Tag Archives: paperbacks

Short Book Reviews: Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation (2014), John Sladek’s The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970), Robert Sheckley’s Options (1975)

Yes (I see inquisitive phantom stares), I listened to an audiobook written in this decade. And it was good. Very good. Brilliant actually. As it was an audiobook, I’m unable to write an in-depth review. However there are plenty online for the curious–in part because it won the 2015 Nebula Award. I added two additional novels that have been waiting patiently in a “to review” pile that are more my standard territory…

Think of these short reviews as tantalizing fragments rather than my normal analysis. The books that reside in these short review posts often defeated my reviewing capabilities.

1. The Müller-Fokker Effect, John Sladek (1970)

(McInnery’s cover for the 1972 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

In my 2016 in review I promised to read more of Sladek’s work, and for once I’m holding true to my reading goals.

That said, I find Sladek’s novels notoriously difficult to parse into cohesive reviews—his SF (and my reviews by extension) stretch satirically in all directions, unfolding in fascinating experiments that jest with layered wordplay and (often) diagrammatic dalliances (see example below). There’s a humorous Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation (2014), John Sladek’s The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970), Robert Sheckley’s Options (1975)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The 50s/60s Surrealistic Stylings of Art Sussman

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(Cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis)

Art Sussman produced a remarkable corpus of SF and other pulp covers (mysteries, crime, etc). He could easily shift gears between Richard Powers-esque surrealism—although distinctly his own take—to covers that suited an Agatha Christie mystery (browse the range here). I would be wary comparing him to Powers until you skim through the latter’s late 50s early 60s art (definitely an enjoyable activity!). Although Powers is still far superior, both were part of the SF art movement increasingly experimented with surreal/metaphoric and experimental art (there are still spaceships lurking around the edges, and futuristic cities, and other pulpy moments).

There is a precision of vision with Sussman’s art—his cover for the 1960 edition of Out of Silent Planet (1938), C. S. Lewis places the astronauts in an outline of a vessel with strange hints at alien planets and experiences scattered gem-like in the distance. Sussman’s focus on the human form — often surrounded by surreal forms and humanlike membranes — showcases agony and despair. A great example (and my favorite of the bunch) pairs jagged black fields with a bloodied man, the 1960 Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The 50s/60s Surrealistic Stylings of Art Sussman

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXIII (Priest + Davidson + Scott + Tate)

1) Barry N. Malzberg’s back cover blurb for Jody Scott’s 1977 novel suggests a worthwhile, or at least intriguing (and satirical), read: “What Paganini did to four strings and three-and-a-half octaves, Jody Scott does for our dear, undead genre.”

My first The Women’s Press edition!

2) My Christopher Priest collection nears completion. Has anyone read his early novel Fugue for A Darkening Island (1972)? Although I adore the short fiction and novels of his I’ve read so far, this premise has the potential to be deeply problematic (racist, etc). That said, I discovered my copy is signed! Purchased it for $4 with shipping off of Abebooks — it’s a $50+ book with signature.

christopher priest_Page_2.jpg

For more on his work: The Affirmation (1981), Real-Time World (1974), An Infinite Summer (1979), and Indoctrinaire (1970).

3) A collection of Avram Davidson stories. The title story “Or All the Seas with Oysters” won the 1958 Hugo for Best Short Story. The two works of his I’ve read so far disappointed: The Enemy of My Enemy (1966) and “Rife of Spring” (1970).

4) Peter Tate’s stories mostly appeared in various New Worlds publications. Although hailing from the UK, his novels were almost entirely published by Doubleday Press in the US. In the past I read “The Post-Mortem People” (1966) and found it a functional New Wave experiment. As is my wont, I tracked down a collection of his short fictions.

As on all posts, thoughts and comments are welcome!

