Tag Archives: book reviews

Book Review: Real-Time World, Christopher Priest (1974)

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(Uncredited (Pennington?) cover for the 1976 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Christopher Priest’s An Infinite Summer (1979) clocks in as my second highest rated single-author collection, behind Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years (1979), so far in the life of my site.  I find Priest’s fiction intense and hypnotic.

As Real-Time World (1974) contains a range of Priest’s first published short stories, one cannot escape the feel that he is still trying to find his way as an author.  Similar indecision characterized his first novel Indoctrinaire (1970). The best stories in the collection revolve around the themes—the complex nature of perception and reality, psychologically unsettled environments and characters, voyeurism and performance—that his later Continue reading Book Review: Real-Time World, Christopher Priest (1974)

Guest Post: Three Short Stories by French Women SF Writers Pre-1969: “The Devil’s Goddaughter” (1960), Suzanne Malaval, “Moon-Fishers” (1959), Nathalie Henneberg, “The Chain of Love” (1955), Catherine Cliff

The first guest post in my series SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969 (original announcement) comes via Rachel S. Cordasco (follow her on twitter) who runs the spectacular, and much needed, resource Speculative Fiction in Translation and who blogs on literature more generally at Bookishly Witty.  She also writes for tor.com and Book Riot.

Check out her list of reviews organized by country! Israel, Iraq, France, Italy, Korea, etc.

Her post focuses on three stories by French women writers: “The Devil’s Goddaughter” (1960) by Suzanne Malaval, “Moon-Fishers” (1959) by Nathalie Henneberg, and “The Chain of Love” (1955) by Catherine Cliff.

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(Louis S. Glanzman’s cover for the 1965 edition of 13 French Science-Fiction Stories (1965), ed. and trans., Damon Knight)

Three Stories from 13 French Science-Fiction Stories, edited and translated by Damon Knight (Bantam Books, 1965, 165 pages).

by Rachel S. Cordasco

Don’t be put off by the purple prose on the front and back covers; 13 French Science-Fiction Stories is a fantastic resource for anyone looking to read more widely in the Continue reading Guest Post: Three Short Stories by French Women SF Writers Pre-1969: “The Devil’s Goddaughter” (1960), Suzanne Malaval, “Moon-Fishers” (1959), Nathalie Henneberg, “The Chain of Love” (1955), Catherine Cliff

Guest Post Series Announcement: SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition of A Handful of Time (1963), Rosel George Brown)

The time has come for a new Guest Post series on SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969. My reasons are two-fold: 1) to showcase a deserving and fascinating topic in line with my goal to feature lesser known SF from a range of viewpoints and traditions 2) to feature posts from reviewers in the vintage SF blogsphere and beyond (in any combination of the following) that attempt to move past standard lists and grand narratives of canon, tackle fiction from evidence-based analytical and academic perspectives, or are simply darn good writers whose sites I cannot help but return to compulsively.

Why pre-1969? Although most endpoints are arbitrary in nature, 1969 saw the publication of Ursula Le Guin’s magisterial The Left Hand of Darkness. Considered a watershed moment in the history of women writers as it was the first to win a Hugo Award for best novel, Le Guin among many others were part of a rich (albeit oft suppressed and ignored) genealogy of women SF authors reaching back to Mary Shelly. My focus on short stories will allow exploration of many authors who did not write novels, whose novels overshadow their short fiction, and those whose rich body of early work focused predominately on the short form.

Thus I have rounded up my normal suspects along with new voices. The first guest post series covered the work of Michael Bishop and the second Kate Wilhelm.

