior Thomas Covenant in Lord Foul’s Bane (1977) and subsequent novels had on high fantasy was something akin to impact The Centauri Device‘s drug-addled, inarticulate, and passive spacer Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CVII (Anthology: Galactic Empires, vol 1 and 2 + Holdstock + Watson)

Snatched all but one of these up at a 1$ SF hardback clearance sale at my local bookstore.  The other, Watson’s The Jonah Kit (1976) came via The Dawn Treader Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI.

I am not usually interested in Galactic Empires but the collection seems to have some intriguing short authors—for example, Lafferty, Davidson, Shaara, etc whose works I have no been that exposed to.  I look forward to slowly working my way through both volumes.

I also acquired my first Robert Holdstock novel, Where Time Winds Blow (1981).  Seems intriguing.

My schedule has finally calmed down a little so expect a slew of book reviews in the coming days/weeks…

Thoughts?

1. Galactic Empires, Volume I, ed. Brian Aldiss (1976)

GLCTCMPRSV1978

(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1978 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CVI (Malzberg + Laumer + Sargent + Russell)

A few more wonderful acquisitions from my pilgrimage to Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, MI from month or so ago.

More Malzberg!  And thankfully, one of the few really solid covers to grace his extensive oeuvre.  I read Sargent’s novel Cloned Lives (1976) recently and was disappointed.  Hopefully her short story collection Starshadows (1977) is more my cup of tea.

A 50s “classic” by Erin Frank Russell…

And a collection of short works on time travel by Keith Laumer….  Could not resist the early Di Fate cover which I have featured in art posts before.

Thoughts?

1. Timetracks, Keith Laumer (1972)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1972 edition) 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

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) (MY REVIEW)

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

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

P1050045

(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