Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. LXIX (Sladek + Reed + McIntyre + Anthony)

Unlike other acquisition posts where I post the most palatable finds from the shelves of a local used book store, this one contains books that I have wanted to own for a long time and finally gave in and bought online — more Kit Reed (after her wonderful collection 1967 Mister Da V. which I recently reviewed), a novel by one of the great (and underread and probably underrated) SF satirists — John T. Sladek — of the 60s/70s, Piers Anthony’s early New Wave experimental work, and Vondra N. McIntrye’s first novel.

A quick non-scientific poll of my fellow reviewers on twitter (if you are so inclined, follow me!) showed that few had read Sladek’s work recently…  Is it time for a mini-Renaissance of his works?

Some fun covers, great authors — these will be read soon….  Unlike the other 300+ works in my too read pile.

1. The Reproductive System (variant title: Mechasm), John T. Sladek (1968)

(Leo and Diane Dillon’s cover for the 1969 edition)

From the inside flap: “This inventive and delightful science fiction adventure is the story of the Reproductive System, a new kind a machine that can feed on any metal and drink at power outlets in order to grow and reproduce itself.  But the System quickly gets out of control, and almost before its creators realize what’s happening the gray boxlike machines are well on their way to conquering and absorbing the entire state of Utah, then the United States, and… tomorrow the world?  Filled with memorable comic characters and featuring a plot that barrels along with the speed of a Marx Brothers movie, Mechasm is both nightmarish and riotously funny.  Either way, it’s a book to remember.”

2. Armed Camps, Kit Reed (1969) (MY REVIEW)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1971 edition)

From the back cover: “A nightmare glimpse of the future — as seen trough the eyes of two people reacting in wildly opposite ways to the violence in and around them.  Anne retreats in an agony of fear to an experimental pacifist commune, Cambria.  Danny is a military specialist in flame-throwers who resolves his crisis of conscience in an orgy of destruction — and, as an example, is perpetually chained on display in a military stockade.”

3. Chthon, Piers Anthony (1967)

(Uncredited cover for the 1972 edition)

From the back cover: “The Lowers Depths.  Aton’s crime was a dreadful one.  He had loved a Minionette.  All the worlds of mankind despised and feared this almost mythical siren.  But no creature anywhere could tell ton why.  In the brutally hot garnet mines of Chthon to which he had been condemned, Aton sought an answer.  And when he could not find it he determined to seek it elsewhere.  He had to escape.  And no man had ever escaped Chthon and lived.  But the mystery of the Minionette had to be solved.  Aton had to have his answer…

Complex, mysterious, mixing startling imager with brutal realism, CTHON is a devastatingly original and brilliant science fiction novel of the new generation of SF authors.”

4. The Exile Waiting, Vondra N. McIntyre (1975)

(Larry Kresek’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the inside flap of the first edition: “Centuries had passed since the Final War devastated Earth and turned its surface into an intolerable radioactive desert.  To survive at all, the only place to live was Center — a huge city built of rock and steel in a vast underground cavern.  One of Center’s most rebellious inhabitants was the mutant inhabitants was the mutant girl Mischa, who had chose a life of crime in order to survive.  She spent her days foraging in the city’s forgotten areas, watching the ships that came from the stars.  Mischa’s one desire was that someday she’d be able to journey outward on one of those beautiful silver vessels and leave her living hell behind.  But for now she must keep her forbidden secret from the world.  If the city’s rulers ever discovered she was different, she’d be banished at once.  Mischa recalled with horror what had happened to the others — those whose physical deformities had become too obvious.  They had been beaten and riven from Center into deep underground tunnels, dark regions both feared and avoided by the city people.  Luckily for Mischa her mutation was not visible — she possessed a rare form of telepathy that enabled her to sense the feelings and emotions of the individuals around her.  Unexpectedly, her talent was put to use with the arrival of a starship captained by a pair of pseudosibs… two laboratory-created twins scientifically linked together by corresponding brain waves.  But their psychic connection as fading rapidly, and Mischa realized she might convince one to help her escape.  But which twin?  A wrong move now could leave her wide open for capture, punishment, even banishment [….]” (I have no clue why the hardback first editions include the entire plot….  I’ll stop here).

19 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. LXIX (Sladek + Reed + McIntyre + Anthony)

  1. I’ll bet the farm that the Chthon cover is by John Holmes, the English surrealist – not the porn star – who was well known for his book and record covers (Germaine Greer’s The Female Eunuch, Ballantine’s Lovecraft series, etc., etc.)

  2. I read Chthon as a kid, I guess 30 years ago, and then again a few years ago; it is a decent adventure story. As a kid I read tons of Piers Anthony because of all the sex, and if memory serves, Chthon is one of the more complex and sophisticated of Anthony’s novels, and has less sex than most.