Topics in the queue: Robot therapists, French and Soviet SF, a range of speculative fictions from the 19th Continue reading Guest Post Series Announcement: SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXV (Leiber + Haiblum + Scholz and Harcourt + Orbit Anthology)

Recently reminded of Fritz Leiber’s beautiful story “A Pail of Air” (1951) which I reviewed a few years ago in the eponymous collection, I was delighted to come across another one of his short story collections.  Thankfully, no Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser stories are in sight.  And of course, another Richard Powers cover…

On twitter I mentioned my ignorance regarding the work of Isidore Haiblum, the author of the “the first Yiddish SF novel” according to the blurb on The Tsaddik of the Seven Wonders (1971).  I have not come across a copy of that particular novel yet, but, another even lesser known quantity joins the books arrayed in piles across my library.

My dalliance with the 1980s continues in fits and starts: I wrote a short review of Christopher Priest’s masterpiece The Affirmation (1981) and recently reviewed Terry Carr’s edited volume Universe 10 (1980)…  As Carter Scholz’s short story “The Johann Sebastian Bach Memorial Barbecue and Nervous Breakdown” (1980) made such a positive impression on me, I decided to find a copy of his collaborative novel.

And I love Damon Knight’s Orbit series of original anthologies.  For reviews: Orbit 1 (1966), Orbit 3 (1968), and Orbit 8 (1970).

As always, thoughts/comments are welcome!

1. Fritz Leiber, The Night of the Wolf (1966)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1966 edition)  Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXV (Leiber + Haiblum + Scholz and Harcourt + Orbit Anthology)

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)

Book Review: Universe 10, ed. Terry Carr (1980) (Lafferty + Bishop + Tiptree, Jr., Waldrop, et al.)

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(Uncredited cover for the 1982 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

Fresh off Terry Carr’s novel Cirque (1977), I decided to return to his original Universe series of anthologies.  I’ve previously reviewed Universe (1971) and Universe 2 (1972).  As with the majority of SF anthologies, Universe 10 (1980) is sprinkled with both good and bad.  I selected it from the veritable sea of anthologies on my shelves due to the presence of authors I wish to explore further and those who are foreign to me: Michael Bishop and James Tiptree, Jr. in the former category; Lee Killough, Howard Waldrop, Carter Scholz, and F. M. Busby in the latter.

Michael Bishop’s “Saving Face”, James Tiptree, Jr.’s “A Source of Innocent Merriment,” and Carter Continue reading Book Review: Universe 10, ed. Terry Carr (1980) (Lafferty + Bishop + Tiptree, Jr., Waldrop, et al.)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXIV (Moorcock + Wilhelm + Schmidt + Effinger)

New books join the ranks of their happy brethren on my shelves…

Let’s start with Arno Schmidt’s 1957 SF parable (English translation 1979)–The Egghead Republic : A Short Novel from the Horse Latitudes… First, before you are tempted to buy the novel check out this fascinating series of images via Biblioklept from Schmidt’s later behemoth 1970 novel + rumination on James Joyce, Bottom’s Dream.  You must be able to tolerate this level of experimentation.  Although The Egghead Republic is far less intense and much shorter, it is not for the fainthearted (and probably not for fans of “SF only” or those who are frustrated with “artifice” or “literary” or “the author in the story”).  There is a reason he wasn’t translated into English for a long long time!  Here’s an image (with some of my notes) for demonstration purposes [click to enlarge]

image-from-the-egghead

And more experimentation in the SF fold via Moorcock and his then wife Hilary Bailey.  Graced with a gorgeous Leo and Diane Dillon cover, as always.

Added to the mix is one of George Alec Effinger’s lesser known novels–I do not have high hopes despite how much I loved Heroics (1979) and his masterpiece What Entropy Means to Me (1972).

An early Kate Wilhelm novel, although I’ll be sticking to her late 60s/early 70s short stories for a while–they are that good!  See my review of Abyss (1971) and The Downstairs Room and Other Speculative Fictions (1968).

As always comments/thoughts are welcome.

Has anyone read Schmidt?  I read a review where this particular novel was compared to Lem.

Enjoy the covers!

1. The Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)

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(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1969 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXIV (Moorcock + Wilhelm + Schmidt + Effinger)