Category Archives: Science Fiction Book Reviews

Guest Post: Welcome, Chaos, Kate Wilhelm (1983)

The fourth in my Kate Wilhelm’s SF Guest Post Series (original announcement and post list) comes via Megan (twitter)—who blogs on both vintage classics and lesser known work to the recent BSFA-nominated SF novels at From Couch to Moon.  This is her second contribution to one of my guest post series and is definitely worth the read.  Her first guest post review was for my Michael Bishop series: check it out!  Thanks Megan!

~

WLCMCHSMKZ1983

(Jane Mackenzie’s cover for the 1983 edition)

Two parts mainstream Cold War espionage thriller to one part bio-social science fiction, Welcome, Chaos is a departure from Wilhelm’s reflective, elegiac vision of seven years prior: the captivating, multiple award-winning Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976). In many ways common with one another, both novels contain themes of pre- to post-apocalypse, survival via artificial biological advancements, ethics of scientific Continue reading Guest Post: Welcome, Chaos, Kate Wilhelm (1983)

Book Review: Bettyann, Kris Neville (1970)

BTTNNWXZBT1970

(W. Thut’s cover for the 1970 edition)

4/5 (Good)

So the Amio were deficient, from the very beginning, and were born weaklings, untested, and had gone their own solitary way. […] [Bettyann] would reinfuse in them the vitality that their own development had ultimately denied them and contravene the defeat that was foreshadowed in the limited dreams and ambitions of their father’s father’s father’s father’s father, backward to the time when myth told little that one might truly believe, except that the Amio were always, from the beginning, one” (78).

Since the beginning of the year MPorcius, who presides over MPorcius’ Fiction Log, has reviewed a handful of Kris Neville’s short stories (here and here).  Because the name was on my mind and I had not read any of his work in the past, I eagerly picked up a copy of his fix-up novel Bettyann (1970)— which contains contains two previously published stories “Bettyann” (1951), which appeared in New Tales of Space and Time, and “Ouverture” (1954) which appeared in 9 Tales of Space and Time, both edited by Raymond J. Healey.  The novel is hard to find as it was only published by Tower Books.

Neville is praised by Barry N. Malzberg as an author, if he had not abandoned the field for the sciences, who could have been among the “ten most honored science fiction writers of his generation” (Malzburg’s intro to Neville’s “Ballenger’s People” in the 1979 Doubleday collection Neglected Visions). Continue reading Book Review: Bettyann, Kris Neville (1970)

Guest Post: Year of the Cloud, Kate Wilhelm and Theodore L. Thomas (1970)

The third in my Kate Wilhelm’s SF Guest Post Series (original announcement and post list) comes via Mike White (twitter)—a research biologist at Washington University in St. Louis, MO—who blogs on mostly early SF (pre-1920) and a variety of science topics with a whole cast of other writers at The Finch and the Pea (a “public house for science”).  This is his first contribution to one of my guest post series and it is greatly appreciated (and won’t be his last).

He selected, on purpose (in very Joachim Boaz fashion I might add), what might be Kate Wilhelm’s least known SF novel.  Early in her career she wrote two novels with Theodore L. Thomas: the Nebula-nominated The Clone (1965) and Year of the Cloud (1970).

~

RFTHCLDXVQ1971

(Francois Colos’ cover for the 1970 edition)

Post-apocalyptic stories do many things, one of which is to question our mastery of nature. We’re used to relying on technology to bend the world to our will — science stands between us and the brute forces of nature. Extinction is for lesser species. But post-apocalyptic stories remind us of all the ways that nature could wipe us out: the Earth could collide with a comet or pass through a toxic cloud of space gas, the sun could fade or go nova, or some pandemic plague could arise that kills us directly, wipes out our food supply, or turns us into the walking dead.

As horrifying as these events would be in real life, there is a strain of post-apocalyptic fiction that doesn’t see these disasters as all bad. Killing off most of humanity offers, in fiction anyway, a chance to wipe the slate clean and start over. With the post-holocaust world much less crowded, noisy, and Continue reading Guest Post: Year of the Cloud, Kate Wilhelm and Theodore L. Thomas (1970)

Guest Post: The Infinity Box, Kate Wilhelm (1975)

The second in my Kate Wilhelm’s SF Guest Post Series (original announcement and post list) comes via Heloise Larou (twitter) who blogs on a variety of genres and topics over at Heloise Merlin’s Weblog.  She previously contributed an absolutely stupendous review for my Michael Bishop series (here).

Thank you for contributing!

~

TNFNTBX19XX

(Appelbaum & Curtis, Inc’s cover for the 1975 edition)

Science Fiction trappings are kept to an absolute minimum in this story collection first released in 1975, and even if the author does make use of some traditional SFnal gadget, she keeps it as unobtrusive as possible, like a time machine coming in the guise of an expensive but otherwise quite normal-seeming watch (in “The Time Piece”). And Kate Wilhelm does not bother with explanations either, not even a minimal hand-waving, some of the stories (most notably, and in spite of the title Continue reading Guest Post: The Infinity Box, Kate Wilhelm (1975)

Guest Post: Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (1976)

The first in my Kate Wilhelm’s SF Guest Post Series (original announcement and post list) comes via Admiral Ironbombs (twitter) who blogs, rather compulsively, on Vintage SF and other things over at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, & Creased.   Check out his site if you haven’t already!

~

(Ed Soyka’s cover for the 1977 edition)

Won the 1977 Hugo Award for Best Novel

Won the 1977 Locus Award for Best Novel

Nominated for the 1977 Nebula Award for Best Novel

Before Joachim asked me to write a review as part of this guest post series, I didn’t know much about Kate Wilhelm. (That being the point, of course, a way to raise awareness of lesser­-known but deserving authors.) I knew Wilhelm was the wife of famed editor­critic Damon Knight, I’ve seen other SF bloggers write glowing praise for her novels, and I’ve enjoyed a few of her short fiction in the not too distant past. But I’m Continue reading Guest Post: Where Late The Sweet Birds Sang, Kate Wilhelm (1976)

Book Review: Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

(John Richards’ cover for the 1961 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

I have a confession to make.  I have never read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954).  I do not like vampires.  I do not like any movies or TV shows with vampires.  Thus, as is my wont when trying a new author, I procured a short story collection to experience a range Continue reading Book Review: Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

Book Review: Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)

(John Holmes’ cover for the 1973 edition)

4.25/5 (Good)

“KEEP A CLEAN SHEET OR YOU’LL END UP AS MEAT” (72)

Michael G. Coney’s focus on everyday struggles—the normal minutiae of life—reached wonderful heights in the lyrical paean to youth and youthful travails Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975).  While the true import of Hello Summer, Goodbye‘s narrative only slowly unfurls as the young man comes of age and perceives more about his world, the world of  Friends Come in Boxes (1973) relentlessly writhes and boils as each main character is compelled to commit a crime Continue reading Book Review: Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)