Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XLII (Malzberg + Roshwald + Clement + Moorcock)

A nice selection of books from my fellow book reviewer at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature and a few from a recent trip to Indianapolis — the fried chicken and waffles at Maxine’s were far superior to their used book stores….

My trilogy of dark/brilliant/disturbed Malzberg novels dealing with the space program, The Falling Astronauts (1971), Revelations (1972), and Beyond Apollo (1972) is now complete!  When I get around to reading The Falling Astronauts I will put together a special post with a series of intriguing space program documents given to me by my fiancé — including a hilarious 1965 publication, The Astronauts & Their Families, where real life astronauts pose with their happy families, play with puppies, teach their children to shoot rifles, pose with their cars, pretend to play at the piano, etc — i.e. the oposite of Malzberg’s vision of the “manliest” of American heroes…

The Moorcock novel, The Ice Schooner (1969) was a rather impulsive buy — I’ve yet to read any of his works, but voyagers to cities wreathed in ice is always a fun trope.

Level 7 (1959) is generally considered a Cold War masterpiece…

Clement’s Through the Eye of the Needle (1978) is the sequel to Needle (magazine 1949) — I’ll probably want to find a copy of the first in the series before I give the sequel a shot….

1. The Falling Astronauts, Barry N. Malzberg (1971) (MY REVIEW)

(Davis Meltzer’s cover for the 1971 edition)

From the back cover: “INSIDE THE SPACE PROGRAM.  Colonel Richard martin had been to the Moon and back, but he would never be sent on a mission again.  Martin had suffered a nervous breakdown while he orbited the Moon, and he couldn’t be trusted to pilot an expensive space capsule anymore.  So now Martin handled public relations for the space program, and after one more Moon launch his connection with the program would be completely ended.  But no one could foresee the strange disaster that would turn the coming space mission into a nightmare that only martin, if anyone, could end…”

2. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959) (MY REVIEW)

(Hoot von Zitzewitz’s cover for the 1959 edition?)

From the back cover: “Officer X-127 is 4000 feet underground.  He is safe from nuclear war… safe from sunshine, blue skies, and love.  His perpetual assignment is the Bomb — to stand guard ready to push the button that will turn the world into a charred ember of smoking death…”

3. Through the Eye of a Needle, Hal Clement (1978)

(H. R. Van Dongen’s cover for the 1978 edition)

From the back cover: “IN SEARCH OF A CURE.  Time was running out for Bob Kinnaird.  Without much warning, the Hunter — the green protoplasmic alien that lived inside him and cured all his ills — had suddenly become his destroyer.  Day by day Bob grew weaker and weaker, but only specialists from the Hunter’s distant world would know what was wrong with him and, more important, how to save him.  But the only way searchers from his planet could find him was to locate his missing spaceship… a spaceship that had crashed beneath the ocean years before, its location still very much a mystery.  Once again leading an investigation in a race against time — as he had done so many years before — the Hunter knew he had to find comrades and find them fast… before someone murdered his best friend.”

4. The Ice Schooner, Michael Moorcock (1966) (MY REVIEW)

(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition)

From the back cover of a different edition: “ICE ODYSSEY.  The world lay frozen under a thousand feet of ice — and only in the Eight Cities of the Matto Grosso did men still live, hunting the wary ice whales for meat and oil, following the creed of the ice Mother which foretold the end of all life in ultimate cold.  But legend told of a city far to the north — fabled New York — whose towers rose above the ice, whose crypts held the forgotten lore that might bring warmth to Earth once again.  And, in the best ice ships in the Eight cities, Kinrad Arflane embarked on the impossible voyage to New York — an odyssey of incredibly peril and adventure… with a shattering discovery at journey’s end.”

23 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XLII (Malzberg + Roshwald + Clement + Moorcock)

  1. Ice Schooner is a pretty good adventure story. Moorcock has revised Ice Schooner, perhaps more than once, so I can’t be sure you will read the version I read. I read an edition with a Boris Vallejo cover in the last year or two, and a hardcover in my youth.

    Falling Astronauts I liked quite a bit; I have the edition pictured here, a pretty cool cover.

    I own Through the Eye of A Needle, the illustrated paperback, but I haven’t read it yet… I think I put it at the bottom of the pile because it is a sequel to a book I lack.

    • What do you think of Moorcock’s works in general? I heard that this was one of his most approachable ones. I have the first edition (I think) but I couldn’t find a good picture. I’ll probably scan in my copy eventually.

      But yes, after Malzberg’s Revelations — which was brilliant and Beyond Apollo, brilliant as well I desperately wanted The Falling Astronauts.

      Yeah, had no idea it was a sequel. Needle was probably at the store but I didn’t realize it at the time… Oops. Bottom of the pile it goes.

      • Moorcock has a vast body of work, and it varies greatly, and opinions about it vary greatly. Some of his novels are hack work pastiches of Edgar Rice Burroughs he wrote in one day to make money, other novels are very conciously literary, sometimes he tries to say something serious about politics or religion, other times he tries to make you laugh, etc.

