(Art Sussman’s cover for the 1960 edition)
3.25/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Good)
I have long been a fan of both Judith Merril’s fiction and edited volumes. The eponymous novella in the collection Daughters of Earth (1968) is one of more delightful visions from the 1950s I have encountered. Merril reframes biblical patrilineal genealogy as matrilineal–i.e. humankind’s conquest of space is traced via the female descendants of an august progenitor. The story is brilliant in part due to a remarkable metafictional twist, the story itself is compiled from historical documents to serve as an instructional template for future generations of women. Despite substantial editorial control that forced Merril to include a rather hokey plot on two hokey planets, the story remains memorable for the well crafted feminist Continue reading Book Review: Out of Bounds, Judith Merril (1960)
(John Berkey’s cover for the 1969 edition)
Automated machines rummage through the wreckage of a spaceship—after a battle with the Jillies—gathering the human dead and placing them into cold storage, to be stitched together again for another fight. Absolom Bracer is one of the casualties of Earth and its colonies’ war with the a vaguely known alien foe (the before mentioned Jillies) doing their “damnedest” to “eat up every crumb” of the “apple pie” (as sophisticated as a Richard C. Meredith gets) (192). Captain (eventually Admiral) Bracer of the warship Iwo Jima after his death becomes one the resurrected—“a shiny meter-tall cylinder of metal supporting what was left of the upper torso of a man” (9). What remains are a “few bones, a little living flesh and muscle” and most importantly, “a collection of tangled Continue reading Book Review: We All Died at Breakaway Station, Richard C. Meredith (1969)
(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)