Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XLVV (Herbert + Anderson + Brackett + Kornbluth)

More Christmas gifts + Winter break used bookstore finds….

Two more Richard Powers covers from the 50s…

A non-Dune Frank Herbert find with a wonderful Vincent Di Fate cover…  I’ve been somewhat ambivalent with Herbert’s non-Dune corpus in the last few years.  A 50s Poul Anderson adventure, a later Leigh Brackett novel, and another scathing satire from the delightful pen of C. M. Kornbluth…

1. The God Makers, Frank Herbert (1972) (MY REVIEW)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1973 edition)

From the back cover: “The Company of gods.  On a planet at the edge of a galaxy ling torn by devastating wars, a man is assigned to monitoring duties — to detect any sign of aggressiveness that might trigger another conflict.  In fulfilling this task, lewis Orne, interplanetary troubleshooter, discovers in himself extrasensory powers of awesome potential.  Because of his powers he is invited to join the company of “gods” and faces complex and perilous rites of passage in deep space.”

2. Brain Wave, Poul Anderson (1953 magazine publication) (MY REVIEW)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1954 edition)

From the back flap of a later edition (same illustration): “Imagine that tomorrow neuronic response is so accelerated than an I.Q. of 500 becomes commonplace, a moron has the thinking capacity of yesterday’s intellectual, and animals begin to pass the lower mental levels of previous humanity […]”

4. The Syndic, C. M. Kornbluth (1953)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1955 edition)

From the back cover: “Tomorrow?  Here is a shocking but realistic picture of America in the twenty-first century — a wild, chaotic America, but a very possible America.  An America where people pay protection instead of taxes — where polo is played in jeeps with 50-caliber machine guns.  An America full of wonders of tomorrow driven by passions that are ageless.”

4. The Starmen of Llyrdis (variant title: The Starmen), Leigh Brackett (magazine 1951)

(Dean Ellis’ cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover: “Outcast in Space.  Michael Trehearne had always been an outcast among his people on Earth.  He knew he was different… but he did not know how or why.  Then one day, on the wind-swept coast of Brittany, a bewitchingly beautiful girl appeared and told him he had the look of the Vardda — those elite star travelers who alone could withstand the rigors of intergalactic flight.  Michael had to join them… had to find his place in the universe at last.  But it would not be easy.  For even when they allowed him to risk his life aboard their ship, to seal his fate upon their planet… even then, they viewed him as an outcast, a dangerous changeling who suddenly threatened them.  He was a man who sooner or later would have to be destroyed!”

19 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XLVV (Herbert + Anderson + Brackett + Kornbluth)

  1. ‘Brain Wave’ is definitely worth your time. It may not be a classic but I found it to be very enjoyable. The one issue I had was that it seemed to be somewhat truncated, maybe to fit in to the 50’s era Ballantine need to have all of their paperbacks to only have 186 or so pages!

    • I dunno what to think of Anderson. His adventures never really rise above pulp despite occasional attempts to engage with social issues — and obviously, due to the nature of his other 50s works I’ve read, this is probably very pulpish….

      I have a later edition with the same cover. I should check if it’s expanded…. although, I doubt it. Works were rarely longer than 186 pages 😉 hehe

      • There were a few subplots that were never resolved, I assumed they were edited for space. I had always wondered why 186 was some kind of magic number, economic and production limits I assume.

  2. Brainwave is not bad. I wouldn’t consider it an adventure, though; it is one of those “how would our society react if this radical change occurred?” stories. I would say it is above average for the Anderson I have read.

    I tend to like Anderson’s plots and attitude, but his writing style is just lame, and he is not very good at creating interesting or likable characters. Too bad his buddy Jack Vance didn’t rub off on him more in the style department.

    I have the edition of Starmen of Llyrdis depicted here, but have not read it yet. I have enjoyed some of Brackett’s stories and I liked The Big Jump, so I expect I will probably like it.

    One of these days I will read a Frank Herbert novel. The one you show here sounds interesting.

    • I couldn’t agree more — Anderson is an awful stylist and never really got any better. But his stories are fun nevertheless.

      I tolerated The Big Jump — Starmen of Llyrdis is a variant title of Starmen from the 50s so it’s probably very similar.

      Ah yes, you dislike Dune 🙂 Right? Well, I’ve read The Green Brain (1966) — awful. The Dosadi Experiment (1977) — ok. The Pandora sequence of novels: Destinaton: Void (1966), The Jesus Incident (1979), The Lazarus Effect (1983), The Ascension Factor (1988) — all are very average, especially the last three written with Bill Ransom. I’ve also read his non sci-fi novel Soul Catcher (1972), which was terrible. In short, all were average to bad. However, I’ve not read The Santaroga Barrier (1968), The Eyes of Heisenberg (1966), The Heaven Makers (1968), and The God Makers (1972) which are all supposedly much much better. We shall see…. Did love Dune (and half of its sequels).

  3. When I read your description on the front page about the Herbert cover I thought, `I bet it`s The God Makers.` That cover is one of the building blocks of my love for SF–COVER ART was the spark for me, moreso than books or even movies. I was 8 in 1973 and that cover really struck me, though it was nearly 40 years before I bought the book itself. The other covers that really hooked me were to Andre Norton`s THE LAST PLANET, the Delany trio of NOVA, DHALGREN and TRITON, a Powers cover for Asimov`s EARTH IS ROOM ENOUGH and the covers for the Blish STAR TREK adaptations [and I don`t even care much for Trek, but the covers are beautifully evocative]. So glad to see others appreciate the great cover art that roped me in. [My proudest moment in my limited story sales was a full page illo for my favorite story in City Slab magazine.] Keep up the good work.

