Category Archives: Science Fiction Book Reviews

Book Review: New Writings in SF 9, ed. John Carnell (1972) (Harrison + Coney + Sellings + King + et al.)

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(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

An imaginary question I received: “Why do you read anthologies cover to cover?” I love discovering new authors and those I was aware existed but haven’t read—with New Writings in SF 9 (1972) the following fall into this bipartite category: Joseph Green, Paul Corey, Arthur Sellings, Vincent King, R. W. Mackelworth, and Eddy C. Bertin.

Of the bunch, I will probably only remember Vincent King’s vision of the angst as the exploration of the entire galaxy nears completion… Both authors whom I know far better produce the best of the collection.  Michael G. Coney’s haunting tale of evolutionary dependency and M. John Harrison account of paranoia and guilt over the massacre of mysterious aliens are worth the read. Too bad the three above were never anthologized outside of John Carnell’s New Writings series!

Overall New Writings in SF 9 is superior to New Writings in SF 4 (1965) but probably only satisfying for Coney and Harrison completists….

Note: this title refers to the 1972 US publication which was a best of earlier volumes. Another volume by the same name was published in 1966 in the Continue reading Book Review: New Writings in SF 9, ed. John Carnell (1972) (Harrison + Coney + Sellings + King + et al.)

Book Review: Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future), Algis Budrys (1963)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition)

3.5/5 (Collated rating: Good)

Algis Budrys has not fared particularly well on this site. Back in 2012 I read The Falling Torch (1959) and found it a functional military SF novel with some social commentary about the “inhumanity” of the Soviets. More recently I tackled his so-called “masterpiece” Michaelmas (serialized 1976) (short review) that despite all its pretensions to say something relevant about technology and media, slips into SF thriller mode, abandoning the most compelling elements of the narrative (it’s hard to write a convincing character study). At least Michaelmas makes the motions towards SF that moves behind the mechanical blueprints of a potential future mindset and tries to say something substantive about the psyche and society of the people who might live there. As you know, Continue reading Book Review: Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future), Algis Budrys (1963)

Book Review: The Time of the Crack (variant title: The Crack), Emma Tennant (1973)

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(Candy Amsden’s disturbing cover for the 1978 edition)

4/5 (Good)

Emma Tennant’s The Time of the Crack (variant title: The Crack) (1973) takes the form of a series of character vignettes in a transmogrified London. Despite Tennant’s wide-ranging societal critiques,  it’s a brief book–my 1978 Penguin edition clocks in at 112 pages–threaded loosely together by the occasional presence of Baba, a Playboy bunny. The cataclysm in question, the appearance of an expanding crack under the Thames, although causing devastation, doubles as a metaphoric birth moment. The landscape modified, buildings contorted by the severance… And in the wreckage of what remains the survivors make postures towards all manners of “New” English societies Continue reading Book Review: The Time of the Crack (variant title: The Crack), Emma Tennant (1973)

Book Review: The Resurrectionist, Gary K. Wolf (1979)

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(Margo Herr’s cover for the 1979 edition)

2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)

“Corporate authorities referred to him instead as the Resurrectionist, the man who dragged the living back from electrical purgatory” (5)

Gary K. Wolf, best known for Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (1981), started his writing career with three SF novels for Doubleday—Killerbowl (1975), A Generation Removed (1977), and The Resurrectionist (1979). Doubleday’s art director, Margo Herr, provided The Resurrectionist‘s captivating cover, which suggests the corruption of pattern, the subversion of delicate movement. A few reflective, but altogether too fleeting, moments suggest Wolf might have had similar ideas at the back Continue reading Book Review: The Resurrectionist, Gary K. Wolf (1979)

Career Highlights + Reminisce + Review: SF short story author Edward Bryant (1945-2017)

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(Gray Morrow’s cover for the 1973 edition of Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973), Edward Bryant)

On February 10th SF author and two-time Nebula Award winner Edward Bryant (1945-2017) passed away after a long illness. As the number of authors from my favorite era of SF is sadly dwindling as the years go by, I decided to briefly highlight his career and the stories of his I’ve read so far (too few!). Although primarily a short story author, Bryant co-wrote Phoenix in Ashes (1975) with Harlan Ellison. For more on his life and genre impact see the write-up posted after his death on Locus and his entry on SF Encyclopedia. I’ve decided to review two stories from his disturbing and powerful collection Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973).

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“The Hanged Man” (1972), short story, 4/5 (Good): “Shrikes were my playmates when I was about ten” (2). Two friends reminisce. But there’s a dark and sinister twist, one named Rockaway dangles, head downward tied by his feet to a tree branch and his friend refuses to cut him down…. Fragments of the world interjects into their unnerving conversion: family members have died, they survived by eating birds. Their conversation reflects Continue reading Career Highlights + Reminisce + Review: SF short story author Edward Bryant (1945-2017)

Book Review: Orbit 4, ed. Damon Knight (1968) (Wilhelm + Silverberg + Vinge + Ellison + Lafferty, et al.)

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(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1969 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

A quest for SF magazines! Alien possession and its psychological damage! The Supreme Court tackles future crime! And many more unusual visions….

Orbit 4 (1968) dethrones Orbit 3 (1968) for the overall collated rating crown (as of now) in the anthology sequence. All of the anthology so far contain worthwhile stories and should be tracked down by fans of SF from this era—see my reviews of Orbit 1 (1966) and Orbit 8 (1970).

Highly recommended for the Wilhelm, Emshwiller, Lafferty, Sallis, and Silverberg stories. A must buy Continue reading Book Review: Orbit 4, ed. Damon Knight (1968) (Wilhelm + Silverberg + Vinge + Ellison + Lafferty, et al.)

Book Review: The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975) (Le Guin + Wolfe + Tiptree, Jr.)

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(Jorge Hernandez’s cover for the 1975 edition)

4.75/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

Utopian dreams. Demonic spaceship cults. Grotesque cosmic pollination. Robert Silverberg’s edited original collections of novellas and novelettes strike gold again! See reviews of Triax (1979) (Keith Roberts, Jack Vance, James E. Gunn) and to a lesser degree The Crystal Ship (1976) (Marta Randall, Joan D. Vinge, Vondra McIntyre).

A few weeks ago I promised to read more of James Tiptree, Jr.’s fiction. With this in mind I rooted around my unread collections and found one of her stories in The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975). This review pushed many others to the back burner…. It is that good. Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, and James Tiptree, Jr. do not disappoint. A holy trifecta?

Highly recommended for fans of intelligent Continue reading Book Review: The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975) (Le Guin + Wolfe + Tiptree, Jr.)