Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic

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

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)

Fragment(s): Emma Tennant on the Influence of the 1970s British SF Scene

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(Candy Amsden’s cover for the 1978 edition of The Crack (variant of: The Time of the Crack) (1973), Emma Tennant)

As I recently procured a copy of Emma Tennant’s The Crack (variant title: The Time of the Crack) (1973) in which a fault line appears under London destroying half the city, I decided to research her work.

William Grimes describes Emma Tennant’s fiction—in a New York Times retrospective on her life and works—as blending “fantasy, science fiction and social satire” that “explored the borderland between daylight and dreams, anatomized contemporary Britain.” Grimes quotes Gary Indiana’s 1990 The Village Voice article: “a startling procession of novels unlike anything else being written in England: wildly imaginative, Continue reading Fragment(s): Emma Tennant on the Influence of the 1970s British SF Scene

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitons No. CLXX (Leiber + Lafferty + Stapledon + Soviet SF Anthology)

1) Lafferty collections are notoriously hard to find and tend to be on the expensive side—at least for 60s/70s paperbacks. I’ve already read two or three stories in the one below in different anthologies over the years—I remember “Continued on Next Rock” (1970) most clearly. The Jack Gaughan cover evokes the sheer oddness of Lafferty’s visions. Does it illustrate a story in the collection?

2) Readers have spoken highly of this particular Leiber novel. So I found a copy… not cheap. Alas. See, I sometimes listen to suggestions!

3) I always buy Soviet SF collections. The editor is uncredited but Judith Merril provides a five page introduction I’m eager to read. Maybe she’s the editor? EDIT: According to The Internet Speculative Fiction Database, Judith Merril holds the copyright — indicating that she is the uncredited editor.

4) My first Olaf Stapledon. Someone whose influence I’ve read widely about and been aware of for years. It’s about time I added a few of his works to my collection. I love Paul Klee, but not the art used for the Penguin cover! (In the Land of the Precious Stone, 1929).

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

As always, thoughts/comments are welcome.

Enjoy!

1. Strange Doings, R. A. Lafferty (1972)

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(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitons No. CLXX (Leiber + Lafferty + Stapledon + Soviet SF Anthology)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXIX (Dick + Goulart + Wolf + New Worlds Anthology)

I’ve read only one Ron Goulart story in Universe 1 (1971), ed. Terry Carr. It was marginally funny but slight. I assume his novels are similar. This is supposedly one of his best… It has an intriguing Diane and Leo Dillon cover.

New Worlds Anthologies? Answer: always yes!

Gary K. Wolf, not Gene Wolfe or the SF scholar Gary K. Wolfe in case anyone is confused… Gary K. Wolf remains best known for the Roger Rabbit sequence of novels (Who Censored Roger Rabbit? (1981) and 1991’s Who P-P-Plugged Roger Rabbit?). He started his writing career with three SF novels for Doubleday—Killerbowl (1975), A Generation Removed (1977), and The Resurrectionist (1979). I look forward to exploring his work.

And one of the few PKD novels I do not own (I might be missing four or five others). Not supposedly one of his best books, but his brand of surrealism is always fun. It’s for my collection rather than to read anytime soon. I’m more in a PKD’s early short stories mood!

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

As always, thoughts/comments are welcome.

Enjoy!

1. After Things Fell Apart, Ron Goulart (1970)

after-things-fell-apart

(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1970 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXIX (Dick + Goulart + Wolf + New Worlds Anthology)

Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)

Dear readers, thank you all profusely for your comments, words of thanks, and emails over the year. It is my overarching goal to inspire you all to read more SF from the 50s-70s, dust off the boxes of your parents’ books in some forgotten closet, browse the shelves at your local used book store (or favorite online store), reflect on the often fascinating cover art…

2016 was not the most productive reading/reviewing year as my PhD dissertation defense date rapidly approaches. For the purposes of maintaining my sanity, reading and writing about SF remains my primary relaxation hobby—surprising perhaps as I read a lot of depressing SF that wouldn’t be “relaxing” for most people. According to Megan at From Couch to Moon I like my fiction “moody, broody, meta, and twisted.”

And other than a few satires here and there, my favorite SF reads of 2016 fit firmly within Megan’s descriptors.

Thanks again!

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Best novels

  1. The Affirmation, Christopher Priest (1981)
  2. The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (variant title: The War of Dreams), Angela Carter (1972). Review forthcoming 
  3. The Dream Millennium, James White (serialized 1973, novel 1974)
  4. The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

Continue reading Updates: 2016 in Review (best novels + best short stories + best anthologies + notable posts)