Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XXIII (Farmer, Malzberg + et al.)

A while back I slogged through Philip José Farmer’s dismal To Your Scattered Bodies Go (1971) (the worst novel ever to win the Hugo Award?) and all the increasingly terrible sequels and made a solemn vow to wait a few years before I returned to his extensive oeuvre — so, against my better judgement I picked up a copy of  Traitor to the Living (1973).  I don’t have high hopes (but I love the cover!).  I hope my two dollars were well spent.

Malzberg is shaping into my “under read/unjustly forgotten author of the year” whom I’ll showcase.  Last year’s winner was the brilliant D. G. Compton (see INDEX for reviews).  Fresh off Conversations (1975) and In The Enclosure (1973) I picked up a copy of Guernica Night (1975).  I can’t wait!

Harold Mead’s The Bright Phoenix (1955) is yet another against the oppressive state à la Orwell’s 1984… But, I’ve found that the premise generally holds up despite frequent re-interpretations…

Greenfield’s Waters of Death (1967) should be avoided — at all cost.  I’ve already written a scathing review (rant).

1. Traitor to the Living (1973), Philip José Farmer (MY REVIEW)

(Hans Ulrich Osterwalder and Ute Osterwalder’s cover for the 1973 edition)

From the back cover, “Medium… A heartwarming machine — designed to provide a connection with the dead.  Now all the world could reach their loved ones — at a prise.  Anything that emotionally loaded and carrying that kind of price tac could be a powerful weapon.  But no one, not even the inventor, could guess at how terrible that price might become.”

2. Guernica Night (1975), Barry N. Malzberg (MY REVIEW)

(Fred Samperi’s cover for the 1975 edition)

From the inside flap, “A rash of suicides has sent shock waves through a tightly organized society that officially frowns on such an act but privately makes it unavoidable.  How else could people endure in a world carefully calculated to rob its citizens of self-respect and dignity?  One man struggles against the overpowering temptation to take his own life, because he realizes that he must survive or else give the strange unseen rulers final victory.  The characters in this extraordinary novel of the future share a host of psychiatric disturbances.  One is haunted by strange visions in the night; another can reach sexual climax only in the confines of an old jalopy; others share schizophrenic fantasies that give frightening insight into the nature of their anguish.”

3. The Bright Phoenix (1955), Harold Mead

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1956 edition)

From the back flap, “[The] Bright Phoenix is the story of a “perfect” state, founded on worship of the spirit of Man and dedicated to the mission of resettling the devastated areas of the world.  Officers, Workers, Colonists — everyone believed in the State.  Everyone but one man.  This is his story — of the Colony he led to the Island… of the primitive race he found there… and of the desperate plan to escape from a Utopia that had become a living hell.”

4. Waters of Death (1967), Irving A. Greenfield (MY REVIEW)

(Hoot von Zitzewitz’s cover for the 1967 edition)

From the back cover, “The Menace Below… The year was 2160 and a century-old threat to man’s survival was, finally, a nightmare of the past.  Rising to the challenge of Earth’s population explosion, science had developed vast undersea farms to produce food for teeming billions.  No one need starve; peace and plenty awaited all.  Or so it was thought.  One day Dr. Robert Wilde was brought to the Institute of Oceanography and confronted with the new nightmare on man’s horizon.  Starvation, in its wake war, the end of civilization, cannibalistic orgies… Only Dr. Robert Wilde could avert the planet’s destruction.  Because no one knew the seas as well as he — and the seas were dying…”

10 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XXIII (Farmer, Malzberg + et al.)”

  1. Farmer is generally pretty weak, and I think To Your Scattered Bodies Go is probably his best work. I haven’t read Traitor to the Living, though.

    To Your Scattered Bodies Go is definitely very silly (it’s an embarrassing wish fulfillment fantasy; immortality and free love, free booze, and free weed!), but the premise is novel, and it is an OK adventure story, if you are into those traditional adventure stories in which people run around fighting with swords and getting captured and escaping. Of course, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Howard, Jack Vance, Michael Moorcock, and probably a dozen other people do those kinds of adventures better than Farmer.

    Have you read any of the other 1972 Nugo nominees for best Novel? Here is the list; I actually have not read any of them.

    To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip José Farmer [Putnam, 1971]
    The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin [Amazing Mar,May 1971; Scribner’s, 1971]
    Dragonquest by Anne McCaffrey [Ballantine, 1971]
    Jack of Shadows by Roger Zelazny [F&SF Jul,Aug 1971; Walker, 1971]
    A Time of Changes by Robert Silverberg [Galaxy Mar,Apr,May/Jun 1971; Signet, 1971]

  2. Yes, I’ve read The Lathe of Heaven (pretty good), Dragonquest (I loved these books when I was a kid — definitely young adult), Jack of Shadows (don’t remember much of this one) — and, A Time of Changes is in my to read pile. I suspect Silverberg’s is the best Hugo fodder of the bunch.

    If To Your Scattered Bodies go is his best work than I’m in some trouble — I vehemently hated that book. The restrictive world (the cliffs, the river, some hills, some more reeds, a few more hillocks, etc) the endless uninteresting/interchangeable people they meet, alas…

  3. Going to try Farmer again? You’re a braver man than I, Gunga Din! At least the cover is pretty cool.

    Did Richard Powers ever do a bad cover? I’ve yet to see one that I haven’t immediately wanted to buy.

    1. I’m generally rather brave when it comes to sci-fi — I have a high tolerance for crud because I can rant about it later (as long as it comes from the 40s/50s/60s/70s… hehe.

      A bad powers cover, hmm… I disliked his cover for Kate Wilhelm’s The Mile-Long Spaceship.

      The brown specks look like mildew and I was just about to write a really mean review for the amazon seller whom I bought it from before I realized that it was part of the painting….

      But yes, his work is remarkably consistant and by far my favorite sci-fi artist.

  4. I agree that To Your Scattered Bodies Go is probably Farmer’s best (maybe some of the World of Tiers stuff, I don’t recall so well now). If you didn’t like that, and I doubt I would today, trying more Farmer is indeed brave.

    Good luck!

    Otherwise, I’ll be interested to read your thoughts on the Malzberg. He’s not an author I know particularly.

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