Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XXX (Christopher + Benford + Shaw + Frank + et al.)

My second batch of books from my youthful haunt (Austin, TX) is equally as varied and intriguing as the first.  I’m most interested in Pat Frank’s famous late 50s classic Alas, Babylon. Yes, a sci-fi fan like me should have read it a LONG time ago.  John Christopher’s The Long Winter (1962) should also prove a worthwhile read — an ice age hits Earth and the English main characters flee to Africa.  Shaw’s Orbitsville (1975) is the the vein of Larry Niven’s more famous Ringworld (1970) and Arthur C. Clarke’s classic Rendezvous with Rama (1972) — explorers encountering unusual alien worlds (in this case, a dyson sphere).

As always, a few stunning covers…  My favorite of the bunch is John Schoenherr’s cover for Mark Phillips’ Brain Twister (1962)…

Enjoy!  If you’ve read any of the novels few free to comment.  I’ve not read any of Benford, Frank, Mark Phillips (pseudonym for Laurence Janifer and Randall Garrett) or Platt’s works before.

1. In The Ocean of Night, Gregory Benford (1977)

(Larry Kresek’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover of the 1978 Dell edition, “In the ocean of the night the derelict alien craft was a priceless storehouse of knowledge — and a deadly threat to tens of millions on Earth.  Could astronaut Nigel Walmsley take responsibility for destroying it… or for failing to destroy it?  He chose — and he paid for his choice.  A decade and a half later, intelligent signals came from another invader of the Solar System, and Nigel faced another decision — to share Authority’s paranoid panic.. or to dare to abandon his limits and venture into the ocean of the night…”

2. Orbitsville, Bob Shaw (1975)

(David Schleinkofer’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the inside cover, “Against all the regulations concerning the safety of Starflight commanders, Captain Vance Garamond put himself at the head of a small expedition attempting the enter the unknown area inside the huge sphere.  When they touched down on the surface beside the aperture, he was the first out.  He slid his hand over the edge of the opening and found that its hard rim was only a few centimeters thick.  There was a spongy resistance to the passage of his hand, which told of a force field spanning the entire aperture like a diaphragm, then his gloved fingers gripped something that felt like grass.  He pulled himself through to the inside of the sphere and stood up.  And there — on the edge of a circular lake of stars, suited and armored to withstand the lethal vacuum of space — Garamond had his first look at the green and infinite meadows of Orbitsville.”

3. Alas, Babylon, Pat Frank (1959)

(Uncredited cover for the 1960 edition)

From the back cover of a different edition, “The day after the bomb dropped the thousands of years of “progress” that had covered the treacheries and weaknesses of ordinary man with a thin veneer of civilization were dissolved and melted like snow on the desert’s dusty face.  The law of the jungle reigned but in the wreckage a few courageous survivors, men and women with the guts to have hope, were determined to build a new and better world on the ruins of the old.  This is their story.”

4. Brain Twister, Mark Phillips (i.e. Laurence Janifer and Randall Garrett) (magazine publication, 1959)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1962 edition)

From the back cover, “BRAIN TWISTER.  You can take that two ways…  Meaning either the mind-reading spy who could pick the most vital secrets of the United States out of the brains of the country’s most closely-guarded scientists — OR, Meaning the diabolically complicated puzzle Agent Kenneth Malone faced in tracking down the telepaths who could help him hunt the spy.”

5. The Long Winter, John Christopher (1962) (MY REVIEW)

(Uncredited cover for the 1963 edition)

From the back cover, “THE LONG WINTER is the terrorizing story of what happens when a new Ice Age devastates the Northern Hemisphere, when civilization disappears into a voiceless polar night, when men and women turn into human wolf packs in their agonized struggle for survival… and when the only place left to run is filled with another kind of death.”

6. Planet of the Voles, Charles Platt (1971) (MY REVIEW)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From the back cover, “Their warship destroyed by the hostile Voles, two men emerge from hyperspace on the juble world occupied by these humanoid aliens.  Lost to Earth, they swear revenge on the whole planet.  These two men — one an artist and observer, the other a crude technician — find other humans on the planet, drugged and useless; and an underground movement near starvation and incapable of combat.  Their quest through the quicksands of treachery and deceit comes to an astonishing climax they could never have been prepared for…”

14 Replies to “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XXX (Christopher + Benford + Shaw + Frank + et al.)”

  1. Love the Paul Lehr cover, and Schoenherr’s is great too. Haven’t read any of these myself.

    The cover for the Benford book intrigues me. I’m not a big fan of the execution of the illustration and yet there is something about it that draws me in and makes me want to know more about it. Of course, as is the way with several of these older books, the cover illustration probably has little to do with the story.

    1. Yup, the Lehr and Schoenherr are the most interesting. I should have included the Lehr cover of the edition of The Long Winter I actually acquired. But, you’ll see that one in a few days when I write my review.

  2. Alas, Babylon was good reading, but I don’t remember much about it. Brain Twister is one of the Queen’s Own FBI series… I love the concept, read some of the short story versions, never got to read all the novels.

    I’d buy it for that Schoenherr cover alone. Also, Lehr is good as always, and I’m strangely attracted to to the Long Winter cover’s surreal agony.

    1. Yup, Brain Twister was also nominated for the Hugo — although, I suspect it didn’t deserve too…. I’ll just have to see.

      My edition of The Long Winter is far superior — a Lehr cover. But, yes, there’s something very eery about the white background and the puppet like figures writhing in agony.

    1. You might be write — the husband wife team were inspired by Indonesian puppets and the like, and the image reminds me of them…. Unfortunately, Leo Dillon passed away a few days ago 😦

    1. Some of the books are worth reading as well 😉 If you’re a sci-fi fan. Many of the famous sci-fi artists — Schoenherr, Powers, Whelan, etc have books devoted to their art.

  3. Glad to see you’ve picked up some Platt. The two I’ve read haven’t been spectacular, but they’ve been interesting. Alas, Babylon was a little drawn out but still memorable. I’ve got Orbitsville on my shelves, too, but I chucked In the Ocean of Night as soon as I finished it. It’s crap, crap, crap. Send it to me, I’ll throw it away for you.

    1. I’ve been intrigued by your Platt reviews…. So, I picked up one you didn’t have 🙂 And how could anyone resist that ridiculous title!

      I was suspicious of In the Ocean of Night as well — and the reviews online are pretty terrible. But, it was a dollar at the book store.

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