Category Archives: Science Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: New Writings in SF 4, ed. John Carnell (1965) (Asimov + Roberts + Tenn + Kapp + Etchison + Morgan)

NWWRTNGSNF1968

(Robert Foster’s stunning cover for the 1968 edition)

2.75/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Average)

Despite the presence of one of Robert Foster’s best covers (for more on his art: Part I, Part II), New Writings in SF 4, ed. John Carnell (1965) contains only a few glimmers of brilliance—concentrated in Keith Roberts’ short story “Sub-Lim” (1965), a dark tale of crooked people and subliminal stimuli.  Isaac Asimov regurgitates something about a SF heist he scribbled on a napkin, Dan Morgan mumbles about alternate universes and tricycles, and Colin Kapp lectures on the “unusual methods of cementation of electrolysis” (54) instead of telling a Continue reading Book Review: New Writings in SF 4, ed. John Carnell (1965) (Asimov + Roberts + Tenn + Kapp + Etchison + Morgan)

Book Review: The Long Loud Silence, Wilson Tucker (1952, revised 1969)

LNGLDS1952

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1953 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

Preliminary Note: I read the 1969 Lancer edition which was “specially revised and updated by the author.”  Other than many overt references to the Vietnam War which chronologically could not have been in the original 1952 edition, I am uncertain how much was subtracted, added, or re-conceived.  John Clute at SF Encyclopedia indicates that “early editions” deleted references to cannibalism.  Perhaps he means the pre-1969 editions as it is horrifyingly present in this edition.  I wish I read the first edition as comparisons to his contemporaries would be easier to make.  Anyone who has read both versions or knows of a resource which lays out the modifications, please let me know.  The idea of updating a radical 50s novel for a late 60s audience intrigues me!

The Long Loud Silence (1952, revised 1969) is a quiet novel that depends on the emotional impact of loneliness and trauma,  and the desire for intrahuman connection Continue reading Book Review: The Long Loud Silence, Wilson Tucker (1952, revised 1969)

Book Review: The Eclipse of Dawn, Gordon Eklund (1971)

THCLPSFDWN1971

(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1971 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

“I hadn’t even voted in the last election.  I knew nothing about it, except Robert Colonby, how he wanted to make America strong again, how he said we ought to exert ourselves” (15).

Gordon Eklund’s first novel Eclipse of Dawn (1971) tells of a future dystopic America (the year 1988) chaffing under foreign quarantine and suffering from a major race war which results in African-Americans creating an autonomous political entity in the American South.  The effects of limited nuclear war spawns a poisonous urban environment and microclimates across the state of California. A return to “Victorian morality” presents but a facade of “purity laid across a morass of fear and guilt” (94).

Robert F. Colonby sets out from his residence amidst the bombed-out remains of Disneyland, where he dines on exotic cuts of meat and “wines dated back to the glory days” Continue reading Book Review: The Eclipse of Dawn, Gordon Eklund (1971)

Book Review: Heroics, George Alec Effinger (1979)

HEROICS1979

(Gary Friedman’s cover for the 1979 edition)

4.25/5 (Good)

George Alec Effinger’s What Entropy Means to Me (1972), a complex and intense homage to the act of literary creation, ranks among my favorite SF novels.  Heroics (1979), a deconstruction of myth and heroic quest,  treads similar ground but in a more light-hearted manner.  The sheer intensity elevates the former while the latter’s sincere examination of old age and loneliness strikes still strikes with elegiac power.  Both are highly recommended but What Entropy Means to Me or his short story collection Irrational Numbers (1976) might be the place to Continue reading Book Review: Heroics, George Alec Effinger (1979)

Short Book Reviews: Theodore Sturgeon’s Venus Plus X (1960), Christopher Priest’s The Affirmation (1981), and Barry N. Malzberg’s Screen (1968)

Cycle: read a book, place it in the review pile, the immediacy of the novel fades slightly or the novel fights every moment of the review writing process (–> Priest’s masterpiece The Affirmation), never review it, feel bad that I never reviewed the novel, read less in order to catch up…

Result: less reading and more pouting.

Remedy: In order to catch up, here are short/less intensive reviews with links to in-depth analysis (if it exists).  Part I + II (books by Budrys, Strete, White, Bishop, etc).

1. Venus Plus X, Theodore Sturgeon (1960)

VNSPLSX1960

(Victor Kalin’s cover for the 1960 edition) Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Theodore Sturgeon’s Venus Plus X (1960), Christopher Priest’s The Affirmation (1981), and Barry N. Malzberg’s Screen (1968)

Book Review: Blind Voices, Tom Reamy (1978)

BLNDVCS1978

(David Plourde’s cover for the 1978 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

Tom Reamy’s Blind Voices (1978) was nominated for the Nebula, Hugo, and BFSA awards and came in second in Locus voting for best novel in 1979.  Posthumously released, Reamy died of a heart attack while writing in the fall of 1977 at 42.  His take on small town America transformed by the arrival of a traveling circus and its array of wonders will stay with you for years to come.  The science fiction elements (revealed more than halfway through the novel) interlace and add to the elegiac and constrained fantasy feel.  The specter of sexuality and violence Continue reading Book Review: Blind Voices, Tom Reamy (1978)

Book Review: An Exercise for Madmen, Barbara Paul (1978)

Screen Shot 2016-06-06 at 6.43.29 PM

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1978 edition)

2.5/5 (Bad)

Barbara Paul’s An Exercise for Madmen (1978), a retelling of Euripides’ The Bacchae, follows an established narrative pattern: Stranger enters community with dangerous knowledge.  Community reacts with suspicion but soon the stranger, despite claims of goodwill, begins to wield greater and greater influence.

In this case, a priapic-Romance cover-“ideal” alien man named Zalmox (masculine to women, feminine to men) gets an entire community to have great sex with him and everyone else….  And he brings magical alien apples, apples that cure madness Continue reading Book Review: An Exercise for Madmen, Barbara Paul (1978)