Tag Archives: post-apocalyptic

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLVII (Women of Wonder Anthology + Eklund + Watson + Franke)

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(Inside illustration by Vincent Di Fate for the 1973 edition of The Orchid Cage (1961), Herbert W. Franke)

Part II of my SF acquisitions from Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, MI– Part I.  In my attempt to acquire more foreign SF (still haven’t managed to read that much of it—but the mood will strike eventually), I found a nice copy with a wonderful interior illustration and cover by Vincent Di Fate of one of Herbert W. Franke’s novels.

Also, another Ian Watson novel—I’ve read the Jonah Kit (1975) but never got around to reviewing it as well as his collection (must read for fans of 70s SF) The Very Slow Time Machine (1979).  Jesse over at Speculiction raves about his other Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLVII (Women of Wonder Anthology + Eklund + Watson + Franke)

Book Review: Starship and Haiku, Somtow Sucharitkul (S. P. Somtow) (1981)

STRSHPHKJJ1981

(Gerry Daly’s cover for the 1981 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

“Nature does not write haiku.  Men write haiku.  The world cannot end in chaos, with things running wild, with gangs running rampant, with cannibals, with dog eating dog and plague-deaths and the abominable mutations.  O, I know it is so in some other countries, but we are Japanese.  We are the children of the whale, who have committed the original sin of patricide… but we have pride, and we must die in beauty” (131).

Somtow Sucharitkul (S. P. Somtow after 1985) is a fascinating individual.  He’s a Thai-American SFF author/composer who moved back and forth between Thailand and the UK (English was his first language and he received his education at the University of Cambridge).  Perhaps best known for his Mallworld sequence of stories (1979-2000), Somtow’s output is immense and ranges from horror to mainstream fiction (in addition to numerous symphonies and operas).

His first novel Starship & Haiku (1981), which won the 1982 Locus Best First Novel Award, joins the ranks of a veritable subgenre of SF about whales and pseudo-whales—including (off the top of my head, there are bound to be more!): Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986), Ian Watson’s The Jonah Kit (1975), T. J. Bass’ The Godwhale (1974), Philip José Farmer’s The Wind Whales of Ishmael (1971), John Varley’s Gaean series (1979-1984), Alan Dean Foster’s Cachalot (1980), and  Robert F. Young’s Spacewhale sequence of short stories (1962-1980) which includes “Starscape with Frieze of Dreams” (1970).  And yes, a whale makes a fateful appearance in Adams’ The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979)… The interest in whale SF was probably rooted to the increasing scientific research on whale song in the 1970s.  And whales do hold a certain allure as the largest mammals on our planet! Continue reading Book Review: Starship and Haiku, Somtow Sucharitkul (S. P. Somtow) (1981)

Update: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLV (Platt + Cowper + Gawron + Pfeil)

An eclectic collection of 70s SF…. Two virtually unknown authors (Gawron + Pfeil) and two authors slightly better known by SF fans (Platt + Cowper).

I’ve not been impressed with Platt in the past—for example, maybe you all remember my review for Garbage World (1966) or Planet of the Voles (1971)?  But, nothing peeks my interest more than future urbanization gone amok… [2theD’s review: here].

Richard Cowper’s work intrigues but I often find it on the slight side. See my reviews of The Custodian and Other Stories (1976) and Profundus (1979).  The book I procured below is considered his most famous although the premise does little to inspire….

Donald J. Pfeil wrote three novels (SF encyclopedia is somewhat dismissive of all three) and remains best known for editing the short-lived Vertex magazine: according to SF encyclopedia, “in quality [Vertex] was the strongest of the new sf magazines from the first half of the 1970s.”  Unfortunately, it ran into financial problems and folded after only a few years…. Might be worth collecting!

Thoughts? Comments?

