Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLI (Lessing + Zelazny + Engh + Priest)

Fresh off reading Christopher Priest’s An Infinite Summer (1979) and his even more amazing novel The Affirmation (1981) (which I’ve been unable to review for a variety of reasons), I acquired yet another one of his challenging gems….

And M.J. Engh’s Arslan (1975), which appears to polarize audiences—for example, Ian Sales’ negative review of her novel [here].  One of the odder and lesser known Golancz SF Masterwork inclusions for sure….  I.e. normally my cup of tea.  Seriously problematic seems to be Arslan‘s operating word.

And more Zelazny novels! I’m close to owning everything he wrote, other than the Amber sequence, up to the 1980s.

And there’s nothing wrong with more Lessing! (I wish MPorcius would stop writing such intriguing reviews of her work—haha.  Here’s his review of Briefing for a Descent Into Hell).

As always, thoughts?

1. Arslan, M. J. Engh (1975)

arslan

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLI (Lessing + Zelazny + Engh + Priest)

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)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXIX (Yarbro + Jones + Priest + Anthology)

Another Priest collection!—go find An Infinite Summer (1979)…

A collection by Yarbro—did not care for False Dawn (1978)…

A wonderful anthology with Robert Silverberg, Joanna Russ, Ron Goulart (whom I have never read), Gregory Benford, Gordon Eklund, Wilson Tucker, Edward Bryant, R. A. Lafferty, George Alec Effinger, Barry N. Malzberg, Gerard F. Conway, Edgar Pangbon…

And finally, the sole collection by one of the important (but lesser known) proponents of the New Wave…

Two (guess which!) are gifts from my wife who definitely knows my SF tastes…

Thoughts?

  1. Cautionary Tales, Chelsea Quinn Yarbro (1978)

Cautionary-Tales-Chelsea-Quinn-Yarbro-Panther-UK

(Uncredited cover for the 1983 edition)

From the back cover of an earlier edition: “A bizarre and haunting journey through inner and outer space—to alien worlds where an aging playwright is in danger of losing his soul to a monstrous organic computer…. a charming teeny-bopper ghoul solves the problem of hunger in the town morgue… a member of the patrol squad on a dreary, useless planet is lured by the sucking darkness of evil Scranton’s marsh… the frozen steerage passengers on a floundering space ship share a gruesome fate… malevolent forces on the other side of death are held at bay by a huge black swan… and other strange and wondrous events Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXIX (Yarbro + Jones + Priest + Anthology)

Short SF Book Reviews: If All Else Fails…., Craig Strete (1980), My Petition for More Space, John Hersey (1974), and All Judgement Fled, James White (serialized 1967)

[Preliminary Note: This year saw a massive drop off in the number of reviews I’ve managed to put together due to professional pressures etc.  I wish I had been able to write fuller reviews–especially as much of the SF I read is lesser known and deserves a wider audience.  In some cases, I waited too long to write and thus loss the necessary momentum.  I have ten or so more waiting in the wings–hopefully they will allow me “to catch up” so to speak.]

1. If All Else Fails…, Craig Strete (1980)

FLLLSFLSDC1980

(Margo Herr’s cover for the 1980 edition)

4.75/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

Craig Strete, one of the few Native American SF authors, picked up three Nebula Award nominations for short SF over the 70s and early 80s (“The Bleeding Man” in 1976, “Time Deer” in 1976, and “A Sunday Visit With Great-Grandfather” in 1981 although it was withdrawn).  The first two are in If All Else Fails… (1980).   They are both far from the best of the collection.

Favorites: “All My Statues Have Stone Wings” (1980), “To See the City Sitting on Its Buildings” (1975), and “A Horse of a Different Technicolor” (1975).

The pages reek with despair at the loss of Native American culture ….  The narrator of the “All My Statues” is reminded of his “grandfather who died humming all the songs he had kept silent because there was no one left to sing them” (11).  In “To See the City” the dead try to escape the concrete prisons of the cities that desecrate the holy places: “Buried animal and ground Continue reading Short SF Book Reviews: If All Else Fails…., Craig Strete (1980), My Petition for More Space, John Hersey (1974), and All Judgement Fled, James White (serialized 1967)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVI (Sheckley + Wilhelm + Pesek + Shaara)

Despite my incredible busyness my reading of SF has not slowed that heavily as I find it a relaxing activity before bed.  There is a chance (time permitting) that I will post (two paragraph?) mini-reviews of such gems as Disch’s Camp Concentration (1968) + Lafferty’s intriguing Past Master (1968) + Mann’s  Wulfsyarn (1990) et alii in the coming weeks in order to get caught up (I haven’t been in more than a year)…

That said, I am still working through my recent acquisition posts for a stack of books that have slowly come in over the last few months.  More psychological SF via Wilhelm, a Mars novel originally in German, a collection of 50s – 80s short SF by an unsung master (according to some), and Sheckley at his most bizarre…

Three of the following novels came via Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings on his book store trip…  Grateful as always for his book hunting skills on his travels and willingness to send me a large box (and paypal bill! — haha).

Thoughts?

  1. The Earth is Near, Ludek Pesek (1970, english trans. 1973)

THRTHSNRSN1974

(Uncredited cover for the 1974 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVI (Sheckley + Wilhelm + Pesek + Shaara)

Book Review: Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas (1974)

(Gene Szafran’s atrocious cover for the 1974 edition)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

“The men heard, and they rejoiced to find an enemy they could conquer at last.  One night, as planned, they pulled all the women from sleep, herded them together, and harangued them, saying, remember, you caused the Wasting” (3).

Suzy McKee Charnas’ Walk to the End of the World (1974) is the first of four novels in The Holdfast Chronicles sequence (1974-1999) that charts the slow forces of change in a post-apocalyptical future where women (“fems”) are chattel.  Kate Macdonald, in her wonderful review of Ammonite (1993) characterized Nicola Griffith’s novel as “instantly […] feminist: not stealth, or muted, or sub-conscious.”  Walk to the End of the World falls squarely, and powerfully into this category.  Told with intensity and vigor, Charnas brands the reader with her vision, a searing and festering landscape where white men have either exterminated the remaining “unmen” (the “Dirties”) or subjugated them (the “fems”) after a manmade cataclysm.  Complex societal institutions maintain control Continue reading Book Review: Walk to the End of the World, Suzy McKee Charnas (1974)

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)