Tag Archives: brian aldiss

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: Best SF Stories from New Worlds 3, ed. Michael Moorcock (1968)

(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition)

3.5/5 (Collated rating: Good)

New Worlds was one of the premier British SF magazines under the editorship of Michael Moorcock.  It features some of the most experimental works of the era and was important in the growth of the New Wave movement.  Many of the frequent contributors went on to make a name as premier SF authors (Ballard, Aldiss, etc).

This particular best of collection (1964-1967) is on the whole uneven.  Its big name authors—such as Keith Roberts and Moorcock himself under a pseudonym—disappoint.  The most evocative stories are by rather lesser known voices, Langdon Jones, Charles Platt, and Pamela Zoline.  Zoline’s brilliant entropic vision, “The Heat Death of the Universe” is not to be missed.  The second best work in the collection is (surprisingly) an early story by Barrington J. Bayley (as P. F. Woods) whose novels I have reviewed Continue reading Book Review: Best SF Stories from New Worlds 3, ed. Michael Moorcock (1968)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CVII (Anthology: Galactic Empires, vol 1 and 2 + Holdstock + Watson)

Snatched all but one of these up at a 1$ SF hardback clearance sale at my local bookstore.  The other, Watson’s The Jonah Kit (1976) came via The Dawn Treader Bookstore in Ann Arbor, MI.

I am not usually interested in Galactic Empires but the collection seems to have some intriguing short authors—for example, Lafferty, Davidson, Shaara, etc whose works I have no been that exposed to.  I look forward to slowly working my way through both volumes.

I also acquired my first Robert Holdstock novel, Where Time Winds Blow (1981).  Seems intriguing.

My schedule has finally calmed down a little so expect a slew of book reviews in the coming days/weeks…

Thoughts?

1. Galactic Empires, Volume I, ed. Brian Aldiss (1976)

GLCTCMPRSV1978

(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1978 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CVII (Anthology: Galactic Empires, vol 1 and 2 + Holdstock + Watson)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCI (Ballard + MacLean + Aldiss + Watson)

One of the better groups of acquisitions in a while!  After Katherine MacLean’s masterpiece Missing Man (1975) I was very excited to come across a collection of her late 40s and 50s short stories.  Unfortunately, my edition — from 1973— had such an awful cover that I couldn’t put in on this post.  Instead, I put the first edition cover by Paul Lehr which is simply gorgeous….

Ballard collections are always welcome!  I have all of his short works in a single volume but the Powers cover is top-notch.

One of Ian Watson’s most famous novels…

And an unknown work by Brian Aldiss,  Enemies of the System (1978)…  Has anyone read it?  I suspect it will be the weakest book of the bunch.

1. The Diploids, Katherine MacLean (1962)

(Uncredited — but looks like Lehr — cover for the 1962 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCI (Ballard + MacLean + Aldiss + Watson)

Updates: Year in Review (Top Ten SF Novels + Top Ten Short Stories/Novelettes/Novellas + other categories)

Everyone likes lists!  And I do too….  This is an opportunity to collate some of my favorite (and least favorite) novels and shorter SF works I read this year.  Last year I discovered Barry N. Malzberg and this year I was seduced by…. Well, read and find out.

  

Top Ten Novels

1. We Who Are About To…, Joanna Russ (1976): A scathing, and underread, literary SF novel by one of the more important feminist SF writers of the 70s (of The Female Man fame).

2. A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975): A well-written anthropological clash of cultures novel.  Slow, gorgeous, emotionally engaging….

3. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959): A strange satire of the bomb shelter…  Everyday surrealism. Continue reading Updates: Year in Review (Top Ten SF Novels + Top Ten Short Stories/Novelettes/Novellas + other categories)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Vaguely Defined Looming Man Shape

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(Uncredited cover for the 1961 edition of Earth Abides (1949), George R. Stewart)

Note: if anyone can identify the artist for the first three downright spectacular covers I’d be very very happy.  I’m positive that they match stylistically (the vague human shape, the cityscape, the brush strokes, the textures).  Two of the three covers were made for Signet press and all three are from the early 1960s.  I suspect if I perused the covers from the Signet catalogue from that era I’d find even more….  Perhaps it’s the work of Sanford Kossin?  He was producing covers for Signet around the same time.

And now The Vaguely Defined Looming Man Shape Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Vaguely Defined Looming Man Shape

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXIII (Aldiss + Nourse + Biggle, Jr. + Levy + Coleman)

Part 4 of 5 acquisition posts covering my haul from the marvelous SF bookstore Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan (Part I, Part II, Part III).

Three of the five books have been on my to acquire list for long time.  I adore Brian Aldiss’ early work (Non-Stop is one of my favorite SF novels) so I snatched up Starswarm (1964) without a moment’s hesitation.  Lloyd Biggle, Jr. writes very unusual (not sure if it’s good) SF — The Light That Never Was (1972) certainly had potential despite its flaws.  Regardless, The World Menders (1971) is supposedly his best work (despite the egregious Freas cover it was “graced” with).  After reading some good reviews of some of Alan E. Nourse’s 1950s medical themed stories, I’ve been looking for a copy of the fix-up novel The Mercy Men (1955).  The remaining two novels in this post were in the 50 cent clearance section — both have stunning covers (Powers + Lehr) and are probably absolutely atrocious reads.

1. Starswarm, Brian Aldiss (1964)

(Uncredited cover for the 1964 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXIII (Aldiss + Nourse + Biggle, Jr. + Levy + Coleman)