Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXIII (Simak + Tenn + Clement + Frayn)

A new bookstore in my hometown!  Great results! Dirt cheap (between 1-2 $ a book)!  Happy me!

I finally have a copy of Hal Clement’s hard science fiction masterpiece, Mission of Gravity (1953)…  And a collection of William Tenn’s short stories with a downright gorgeous Powers cover — Tenn is supposedly up there with Sheckley in the satirical pantheon of the 50s… Among others…

Has anyone read Michael Frayn’s A Very Private Live (1968)?  I’ve never heard of it before but the Lehr cover was too amazing to pass up…

1. The Human Angle, William Tenn (1956) (MY REVIEW)


(Robert Powers’ cover for the 1956 edition)

From the inside flap: “WIT: an extra-terrestrial sells pornographic literature from his world on earth. IMAGINATION: A politician seeks complete security  only to find… CHARM: Modern art gets viewed from the future.  IRONY: Just what king of an animal is a human being?”

2. Mission of Gravity, Hal Clement (magazine publication 1953) (MY REVIEW)


(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1959 issue)

From the back cover: “The giant, disk-shaped world of Mesklin was an Earthman’s nightmare — so cold that the seas were liquid methane and the snow frozen ammonia, with crushing gravity of up to 700 times that of Earth.  No human being could explore Mesklin’s surface.  Yet — a desperately needed research rocket was down on Meskin.  Someone had to go after it.  That someone was the strangest explorer ever to appear in science-fiction — the Mesklinite merchant seaman, Barlennan — fifteen inches long, thirty-six legs, weighting hundreds of points.  And, as it turned out, the sharpest trader an Earthman had met.”

3.  A Very Private Life, Michael Frayn (1968)

Screen shot 2013-04-29 at 5.24.08 PM

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1969 edition)

From the back cover:” INSIDE: The inhabitants lived perfectly happy lives in perfectly insulated underground dwellings   They had holovision for amusement and adventure, pills for every kind of emotion, and for sex they just had to turn a dial.  OUTSIDE: Earth was a polluted wilderness of ruins, industrial waste and forests, where half-savage groups lived and roamed, pillaging, killing, raping, and most shocking of all, actually touching.  Then one day a beautiful young Insider named Uncumber dialed a wrong number… and began a voyage of discovery into the horror of the Outside — and into the strange terror of being human…”

4.  Ring Around the Sun, Clifford D. Simak (magazine 1952)

RNGRNDS1959Robert E. Schulz’s cover for the 1959 edition)

My slightly later edition does not have a back cover summary — from wikipedia: “The novel tells the story of an invasion by “aliens” who are actually a secret society of mutant humans from a parallel Earth. They attempt to subvert Earth’s economy by introducing disruptive devices and everlasting goods, such as the so-called Forever Car, and making them available at a ridiculously low price.”

27 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXIII (Simak + Tenn + Clement + Frayn)

  1. Nice finds. I’ve got that Clement cover and was fortunate enough to have him sign it. I love the description of the Simak piece. Underrated writer if you ask me. Can’t say I’m enthused by the description of “A Very Private Life”. Those kinds of stories are a dime a dozen.

    • Mission of Gravity is quintessential hard sci-fi – rigorously defined world that poses problems for the engineer hero, one of the best of that sub-genre from the 50’s.

      It’s taken me awhile to warm up to Simak, but I really liked Ring Around the Sun (much more than City). Like Ray Bradbury’s Martian Chronicles, it has a nostalgic, Americana feel, with a mood that reminds me of Winesburg, Ohio.

      • I’ve only read Clement’s Iceworld — I thought it was fun 50s hard-science fiction but on the silly side…

        Due to Simak’s anti-intellectualism and let’s all return to the farms, release our robots to find their own way, while we secretly reap the benefits of technology stance? I find many of his works downright hypocritical at their conceptual core — again, namely A Choice of Gods. I did enjoy Way Station among others….

      • Ring Around the Sun has the pastoralism, but without much of the anti-intellectualism that turned me off in his other books… it’s definitely much less preachy – a more calm musing on memory and a vanishing rural America.

        Iceworld is silly, but Mission of Gravity is not – I read MoG first, and wasn’t really prepared for the goofiness in Iceworld.

        • I loved the ideas of The Burning but it read more like a polemical brochure than novel — and I have a high tolerance for preachy social science fiction of the 60s 😉

          But yes, Robert Foster has always been one of my favorite sci-fi cover artists.

  2. John Schoenherr indeed did a cover for Mission of Gravity – but not the version shown here (which is by Ed Emshwiller). His was for the Pyramid edition published in August 1969 (T-2063). The Ring Around the Sun cover isn’t his, either – though he did do at least two for Simak (The Trouble with Tycho and Time and Again).

    • After some investigating, I’m pretty sure The Ring Around the Sun Cover is Robert E. Schulz’s work — the same cover appear on an Brackett’s The Big Jump in an Ace double edition with Philip K. Dick’s Solar Lottery.

      • I’ve noticed that the isfdb doesn’t always get things right, attribution-wise. And I’m not up on my SF artists (besides my dad’s work), but Schulz seems like a better bet. Thanks!

      • Yes, well attributions are often hard to make due to the cropping of signatures, lack of attributions on cover flaps (which always baffled me) poor publisher records, etc.

        Thanks again for visiting! I do love your father’s work 🙂

  3. The Tenn is an absolute blast, I actually have two copies of it—that killer Powers cover and one of the later reprints when Ballantine did six volumes of Tenn’s works (I have 5 of the 6, so far it’s all been very good). I have the feeling you’ll like Tenn since you’ve been enjoying Sheckley of late.

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