Tag Archives: apocalyptic

Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)

Dear readers, thank you all profusely for your comments, words of thanks, and emails over the year. It is my overarching goal to inspire you all to read more SF from the 50s-70s, dust off the boxes of your parents’ books in some forgotten closet, browse the shelves at your local used book store (or favorite online store), reflect on the often fascinating cover art…

2016 was not the most productive reading/reviewing year as my PhD dissertation defense date rapidly approaches. For the purposes of maintaining my sanity, reading and writing about SF remains my primary relaxation hobby—surprising perhaps as I read a lot of depressing SF that wouldn’t be “relaxing” for most people. According to Megan at From Couch to Moon I like my fiction “moody, broody, meta, and twisted.”

And other than a few satires here and there, my favorite SF reads of 2016 fit firmly within Megan’s descriptors.

Thanks again!

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Best novels

  1. The Affirmation, Christopher Priest (1981)
  2. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (variant title: The War of Dreams), Angela Carter (1972). Review forthcoming 
  3. The Dream Millennium, James White (serialized 1973, novel 1974)
  4. The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

Continue reading Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)

Book Review: An Alien Heat, Michael Moorcock (1972)

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(Bob Haberfield’s cover for the 1974 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

Decay and the end of the world. There are so many ways to write about decadence and decay. M. John Harrison spins haunting tales of crumbling bodies paralleling crumbling landscapes—The Pastel City (1971) and The Committed Men (1971). Mark S. Geston in Lords of the Starship (1967) postulates some retreat into the “medieval” where the masses can be harnessed and manipulated. Michael Moorcock’s An Alien Heat (1972)—the first in The Dancers at the End of Time sequence—unfolds with comedy and wit in a far future where an “inherited millennia of scientific and technological knowledge” allows the remaining inhabitants to “play immense Continue reading Book Review: An Alien Heat, Michael Moorcock (1972)

Book Review: The Pastel City, M. John Harrison (1971)

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(Bruce Pennington’s cover for the 1971 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

One of the previous owners of my copy of M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City (1971) must have harbored a pernicious grudge against corroded landscapes and nebulous morals.  So much in fact that they propped up the first volume of the Viriconium sequence against a tree and used it for BB gun target practice. I am still trying to identify the cause of the book’s other wounds… [pictorial evidence below].

As one can expect from Harrison, decadence and decay seeps from the quires of The Pastel City as characters try to create meaning, or grasp hold of half-formed Continue reading Book Review: The Pastel City, M. John Harrison (1971)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXII (Vance + Rucker + Kaye + Godwin + Orbit Anthology)

More SF joins the ranks that cover my shelves, from a Jack Vance Demon Princes sequence novel to a promising Orbit anthology with early Vernor Vinge, Carol Emshwiller, Harlan Ellison, etc.

And the covers!  Powers and Lehr at their best…

And what happened to SF art the 80s? (the Rudy Rucker novel cover terrifies — in a bad way).

As always, thoughts/comments are appreciated!

1.The Palace of Love, Jack Vance (serialized 1966)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1967 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXII (Vance + Rucker + Kaye + Godwin + Orbit Anthology)

Book Review: The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

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(Chris Yates’ cover for the 1971 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Entropic visions of decay and despair inhabit M. John Harrison’s first novel The Committed Men (1971).  Possessed by destructive melancholy, the inhabitants of a post-apocalyptical UK–where political powers have sunk into oblivion–attempt to recreate a semblance of normalcy.  Clement St John Wendover, teeth long since rotted, still administers to the skin diseases and ailments of his one-time patients although he cannot cure them.  Halloway Pauce, decked out in his “gold lamé suit”, fastidiously coats his cancered face with a “layer of pancake make-up” (48).  Grocott Personnel and his hierarchically oriented fellows recreate the bureaucratic veneer Continue reading Book Review: The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

Short Book Reviews: Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside (1972), Universe 2, ed. Terry Carr (1972), and Avram Davidson’s The Enemy of My Enemy (1966)

Here are three short reviews.  Either I waited too long to review the work or in the case of the short story collection, the handful of poor stories (amongst the many gems) faded from memory and I couldn’t convince myself to reread them…

I apologize for the brevity and lack of analysis.  My longer reviews definitely try to get at the greater morass of things but hopefully these will still whet your palette if you haven’t read the works already.

1. Dying Inside, Richard Silverberg (1972)

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(Jerry Thorp’s cover for the 1972 ediiton)

5/5 (Masterpiece) Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside (1972), Universe 2, ed. Terry Carr (1972), and Avram Davidson’s The Enemy of My Enemy (1966)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Futuristic Cities of Lima de Freitas, Part I

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(Cover for the 1967 edition of vol. 1 of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1965), Robert A. Heinlein)

The Portuguese painter and illustrator Lima de Freitas (1927-1998) created a vast number of covers for the Portuguese press Livros do Brasil.  For more on the range of art he produced in his career consult his wikipedia page [here].

A while back I reviewed Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959) and discovered de Freitas’ amazing cover (below).  More than any of the US editions, it evokes the claustrophobic tone of the novel (and even some of the surreal elements).

As the son of two architects, architecturally inclined SF covers always fascinate. Thus, as an introduction to his art (if you do not know it already) I have collected a handful of his cityscapes.  They are surreal masterpieces.  Lima de Freitas’ covers emphasize the city as a canvas, the textures of human Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Futuristic Cities of Lima de Freitas, Part I