        One of Moorcock’s characteristic attributes is an effort to be “subversive.” For example, Elric is very conciously the opposite of Conan; Conan is a vigourous barbarian who fights wizards and triumphs over civilization and makes himself king, while Elric is a decadent and sick king and wizard who abandons his throne to become a wandering swordsman. The Dorian Hawkmoon/Castle Brass/Runestaff books have the English as the villains and the Germans as the heroes. In the Corum and Erekose books humanity is the villain and the elf-like people are the victims/heroes. The Oswald Bastable books do the thing the movies Dances with Wolves and Avatar do; the main character is a 19th century white man who over the course of the novel switches sides to help the victims of white imperialism. In the Von Bek books the main character is employed by the Devil, and maybe the Devil isn’t such a bad guy after all.

        All these books I have mentioned can be read as straight Robert Howard/Edgar Rice Burroughs adventure stories, in which people fight with swords, encounter monsters and bizarre weapons, get captured and escape, etc., but the reader can also chose to engage with Moorcock’s (perhaps banal) criticisms of Western religion, racism, imperialism, capitalism, etc. Moorcock is actually pretty good at the sword and sorcery adventure story thing, so if you are into that sort of thing, and can tolerate left-wing politics (or are a committed lefty) then Moorcock is definitely for you.

        I’m less familiar with Moorcock’s more “serious” work. I enjoyed the first three of the “Dancers at the End of Time” books, about decadent immortals in the immeasurably distant future who encounter a 19th century woman. I read the first of the four Colonel Pyat books over 20 years ago, and want to reread it, and maybe read all four. The Pyat books are the story of the first half or so of the 20th century, as told by a self-important, self-aggrandizing, anti-Semitic adventurer. I read some of the Jerry Cornelius stories in my youth, but I didn’t “get” them; Cornelius is a British spy, and these are satires of the Cold War, attacks on the United States for the most part, I seem to recall. I haven’t read Mother London or Behold the Man. I haven’t read Moorcock’s attacks on Tolkien, Heinlein, or H.P. Lovecraft, but I have read about them.

        The Ice Schooner I think is actually a pretty good introduction to Moorcock; I hope you enjoy it.

      • Thanks for the detailed answer!

        I realized later that I have read the first in the Oswald Bastable series. I have the other two in a single volume on my shelf. I was intrigued but not sufficiently blown away to read the two sequels. But yes, I can see where he’s inverting traditional tropes.

        I’m definitely more interested in “serious” sci-fi — I’ve been reading so many snarky satires lately…. haha. And have never been a fan of sword and magic type fantasy/sci-fi…. Or Conan….

    • I was intrigued by your statement so I did a little researching myself. It appears that “Through the Eye of a Needle” is a sequel to “Needle” which, although a juvenile novel directed at a younger crowd, is really one of Clements best novels IMHO. I highly recommend Needle and I’m now going to have to seek out “Eye” myself. Thank.

  2. I like the Ice Schooner cover. That type of abstract seems to be typical of a lot of UK cover art of the 60’s. Nothing wrong with the work of Vallejo, but I think I’d prefer to read the Ice Schooner with the cover you show here!

  3. While the images in The Astronauts & Their Families contrasts with the sexually-charged protagonist in Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo, I bought it for you to illustrate how they’re all playing the parts expected of them. The performance aspect of it is what aligns perfectly with Malzberg’s imprisoned protagonist.

  4. I have read only one Moorcock so far – from the first in the series, The History of the Runestaff : The Jewel in the Skull, and thoroughly enjoyed it. It may not be as radical as his other works, but it is a much darker, nihilstic version of (what I imagine to be) the cloying tweeness of Tolkein etc. Fantasy isn’t my favourite genre, but Moorcock is well known for re-invigorating and subverting it in the 60’s and 70’s (I think he is getting a slightly bad press here – he was revolutionary at the time – not just for his editorship of the radical British SF magazine, New Worlds!).

    I have never read the Jerry Cornelius or Dancers at the End of Time sequences, but I have heard they are totally brilliant. I think you would probably enjoy them, Joachim, going by your tastes. Moorcock – in these works – was also one of the first progenitor’s of the fledgeling Steampunk genre at the time, and especially in the Bastable books.

    The Cornelius novels are well known for playing with gender, sexuality, drugs and socio-politics, at a time in the 60’s and 70’s when it was radical to write about such things. I think they would be classed as Soft, rather than Hard SF. They are also meant to be his most experimental in terms of narrative structure and literary techniques, in the same way that Malzberg and Disch, etc, are.

    My girlfriend recently read Moorcock’s classic Nebula award winning, time travel novel Behold the Man and was blown away by it (she is a big fan of Ballard so I trust her opinion!).

    I have been saving a lot of Moorcock’s novels for later and look forward to reading more!

    • I did read the first in the Bastable series but I was incredibly unimpressed with Warlord of the Air — generally uninterested in steampunk actually 😉 I did enjoy Stephenson’s The Diamond Age — which is neo-cyber steampunk or something I guess — whatever ridiculously silly genre indicator people come up with nowadays. But, eventually I will get to some of his more experimental works because I do love the 60s/70s sci-fi experimentation.

      We’ll see.

      Thanks for the comment!

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