1. An Apology for Rain, Jean Mark Gawron (1974)

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(Margo Herr’s cover for the 1974 edition) Continue reading Update: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLV (Platt + Cowper + Gawron + Pfeil)

Book Review: The Dream Millennium, James White (serialized 1973, novel 1974)

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(John Berkley’s cover for the 1974 edition)

4.75/5 (Very Good)

“The thought of the vast, utterly silent ship stretching away on all sides of his cubicle, guarded and guided by silent computers, was paralyzing his own ability to make sounds […]” (3)

The crew of a seed ship sent to find a new habitable planet dream the same dreams, dreams of unnatural clarity plagued by pain and death.  As a young woman lies dying in her cold cubicle, her final meal at her lips and unaware of her predicament, she whispers to our reluctant hero (Devlin), “All I seem to dream about is being a lady dinosaur” (32).  Devlin’s dreams follow some pseudo-evolutionary schema, first he dreams he’s a trilobite in some Silurian sea crushed by the tentacles of a cephalopod, “he went on feeding while the hot, constant flame of hunger was punctuated by explosions of pain as his appendages were tweisted and crushed and torn away […]” (10).  Then he dreams he’s a brontosaurus, and then an early primate…

Periodically, the automated machines that tend the colonists in cold storage awake their charges, “BASIC INSTRUCTIONS. SPEAK. EXERCISE. REMEMBER” (2).  The Continue reading Book Review: The Dream Millennium, James White (serialized 1973, novel 1974)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLIII (Two themed anthologies: Election Day 2084 and TV: 2000 + Harrison + Gary)

Two themed anthologies—one in “honor” of the election [*cough* I mean, well, I won’t go all political] year cycle…  Another on one of my favorite SF themes, television of the future!

That said, both Asimov edited collections (from the 80s but with stories from only earlier decades) have a serious fault: out of the combined 35 stories there is not a single story by a woman author.  I’ve read a vast number of 60s/70s collections which do not fall into this trap…. Orbit 1 (1966) almost manages gender parity!  I can think of numerous stories by women authors that fit both themes.  For example, Kit Reed’s wonderful “At Central” (1967) fits the TV anthology!

A hard to find for cheap early M. John Harrison novel…. Unfortunately I only found a much uglier edition that the one I show below as the rest were out of my price range….

And, a complete shot in the dark—a SF novel by the mainstream French/Lithuanian novelist/screenwriter Romain Gary, the author of White Dog (1970)..

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts + comments.

1. The Committed Men, M. John Harrison (1971)

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(Chris Yates’ cover for the 1971 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLIII (Two themed anthologies: Election Day 2084 and TV: 2000 + Harrison + Gary)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLII (The Soviet SF special: Strugatsky + Shefner + Bilenkin +Savchenko)

In the late 70s and early 80s a wide range of Soviet SF—from the famous Strugatsky brothers to lesser known authors—was translated and introduced to the American market.  As I have decided to start collecting the Best of Soviet Science Fiction Collier Books series of paperbacks (hardbacks were published by Macmillan), my dad gave me three for my birthday.  My first collecting experiment!  I want to read more SF from outside of the USA and the UK…  This batch is in addition to the only other one I have acquired so far: Half a Life, Kirill Bulychev (USSR 1975, USA 1977).  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the series fetch hefty prices (especially those by the two Strugatsky brothers) online.  And, other than The Ugly Swans (below), I have never encountered them in used book stores… and The Ugly Swans was not cheap (I have my wife to thank!).

The back cover of The Unman/Kovrigin’s Chronicles provides a blurb about the series that I thought I would reproduce: “In the Soviet Union, as in the U.S.A., the fascination with the possibilities of science and technology has led to a rich and long tradition of science fiction.  Macmillan’s BEST OF SOVIET SCIENCE FICTION is now presenting the major works in lively, readable translations, allowing the American reader to explore—for the first time—the wide range of visions of space, time and man’s future in the other major SF tradition.”

As always, thoughts?

1. The Ugly Swans, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (USSR 1972, USA 1979)

The Ugly Swans

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLII (The Soviet SF special: Strugatsky + Shefner + Bilenkin +Savchenko)

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)

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