Book Review: Three Worlds of Futurity, Margaret St. Clair (1964)

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(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1964 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Margaret St. Clair (1911-1995) was a mainstay of the major pulp magazines and maintained a prolific career from 1946 to the late 60s (between the 70s and early 80s she  produced only one novel and a handful of stories).  Previously, I found myself disenchanted with her work as I struggled through the Wicca-inspired ramblings of Sign of the Labrys (1963).  However, I thought I would give her short fiction a try and snagged a copy of the 1964 Ace Double #M-105 that contained her collection Three Worlds of Futurity (1964) and her best known novel Message from the Eocene (1964) (which I might read sometime in the future).

Three Worlds of Futurity contains five stories from her most prolific period—the late 40s-early 60s.  Although the majority do not rise above their fellow pulp ilk, “The Rages” (variant title “The Rations of Tantalus” 1954, revised 1964) shows a measured and incisive feminist inspired vision and the unusual subject matter of “Roberta” (1962) suggests St. Clair’s willingness to tackle controversial subjects.  Most of the stories contain evocative imagery although the delivery rarely transfixes.  Also, although most of the main characters in St. Clair’s stories are men, women scientists and pilots (etc) populate the pages.  I suspect Continue reading Book Review: Three Worlds of Futurity, Margaret St. Clair (1964)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLII (The Soviet SF special: Strugatsky + Shefner + Bilenkin +Savchenko)

In the late 70s and early 80s a wide range of Soviet SF—from the famous Strugatsky brothers to lesser known authors—was translated and introduced to the American market.  As I have decided to start collecting the Best of Soviet Science Fiction Collier Books series of paperbacks (hardbacks were published by Macmillan), my dad gave me three for my birthday.  My first collecting experiment!  I want to read more SF from outside of the USA and the UK…  This batch is in addition to the only other one I have acquired so far: Half a Life, Kirill Bulychev (USSR 1975, USA 1977).  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the series fetch hefty prices (especially those by the two Strugatsky brothers) online.  And, other than The Ugly Swans (below), I have never encountered them in used book stores… and The Ugly Swans was not cheap (I have my wife to thank!).

The back cover of The Unman/Kovrigin’s Chronicles provides a blurb about the series that I thought I would reproduce: “In the Soviet Union, as in the U.S.A., the fascination with the possibilities of science and technology has led to a rich and long tradition of science fiction.  Macmillan’s BEST OF SOVIET SCIENCE FICTION is now presenting the major works in lively, readable translations, allowing the American reader to explore—for the first time—the wide range of visions of space, time and man’s future in the other major SF tradition.”

As always, thoughts?

1. The Ugly Swans, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (USSR 1972, USA 1979)

The Ugly Swans

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLII (The Soviet SF special: Strugatsky + Shefner + Bilenkin +Savchenko)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLI (Lessing + Zelazny + Engh + Priest)

Fresh off reading Christopher Priest’s An Infinite Summer (1979) and his even more amazing novel The Affirmation (1981) (which I’ve been unable to review for a variety of reasons), I acquired yet another one of his challenging gems….

And M.J. Engh’s Arslan (1975), which appears to polarize audiences—for example, Ian Sales’ negative review of her novel [here].  One of the odder and lesser known Golancz SF Masterwork inclusions for sure….  I.e. normally my cup of tea.  Seriously problematic seems to be Arslan‘s operating word.

And more Zelazny novels! I’m close to owning everything he wrote, other than the Amber sequence, up to the 1980s.

And there’s nothing wrong with more Lessing! (I wish MPorcius would stop writing such intriguing reviews of her work—haha.  Here’s his review of Briefing for a Descent Into Hell).

As always, thoughts?

1. Arslan, M. J. Engh (1975)

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(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLI (Lessing + Zelazny + Engh + Priest)

Book Review: Code Three, Rick Raphael (fix-up 1967)

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(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1963 magazine version)

3.25/5 (Above Average)

A discussion first about taglines…  The 1967 Berkley Medallion edition (with its murky Jerome Podwil cover: photo) reads: “A future world of gigantic expressways—and the men who patrol them.”  The 1985 Panther edition with its ubiquitous Chris Foss Textured Mass (CFTM for short) police car reads: “Before MAD MAX there was CODE THREE.”  Both are in error.  I proffer two edits.  “A future world of gigantic expressways—and the people who patrol them.”  And the latter should be rendered: ” Continue reading Book Review: Code Three, Rick Raphael (fix-up 1967)

Book Review: Irrational Numbers, George Alec Effinger (1976)

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(Michael Flanagan’s cover for the 1976 edition)

4.5/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

George Alec Effinger’s What Entropy Means to Me (1972) exemplifies the elements of the New Wave movement that continue to fascinate me, i.e. a fascination that compels my endless OrbitNebulaUniverse, etc. anthology purchases!  Effinger’s short fiction holds the same allure—he tackles a vast variety of subjects and themes: trauma, commercialization, sports, and biological apocalypse are paired with the daily experience, the mundane.  Interested in SF about a man obsessed with his fish tank confronting his disintegrating relationship and the end of the world?  A regimented cult, or psychological experiment (?), organized around Mithraic ritual and the memorization Continue reading Book Review: Irrational Numbers, George Alec Effinger (1976)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXL (Vance + Pournelle + Sucharitkul + Crowley)

A more disparate series of SF novels would be hard to come by…. John Crowley has long impressed—The Deep (1975) and Beasts (1976) are highly recommended works of literary SF.  And finally, I have the last one of his 70s novels!

A new author in Somtow Sucharitkul (sometimes known by S. P. Somtow)…

Vance’s most famous work and one of only a handful of supposedly top-tier “classics” I have yet to read…

Pournelle anyone? First work by him as well… Baen book picked up a number of his novels so I don’t have high hopes.

Thoughts?

1. Engine Summer, John Crowley (1979)

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(Gary Friedman’s cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXL (Vance + Pournelle + Sucharitkul + Crowley)

Book Review: Universe 1, ed. Terry Carr (1971)

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(Davis Meltzer’s cover for the 1971 edition)

3.75/5 (Collated rating: Good)

Won the Locus 1972 Award for Best Original Anthology.

The Universe series of anthologies contained original SF that had not yet appeared in print.  And, the inaugural volume Universe 1 (1971) ed. by Terry Carr certainly hit critical pay dirt: Robert Silverberg’s minimalist the first robotic pope tale won the Nebula for Best Short Story, George Alec Effinger’s anti-war black comedy was nominated for the Hugo Award for Best Short Story, Joanna Russ’ alt-history (sort of) fable was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette, and Edgar Pangborn’s sentient “alien” animals look for a caretaker mood piece was nominated for the Nebula Award for Best Novelette.

On the whole the quality is fairly Continue reading Book Review: Universe 1, ed. Terry Carr (1971)

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