Category Archives: Science Fiction Book Reviews

Guest Post: Two Speculative Fictions from the 1890s: “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892), Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Little Room”(1895), Madeline Yale Wynne

The second guest post in my series SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969 (original announcement and list of earlier posts) comes via MPorcius (follow him on twitter) who runs MPorcius Fiction Log. This wonderful site is predominately focused on vintage SF.  I must confess, he has wider-ranging SF interests (and tolerance!) than myself and frequently reviews “classic” authors I’ve delegated, for good or bad, to the refuse pile — A. E. Van Vogt and his ilk for example.  This is a good thing, because if you want a more illustrative cross section of the genre (from the New Wave to pulp to sword and fantasy) then check him out!

His post focuses on two short stories by 19th century speculative fiction women writers.

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(“The Yellow Wallpaper” appeared in More Macabre (1961), ed. Donald A. Wollheim, cover: John Schoenherr)

Review of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892) by Charlotte Perkins Gilman and “The Little Room” by Madeline Yale Wynne (1895).

By MPorcius

First, thanks to Joachim for hosting this series of guest posts and for inviting me to participate, and, more broadly, for doing so much to promote speculative fiction that is a little off the beaten path and perhaps receives less attention Continue reading Guest Post: Two Speculative Fictions from the 1890s: “The Yellow Wallpaper” (1892), Charlotte Perkins Gilman, “The Little Room”(1895), Madeline Yale Wynne

Book Review: Real-Time World, Christopher Priest (1974)

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(Uncredited (Pennington?) cover for the 1976 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Christopher Priest’s An Infinite Summer (1979) clocks in as my second highest rated single-author collection, behind Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years (1979), so far in the life of my site.  I find Priest’s fiction intense and hypnotic.

As Real-Time World (1974) contains a range of Priest’s earliest published short stories, one cannot escape the feel that he is still trying to find his way as an author.  Similar indecision characterized his first novel Indoctrinaire (1970). The best stories in the collection revolve around the themes—the complex nature of perception and reality, psychologically unsettled environments and characters, voyeurism and performance—that his later Continue reading Book Review: Real-Time World, Christopher Priest (1974)

Guest Post: Three Short Stories by French Women SF Writers Pre-1969: “The Devil’s Goddaughter” (1960), Suzanne Malaval, “Moon-Fishers” (1959), Nathalie Henneberg, “The Chain of Love” (1955), Catherine Cliff

The first guest post in my series SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969 (original announcement) comes via Rachel S. Cordasco (follow her on twitter) who runs the spectacular, and much needed, resource Speculative Fiction in Translation and who blogs on literature more generally at Bookishly Witty.  She also writes for tor.com and Book Riot.

Check out her list of reviews organized by country! Israel, Iraq, France, Italy, Korea, etc.

Her post focuses on three stories by French women writers: “The Devil’s Goddaughter” (1960) by Suzanne Malaval, “Moon-Fishers” (1959) by Nathalie Henneberg, and “The Chain of Love” (1955) by Catherine Cliff.

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(Louis S. Glanzman’s cover for the 1965 edition of 13 French Science-Fiction Stories (1965), ed. and trans., Damon Knight)

Three Stories from 13 French Science-Fiction Stories, edited and translated by Damon Knight (Bantam Books, 1965, 165 pages).

by Rachel S. Cordasco

Don’t be put off by the purple prose on the front and back covers; 13 French Science-Fiction Stories is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to read more widely in the Continue reading Guest Post: Three Short Stories by French Women SF Writers Pre-1969: “The Devil’s Goddaughter” (1960), Suzanne Malaval, “Moon-Fishers” (1959), Nathalie Henneberg, “The Chain of Love” (1955), Catherine Cliff

Book Review: The Pastel City, M. John Harrison (1971)

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(Bruce Pennington’s cover for the 1971 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

One of the previous owners of my copy of M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City (1971) must have harbored a pernicious grudge against corroded landscapes and nebulous morals.  So much in fact that they propped up the first volume of the Viriconium sequence against a tree and used it for BB gun target practice. I am still trying to identify the cause of the book’s other wounds… [pictorial evidence below].

