Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVII (Malzberg + Silverberg + Biggle, Jr. + Zelazny)

One of Robert Silverberg’s most famous 70s novels…

Barry N. Malzberg’s first published novel (more speculative fiction than SF)…

Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s best known novel…

And Roger Zelazny’s first published collection of SF shorts…

And some great covers!

1. The Book of Skulls, Robert Silverberg (1971)

BKFSKLLS1972B

(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1971 edition)

From the back cover of a later edition: “Somewhere in the Southwestern desert, in a place called The House of Skulls, an ancient brotherhood guards a mystic rite.  It is written that he who comes there with a pure heart will receive the gift of eternal life.  Four college students, only half believing, each bearing a dark secret, join together to make the pilgrimage.  Eli, the intellectual.  Ned, the poet.  Oliver, the Midwestern athlete.  Timothy, the pampered rich kid.  But immortality has a terrible price.  Two of them will live forever only if the remaining two die—one must give his life willingly… the other must be sacrificed.”

2. Monument, Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (1974)

MNMNTFPXTS1974

(Gary Friedman’s cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover of a later edition: “LOST EDEN.  It was a world of dazzling beauty, where pleasure was man’s most precious birthright.  In this lost colony the inhabitants had forgotten the very existence of Earth.  Only one man remembered.  He foresaw the awesome consequences if this paradise were ever rediscovered.  MONUMENT.”

3. Four for Tomorrow, Roger Zelazny (1967)

FRFRTMRRW551967

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1967 edition)

From the inside flap of a later edition: “THE STRANGEST MANHUNT IN INTERSTELLAR HISTORY: when the three mutated men known as The Furies searched across the galaxy for Victor Corgo, captain of the Wallaby, ex-hero of Interstel, now traitor to mankind.

THE PART THAT LASTED FOREVER: where the ultra-rich members of “The Set” reveled for a night, then slept for years, then partied again, and slept again… and all the while they traveled into a more and more alien future in which they were increasingly lost.

THE LEVIATHAN OF VENUS: which had destroyed every Earth expedition sent to capture it… but still one man had to risk his life in a final desperate attempt.

THE LAST OF THE ANCIENT MARTIANS: who was an awesomely lovely girl with a mission she could not fulfill… and a secret for the future…

Here are four great stories of wonder and adventure, beauty and danger in the stars, by today’s most exciting writer of science fiction.”

4. Screen, Barry N. Malzberg (1968) (MY REVIEW)

SCRNRFBZRB1970

(Uncredited cover for the 1970 edition)

From the inside flap: “…Malzberg’s hero possesses the interesting ability to pass through the motion picture screen and enter, sexually and explicitly, the lives of the various actresses depicted thereupon.  Including Sophia, Brigitte, Sabrina, Liz and Doris…” (San Francisco Chronicle & Examiner)

This is indeed an apt definition of Malzberg’s theme as treated in Screen, but it only gives a faint idea of the rare beauties contained in the singular novel.  So singular that the publisher decided to gamble his reputation on Barry Malzberg’s name, and to bring out the young author’s first two novels at the same time.”

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18 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVII (Malzberg + Silverberg + Biggle, Jr. + Zelazny)”

  1. I really like the dust jackets that came with Doubleday/SFBC books of the ’60s and early ’70s. They were usually done in an abstract graphic style, employing charcoal, collage, washes, and pen and ink. So much better than what they (or at least the SFBC) switched to for the rest of the century: traditional illustration by amateur and semi-pro artists. Even the design and typography became horrid.Only the change in Ballantine paperback covers, after they were taken over by Random House in ’73, equals the decline. Ballantine, like Doubleday/SFBC, used to produce some very artistic covers.

      1. In both Herr’s and Friedman’s jacket art, I see influences that were well known to graphic artists of the ’60s and early ’70s.

        The first is “Projekt,” a magazine from Poland that championed avant garde graphic design behind the Iron Curtain. Copies of the magazine could be found in the studios of many American and Japanese design firms. Herr’s art for Sheckley’s book, with its surrealistic assemblage of sketched body parts, is directly imitative of a Soviet Bloc artist who appeared in Projekt. (I wish I could remember his or her name. More than that, I wish I still had my old copies of Projekt, so I could easily find the artist’s name. Internet searches have led nowhere,)

        The second is Milton Glaser and Seymour Chwast’s “Push Pin Studios.” The most famous American graphic design firm of the time, it’s influence on the Biggle and Klein dust jackets is obvious.

        It’s sad that as Science Fiction itself returned to pulp traditions, so did Science Fiction art and book design. I think we must credit the general air of experimentation in the ’60s and early ’70s (which would include the New Wave) for a decade-and-a-half of really fascinating covers and dust jackets. Though, to be fair, Ballantine was already making use of Surrealism and contemporary graphic design in the ’50s.

        Another influence during the period was pop and psychedelic art, as seen in the work of Michael Hinge and Robert Pepper.

        http://www.djfood.org/mike-hinge-book-magazine-covers/

        http://www.johncoulthart.com/feuilleton/2007/07/12/the-art-of-bob-pepper/

  2. Monument is a forgotten favorite among the members of the Classic Science Fiction book club. I’m I’m very partial to early Zelazny. So, you should have some good reading.

    1. Biggle, Jr. is an odd bird — he has the inventiveness of a great author but lacks the prose ability. But, I’m hoping that Monument bucks the trend I’m seeing in his writing.

      1. Personally I found his writing style a cut above the pulp leanings of most writers of his generation and his humanistic view more than makes up for any percieved short comings. One of my favourite authors.

    2. Picked up the SFBC edition today, just because it’s a “forgotten favorite” of the CSF book club. Biggle is a ’60s-’70s author I’ve completely overlooked. Good to know I’m starting with what may be his best work.

  3. The Book of Skulls is one of my very favourite novels. Definitely a book of its time (lots of unbelievably non-PC dialogue, but times have changed). I read Monument a very, very, very long time ago, but it must have made an impression because I still remember it in its very broadest details, at least.

  4. I’m going to guess that the cover for the 1971 Signet edition of “The Book of Skulls” is by Dean Ellis. Compare it with the cover Ellis did for the 1974 Ballantine edition of “The Best of Fritz Leiber.” The style and palette are very similar.

  5. Joachim Boaz, Looking forward to your response to Book of Skulls. As with any review by a new reader of books I love, I fear what I responded to as a kid is now old-hat to contemporary readers. But I find Silverberg’s writing from the seventies is his finest, and hope you enjoy it. Too bad William Friedkin’s movie version never happened; after Sorcerer and The Exorcist I bet he’d have done a good job. I have never read Monument, but for years Martin Landau had the film rights.

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