  4. I have a couple collections of Difate`s art, and the funny thing is that other than a few early 70s covers that blew my widdle mind, I really didn`t like his style–I thought his spaceships looked like unpainted plastic models. It took me a long [long…loooong] time but I do enjoy and appreciate his work now. I hated Powers and Lehr covers as a kid, but love them as an adult. Sorry for getting so far OT. I actually appreciate Herbert`s aims more than I enjoy his fiction. I struggled through Destination:Void and the one about the matter transfer machine–his style is exactly what SF haters say all SF is like. [I agree with your assessment of Anderson, btw.] I go through phases with SF, but my perrenial favorites are the flashier 60s-70s stylists–Zelazny, Delany, Wolfe, Ellison. Herbert makes me feel like I`m working. Yet his concerns–religion as manipulating force, politics, environment–are the most interesting of all, to me. A conundrum! But the Schoenherr art is beautiful.

    • I like his more collage focused works. But yeah, his spaceships are rather silly.

      I actually haven’t read Wolfe or Ellison. But I love Delany and Zelazny…. Especially Nova and This Immortal.

      My favorite authors are definitely from the 60s/70s — including, John Brunner (Stand on Zanzibar, 1968 is my all time favorite sci-fi novel), Brian N. Malzberg, D. G. Compton (The Unsleeping Eye, Synthajoy, and Farewell, Earth’s Bliss), Silverberg, and Ballard… And countless others….

  5. It`s interesting–maybe worth an essay by someone with some literary cred, not me–to see folks whose current favorite sf writers are from the 60s and 70s. I go to the sf department in the book store and it is a depressing trip.I prefer the writers of the 60s and 70s, not for the `New Wave` gimmicks but for the interest in social issues and humanism.Politically I am a mix but lean a little to the right, yet am in social services, and I just don`t give a damn about sf books that read like disguised Star Trek. Silverberg [who is also politically somewhat conservative, or Libertarian] is my model, he managed that blend of literary sophistication, good storytelling, and `sense of wonder`. I strongly recommend his BOOK OF SKULLS, but pretty much anything from his late 60s-mid-70s period is worthwhile.

  6. That`s interesting; I never thought of Silverberg as sexist so much as clueless about women in terms of his writing–I can`t think of a decent female character he`s ever come up with. Not disagreeing with you, just never thought of it that way. Many writers have gender blind spots. Someone like Larry McMurtry writes women well because he writes all of his characters with great feeling–his jerks are real jerks, his noble women are very noble and so on. Silverberg`s characters come alive when he`s really invested in the theme, and he isn`t alone in being an SF writer who doesn`t write women.

    • In Silverberg’s work women are mostly described purely as sexualized objects… Little more. Often he tries to make a more interesting character but ends up simply constructing a strange male fantasy of incestuous/nubile/I’ll sleep with anyone and everyone teens a la To Live Again (review: https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/book-review-to-live-again-robert-silverberg-1969/) I find him to be one of the worst of the 60s/early 70s when it comes to female characters….

      D. G. Compton is probably one of the best when it comes to female characters — he even has a 40 odd year old female author as the main character in The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (The Unsleeping Eye in the US).

      What I wrote about Silverberg’s female character in his masterpiece Downward to the Earth (1970)…

      “However, the work falters somewhat when Silverberg’s a “woman deters you from your quest and has a pair of breasts” mentality (momentarily) kicks in. I swear that every other sentence relating to the one female character (who only appears in a chapter or so) describes her breasts…. Or her scandalous revealing clothes… Or her nakedness… Or her wailing about the dangers of the journey…. And then she exits the narrative, thankfully… ”


      Many authors improved their portrayals in the 60s — Silverberg, at least in the works I’ve read, never does so… But yes, these types of portrayals are relatively common in older science fiction. However, some authors are much less egregious than Silverberg. He is still one of my favorite authors but I am often repulsed by his sexism.

  7. My answer was probably in my previous thought, meaning that Silverberg doesn`t have enough interest in women as human beings to write about them as characters. My own blind spot there, I suppose. I found Delany refreshing as a teen because his women were portrayed not as evil monsters or untouchable angels but as people who were after the same things men were after–the revelation was of their humanity, not their superhumanity. DHALGREN gets a lot of knocks for various reasons but I don`t think it got the credit for the sheer range of women it portrayed, from suburban cliche Republican mom to lesbian gang member to commune-living hippie chick. There is nothing in Silverberg to match it. See, this is why you`re a good critic, I wasn`t even thinking about women as portrayed in Silverberg`s books, now I`ve been thinking about the topic off and on since yesterday.

    • Well, I’ve also been an Assistant Instructor for an American Sexual Histories class (I’m a PhD history student) before and was surrounded by English major friends who were interested in the field of gender and sexuality so I tend to look for these things etc.

      But yes, once you think about his portrayals you’ll be infuriated. They almost NEVER deviate from the pattern….

  8. In the case of Thorns etc., for me the female characters just didn`t leave an impression. I can`t analyze why this is, a flaw in Silverberg, a flaw in myself, who knows, but I never thought of it until you pointed it out. That`s what`s valuable to me, so…thanks! I still like RS and each writer`s specific defects will stick in each reader`s craw or not. For me he was the writer who wrote about certain issues in a sf frame, and they were new to me. I do find it notable that while I can recall many books I read back then with fondness, Silverberg`s are actually enjoyable books if I pick them up and read them NOW.

    • You’re welcome. Silverberg is definitely still enjoyable. I adore The World Inside… And Hawksbill Station…

      A have a pile waiting to be read — Tower of Glass, A Time of Changes, The Second Trip, To Open the Sky, The Stochastic Man….

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