Tag Archives: British

Short SF Book Reviews: Michaelmas, Algis Budrys (1976), The Machine in Shaft Ten, M. John Harrison (1975), and Catacomb Years, Michael Bishop (1979)

[The second of four review catch up posts.  The first — > here]

1. Catacomb Years, Michael Bishop (1979)

(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1979 edition)

5/5 (collated rating: Masterpiece)

Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years (1979) takes the form of a complex and multi-layered future history of a single city, the Urban Nucleus of Atlanta, Georgia—entombed/reborn under a vast dome where even the sky is obscured.  Over the course of seven short SF works linked by recurring characters (and character references), theme, and chronology Bishop weaves one of the more spectacular future history canvases.  This is a future history of a profoundly human scope focusing on transformative junctures in the life of the city from the point of view of a range of the inhabitants—from the old to the young, from technicians to recluses obsessed with bonsai, from teachers to human caregivers of the alien visitors…  And most intriguing is Bishop’s willingness to Continue reading Short SF Book Reviews: Michaelmas, Algis Budrys (1976), The Machine in Shaft Ten, M. John Harrison (1975), and Catacomb Years, Michael Bishop (1979)

Book Review: Interface, Mark Adlard (1971)

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(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1977 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

“Stahlex! Stahlex!

I want it thick!

I want it quick!

I want something that’ll do the trick!

Use Stahlex! Use Stahlex!

A benevo-o-olent monopo-o-oly” (160).

Mark Adlard’s SF output consisted primarily of the Tcity trilogy: Interface (1971), Volteface (1972), and Multiface (1975).  The domed (and doomed) city is a powerful scenario to explore a cornucopia of future social issues such as conformity, Continue reading Book Review: Interface, Mark Adlard (1971)

Book Review: An Infinite Summer, Christopher Priest (1979)

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(Don Puchatz’s cover for the 1981 edition)

4.75/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

With Christopher Priest’s second short story collection, An Infinite Summer (1979), he enters the pantheon of my favorite SF authors.  The thing is, I knew he would all along once I moved past the sour taste of his first novel Indoctrinaire (1970) and finally picked up one of his later endeavors.

Priest’s fiction appeals to my sensibilities: he is the consummate wordsmith; his worlds (especially the stories in the loose sequence of the Dream Archipelago) are evocative; the stories drip with a certain nostalgic longing and/or are populated with characters who cannot escape their memories; metafictional experimentation (a novel within a story, a novel that Priest himself would go on to write–perhaps with a different plot!) is rooted to the aims of each story (you cannot separate the two without Continue reading Book Review: An Infinite Summer, Christopher Priest (1979)

Book Review: The Custodians and Other Stories, Richard Cowper (1976)

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(Geoff Taylor’s cover for the 1978 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Good)

The Custodians and Other Stories contains Richard Cowper’s most famous short SF (both received Nebula nods): “The Custodians” (1975) and “Piper at the Gates of Dawn” (1976), later published side-by-side with his Nebula-nominated novel in the same sequence The Road to Corlay (1978).

My limited exposure to Cowper’s work so far—i.e. the hilarious post-apocalyptical black comedy on the British class system replete with intelligent dolphins and giant submarines,  Profundis (1979)—suggests an author who  can weave a solid story in a range of SF sub-genres from time travel Continue reading Book Review: The Custodians and Other Stories, Richard Cowper (1976)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXI (Cowper + Aldiss + McKenna + New Worlds Anthology)

While in Scotland a few weeks ago I could not help but peek into a few used book stores! As an American, I am intimately acquainted with the common US publishers (Ballantine + Signet + Avon + et al) but do not own very many 70s/80s UK editions (Pan + Grenada + Panther, etc).  Thus, there was something special about snatching a copy of Best SF Stories from New Worlds 8  (1974) as it was one of the few in the series never published in the US…

Enjoy the cover art!

[I am not sure what to make of the Jim Burns’ cover…  I have the feeling that it appeared on Good Show Sir a while back]

Thoughts?

[If you are in Edinburgh and want new SF/F stop by Transreal Fiction—and talk to the owner Mike!]

1. The Moment of Eclipse, Brian W. Aldiss (1970)

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(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1985 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXI (Cowper + Aldiss + McKenna + New Worlds Anthology)

Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. CXXV (M. John Harrison + Coney 3x + Anthology + Cooper)

M. John Harrison’s collection The Machine in Shaft Tent (1975) contains one of the more humorous inside flap advertisements I have encountered:

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Don’t worry, I certainly intend to “see tomorrow today!”  I’ll be disappointed if I can’t!

The others are a strange blend…  From Edmund Cooper’s apparently anti-Free Love/60s culture Kronk (1970) to a delightful collection of another one of my favorite years of SF.

Also, I seldom accept advanced reader copies due to my limited time/limited interest in newer SF/and incredible mental block when it comes to, how shall I say it, outside forces guiding my central hobby which tends to take me in a variety of directions solely on whim.  But, Gollancz was nice enough to send me their new omnibus collection of 1970s Michael G. Coney novels (amazon link: US, UK).  Not only did I enjoy Hello Summer, Goodbye (1975) but I recently reviewed and loved Coney’s bizarre and original Friends Come in Boxes (1973).  With two out of two successes it’s hardly like I wouldn’t buy his work on sight anyway (another one of my requirements when accepting AVCs)….  I will review two or three of the novels in the omnibus one at a time over the next few months.

Thoughts?

1. The Machine in Shaft Ten, M. John Harrison (1975)

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(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. CXXV (M. John Harrison + Coney 3x + Anthology + Cooper)

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)