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1. Passing for Human, Jody Scott (1977)

new books scott, davidson, tate_Page_2.jpg

(Miss Moss’ cover for the 1986 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXIII (Priest + Davidson + Scott + Tate)

Book Review: The Time of the Crack (variant title: The Crack), Emma Tennant (1973)

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(Candy Amsden’s disturbing cover for the 1978 edition)

4/5 (Good)

Emma Tennant’s The Time of the Crack (variant title: The Crack) (1973) takes the form of a series of character vignettes in a transmogrified London. Despite Tennant’s wide-ranging societal critiques,  it’s a brief book–my 1978 Penguin edition clocks in at 112 pages–threaded loosely together by the occasional presence of Baba, a Playboy bunny. The cataclysm in question, the appearance of an expanding crack under the Thames, although causing devastation, doubles as a metaphoric birth moment. The landscape modified, buildings contorted by the severance… And in the wreckage of what remains the survivors make postures towards all manners of “New” English societies Continue reading Book Review: The Time of the Crack (variant title: The Crack), Emma Tennant (1973)

Career Highlights + Reminisce + Review: SF short story author Edward Bryant (1945-2017)

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(Gray Morrow’s cover for the 1973 edition of Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973), Edward Bryant)

On February 10th SF author and two-time Nebula Award winner Edward Bryant (1945-2017) passed away after a long illness. As the number of authors from my favorite era of SF is sadly dwindling as the years go by, I decided to briefly highlight his career and the stories of his I’ve read so far (too few!). Although primarily a short story author, Bryant co-wrote Phoenix in Ashes (1975) with Harlan Ellison. For more on his life and genre impact see the write-up posted after his death on Locus and his entry on SF Encyclopedia. I’ve decided to review two stories from his disturbing and powerful collection Among the Dead and Other Events Leading Up to the Apocalypse (1973).

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“The Hanged Man” (1972), short story, 4/5 (Good): “Shrikes were my playmates when I was about ten” (2). Two friends reminisce. But there’s a dark and sinister twist, one named Rockaway dangles, head downward tied by his feet to a tree branch and his friend refuses to cut him down…. Fragments of the world interjects into their unnerving conversion: family members have died, they survived by eating birds. Their conversation reflects Continue reading Career Highlights + Reminisce + Review: SF short story author Edward Bryant (1945-2017)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXI (Silverberg + Lafferty + Sterling + Nolan)

1) William F. Nolan, best known for Logan’s Run (1967) (film adaptation 1976), was also a prolific short story author. As with my acquisition of Thomas N. Scortia’s collection The Best of Thomas N. Scortia (1981) a while back, I am hoping that a range of short stories might be the best way to approach an author new to me.

*wince*–> My edition has a miserable Chris Foss clone (Tony Roberts) cover!

2) As many R. A. Lafferty novels cost a pretty penny, I now buy them on sight if they are within my price range. I posted recently on Mati Klarwein’s fantastic covers–> here. My high resolution scan should convey the complexity and skill of the art!

3) Silverberg collections fall under the purchase compulsively category. I’ve read two or three from this particular volume already including the wonderful “How It Was When the Past Went Away” (1969).

4) A while back a reader recommended Bruce Sterling’s The Artificial Kid (1980). My wife saw a well-worn copy at a local Half Price Books and procured it for me. I read numerous Sterling works from the late 80s and 90s back when I consumed “newer” SF. I reviewed his first novel a few months ago—Involution Ocean (1977).

The cover is awful. The 1980s aesthetic pains me…

All images are scans from my own collection (click image to zoom).

As always, thoughts/comments are welcome.

1. Wonderworlds, William F. Nolan (1977 )

nolan-wonderworlds

(Tony Roberts’ cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXI (Silverberg + Lafferty + Sterling + Nolan)

Book Review: Orbit 4, ed. Damon Knight (1968) (Wilhelm + Silverberg + Vinge + Ellison + Lafferty, et al.)

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(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1969 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

A quest for SF magazines! Alien possession and its psychological damage! The Supreme Court tackles future crime! And many more unusual visions….

Orbit 4 (1968) dethrones Orbit 3 (1968) for the overall collated rating crown (as of now) in the anthology sequence. All of the anthology so far contain worthwhile stories and should be tracked down by fans of SF from this era—see my reviews of Orbit 1 (1966) and Orbit 8 (1970).

Highly recommended for the Wilhelm, Emshwiller, Lafferty, Sallis, and Silverberg stories. A must buy Continue reading Book Review: Orbit 4, ed. Damon Knight (1968) (Wilhelm + Silverberg + Vinge + Ellison + Lafferty, et al.)