Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIV (John Varley + Marta Randall + Jean Mark Gawron + Colin Greenland)

1. John Varley’s fantastic mind trapped in a computer after an accident while a lion in an underground Mars safari park short story “Overdrawn at the Memory Bank” (1977) inspired me to pick a collection of his late 70s and early 80s short stories—including the Nebula and Hugo-nominated “Beatnik Bayou” (1980) and the Hugo-nominated “The Barbie Murders” (1979).

2. Colin Greenland’s oblique Daybreak on a Different Mountain (1984) is my type of fantasy—sculpted landscapes, a Ballard-inspired entropy-filled world, surreal sequences…. I picked up volume two in the loose Daybreak sequence.

3. I am slowly working through Marta Randall’s novels–see my favorable reviews of Islands (1976) and A City in the North (1976)–and, despite the awful cover, snagged the first volume in her Kennerin Saga sequence.

4. An finally, a complete unknown quantity…. My friend 2theD (who, unfortunately, has long retired his blog) described it as impossible to paraphrase, nebulous, linguistically inspired….

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

~

1. The Barbie Murders, John Varley (1980)

(David Plourde’s cover for the 1980 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIV (John Varley + Marta Randall + Jean Mark Gawron + Colin Greenland)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

On a recent trip to Chicago I spent far too much on vintage SF at Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records (twitter).If you’re in the city and love old SF paperbacks, stop by! I’ll certainly be back. Here are the first four books from that haul.

1. Jack Vance is an author I always tend to buy but never enjoy as much as I think I should–see my recent review of Emphyrio (1969). Thoughts on this one?

2. I have yet to read anything by Alexei Panshin—at least I now have a copy of his masterpiece, Rite of Passage (1968) (nominated for the 1969 Hugo + won that year’s Nebula).

3. A lesser-known 70s comedic novel from Brian W. Aldiss…

4. And finally, the one I’m most excited about. Evolved humans are thrust into conflict on a terraformed, but dying, Mars. With a fun Powers cover to boot! The rest of Frederick Turner’s SF output appears to be the epic poem variety according to SF Encyclopedia.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed?

1. The Anome, Jack Vance (magazine, 1971)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the  1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

Book Review: A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge), John Christopher (1965)

(Steve Crisp’s cover for the 1985 edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

John Christopher’s A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge) (1965) is the second in my informal reading series on 50s/60s post-apocalyptic visions.  Fresh off Alfred Coppel’s moody and reflective Dark December (1960), I chose one of Christopher’s works long overshadowed by his popular Tripods trilogy (1967-68)* and more famous earlier catastrophe novel The Death of Grass (1956).* Continue reading Book Review: A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge), John Christopher (1965)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)

(Detail from Chris Foss’ cover for the 1977 edition of The Grain Kings (1976), Keith Roberts—full cover below)

1. Always thrilled to have a new Keith Roberts collection! And this one with one of the few Foss covers that appeals to me….

2. As a teen Vernor Vinge was a must read author. I devoured The Peace War (1984), Marooned in Realtime (1986), A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), and A Deepness in the Sky (1999). I haven’t returned to him since. I am curious about his earliest published novel—Grimm’s World (1969)—gorgeously decked out with a Paul Lehr masterpiece of a cover.

3. My knowledge of cyberpunk is mostly limited to the early works of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. Here is a lesser known work that certainly wasn’t “talked about for years to come” (book jacket advertisement). Clones, sentient handheld computers, etc. Looks like a fun brew.

4. Another “let’s explore early cyberpunk” purchase—in this case a near future work about information overload (and dolphin + human sexual relationships) marketed as mainstream literature. SF Encyclopedia describes Ted Mooney’s Easy Travel to Other Planets  (1981) as follows: “Set on a Near-Future Earth against a backdrop of global information sickness, war in the Antarctic and a new emotion nobody has ever felt before, it tells a love story – with visionary ramifications – concerning a woman marine biologist and the dolphin on whom she conducts experiments in Linguistics. It has been seen as a proto-Cyberpunk work, but its cool, pellucid, dissecting style – perhaps influenced by J G Ballard – is far removed from the hectic insistence that has characterized much of that school” (full article on Mooney).

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)

Book Review: Future Without Future, Jacques Sternberg (1971, trans. 1973)

(Rus Anderson’s cover for the 1973 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Jacques Sternberg (1923-2006) was a Belgian author who occasionally published SF, especially early in his career. Future Without Future (1971, trans. by Frank Zero 1973) contains a nearly novel-length novella “Fin de siècle” and four other bleak satirical works published between 1958 and 1971.

A worthwhile acquisition for “Fin de siècle” (1971) alone. The other stories are still worth a read. If you’re interested in SF in translation, this collection is a must have. I plan on tracking down Sternberg’s only SF novel in translation, Sexualis ’95 (1956, trans. Lowell Blair 1965). It’s a shame La sortie est au fond de l’espace (“The Way Out is at the Bottom of Space”) (1956), “a black comedy set in space and featuring the last human survivors of a bacterial Holocaust” doesn’t exist (yet!) in translation…. (See SF Encyclopedia for a rundown of his works).

Like Stanislaw Lem, Sternberg creates planetary environments and otherworldly denizens that feel truly alien. In the more dystopic works, Sternberg’s bleak outlook on humanity’s increasing inability to connect with each other and our pasts Continue reading Book Review: Future Without Future, Jacques Sternberg (1971, trans. 1973)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXI (Nancy Kress + Norman Spinrad + Charles Sheffield + Graham Dunstan Martin)

1. A lesser-known novel by Nancy Kress… She remains a complete unknown author to me. I’ve heard high praise for her best-known novel–the Hugo and Nebula-nominated Beggars in Space (1990).

2. In the mid-80s Bluejay Books released a series of illustrated editions of previously published novels and novellas from the likes of Vernor Vinge, Rosel George Brown, and Theodore Sturgeon. As I’ve long respected the work of Norman Spinrad, I tracked down a Bluejay Books edition of his Hugo-nominated novella “Riding the Torch” (1974) with illustrations by Tom Kidd. At first glance the illustrations are not my cup of tea…. but the Spinrad novella has a wonderful premise.

I’ve previously reviewed Spinrad’s meta-fictional masterpiece The Iron Dream (1972) and his worthwhile short story collection The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde (1970).

3. I recent reviewed Charles Sheffield’s novel Sight of Proteus (1978) and was impressed enough to track down a short story collection. Unfortunately my copy is rather battered, obfuscating my absolute favorite Attila Hejja SPACE SCENE cover!

4. Post-apocalyptic nightmares where survivors are forced to live inside radiation suits? Yes! Raving preacher promising deliverance if survivors leave their radiation suits? Yes! Probability of novel being a “lost” masterpiece? Close to zero.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Hated?

~

1. An Alien Light, Nancy Kress (1988)

(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXI (Nancy Kress + Norman Spinrad + Charles Sheffield + Graham Dunstan Martin)

Book Review: The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim (1977)

(Richard Corben’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wolheim and Arthur S. Saha (1977) is a glorious anthology of SF published from the year before containing rousing works by the established masters (Isaac Asimov and Brian W. Aldiss), philosophical gems from New Wave icons (Barrington J. Bayley), and gritty and disturbing commentaries on masculinity by the newer voices (James Tiptree, Jr.). While Richard Cowper and Lester del Rey misfire, the overall quality is high for a large Continue reading Book Review: The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim (1977)