Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXIV (Mann + Moorcock + Farmer + Adlard)

I bought and am in the process of reading a novel from the 90s… Look below to find out which one! (SHOCKING).

Also, more in line with my common (recent) reading patterns, a lesser known but supposedly brilliant 70s novel, Interface (1971) by Mark Adelard.  According to SF Encyclopedia: “The series is set in a city of the Near Future.[…] With a rich but sometimes sour irony, and a real if distanced sympathy for the problems and frustrations of both management and workers, Adlard plays a set of variations, often comic, on Automation, hierarchical systems, the Media Landscape, revolution, the difficulties of coping with Leisure, class distinction according to Intelligence, fantasies of Sex and the stultifying pressures of conformity.”  The banal back cover description indicates a rather lesser novel than Clute’s praise…

More Philip José Farmer—early work, early work only!

And, well, I’ve never Moorcock’s SF/F but, perhaps my first collection of his short fiction will indicate what people claim he is capable of.

All but the last novel came via Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings on his book store trip…. Thanks again!

Thoughts?

1. Interface, Mark Adlard (1971) (MY REVIEW)

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(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From back cover: “WORLD WITHOUT WANT—OR DESIRE— The Twenty-Second Century is a time of plenty; food, clothing, shelter, every entertainment and diversion—no matter how exotic or erotic—all are available for the asking.  Technology’s promise of limitless, automated abundance has at last been fulfilled.  Sound like Paradise?  It is a NIGHTMARE!”

2. The Time Dweller, Michael Moorcock (1969)

THTMDWLLRQ1971

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1971 edition)

From the back cover: “TIME OUT OF MIND.  The Earth rolled, salt-choked, round a dying sun.  On its bleak inhospitable surface the last lonely remnants of mankind resigned themselves to extinction.  Time, it seemed, had run out for humanity.  Yet Time itself held the key to survival.  If man was to be supplanted from his native planet, perhaps only infinity would afford him a refuge.  Only the age-long clichés with which his mind was fettered barred him from a whole new dimension—and a future of unimaginable splendor.  J. G. Ballard has called Michael Moorcock” the most important successor to Mervyn Peake and C. S. Lewis.”

3. Night of Light, Philip José Farmer (1966)

NIGHTOL1966

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1966 edition)

From the back cover: “On earth it would be a fearful thing to see a man chasing down the street after the skin from a human face.  On the planet of Dante’s Joy the sight aroused only mild wonder.  Then too no one was surprised by the cottonwood, which to the naked eye looked like a tree—but on closer inspection was found to be a man, frozen forever in wooden flesh.  But the strangest of all was the Night of Light, when all the citizens of Dante’s Joy slumbered, only to awake, if at all, in a world even weirder and more unearthly than before…”

4. Wulfsyarn, Phillip Mann (1990)

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(Glenn Orbik’s blah cover for the 1993 edition)

From the inside flap: “Many centuries in the future, the Nightingale embarks on a noble mission.  The most advanced starship of the Gentle Order of St. Francis Dionysos—a benevolent religious sect which, alone, retains the ability to journey between worlds—the awesome craft must transport home hundreds of alien refugees who were flung to all corners of the universe by the devastating War of Ignorance.  And in command is the Gentle Order’s most admired and capable pilot—Senior Confrère Jon Wilberfoss.

Then suddenly, inexplicably, the Nightingale vanishes.  For a full year there are no clues to its whereabouts.  Until finally a distress signal is heard—and the great ship is discovered in ruins, completely devoid of life save for its captain, left nearly comatose by guilt and self-loathing… and damned as a heinous murderer by the masters of his Order.

WULFSYARN is the extraordinary story of the final, fateful voyage of the Nightingale and of the life, torment and ultimate redemption of Jon Wilberfoss—a complex, enigmatic and fatally flawed man of principle responsible for the gargantuan mercy ship… and the inevitable destruction of its crew and alien passengers.  It is a brilliant mosaic of bizarre life forms in a vast and incomprehensible universe, of a future both radiant and terrible… and of the glorious frailties of the imperfect human animal—related in stunning detail by an intelligent and sympathetic machine skilled in the craft of words and images: the autoscribe called Wulf.” 

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25 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXIV (Mann + Moorcock + Farmer + Adlard)”

  1. I read “The Time Dweller” and “Night of Light” during my early sf reading days.TTD contained some quite imaginative and haunting short stories I thought had the time,but their effect on me was ephemeral,while NOL contained some strong pseudo mythological and religious concepts as I recall,as you’d expect of Farmer,but was done in a ragged,unrealised fashion,which also isn’t surprising of him.

    I did own the Mayflower edition of “The Time Dweller”,the cover of which was done by James Cawthorne I think,and the Penguin edition of “Night of Light.”

    I’ve just finished reading “Nova”,but have to say I was unimpressed.It was of excellent prose and strong dialogue,but was of little substance I thought,with not a strong plot.Overall,I thought it was rather vague.

    1. Nova? By which author? M. John Harrison’s Nova Swing? None of the authors I mentioned in this post wrote anything called “Nova”… But, I seem to remember you mentioning it in a different post about a different set of authors.

      1. I think I actually reread it for some “radical SF grad student reading group” my friend put together four years ago but never wrote a review… happens.

