Tag Archives: technology

Book Review: Bedlam Planet, John Brunner (1968)

(Jeff Jones’ cover for the 1968 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

To move past my variegated obsessions regarding William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) (review + list of imaginary scientific articles), I decided to reread a lesser known John Brunner novel. I cannot pinpoint exactly when I first read Bedlam Plant (1968), other than before I started my site, but it holds up as a moody biological mystery with mythological undertones as colonists confront their deceptive new world.

This isn’t Stand on Zanzibar (1968), Shockwave Rider (1975), The Sheep Look Up (1972), or The Jagged Orbit (1969), but it left me wishing that Brunner applied his Continue reading Book Review: Bedlam Planet, John Brunner (1968)

Book Review: Doctor Rat, William Kotzwinkle (1976)

(James Grashow’s cover for the 1976 edition)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

“Oh scaly skin and dandruff

with hemorrhagic sores,

come and look inside us,

they’ve provided us with doors!” (15)

Winner of the 1977 World Fantasy Award

In the early 1970s DARPA (Defense Advance Research Projects Agency) got wind of a Soviet project in parapsychological submarine communication. Gruesome details unfold: the Soviet scientists suspected there was “a psychic link between mothers [in this case rabbits] and their offspring.”  If say, someone on the surface were to kill the rabbit baby then the submarine, with the mother on board, would know to surface and launch their nuclear weapons. Of course the entire idea is utter hogwash and the DARPA investigations of  various parapsychological claims resulted in nothing (see note 1).

William Kotzwinkle’s maniacal satire Doctor Rat (1976) takes the idea of animal communication, in this case across species with the exclusion of humans, to bizarre and alluring Continue reading Book Review: Doctor Rat, William Kotzwinkle (1976)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Uncanny Bodies of Wojtek Siudmak

(Cover for Fiction, #200 (August, 1970), ed. Alain Dorémieux)

Our adventures in French SF magazine cover art continue! A little more than a month ago I posted on Claude Lacroix’s Delicate Lines and Mutations and we press on in a similar manner with the art of Wojtek Siudmak, a Polish-born artist  based in France.

I am deliberately featuring only Siudmak’s first two years of cover art (he was very prolific): 1970-1972. Between these years he mostly illustrated the major French SF magazines  Fiction and Galaxie. As I mentioned in the previous post, the 60s and 70s covers for Fiction—“the leading journal of science fiction and fantasy in France” until its cancellation in 2015—were characterized by simple color schemes and delightful line work. Siudmak adeptly works within Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Uncanny Bodies of Wojtek Siudmak

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

tfthslntpl1960

(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

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXIV (Hoban + Roberts + Piercy + Baker)

1) Two SF/F reads inspired my pseudonym “Joachim Boaz.” The first, a novel from my dad’s shelf by Russell Hoban–The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz (1973) in which a mapmaker designs a map charting the places of inspiration. This resonated with what I wanted my site to be (and hopefully, is)! I finally have a personal copy. I remember little from the book other than the before mentioned map.

The second, Barrington J. Bayley’s vaguely solid (but influential as I was new SF reader at the time) novel Pillars of Eternity (1982) about a man who decides to name his new self “Joachim Boaz.” Be warned, it’s one of the first, and rather shoddy, reviews on my site. I wrote the review sometime before 2010 (the date Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations began).

2) Marge Piercy’s a new author to me and I look forward to her work. That said, the premise of Dance the Eagle to Sleep (1970) seems more miss than hit. I suspect I should find a copy of Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) instead.

3) Keith Roberts’  The Inner Wheel (1970) takes the form of a fix-up novel (although often listed as a collection). As I have been impressed with his SF so far, this will move towards the top of my ever-changing read to list. And it’s graced with an evocative cover despite the Playboy Press SF edition!

Related Keith Roberts reviews: “The Deep” (1966), “High Eight” (1965), “Sub-Lim” (1965), “Molly Zero” (1977), and “Coranda” (1967).

4) Scott Baker’s Symbiote’s Crown (1978) seems to be his best known work. I know little about the book other than it won the 1984 Prix Apollo.

Scans are from my own collection. Click to enlarge!

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.

1. The Lion of Boaz-Jachin and Jachin-Boaz, Russell Hoban (1973)

(Alan Magee’s cover for the 1974 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXIV (Hoban + Roberts + Piercy + Baker)

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

nwwrsnsf651972

(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.)