Tag Archives: aliens

Book Review: Starswarm, Brian W. Aldiss (1964)

STRSWRMPSJ1964

(William Hofmann’s cover for the 1964 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Filth.  Decay.  Mud.  Transmutation.  Brian W. Aldiss’ SF is filled with such images:  Men—with limbs removed—who are slowly (and artificially) transmuted into fish, writhe around in the mud of their tanks grasping at the last shards of their humanity;  A powerful matriarch lords over a planet where her pets transform at will;  A tall tale about a planet filled with strange life and a human hero who cannot get over the fact that everything smells like garbage…. Aldiss’ novel The Dark Light-Years (1964), despite its poor delivery, is the best example of these themes—humans encounter sentient aliens who spend their days copulating, laying around, and eating in their own fifth.  And they are happy with their lot.

Starswarm (1964) is comprised of three novelettes and five short stories with conjoining explanatory material that links the previously published short fiction into a cohesive collection.  The modus operandi of such a conjoining concerns the “Theory of Multigrade Superannuation” where “the universe is similar to the cosmic clock; the civilizations of man are not mere cogs but infinitely smaller clocks, ticking in their own right” (7).  Thus, the inhabited solar systems of Starswarm—our galaxy—will exhibit all the characteristics through which a civilization can Continue reading Book Review: Starswarm, Brian W. Aldiss (1964)

Book Review: Bettyann, Kris Neville (1970)

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(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)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXIV (Jakes + Anthology + Malzberg + Zelazny)

Roger Zelazny’s most radical (according to some critics) novel…

A fun Ace Double with a rather disturbing face imprisoned in a skull cover by Kelly Freas….

More Malzberg (one can never have enough)…

And another anthology from the single best year of SF — 1972!  (my opinion of course).

Thoughts?

1. Tonight We Steal The Stars / The Wagered World, John Jakes / Laurence M. Janifer and S. J. Treibich (1969) (Ace Double)

(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1969 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXIV (Jakes + Anthology + Malzberg + Zelazny)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVI (Asimov + Farmer + Gotlieb + Morressy)

It has been so long since I have read Asimov…  Currents of Space (1952)—or Bradbury’s 1953 masterpiece Fahrenheit 451)—was the very first SF novel I ever read.  And I did not enjoy it.  In my later teens I read quite a few of Asimov’s works including the average The Gods Themselves (1972) in a Hugo-winning novel marathon that really got me into SF.  He has never blown me away.  But, I have a soft spot for the robot stories!

Gotlieb’s novel has simply the worst back cover blurb ever.  Suspicious.

I do like Philip José Farmer stories although I wish the inside blurb would not give away the entire plot of two of the seven stories.  I have never read the original “Riverworld” (1966) short story—perhaps it’s much better than the later novel version.

Thoughts?

1.  Eight Stories from The Rest of the Robots, Isaac Asimov (1966)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1969 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVI (Asimov + Farmer + Gotlieb + Morressy)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXV (Pangborn + Janifer + Anthology + Biggle, Jr.)

A very odd selection today…  Some Christmas gift card holdovers and one volume I purchased online.  Including Edgar Pangborn’s most famous novel, a bizarre anthology of future artistic visions (with stories by Ellison, Clarke, Effinger, Zelazny, Dickson, Kornbluth, et al.), a collection of Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s SF stories on music, and a most likely horrible pulp slave planet rebellion type novel by Laurence M. Janifer.

Thoughts?

1. Davy, Edgar Pangborn (1964)

(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1965 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXV (Pangborn + Janifer + Anthology + Biggle, Jr.)

Book Review: Universe Day, Barry N. Malzberg (as K. M. O’Donnell) (1971)

(Uncredited—but looks like Paul Lehr—cover for the 1971 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

“…I see no reason why we shouldn’t go to Mars in 1982…” Vice President of the U.S. July, 1969

Barry N. Malzberg’s fourth SF novel Universe Day (1971) is comprised of numerous previously published short stories as well as new material.* It might be best to think of the novel as a thematically linked sequence—in what might be termed a “future history” but unlike any you have ever read—of impressions and snippets of “what really happened” paired with what we want to happen or delude ourselves into thinking happened.  All his major themes are on display, the space program as a manifestation of humankind’s delusions of grandeur, the dehumanizing power of technology, space as playground of existential nightmares, etc.

One of Malzberg’s most appealing qualities is the sheer variety of existential situations he conjures.  Yes, many of the themes are repeated story to story (and novel to novel) but the black comedy elements are so often overlooked.  The chapter/short story “Touching Venus, 1999″ encapsulates Malzberg’s absurdist brilliance.  In moments of metafictional delight, he acknowledges the artifice of the array of scenarios he constructs, the Continue reading Book Review: Universe Day, Barry N. Malzberg (as K. M. O’Donnell) (1971)

Updates: My Top 10 SF works (pre-1980) for inclusion in the Gollancz Masterwork series

Long-Tomorrow dune

The Gollancz Masterwork series [list] ranges from famous novels such as Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) to lesser known short story collections such as The Caltraps of Time (1968) by David I. Masson.  The Masterwork series has the power to introduce readers to the canonical “best of SF” and works that should be considered classics.  Many of the second group have not seen print for decades.  Although I have some qualms about certain inclusions, I was genuinely blown away that they recently chose one of my favorite novels The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973) by D. G. Compton—an underread and unjustly forgotten author.

Over the course of the next week or so a handful of my fellow SF bloggers (most of whom have a focus on earlier SF) will release lists on their sites of SF they would like to see featured by Gollancz.  I have not given them any guidelines so the lists should be varied and hopefully will generate some discussion.  I highly recommend you head over to their sites (I will post the links as they come in) and comment.

Thoughts + comments are always welcome (as well as your own lists!).

More “What to Include in the Gollancz Masterwork Series” Lists (blog friends)

Chris over at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, and Creased 

Megan over at From Couch to Moon

2theD over at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature

Ian Sales over at It Doesn’t Have to be Right…

Jesse over at Speculiction…

2theD over at Tongues of Speculation (his votes regarding translated SF)

Martin over at Martin’s Booklog

My guidelines for inclusion

1. My frequent readers know that I prefer (passionately) SF from the 50s-70s Continue reading Updates: My Top 10 SF works (pre-1980) for inclusion in the Gollancz Masterwork series