Returning to my old haunt (Texas) conjures the normal quality science fiction haul…. Not the range of Dallas’ spectacular Half Price Books but still a nice selection.
As always, I took a few risks. I know very little about Zenna Henderson’s short stories — and the cover for the 72 edition of Holding Wonder (1971) (below) is atrocious! But she’s generally considered a worthwhile author despite the rather hokey premise of her The People series. I’m most interested in Edgar Pangborn’s A Mirror for Observers (1954) — and I promise not only because of the Richard Powers’ cover. My father disliked Simak’s Our Children’s Children (magazine 1973) so I don’t have high hopes… I’m rather ambivalent towards Simak. I enjoyed City (1954) but would never call it a masterpiece. Cemetery World (1973) was an interesting read but more in concept than delivery. Way Station (1963) didn’t deserve the Hugo award but had its moments… etc.
Michael G. Coney’s The Hero of the Downway (1973) was an impulsive buy. I know very little about the quality of his writing but was persuaded by Josh Kirby’s cover! And underground societies usually hold my interest — even if they don’t achieve the heights of David F. Galouye’s wonderful Dark Universe (1961).
Enjoy the covers! And the back cover blurbs!
1. A Mirror for Observers (1954), Edgar Pangborn
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1958 edition)
From the back cover, “In their attitude towards the Planet Earth, the Martians had long been divided into two camps: the observers, the benevolent ‘meddles’ in human affairs; and the rebellious Abdicators, who sought the Earth’s collapse. But it wasn’t until the extraordinary matter of the Earth-boy, Angelo Pontevecchio, that the enmity between these two factions came to a definite head. It started as a contest of wills, waged between two opposing Martians for the soul of a single human child. And before the end, it threatened all life on both Earth and Mars.”
2. Our Children’s Children (1974), Christopher Simak
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1975 edition)
From the back cover, “They came from 2498… They were our children’s children, and they came one day from nowhere — walking through holes in the air into our world. By means of one-way time tunnels, they fled the ravening beasts with teeth, claws, and tentacles, that reproduced like bacteria and were intelligent. They fled to escape the uncontrollable horror of their own far future, and we, their distant ancestors, housed and fed and comforted them, content in their assurance that the tunnel was securely guarded from the beasts, whatever and whoever they were. And then somebody slipped up and the beasts were abroad…”
3. Holding Wonder (1971), Zenna Henderson
(Uncredited cover for the 1972 edition)
From the back cover, “The believing kind. Here are children who “believe” — but what they believe and how they can realize their beliefs is only half the story… Dismey, for example, believes she’s a magician. Two little boys who teased her can prove it. But they can’t tell — she’s turned them into rocks! And how do you explain an amazing child who believes in attending school — but is hundreds of years old? The explanation is simple… If you believe!”
4. The Hero of the Downways (1973), Michael G. Coney
(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1973 edition)
From the back cover, “Clone me courage! Once there was a Hero who confronted the dreaded Daggertooth and slew it. Unfortunately he was also slain by it — but the legend persisted. If it could be done once, then another Hero could be raised to do it again. Because the Daggertooth was dangerous and to hibernating humanity. All people — all that anyone knew of — lived far underground in tunnels built for saftey and hibernation. The Daggertooth was a mass killer — more so than the hideous Oddlies, the outcasts of the darker tunnels. So this is the story of John-A, the “vatkid” who was trained to be the second Hero. And the story of the “trukid” Shirl who taught John-A what to do. And Threesum, the Oddlies leader, who scoffed at heroes. And the Elders who frowned at all the risky going-on. This is the story of a mighty strange word and a mighty strange future…”