Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XIV

Over the last months I’ve restrained myself from impulsive science fiction purchases considering the massive pile of books I still need to read — however, a stop at Half-Price books while visiting my nostalgic onetime home of Austin, TX was too good to pass up.

And lo and behold, I procured a first edition Philip K. Dick novel with a gorgeous Jerome Podwil cover, an underrated novel by James White, one future pastoral vision by Simak, and a collection of short stories (Malzberg, Herbert, Lafferty, Silverberg, Scortia, Ellison) edited by Elwood about future metropolises — a wonderful edition to my collection considering the plethora of sci-fi city related cover art posts I’ve written as of late (Elevated Cities Part I, Part II, Richard Power’s Surrealistic Cityscapes).


1. The Crack in Space (1966), Philip K. Dick

(Jerome Podwil’s cover for the 1966 edition)

One of the few PKD novels I’ve not yet read — I own close to 25 or so already!  I’m extremely excited that I found a first edition in pretty good condition.

From the back cover, “In the Year 2080 every crisis of a couple of centuries had come to maturity.  It was an election year, and Him Briskin, candidate for President, was trying to solve the unsolvable and appease the unappeasable.  There were tens of millions of people in deep-freeze waiting for better times — and the pressure was on to wale them up or throw them away.  The jiffi-scuttlers which bypassed space to speed travel were breaking down and someone had to find out why fast.  And the racial problem had reached the point where a colored man now seemed likely to be the next chief executive.  Add to that breakthrough into another sort of space and contact with a long-forgotten ancestral race… and you have a complex, taut, and tremendously exciting science-fiction novel as only Philip K. Dick can write.”

2. The Watch Below (1966), James White (MY REVIEW)

(Uncredited cover for the 1966 edition)

James White is one of those middling to good authors (known for the Sector General series of stories and novels) I’ve not yet read.  This is considered one of his underrated novels.

From the back cover, “Somehow they had to find a way… Doc Redford, the Exec, Wallis, and First Officer Dickson, together with two badly injured and hysterical nurses.  They were stuck.  In the pitch dark, bleak cold of a hull equipped with oxygen tanks and stored food.  And nothing else.  Under several fathoms of water.  Somehow they had to find a way to stay sane long enough to make a new home.  And billions of miles out in space there were aliens — water breathers whose own world was gone forever in gusts of titanic heart.  They too had to find a way — a way to survive for generations, long enough to find a new home…  Aliens and humans alike had the same problem.  This is how they met it.”

3. Future City (1973), ed. Roger Elwood (MY REVIEW)

(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition)

I’ve almost finished this collection already — some of the stories are high caliber others dismal failures.  However, it’s completely worth finding if you’re interested in future Earth cities and all the problems they entail.

From the back cover, “In all its excitement, wonder and terror, the city stands as a symbol of Man’s glory – and of Man’s self-destructiveness.  It has survived centuries of pollution, overcrowding and violence.  They very concept of civilization is inseparable from it: as the city goes, so goes mankind.  In this unique anthology of new short stories, twenty-two leading science-fiction writers put forward their compelling, shocking views of urband live in centuries to come.”

4. A Choice of Gods (1972), Clifford D. Simak

(Michael Hinge’s cover for the 1972 edition)

Clifford Simak has always been one of my favorite authors because of his non-traditional pastoral vision of the future.  Future earths depopulated, covered with new forests, inhabited by rural individuals and their robots — A Choice of Gods was nominated for the Hugo for Best novel and is high on my to read list.

From the back cover, “One day mankind disappeared… A few human beings were left on the deserted earth, along with numerous robots.  The human beings — including a small tribe of American Indians — made do.  The Indians returned to ancient tribal ways; the others stubbornly tried to rebuilt technology.  The robots — some stayed with the humans performing their service functions, some went off to create a religiously-based society of their own.  Millennia later, a star-traveler returns from the center of the universe.  The people of earth had been found and were planning to return.  But something else had been found, too — the central intelligence of the universe!”

