Tag Archives: spaceships

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: New Writings in SF 9, ed. John Carnell (1972) (Harrison + Coney + Sellings + King + et al.)

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(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

An imaginary question I received: “Why do you read anthologies cover to cover?” I love discovering new authors and those I was aware existed but haven’t read—with New Writings in SF 9 (1972) the following fall into this bipartite category: Joseph Green, Paul Corey, Arthur Sellings, Vincent King, R. W. Mackelworth, and Eddy C. Bertin.

Of the bunch, I will probably only remember Vincent King’s vision of the angst as the exploration of the entire galaxy nears completion… Both authors whom I know far better produce the best of the collection.  Michael G. Coney’s haunting tale of evolutionary dependency and M. John Harrison account of paranoia and guilt over the massacre of mysterious aliens are worth the read. Too bad the three above were never anthologized outside of John Carnell’s New Writings series!

Overall New Writings in SF 9 is superior to New Writings in SF 4 (1965) but probably only satisfying for Coney and Harrison completists….

Note: this title refers to the 1972 US publication which was a best of earlier volumes. Another volume by the same name was published in 1966 in the Continue reading Book Review: New Writings in SF 9, ed. John Carnell (1972) (Harrison + Coney + Sellings + King + et al.)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXII (Moorcock + Tennant + Sladek + White)

1) I made a “resolution” to read more John Sladek — miserable covers aside. Now what is that spaceman doing standing next the elephant? Although Sladek is rather on the surreal/comical end of things, Peter Goodfellow took the surreal title literally. Not his finest artistic moment. Now if only I could convince myself to put together my disperate thoughts on The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970) into something cohesive.

2) Although New Worlds editor supreme” Michael Moorcock’s novels haven’t not received the warmest reception on my site, I am determined to get a better sense of his fiction by exploring his short work. And this collection seems fantastic! It’s illustrated, there’s a comic strip (image below), and the Savoy Books publication includes tons of fascinating blurbs about other books both speculative and non-genre.

See my reviews of An Alien Heat (1972) and The Ice Schooner (1969).

The title page of the Jerry Cornelius comic.

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3) A lesser known James White novel… Only printed in the UK.

James White is one of THE finds of the last few years. Best known for simple but earnest (and pacifistic) 50s stories about doctors solving alien medical problems, his novels demonstrate surprising power. A reader and frequent commentator (see I listen!) suggested I procure one of his late 70s novels unknown to me. I cannot wait to read it.

See my reviews of The Dream Millennium (1973), All Judgement Fled (1968), and The Watch Below (1966).

4) I recently discussed Emma Tennant’s work and how she was influenced by the UK SF scene (Ballard et al) here. Yes, I showed my inner academic by citing a few articles — many fans don’t realize that there’s serious and fascinating academic study of the genre. And, as literary historians are wont to do, they provide (often) relevant and erudite analysis of development of genre etc. I would pull more in if time allowed.  I am currently reading Tennant’s novel and it’s intriguing so far!

Scans are from my own collection (in order to zoom in on the zany madness, click on the image).

I look forward to your comments/thoughts!

Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXII (Moorcock + Tennant + Sladek + White)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXI (Silverberg + Lafferty + Sterling + Nolan)

1) William F. Nolan, best known for Logan’s Run (1967) (film adaptation 1976), was also a prolific short story author. As with my acquisition of Thomas N. Scortia’s collection The Best of Thomas N. Scortia (1981) a while back, I am hoping that a range of short stories might be the best way to approach an author new to me.

*wince*–> My edition has a miserable Chris Foss clone (Tony Roberts) cover!

2) As many R. A. Lafferty novels cost a pretty penny, I now buy them on sight if they are within my price range. I posted recently on Mati Klarwein’s fantastic covers–> here. My high resolution scan should convey the complexity and skill of the art!

3) Silverberg collections fall under the purchase compulsively category. I’ve read two or three from this particular volume already including the wonderful “How It Was When the Past Went Away” (1969).

4) A while back a reader recommended Bruce Sterling’s The Artificial Kid (1980). My wife saw a well-worn copy at a local Half Price Books and procured it for me. I read numerous Sterling works from the late 80s and 90s back when I consumed “newer” SF. I reviewed his first novel a few months ago—Involution Ocean (1977).

The cover is awful. The 1980s aesthetic pains me…

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

As always, thoughts/comments are welcome.

1. Wonderworlds, William F. Nolan (1977 )

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(Tony Roberts’ cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXI (Silverberg + Lafferty + Sterling + Nolan)

Book Review: The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975) (Le Guin + Wolfe + Tiptree, Jr.)

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(Jorge Hernandez’s cover for the 1975 edition)

4.75/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

Utopian dreams. Demonic spaceship cults. Grotesque cosmic pollination. Robert Silverberg’s edited original collections of novellas and novelettes strike gold again! See reviews of Triax (1979) (Keith Roberts, Jack Vance, James E. Gunn) and to a lesser degree The Crystal Ship (1976) (Marta Randall, Joan D. Vinge, Vondra McIntyre).

A few weeks ago I promised to read more of James Tiptree, Jr.’s fiction. With this in mind I rooted around my unread collections and found one of her stories in The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975). This review pushed many others to the back burner…. It is that good. Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, and James Tiptree, Jr. do not disappoint. A holy trifecta?

Highly recommended for fans of intelligent Continue reading Book Review: The New Atlantis and Other Novellas of Science Fiction, ed. Robert Silverberg (1975) (Le Guin + Wolfe + Tiptree, Jr.)

Guest Post: Pioneer Spaceships, Robot Therapists, and Oppressive Small Towns: “Survival Ship” (1951), Judith Merril, “Short in the Chest” (1954), Margaret St. Clair, “The Wait” (1958), Kit Reed

Megan (twitter) over at From Couch to Moon—who, with boundless wit and intelligence, enjoys exploring the turbulent seas of lesser known SF both vintage and contemporary—provides the sixth guest post in my SF Short Stories by Women Writers pre-1969 series (original announcement and list of earlier posts). Head over to her blog—do not miss her review of Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968) written in his style and more recent rundowns of various award slates, the 2015 Kitschies for example.

Here are three reviews of 1950s short fiction by Judith Merril, Margaret St. Clair, and Kit Reed.

As always, the required exhortation, find copies!

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(“Survival Ship” appeared in the May 1955 issue of New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell, cover: Gerard Quinn)

Reviews of “Survival Ship” (1951) by Judith Merril, “Short in the Chest” (1954) by Margaret St. Clair, and “The Wait” (1958) by Kit Reed

By Megan

Not being much of a short fiction reader, these were all new-to-me stories that I thought I might appreciate. A selection of fifties SF, all of which are dark and strange and rebellious, and examine the social and political pressures that are often Continue reading Guest Post: Pioneer Spaceships, Robot Therapists, and Oppressive Small Towns: “Survival Ship” (1951), Judith Merril, “Short in the Chest” (1954), Margaret St. Clair, “The Wait” (1958), Kit Reed