As always Half Price Bookstore in Northern Austin, TX yielded a wonderful collection of sci-fi paperbacks… I bought Doomsday, 1999 (1962) solely on the cover art — cool looking city exploding… Richard Cowper’s Profundis (1979) on recommendation of my friend 2theD at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature who waxed prophetic (hopefully)/intellectually about to joys of this seldom read author (well, his fantasy at least). I personally, do not have high hopes considering the questionable nature of the back flap blurb. My previous Williamson experiment, Trial of Terra (1962), had promise so I picked up one of his supposedly best works, Bright New Universe (1967). And well, Vance is Vance and thus almost always worth reading….
1. Doomsday, 1999 (variant title: Midge), Paul MacTyre (1962)
(Uncredited cover for the 1963 edition)
From the back cover, “OFFSPRING OF ATOMIC CATASTROPHE. What would happen if man’s mastery of the world was suddenly snatched away by a new and more advanced type of like? This is the startling premise of this unusual novel. It fell to two people to face the news that mankind was about to follow the dinosaurs off the Earth’s stage. One was Angus, veteran of a defeated Western army in a world devastated by atomic warfare. The other was Liu, woman office of a conquering army she already knew was destined for destruction. How these two found the new master species and what they did about it is an exciting and though-provoking science-fiction adventure.”
2. Profundis, Richard Cowper (1979)
(Don Maitz’s cover for the 1981 edition)
From the back cover, “THE HOLOCAUST HAD DESTROYED EVERYTHING BUT THEM! Them was the mighty warship Profundis ad its crew of men and androids. Run by Proteus, a computer of unquestionable intelligence — and questionable judgement, it navigates waters too polluted now for man to ever enter again. The quiet years have made things dull. But Proteus had concocted a scheme doomed to liven things up, a playful passion play starring… Admiral Lord Horatio Prood, the bungling chief commander… Commander Bonze, the high-bosomed director of personeel… Tom Jones, a baby-faced innocent with a special talent for disaster… and Bonnie, Celia, and Margaret, the Three Kinky Kittens, talented sexboats with uninhibiting [sic] charms. And before the play ends, judgment day will come — and go– and mortality will acquire a new meaning aboard the H. M. S Profundis.”
3. Bright New Universe, Jack Williamson (1967) (MY REVIEW)
(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1967 edition)
From the back flap, “Think what it could mean! To prove that we aren’t alone! To find other worlds, other races — older and wiser than we are! Out on the Moon, I hope to find an answer. If we do pick up a signal from space, it will be the great turning point in human history. It will give our lives a meaning.” Yet, to make his worlds good, Ddam Cave had to break from his family and with society, and pit himself against his own world. But once out there on the far side of the Moon, where an isolated band kept pushing Earth’s call letters into the void, the picture changed startlingly, shockingly. For Cave learned the truth that had been held back from a placid world for so long…”
4. Wyst: Alastor 1716, Jack Vance (1978)
(Eric Ladd’s cover for the 1978 edition)
From the back cover, “The trouble with Utopia is people. And this will remain true even in days to come, even in the Alastor Cluster of thirty thousand inhabited planets, whose sole protector of law was the mysterious person known as the Connatic. One the planet Wyst, Number 1716 of the Alastor Cluster, there was such a Utopia, or so it claimed. There in one great city lived millions of people, sharing alike, working in absolute equality for just a few hours a week. But there was something decidedly cockeyed there and the Connatic finally sent a trusted investigator to bring back the facts even at the rist of his life.”
5. Marune: Alastor 933, Jack Vance (1975) (MY REVIEW)
(Darrell Sweet’s cover for the 1975 edition)
From the back cover, “MAN WITH NO PAST. From his fabulous palace on Numenes, the Connatic ruled the sprawling Alastor Cluster… and kept track of the doings of each of his trillion or more subjects. But there was one man he knew nothing about — for the past life of the wanderer called Pardero was a complete mystery. Pardero set himself two goals. Find out who he was… and find his enemy, the person who had stolen his memory. Pyschologists deduced that his home world must be the mysterious Marune… a planet lit by four shifting suns. Pardero made his way there — and was hailed as the Kaiark Efraim, ruler of the shadowed realm. Uncovering his lost identity had been comparatively simple. Finding his sworn enemy would be more difficult.. there were so many people to choose from!”
16 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XXXII (Cowper + Vance + Williamson + MacTyre)”
The three Alastor novels are all fun, though I think the middle one, Marune, the lost memory one, is the weakest of the three. The third, Wyst, the anti-socialist one, is very good, very funny (especially if you are skeptical or hostile to socialism). However, the first Alastor novel, Trullion, is probably my favorite, it is the most moody and cynical, the setting and plot generating a real sense of menace, despair, and decadence.
Do you have to read them in order? I don’t own Trullion yet…
Not at all, there is not even a reason for them to be in the same series…. they are set in different planets in the same star cluster. Each has different protagonists.
Good good good. I plan on reading one of them soon….
Looking forward to hearing your reaction to the Vance novels. He’s one of my favorite writers.
What’s your favorite of his? I’ve reviewed two of his novels on my blog…. By I haven’t read his most famous works yet (The Demon Prince Series, Dying Earth, etc.).
The Demon Princes books are very good (I have reviewed them all on my blog), and I love the Dying Earth books (for very different reasons). The Tschai series is also excellent, as are the Durdane books — I think I probably prefer these series to the Demon Princes books. I would say Dying Earth or Lyonesse are my favorites though.
It’s really, really hard to choose because I have never read a bad Vance story. Some cover the same terrain/themes as certain other books, so some are simply more fleshed out than others, but all are excellent.
I think I’ve asked you the same question before 😉 I haven’t read the Durdane or the Demon Princes or Dying Earth — alas…. But I’m happy there are so many good books out there waiting to be read!
You have a lot of awesome Vance reading ahead of you! (And I often see his stuff in used bookstores, so you shouldn’t have any problems finding it.)
Yup yup, the four I’ve read so far is a good start — I rather come around to the famous works after getting a feel for the author from his/her lesser known works.
I think that’s a very wise approach. It’s amazing how prolific Vance was, and how many of his works have become virtually unknown. Other than the limited edition collections, until very recently a huge amount of his stuff has been long out of print.
Yup yup, I never pay much attention to what’s in print or not — unfortunately, it means I don’t support the authors I like since I buy only the old editions — alas…. Most of them are dead anyway (yikes! I’m in a cynical mood)
Have you had time to read Vance’s “Dodkin’s Job” yet? L-O-V-E it! Might be an easier read in a collection rather than that PDF file 😀
I will I will I will! Especially since I’m in a Vance mood after reading Marune: Alastor 933….
I admit to finding myself rather intrigued by the Cowper, likely precisely because of its questionableness – if it’s not just horrible trash, it might actually turn out to be something unusual and interesting. I have never heard of that author before, but am thinking that I might give him a try…
I do trust 2theD (who made a comment above) — if you haven’t, check out his blog. He has multiple reviews of Cowper’s works.