Tag Archives: Short stories

Book Review: Starswarm, Brian W. Aldiss (1964)

STRSWRMPSJ1964

(William Hofmann’s cover for the 1964 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Filth.  Decay.  Mud.  Transmutation.  Brian W. Aldiss’ SF is filled with such images:  Men—with limbs removed—who are slowly (and artificially) transmuted into fish, writhe around in the mud of their tanks grasping at the last shards of their humanity;  A powerful matriarch lords over a planet where her pets transform at will;  A tall tale about a planet filled with strange life and a human hero who cannot get over the fact that everything smells like garbage…. Aldiss’ novel The Dark Light-Years (1964), despite its poor delivery, is the best example of these themes—humans encounter sentient aliens who spend their days copulating, laying around, and eating in their own fifth.  And they are happy with their lot.

Starswarm (1964) is comprised of three novelettes and five short stories with conjoining explanatory material that links the previously published short fiction into a cohesive collection.  The modus operandi of such a conjoining concerns the “Theory of Multigrade Superannuation” where “the universe is similar to the cosmic clock; the civilizations of man are not mere cogs but infinitely smaller clocks, ticking in their own right” (7).  Thus, the inhabited solar systems of Starswarm—our galaxy—will exhibit all the characteristics through which a civilization can Continue reading Book Review: Starswarm, Brian W. Aldiss (1964)

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)

Book Review: Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

(John Richards’ cover for the 1961 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

I have a confession to make.  I have never read Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend (1954).  I do not like vampires.  I do not like any movies or TV shows with vampires.  Thus, as is my wont when trying a new author, I procured a short story collection to experience a range Continue reading Book Review: Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

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)

Book Review: Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)

(John Holmes’ cover for the 1973 edition)

4.25/5 (Good)

“KEEP A CLEAN SHEET OR YOU’LL END UP AS MEAT” (72)

Michael G. Coney’s focus on everyday struggles—the normal minutiae of life—reached wonderful heights in the lyrical paean to youth and youthful travails Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975).  While the true import of Hello Summer, Goodbye‘s narrative only slowly unfurls as the young man comes of age and perceives more about his world, the world of  Friends Come in Boxes (1973) relentlessly writhes and boils as each main character is compelled to commit a crime Continue reading Book Review: Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)

Book Review: Orbit 8, ed. Damon Knight (1970)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1971 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Good)

The avant-garde leaning Orbit anthology series, edited by Damon Knight, had an illustrious run from 1966-1976.  Recently I have become more and more intrigued by the anthology as a way to access a wider range of authors and radical visions.  Despite my rather lowish collated rating of Best SF Stories from New Worlds 2, ed. Michael Moorcock, it was a satisfying collection which exposed me to the SF of Langdon Jones and Pamela Zoline.  Likewise, it somewhat rehabilitated my view of Charles Platt whose Planet of the Voles (1971) has long been one of my least favorite SF novels.

Anthologies are fascinating cross sections of the genre reflecting what was perceived as worthwhile SF by editors.  They will almost always be more uneven than single author collections.  But the exposure to forgotten authors and authors who never received a single author collection makes them almost always worthwhile.

Orbit 8 (1970) is no exception.  The anthology swings wildly from Gardner Dozois’ masterpiece “Horse of Air” (1970) Continue reading Book Review: Orbit 8, ed. Damon Knight (1970)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVII (Matheson + Carr + Davidson + Sheckley)

Another varied selection of recent acquisitions—the majority are gifts from Carl V. Anderson at Stainless Steel Droppings.  Thanks so much!  A signed edition of Hal Clement’s Close to Critical (1964) is coming your way!

I love Sheckley.  I’ve never read Richard Matheson’s short fiction.  Terry Carr’s short fiction is supposedly rather good (he’s primarily known as an editor of course).  And Avram Davidson is still an unknown quantity—I do adore the Leo and Diane Dillon cover.

Thoughts?

1. Third From the Sun, Richard Matheson (1955)

(Gene Szafran’s horrid cover for the 1970 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVII (Matheson + Carr + Davidson + Sheckley)