Book Review: Involution Ocean, Bruce Sterling (1977)


(Tim White’s cover for the 1980 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

“Turn and look behind you, reader. Can you see the crater now? It is wide, round, magnificent; within it shimmers a sea of air above a sea of dust. Almost a million human beings live within this titanic hole, this incredible crater, this single staring eye in the face of an empty planet” (119).

In my youth naval history and fiction transfixed: from the capture of the Spanish Xebec El Gamo by Lord Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald to C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower sequence, inspired in part by Lord Cochrane’s career.  I assessed each novel and memoir on whether or not I felt like I was on a sea-going vessel, holding the ropes in calloused hands, trapped belowdeck in a storm, yanking the lanyard on a cannon’s gunlock… With a dictionary of naval terms on my desk, I looked up each and every reference, memorized the cross-sections of frigates and the intricacies of the chain of command.  I recoiled with grim fascination as Hornblower–fresh off the harrowing loss of the HMS Sutherland and desperate to escape the French countryside–peers at Lieutenant Bush’s amputated leg and checks the inserted cloth wads that soak up the leaking puss.

Bruce Sterling’s Involution Ocean (1977) draws on the naval tradition, transposed into a SF future, although it is more exploration à la Darwin and the HMS Beagle than combat à la Horatio Hornblower and the HMS Hotspur.  Inspired by Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851), Involution Ocean tells the tale of John Newhouse’s search for Nullaquan dustwales, the “only source of the drug syncophine” (23), across a vast Continue reading Book Review: Involution Ocean, Bruce Sterling (1977)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Art mysteries! Help Identify the SF Cover Artist (Novels by Clarke + Silverberg + Wilhelm, et al.)

Below are a group of uncredited covers whose artists I have not been able to firmly identify.  Some were brought to my attention by Adam who runs a collectible SF store (link).   I’d love to hear your input — make sure to read the guidelines.

Guidelines: If you think a cover is the work of a particular artist, please please please provide some evidence for your claim: for example, a comparison cover, a citation from a book/resource, or, perhaps a link to a canvas or artist webpage.  This makes identifying the artist more authoritative than a vague claim and readers can follow along more easily.  If you think you’ve identified the author, I recommend peeking at their other credited covers at The Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

Pocket Books was notoriously bad at citing their artists.  If we are able to identify a few of those below (Margaret and I and Journey), we might be able to nail down tens more covers missing citations in their catalogue.

The three covers below for Fred Saberhagen’s Empire in the East sequence are clearly by the same artist—the style seems so familiar!  And, the 1974 Signet edition of Cage a Man (1973), F. M. Busby is credited as FMA only.  I wonder if it’s possible to identify who FMA was.

In some cases, I have a pretty good idea who the artist might be but don’t have enough evidence….  I am convinced that Stanislaw Fernandes created the 1974 Signet edition of New Dimensions IV (1974) , ed. Robert Silverberg.  Although, it would be very early in his career and love to have some firm evidence.

I look forward to your ideas!

EDIT: I’ve gone ahead and indicated which ones have been solved by inserting the artist into the citation.

For more Adventures in SF Cover Art consult the INDEX


(Bob Haberfield’s cover for the 1971 Tandem edition of The Man in the Maze (1968), Robert Silverberg) Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Art mysteries! Help Identify the SF Cover Artist (Novels by Clarke + Silverberg + Wilhelm, et al.)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXI (Ellison + Sterling + Fast + Paul)

As is my wont, a wide range of authors, SF styles, and covers…. From Harlan Ellison’s collection with the first expanded and non-magazine publication of his famous  1970 Nebula Award-winning and Hugo-nominated novella “A Boy and His Dog” (1969) to Barbara Paul’s best-known SF novel.

And, how can you resist the gorgeous Karel Thole cover for Fast’s collection?  I know little about the author….

And finally, in my youth I was a cyberpunk fanatic and I adored (perhaps I was misguided, hah) Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net (1988).  At last I have his first novel in my hands!

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome!