18 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XIV

  1. I’m really enjoying the science fiction cover art posts…

    I haven’t read that PK Dick either — nice find! (He wrote a fair number, and some were much better than others…): were all his book covers like that back then?

    And I haven’t seen Clifford D. Simak’s stuff for years! I remember his short stories: I particularly recall Drop Dead (in a collection — A Science Fiction Bestiary —edited by Robert Silverberg); and, of course, the classic The Big Front Yard (also in a Silverberg collection: The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, vol. 1).

    • Thanks!

      The quality of cover art is all over the place just as it is now — not all of the early editions of his works have nice covers.

      Yeah, I’ve read quite a few of Simak’s works — they are generally quite good.

  2. The Dick book is one I’m not familier with. Sounds interesting, though.

    Elwood’s anthologies were always a bit of hit and miss. He was able to buy stories from many of the greats, although not all of them produced great stories for him.

    I love Michael Hinge’s art. He did a lot of magazine illustrations in the 1970s and was nominated for the Hugo Award.

    • This is supposedly one of the better Elwood collections — the authors selected aren’t always that into the topic — sadly. But the Silverberg, Malzberg (under a moniker), Lafferty entries have been pretty good so far — I’m almost finished, I’ll have a review up in the next few days.

  3. I’m looking forward to your review of Future City; I have the Pocket Books edition with the sinister and wacky Michael Gross cover, but have only read a few of the stories in it. I just read the one under Malzberg’s real name this month, as well as Disch’s poem. I read the Silverberg and the Ellison years ago, along with Simak’s Foreword, in which Simak (as I remember it) denigrates cities and hopes they will soon be extinct.

    Maybe I’ll read a few stories from Future City tonight and see how our views jive when you publish your review.

    My edition of Choice of Gods has the Paul Lehr cover. I have to admit I prefer the Lehr over the Hinge roller disco cover.

    • I hated Malzberg’s entry while the one under his moniker K. M. O’Donnell was quite interesting — filming a reenactment of the Kennedy assassination.

      I have 50 pages left so It’ll be up soon.

      My copy has the Paul Lehr cover for the Simak novel as well — but, I couldn’t find an image of high enough quality online. I’ll take a picture of mine eventually and use it when I write a review. But I agree, I’m also not a fan of Hinge’s work.

      • Hehe, I’m not interested in Kennedy stuff either — it’s more about the reenactment of important historical events by an “outsider” with “natives” who aren’t really “natives” — it’s downright strange.

        I just submitted my review of the entire collection.

        There’s another story under another Malzberg moniker in there as well — Revolution — I really liked it! It was republished in his best of volumes.

  4. Hope you like The Watch Below– I’ve mention it nearly every time I review a James White book (BTW, it’s the “Sector General” series). With the exception of Dick, one another I don’t read, it looks like a slim but choice selection.

    • I have read probably 2/3rds of his work (short stories, novels, etc). But, some of his earlier stuff is missing from my read pile — for example, I haven’t read his first novel, The Solar Lottery — and this one… etc.

      I really enjoy even his average works…

        • What’s your favorite? I think my favorite novel is Martian Time-Slip — and then, well, I think the themes explored in Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? make that novel a rightfully considered classic. My favorite short story is Impostor, downright harrowing and disturbed (don’t watch the horrid film version with Gary Sinise)!

  5. UBIK and Electric Sheep for novels. For shorts… Impostor was great, no doubt. I remember liking The Electric Ant and We Can Remember It For You Wholesale. The first PKD story I read was The Second Variety, which has stuck with me since.

    • I enjoyed that one as well — have you read PKD’s very early story ‘The Preserving Machine’ (1953)? It’s about a machine in which one inserts sheet music and out comes strange insects and creatures — a man invents the machine after having a dream about sheet music in the forms of animals escaping from the bombs… A poignant and bizarre short story — from the get go his work was brilliant and completely different than the average 50s fare!

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