Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXIX (Sladek + St. Clair + Herbert + Mason)

New books!  At one point in time I had a copy of Frank Herbert’s great Destination: Void (1966).  However, it wasn’t the original 1966 version but a rewrite from the late 70s.  Generally I prefer reading the first published versions (unless they were serialized in magazines) so I was desperate to get my hands on a copy.

More Sladek!   The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970) is his best known novel.  SF aficionados of the 60s/70s often describe Saldek as one of the unsung comedic/satirical greats.  I’ve read his first novel a while back, The Reproductive System (variant title: Mechasm) (1968) and had a lukewarm reaction.   I will definitely pick up The Müller-Fokker Effect before the year is out.

Margaret St. Clair’s Sign of the Labrys (1963) has proved to be one of the worst books I’ve read this year.  But, I will give her short stories, the the collection Change the Sky and Other Stories (1974). another chance.

2theD at PotPourri of Science Fiction Literature send me Douglas R. Mason’s The Resurrection of Roger Diment (1972) a while back.  Mason’s The Eight Against Utopia (1966) was downright dismal so I’m not sure when I’ll get to this one.

Thoughts?

1. Destination: Void, Frank Herbert (1966)

(Uncredited—looks somewhat like Di Fate?—cover for the 1970 edition)

From the back cover: “Four scientists and a human cargo of thousands.  They were headed toward a planet circling the far distant Tau Ceti—a ripe Eden world waiting to be plucked for the future of the human race.  But three-fourths of the way through the Solar System, their ship failed: its propelling engines, three all-powerful human brains had suddenly, quite inexplicably gone mad.

They were trapped in space, at the mercy of the ship, and there was only one possible solution for survival—to create a “conscious” mechanical brain able to guide them to their destination.

But would there be enough time before they plunged into oblivion—for they were working with limited resources, under unbearable pressure… and against impossible odds.

2. Change the Sky and Other Stories, Margaret St. Clair (1974)

(Uncredited cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover: “Change the Sky is a fascinating blend of science fiction, fantasy, and the special kind of sorcery that only Margaret St. Clair can summon.

Change the Sky is a collection in which you will find:

—a man who spent his life searching for the world of his dreams and got exactly what he wanted

—a woman who found the people around her so boring she changed them.

—a righteous minister who preached an old-fashioned Christmas and started an energy crisis—2000 years in the future.

Change the Sky is a collection of the best stories from a renowned author’s long and distinguished career in the science fiction field.”

3. The Müller-Fokker Effect, John Sladek (1970)

(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1973 edition )

From the back cover: “Can a human being be reconstituted like orange juice?  To find out, the Army backs a futuristic research project that transfers a man’s personality onto computer tapes.  Guinea pig for the experiment is technical writers and dreamer Bob Shairp.  But the project barely gets off the ground when a computer accident wipes out Shairp’s mortal body and only his tapes remain.  Is Shairp doomed to this encoded state forever?  Or can the bizarre process be reversed?

4.  The Resurrection of Roger Diment, Douglas R. Mason (1972)

P1050154

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From the back cover: “Urania was a happy city.  And Uranians were a happy people.  Why Not? from the moment of birth they had the best of everything.  All their sensual pleasures were gratified, while the finest medical care kept them healthy and beautiful.  Living was one long round of gaiety, excitement, no joys denied, no needs to extreme to be completely fulfilled.  From the moment of birth to the moment of beautiful death.  For no one every grew old and ugly.”

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26 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXIX (Sladek + St. Clair + Herbert + Mason)”

    1. I highly doubt the Mason novel deserves to be reprinted 😉 But yes, some St. Clair short fiction has appeared in recent anthologies edited by contemporary authors such as VanderMeer. Sladek might be the one most deserving of a SF Masterwork place in the Gollancz series, among others…

      As for Frank Herbert, his work is reprinted ALL the time. And, considering it is often very average, perhaps other authors should be considered instead of him.

  1. I love The Muller Fokker Effect, but then you knew that already after I ended up with three different versions! Sladek is alway great in my humble opinion and I’m a big fan of his work.

    1. I could never find it in bookstores — well, besides when I lived in Austin, TX but I didn’t about him back them but remember encountering the cover — so I ended up buying one from abebooks.

      I think the cover is fun.

      1. Well, that makes it even more expensive for me to find! haha. Alas. I really want some of Keith Roberts/M. John Harrison’s lesser known novels/short story collections but some of these British authors are so hard to find here… without spending a fortune (I want the first edition, later abridged in the US edition, of The Grain Kings, The Committed Men, The Machine in Shaft Ten, etc etc)

      2. I have to admit the postage fees and taxes have put me off buying US books quite a few times in the past. There’s just no way to justify buying a five dollar book then being faced with almost twenty dollars of postage/tax etc. It’s very frustrating. Whatever happened to this ‘global economy’ we were promised?

  2. I think I’m one of the few people who really liked Destination: Void, a really interesting if weird novel that got me to re-evalute my stance on his non-Dune work. I read the ’78 version, but from what I can tell you’re really only missing some evocative quotes, slightly smoother prose, and some (still archaic) computer gobbledegook.

    I’ve heard a few good things about St. Clair—very few, as it doesn’t seem like anyone is reading her any more… you’re her only review on SF Mistressworks for example. Curious to hear what you have to say about Sladek as well, since I’ve seen a lot of great things about him but not a lot of reviews. Sladek’s short fiction has been mixed to average, not as New Wave-y or creative as his reputation led me to believe, so hopefully his novels are better.

    1. I read the later edition as well. But I can’t seem to find it in my collection so I thought I’d read the original. I do remember enjoying it immensely! (along with The Dosadi Experiment).

      I’m hoping her short stories modify the poor taste left in my mouth after Sign of the Labrys. We shall see.

      As for Sladek, I really wish I was able to review The Reproductive System (variant title: Mechasm) — it felt like a poor man’s Stanislaw Lem and substantially less memorable. As with St. Clair, I’m hoping this work changes my opinion!

      1. I know there is a Vincent di Fate art book out there…I actually have a copy…but it is inadequate and I wish there was a much more comprehensive, quality publication featuring his work. I’d love to see the same thing with artists like Lehr and Powers, although it would be such a niche market project that I’m not sure any publisher would see the value in investing the time and money.

      2. Nice, thanks! I’ll have to snag that. The Paper Tiger books aren’t of the best quality, at least not when you see the quality of the art books being released now, but something is certainly better than nothing. It is on the wishlist now and I have a birthday plus Christmas coming up. 🙂

  3. I’ve come to Herbert pretty late (I started reading SF in the 70s and have several of his books in my to-be-read stacks). I used to think of him as The Dune Guy and dismissed him. Yet even if you remove the Dune books (obviously some of the classic sf in terms of popularity), he’s got some interesting stuff. I’m reading THE GODMAKERS now.

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