As one can expect from Harrison, decadence and decay seeps from the quires of The Pastel City as characters try to create meaning, or grasp hold of half-formed Continue reading Book Review: The Pastel City, M. John Harrison (1971)

Book Review: Universe 10, ed. Terry Carr (1980) (Lafferty + Bishop + Tiptree, Jr., Waldrop, et al.)

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(Uncredited cover for the 1982 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

Fresh off Terry Carr’s novel Cirque (1977), I decided to return to his original Universe series of anthologies.  I’ve previously reviewed Universe (1971) and Universe 2 (1972).  As with the majority of SF anthologies, Universe 10 (1980) is sprinkled with both good and bad.  I selected it from the veritable sea of anthologies on my shelves due to the presence of authors I wish to explore further and those who are foreign to me: Michael Bishop and James Tiptree, Jr. in the former category; Lee Killough, Howard Waldrop, Carter Scholz, and F. M. Busby in the latter.

Michael Bishop’s “Saving Face”, James Tiptree, Jr.’s “A Source of Innocent Merriment,” and Carter Continue reading Book Review: Universe 10, ed. Terry Carr (1980) (Lafferty + Bishop + Tiptree, Jr., Waldrop, et al.)

Book Review: Cirque, Terry Carr (1977)

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(Stanislaw Fernandes’ cover for the 1978 edition)

3/5 (Average)

Nominated for the 1978 Nebula

Terry Carr’s third novel Cirque (1977) takes the form of a religious allegory filled with a mosaic of characters that each represent a different psychological profile. These allegorical representations of the populace inhabit the city of Cirque, that surrounds the Abyss, a vast and seemingly bottomless chasm into which the River Fundament pours its fertile waters.  Each character must confront their own failings, spurned by a tentacled Beast which crawls from the depths of the Abyss…

Allegory. Yes! Strange (urban) landscapes. Yes! These elements succeed in the hands of the adept. John Crowley’s masterful The Deep (1975) took SF-tinged fantasy tropes, inserted them game-like into a stylized world on top of a pillar, and with icy detachment Continue reading Book Review: Cirque, Terry Carr (1977)

Book Review: Involution Ocean, Bruce Sterling (1977)

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(Tim White’s cover for the 1980 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

“Turn and look behind you, reader. Can you see the crater now? It is wide, round, magnificent; within it shimmers a sea of air above a sea of dust. Almost a million human beings live within this titanic hole, this incredible crater, this single staring eye in the face of an empty planet” (119).

In my youth naval history and fiction transfixed: from the capture of the Spanish Xebec El Gamo by Lord Thomas Cochrane, 10th Earl of Dundonald to C. S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower sequence, inspired in part by Lord Cochrane’s career.  I assessed each novel and memoir on whether or not I felt like I was on a sea-going vessel, holding the ropes in calloused hands, trapped belowdeck in a storm, yanking the lanyard on a cannon’s gunlock… With a dictionary of naval terms on my desk, I looked up each and every reference, memorized the cross-sections of frigates and the intricacies of the chain of command.  I recoiled with grim fascination as Hornblower–fresh off the harrowing loss of the HMS Sutherland and desperate to escape the French countryside–peers at Lieutenant Bush’s amputated leg and checks the inserted cloth wads that soak up the leaking puss.

Bruce Sterling’s Involution Ocean (1977) draws on the naval tradition, transposed into a SF future, although it is more exploration à la Darwin and the HMS Beagle than combat à la Horatio Hornblower and the HMS Hotspur.  Inspired by Melville’s Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (1851), Involution Ocean tells the tale of John Newhouse’s search for Nullaquan dustwales, the “only source of the drug syncophine” (23), across a vast Continue reading Book Review: Involution Ocean, Bruce Sterling (1977)