Category Archives: Science Fiction Book Reviews

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

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(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)

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(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)

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(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)

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(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)

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(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)

Book Review: Living Way Out (variant title: Beyond Bedlam), Wyman Guin (1967)

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(Jim Burns’ cover for the 1973 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Wyman Guin produced eight short stories and one novel between 1950 and 1973 [see his entry on SF encyclopedia].  A pharmacologist/advertising executive by profession, his SF output demonstrates a mature satirical bent touching on topics of sociology, psychology, and psychiatry.  Best known for the often anthologized “Beyond Bedlam” (1951), the collection is worth tracking down for   “A Man of the Renaissance” (1964), “Volpla” (1956), “The Delegate from Guapanga” (1964), and “Trigger Tide” (1950) as well.  It is a shame that he did not write more.

Highly recommended for fans of social Continue reading Book Review: Living Way Out (variant title: Beyond Bedlam), Wyman Guin (1967)

Book Review: The Best SF Stories From New Worlds, ed. Michael Moorcock (1967)

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(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1968 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Fresh off of Langdon Jones’ wonderful New Wave collection The Eye of the Lens (1972) I decided to see if any of my unread anthologies contained his work—queue The Best SF Stories From New Worlds (1967).  Unfortunately, Jones’ contribution is far from the best in this absolutely stellar collection.

This 1967 volume was the first in a series of eight Best Of New Worlds anthologies edited by Michael Moorcock between 1967-1974.  I reviewed The Best SF Stories From New Worlds 3 (1968)—i.e. the one with Pamela Zoline’s must-read “The Heat Death of the Universe” (1967)—a while back.

The takeaway: The majority of stories in are required reading for fans of New Wave SF and New Worlds magazine.  Find a copy of the anthology with its fantastic Paul Lehr cover or track down Continue reading Book Review: The Best SF Stories From New Worlds, ed. Michael Moorcock (1967)