1. The General Zapped an Angel, Howard Fast (1970)


(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1970 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXI (Ellison + Sterling + Fast + Paul)

Book Review: Abyss, Kate Wilhelm (1971)


(Lou Feck’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Kate Wilhem’s SF forms one of the foundational pillars propping up my fascination with the genre.  Her writing, sometimes oblique and interior, cuts to the very heart of things, exposing the hidden societal and psychological sinews that suppress and restrict.  Her 60s/70s women characters, from linguists and mathematicians to discontented housewives, subtly subvert our expectations of how genre characters should behave.  And for a few years in the early 70s, she dominated the award lists (four Nebula nominations in 1971, two in 1970, a win in 1968, and of course, her double Hugo and Nebula win in 1976 for her novel Where Late our Sweet Birds Sang).  Totals: 14 Nebula nominations Continue reading Book Review: Abyss, Kate Wilhelm (1971)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLX (Delany + Disch + Sladek + Zelazny + Edmondson + Bryant + Sucharitkul)

It’s been too long since I’ve read anything by Delany.  I polished off Triton (1976), Nova (1968), The Einstein Intersection (1967), and Babel-17 (1966) long before I started my site.  For a SF reading group I reread Nova a few years back but never wrote a review.  One of the few SF novels I’ve reread.  And yes, I do not own a copy nor have I tackled the behemoth that is Dhalgren (1975).

As a teen I was obsessed with Delany’s first collection Driftglass (1971), although I probably did not understand the important of the stories.  It is hard to forget the images in “Aye, and Gomorrah…” (1967) or “We, in Some Strange Power’s Employ, Move on a Rigorous Line” (1968) even if the message was lost on my younger self.  Now I have an excuse to reread one of Delany’s best known stories, originally collected in Driftglass (1971) — “Time Considered as a Helix of Semi-Precious Stones” (1968) — in a fascinating anthology with other luminaries of the field, Disch, Sladek, and Zelazny.

I confess, I was seduced by Powers’ gorgeous cover for G. C. Edmondson’s novel despite the terrifying back cover blurb: “Good, Old-fashioned Science Fiction Adventure at its best!”

A few months ago I read and reviewed Somtow Sucharitkul’s Starship and Haiku (1981).  Although I did not care for the novel, I need more strikes against before I give up on an author completely.  And, why not a fix-up comprised of his best known stories?

Same thing with Edward Bryant…  His attempts at channeling extreme decadence, fascinating cityscapes, and odd hybrids come off as inarticulate and forced.  Albeit I have only read “Jade Blue” (1971) and “The Human Side of the Village Monster” (1971).  As with Somtow Sucharitkul, I need to read more of his stories to come to a firm stance on his abilities.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

  1. The Shores Beneath, ed. James Sallis (1971)


(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1971 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLX (Delany + Disch + Sladek + Zelazny + Edmondson + Bryant + Sucharitkul)

Book Review: The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)


(Chris Yates’ cover for the 1971 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Entropic visions of decay and despair inhabit M. John Harrison’s first novel The Committed Men (1971).  Possessed by destructive melancholy, the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptical UK–where political powers have sunk into oblivion–attempt to recreate a semblance of normalcy.  Clement St John Wendover, teeth long since rotted, still administers to the skin diseases and ailments of his one-time patients although he cannot cure them.  Halloway Pauce, decked out in his “gold lamé suit”, fastidiously coats his cancered face with a “layer of pancake make-up” (48).  Grocott Personnel and his hierarchically oriented fellows recreate the bureaucratic veneer Continue reading Book Review: The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLIX (Pohl + Clarion Anthologies)

The Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop, started in 1968, continues to this day as one of the successful workshops for authors with instruction by the best the genre has to offer.  The alumni list is massive including Vonda N. McIntyre, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Lucius Shepard, Bruce Sterling, etc.  For more on the workshop consult the SF Encyclopedia entry.  Robin Scott Wilson, the original director, published three anthologies decked out with the distinctive art of Gene Szafran.  I am now the proud owner of all three!

Stories by Ursula Le Guin, Kate Wilhelm, Octavia Butler, George Alec Effinger, Edward Bryant, among others and reflections by the greats of the day, Frederik Pohl, Joanna Russ, Harlan Ellison, etc.

And many many many less familiar authors whose stories I will be keen to explore.

And, last but not least, A Frederik Pohl collection with a stunning Richard Powers cover.  He was in fine form in the early 60s.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

1. The Abominable Earthman, Frederik Pohl (1963)


(Richard Powers cover for the 1963 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLIX (Pohl + Clarion Anthologies)