Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXIV (Herbert + Tenn + Geston + Cummings)

More from my local dirt cheap book store…

By far most interested in William Tenn’s lone novel (he was predominately a short story writer) Of Men and Monsters (1968) — humans living in the walls, like mice, in the homes of the alien invaders of Earth.  Geston’s novelette The Day Star (1972) should be a fast and fun read — hopefully despite the comment by previous owner of the book who inscribed “TEDIOUS” on the back cover with a ballpoint pen…

Some fun covers.

1. Hellstrom’s Hive, Frank Herbert (1972)


(R. Shore’s cover for the 1975 edition)

Excerpt from the inside flap of the first edition hardback: “In the summer of 1971, Doctor Nils Hellstrom appeared in his own film production, The Hellstrom Chronicle.  The motion picture was a frightening documentary detailing how insects could someday rule the world.  It depicted how even a tiny ant or housefly, undaunted by drought, pollution or radiation, could survive through the most deadly holocaust — when higher forms of life, like man, would wither and perish.  The film was an astounding financial success, earning the doctor quite a large sum of money — money with which to seclude himself on his small stretch of Oregon farm land… money to finance his ultimate production.  That’s when the government began to investigate.  Sending special agent Carlos Depeaux to the scene, authorities discovered the Hellstrom was running a beehive-like commune — populating the well-guarded compound with human insects.  No bug-like in appearance  of course, they still possessed insect powers far outstripping those of mortal men […]”

2. The Day Star, Mark S. Geston (1972)


(George Barr’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From back cover: “Odyssey from futurity.  Once, at the height of Earth’s fabled history, there was a city called Ferrin.  Compared to Ferrin, all the cities of Earth that ever were or ever would be — from Imperial Rome and towering New York before to the city called R afterwards — paled into insignificance.  But in the long twilight centuries that followed the fall of Ferrin memories faded and men’s ambitions waned… and by the time that the young man Thel heard of Ferrin, no one was sure it was anything but a myth.  But part of an abandoned highway still passed near Thel’s home — and when a starry fragment from Ferrin came into Thel’s possession, he knew there could be no rest for him until he had followed the ruined roadway that still spanned time and space to find the truth about the Rise and Fall of Ferrin — and also of all humanity’s hopes.”

3. A Brand New World, Ray Cummings (1928)


(Uncredited cover (Jack Gaughan?) for the the 1964 edition)

From the back cover: “The new planet came out of the infinite deeps of interstellar space, moved in towards the sun like a comet, and stayed — a new member of the Solar System, between Earth and Venus.  Xenephrene it was named and it was made a pretty vision in the evening sky… until other things began to appear in the heavens.  Flying things, strange visitants, mysterious lights — and people knew then that they were no longer alone.  Xenephrene was inhabited  and its inhabitants were discovering the Earth.  But were they coming as friends or as invaders? For trade or for conquest?”

4. Of Men and Monsters, William Tenn (1968) (MY REVIEW)


(Stephen Miller’s cover for the 1968 edition)

No summary blurb on back cover or inside page — from wikipedia: “The storyline introduces giant, technologically superior aliens who have conquered Earth. Humankind survives and even flourishes in a way. Men and women live like mice in burrows in the massive walls of the huge homes of the aliens, scurrying about under their feet, stealing from them.

A complex social and religious order has evolved, with women preserving knowledge and working as healers, while men serve as warriors and thieves. For the aliens, men and women are just a nuisance, neither civilized nor intelligent, and certainly not a worthy adversary. In fact, they are regarded as vermin, to be exterminated. Which, ironically, may just be humankind’s strength and point the way forward.”

24 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXIV (Herbert + Tenn + Geston + Cummings)

  1. By all means read “Of Mice and Men”. I thought it was a great novel, however it does leave many questions unanswered. A shame he did not expand on this unique world he created.

  2. Oops. Meant to say “Of Men and Monsters” course. Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men” was pretty good too. 🙂

    • The Genocides has been on my list for a long long long time…. I’ve never gotten around to reading his work — Camp Concentration is on my shelf….

      Are his short story collections any good?

      • You know, I haven’t read too much Disch, other than “The Genocides,” a PB novelization of Patrick McGoohan’s “The Prisoner” series, “The Brave Little Toaster,” and “The Puppies of Terra,” which I read a long time ago. (“Puppies” had a much better title when it was a novella in “Worlds of If” magazine – “White Fang Goes Dingo.”) What I’ve read I’ve enjoyed. He’s done a lot of SF criticism too that I thought was worthwhile.

  3. Your post and all these comments have inspired me to bring my copy of ‘Men and Monsters’ to read on a 6 hour plane trip. I’ve had it for years but I’ve never read it.

  4. I’m about halfway through rereading Tenn’s novel, and it just occurred to me that it’s kind of a spin on the pulp-era tales of subterranean civilizations (Burroughs’ Pellucidar, Coblentz’s Hidden World, Wyndham’s The Secret People, etc.).

    One thing I’m wondering about (no spoliers here). On page 42 of the 1968 Ballantine edition, Eric, the protagonist, asks himself if there’s anyplace that’s not a burrow, and if the old legends of men living outside the burrows are true, then what did those men live IN? Yet it’s stated several times elsewhere in the first half of the novel that a basic belief of the cult of Ancient Science (in which Eric was raised) is that man will someday defeat the Monsters, and return to the surface of the Earth to live in the open. Now, perhaps someone who’s never experienced being out in the open can’t conceive of it as anything but a different form of being inside something. But then Eric and his people have seen Record Machine videos of ancient surface life. So, it seems to me that Tenn hasn’t handled the mentality of lifelong burrow dwellers with logical consistency. And, if you notice this, it detracts from the world-building he’s done. Not that the book isn’t still a page-turner. It is.

    • I thought the Record Machine videos were more just random ads that wouldn’t necessarily give you much understanding of the outside world? Perhaps I’m mistaken…. I’m about 40 pages from the end — thinking 3.75/5 at the moment. So, I’m having fun but I’m not sure it’s a masterpiece. I preferred Galouye’s The Dark Universe (1961) — subterranean humans who navigate by sound (they are the descendants of people who emerged from underground fallout shelters into caverns — if I remember correctly)….

      • Didn’t at least one of those videos show two aircraft colliding? So Mankind saw the sky. They must have seen it too above and behind the Scattergood shopping center.

        A masterpiece? I’d say no, but still a highly enjoyable adventure story.

        • I’ll have to look at that part closer. But yes, I find the descriptions of experiencing the expanses of the Monster’s burrow rather well done. But, I wish the video had been a little more restrictive — i.e. just random ads (perhaps items behind a store window or something).

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