(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)
(Robert Adragna’s cover for the 1978 edition)
Gordon R. Dickson introduces a medieval tapestry (perhaps The Lady and the Unicorn in Paris’ Musée national du Moyen Âge)—filled with symbolic representations that make up the sum of the world—as the central framing metaphor for The Far Call (1978). Our idealistic young politician main character sees himself and everyone else as “caught up in its pattern” where “countless threads like his own make up the background.” The brighter threads “would be the movers and shakers among the people” yet no one would be more than a single thread (35). Continue reading Book Review: The Far Call, Gordon R. Dickson (serialized 1973, book form 1978)
M. John Harrison’s collection The Machine in Shaft Tent (1975) contains one of the more humorous inside flap advertisements I have encountered:
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.
1. The Machine in Shaft Ten, M. John Harrison (1975)
(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. CXXV (M. John Harrison + Coney 3x + Anthology + Cooper)
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).
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)
(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)
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.
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)
A fascinating collection (one of three acquisition posts incoming) via Dunaway’s Books in St. Louis, MO (on one of my numerous perambulations…). And there were nearly one hundred more novels I would have snatched up if I had unlimited funds and unlimited room.
A hard to find feminist SF novel, and supposedly quite solid, by Zoe Fairbairns.
A Michael Coney novel I’ve been dying to get my hands on—the immortality concept delightfully satirical/hilarious.
A strange 70s fix-up novel of 50s material by an author championed by Barry N. Malzberg (and John Clute)—Kris Neville.
And Vance, one rarely goes wrong with Vance…
1. Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)
(John Holmes’ cover for the 1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Acquisitions No. XXVII (Vance + Neville + Fairbairns + Coney)