  2. I never got on with Moorcock in the past but I’m wondering whether it’s worth giving him another try. Certainly short stories would be a good way to find out! 🙂

  3. Of all the novels in the 90s to delve into you choose Philip Mann?!?!? Be interesting to see what 2theD thinks of your eventual/possible review as I know he likes Mann.

    1. Well, again, I’ve read many many many many novels from the post-1980 period — I only stopped three/four years ago. So yeah, he is one of the big authors I haven’t read yet from that period. I think I should have picked The Eye of the Queen (1982) — Wulfsyarn isn’t sitting well with me. I love the idea — an AI (of sorts) writing a history. As a historian… but… it’s… well…. bland really (150 pages in) but does have some intriguing religious ruminations etc.

  4. These sound like interesting selections which I have not read. Your commentary of Interface reminds me that the best science fiction and fantasy are derived from reality and turn our attention back toward it. If Michael Moorcock has been compared to C. S. Lewis, He’s worth a read. Thank you for calling my interest to these authors and works.

    1. Yeah, but blurbs on books are not always a good indicator! Else everything under the sun would be a masterpiece 😉

      None of it was my commentary — only what Ballard (an author I adore) and John Clute (who runs SF Encyclopedia) have pointed out. As for the “best science fiction and fantasy are derived from reality” — well yes, all SF and fantasy is derived from reality, right?

      1. The very best science/speculative fiction authors will be those whose visions are concrete and believable I think.They contain the core of truth.What could be closer to reality?

      2. I disagree — some far future environment is not believable at all in any shape or form by its very nature, yet, a great author will somehow make the novel work.

        Also, I am more talking about something else entirely — the idea that any extrapolation of the future is rooted somehow in the present (the present view of what the far future will look like, informed by the historical context of the author’s day, he/she has to make their choices related to their time). So, it IS rooted to reality, perhaps not in the way the above poster was thinking.

      3. That’s what I meant really Joachim.The greatest authors will be able to render their visions as totally believable,no mattter how weird the subject matter.Also yes,they should have the literary power to redefine the present.

      4. Not sure how much “believability influences the quality of an sf story. The best sf visions are those that are integrate their parts organically toward an overarching concept regardless of how concrete or believable they are. For example, a setting can be rendered entirely in surreal terms (i.e. unbelievable, non-concrete) and yet fit perfectly within the author’s overarching aesthetic goals, political agenda, or general storytelling aims. Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is the most unbelievable thing you’ve ever read, yet it may also be one of the most beautiful or bittersweet, proving that if the author is exceptionally skilled, their ‘unrealistic’ vision can even enhance the final product. And further still, by magnifying some aspect of reality in unrealistic terms, a mirror can be lifted, reflecting a reality that rendered in concrete terms would not be as obvious or poignant. Some general examples, James Morrow’s This Is the Way the World Ends, John Sladek’s Tik-Tok, Bruce Sterling’s Distraction, J.G. Ballard’s The Unlimited Dream Company, Ian Watson’s The Miracle Visitors, M. John Harrison’s In Viriconium, John Kessel’s Good News from Outer Space.. In each of those cases, the author’s vision intentionally distances itself from concrete reality to some degree or another to serve a literary, aesthetic, or other purpose – and I think in all cases, successfully. Certainly Nineteen Eighty-four is terrifying for how concrete the vision is, but as a universal rule, I don’t think believability is the ultimate litmus test for quality.

      5. As I’ve said before,that the best sf will seem totally believable,no matter how fantastic the plot or theme.It depends how powerful the skills of the author are.A Good example of this,include Anna Kavan’s “Ice”,whose premise for a world catastrophe and the central character’s hallucinated fugues,contain no solid reasoning for their happenings,but are intellectually fascinating and can be accepted as concrete within a literary context.

  5. I have that edition of Farmer!! Part of my collection. 🙂

    I read Wulfsyarn many years ago, perhaps early 00s, late 90s, and enjoyed it, but was felt fairly let down overall. The psychological theme reminded me of Pohl’s Gateway. Of Mann’s other novels I really enjoyed Eye of the Queen and Master of Paxwax/Fall of the Families – the alien descriptions in the latter two novels were pretty damn imaginative. Pioneers felt like a bland adventure attempting to write New Zealand into his work because he was a British-born resident here – maybe that’s just me being cynical.

  6. The problem with Moorcock is that he rushed produced a lot of work for the money. As a result, many of his works, including the “classic” Elric stories are flat and dull. The only books of his I actually enjoyed are his Dancers at the End of Time series. The idea behind them is very original and the writing is quite witty. Oh, now that I think about it, the original novelette version of Behold the Man was very good too and worth seeking out.. The novel just padded out the story and ended up diluting it.

    1. He did write too much and didn’t consolidate his best stuff.”The Dancers at the End of Time”,although the final conclusion is acerbic and not flattering to the finished work I think.I did like “Behold the Man”,but think I would have liked the novella better.

  7. Awww…that last cover reminds me that Orbik died recently. That is a shame, in general because it is always sad when people pass away, but also because he was a prolific artist whose work I enjoyed.

    I was just talking to a friend today about the need to schedule a trip to Minnesota sometime soon to check out these great bookstores again.

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