Category Archives: Science Fiction Book Reviews

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)

Book Review: Orbit 8, ed. Damon Knight (1970)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1971 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Good)

The avant-garde leaning Orbit anthology series, edited by Damon Knight, had an illustrious run from 1966-1976.  Recently I have become more and more intrigued by the anthology as a way to access a wider range of authors and radical visions.  Despite my rather lowish collated rating of Best SF Stories from New Worlds 2, ed. Michael Moorcock, it was a satisfying collection which exposed me to the SF of Langdon Jones and Pamela Zoline.  Likewise, it somewhat rehabilitated my view of Charles Platt whose Planet of the Voles (1971) has long been one of my least favorite SF novels.

Anthologies are fascinating cross sections of the genre reflecting what was perceived as worthwhile SF by editors.  They will almost always be more uneven than single author collections.  But the exposure to forgotten authors and authors who never received a single author collection makes them almost always worthwhile.

Orbit 8 (1970) is no exception.  The anthology swings wildly from Gardner Dozois’ masterpiece “Horse of Air” (1970) Continue reading Book Review: Orbit 8, ed. Damon Knight (1970)

Book Review: Triax, ed. Robert Silverberg (1977)

(Justin Todd’s cover for the 1979 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Triax (1978) contains three original novellas written specifically for the volume.  I concur with Robert Silverberg’s defense of the novella form in the introduction, “it allows the leisurely development of an idea, the careful and elaborate exploration of the consequences of the fictional situation, while at the same time not requiring the intricate plot-and-counterplot scaffolding of a true novel” (vii).  Keith Roberts’ “Molly Zero” and James Gunn’s “If I Forget Thee” have not appeared in subsequent English-language collections. Unsurprisingly, the Jack Vance novella, “Freitzke’s Turn,” appeared in Galactic Effectuator (1980) Continue reading Book Review: Triax, ed. Robert Silverberg (1977)

Book Review: Best SF Stories from New Worlds 3, ed. Michael Moorcock (1968)

(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition)

3.5/5 (Collated rating: Good)

New Worlds was one of the premier British SF magazines under the editorship of Michael Moorcock.  It features some of the most experimental works of the era and was important in the growth of the New Wave movement.  Many of the frequent contributors went on to make a name as premier SF authors (Ballard, Aldiss, etc).

This particular best of collection (1964-1967) is on the whole uneven.  Its big name authors—such as Keith Roberts and Moorcock himself under a pseudonym—disappoint.  The most evocative stories are by rather lesser known voices, Langdon Jones, Charles Platt, and Pamela Zoline.  Zoline’s brilliant entropic vision, “The Heat Death of the Universe” is not to be missed.  The second best work in the collection is (surprisingly) an early story by Barrington J. Bayley (as P. F. Woods) whose novels I have reviewed Continue reading Book Review: Best SF Stories from New Worlds 3, ed. Michael Moorcock (1968)

Updates: Recent Science Acquisitions No. XXVII (Vance + Neville + Fairbairns + Coney)

A fascinating collection (one of three acquisition posts incoming) via Dunaway’s Books in St. Louis, MO (on one of my numerous perambulations…).  And there were nearly one hundred more novels I would have snatched up if I had unlimited funds and unlimited room.

A hard to find feminist SF novel, and supposedly quite solid, by Zoe Fairbairns.

A Michael Coney novel I’ve been dying to get my hands on—the immortality concept delightfully satirical/hilarious.

A strange 70s fix-up novel of 50s material by an author championed by Barry N. Malzberg (and John Clute)—Kris Neville.

And Vance, one rarely goes wrong with Vance…

Thoughts?

1. Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)

(John Holmes’ cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Acquisitions No. XXVII (Vance + Neville + Fairbairns + Coney)

Book Review: Ice, Anna Kavan (1967)

Ice

(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1967 edition)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

“Despairingly she looked all around. She was completely encircled by the tremendous ice walls, which were made fluid by explosions of blinding light, so that they moved and changed with a continuous liquid motion, advancing in torrents of ice, avalanches as bid as oceans, flooding everywhere over the doomed world” (37)

Anna Kavan’s masterful post-apocalyptical novel Ice (1967) parallels the death throws of a relationship with the disintegration of the world.  As the unnamed narrator (N) and the girl (G) traverse an indistinct, interchangeable, world transformed by glacial encroachment, only the same movements are possible: flight, pursuit, flight, pursuit…  Repetition reinforces the profoundly unnerving feel of both physical and mental imprisonment: as movements are predicted, trauma is repeated.

Kavan described her own writings as “‘nocturnal, where dreams and reality merge” (Booth, 69).  In the Continue reading Book Review: Ice, Anna Kavan (1967)