    I think the sequel to Chthon, Pthor, has a lot of sex; I would be willing to reread it, but haven’t seen it at any libraries or bookstores around here.

    I have a hard cover of McIntyre’s The Exile Waiting on my shelf, haven’t read it yet.

    I have considered reading Sladek, but when I look at his books my spider sense starts tingling, suggesting the book will be a long tedious unfunny satire of our conformist bourgeois society, which is the kind of thing I avoid. Maybe I am wrong.

    • Well, I was interested in “one of the more complex and sophisticated of Anthony’s novels” description 😉

      I have the hardback of McIntrye’s novel as well — but I prefer this edition’s cover.

      Hmm, well, perhaps after I review it in a bit you’ll be intrigued!

      • Piers Anthony has an interesting position in the SF world, in some ways like that of L. Ron Hubbard. His career has been successful from a financial and sales point of view, but many people in the SF community have a passionate hostility to him, because much of his writing is seen as formulaic hackwork and because he, apparently, has some outre opinions.

  3. Joachim, I read THE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM last year, and cannot remember anything about it. I mean ANYTHING. Not a good sign but shouldn`t worry you, although the poster who wrote about his Spidey sense going off about a tedious lecture on how stupid everyone else is and our bourgeois society etc. had me thinking `You might be on to something there.` Whenever a SF novel is called `challenging` it usually means `anyone to the right of Howard Zinn will be offended.` 99% of `challenging` SF never challenges the beliefs of 99% of SF readers, and actually just cheerleads beliefs that audience already holds. But then…I don`t remember a damned thing about the book, so I`ll just shut up. :]

  4. I read The Reproductive System about 15 years ago and it was great, if perhaps not his best (later) work, from what I hear. Very Vonnegutian, which is a good thing in my books. I totally agree with Joachim here about Sladek – he is one of the unsung satirical/New Wave masters of SF and I find it very odd that he has been almost relegated to the scrapheap of history! Perhaps because people nowadays don’t want to hear anything too critical, discursive or serious about modern society (it sure ain’t the politically/culturally motivated 1960’s and 70’s anymore, is it. Everyone just wants pleasurable escapism nowadays. But I can handle both forms of fiction and they don’t seem mutually exclusive to me). I also read Sladek’s collection of short stories Keep the Giraffe Burning and a few other shorts here and there. I don’t understand why people can’t get on with him – I think he is a brilliant, very original and astute writer, from the little I have read of him. I have been meaning to read the two Roderick books, plus The Muller-Fokker Effect and Alien Accounts for years, which I aim to rectify soon. I look forward to hearing what you think about him, Joachim…

    • What is your favorite short story (or novel) of his? I want a copy of Keep the Giraffe Burning and his other story collections but they tend to be rather expensive online…

      But yes, I can’t wait to read this one.

  5. I have only read TRS and a collection of short stories, which I can’t remember off the top of my head (maybe The Steam-Driven Boy and Other Strangers) But it was all very good, and his shorts are superb. He also did a brilliant set of parodies of, and homages to, other excellent writers like Ballard, Dick, Delaney etc. He wrote each one in the style of the particular author and essayed their pet themes, sometimes to hilarious effect. I will try to remember what they are called, as a set of mini-short stories.

    Ah, after a bit of a net search here is the list, and it WAS in the above book (my memory isn’t as bad as I thought it was! Though no Delany there)

    The Parodies
    The Purloined Butter (Edgar Allan Poe)
    Pemberly’s Start-Afresh Calliope (H.G. Wells)
    Ralph 4F (Hugo Gernsback)
    Engineer to the Gods (Robert Heinlein)
    Broot Force (Isaac Asimov)
    Joy Ride (Ray Bradbury)
    The Moon is Sixpence (Arthur C. Clarke)
    Solar Shoe-Salesman (Philip K. Dick)
    One Damned Thing after Another (Cordwainer Smith)
    The Sublimation World (J.G. Ballard)

    Good luck with finding that one. And I hope you enjoy TRS…

    Here is what looks like a good interview with Sladek I just found :


  6. Some great books here Joachim, I’ve picked up quite a few Sladek titles recently after reading The Reproductive System – my copy is the 1970 Mayflower reprint – and I agree that he’s due a little more exposure. Enjoy your reading!

      • I was lucky to stumble across a decent copy earlier in the year at a local bookshop. I’ll not tell you how little I paid for it.

        • Probably a dollar… Well, my local store isn’t that good BUT, I’m heading to Ann Arbor in three weeks — will visit Dawn Treader books, generally considered one of the best used bookstores in the US. Last time I went, 4 years ago, I only bought SF novels from the ‘A’ and ‘B’ section… There were too many to choose from!

          This time only looking for Sladek, Tenn, Merril, Effinger, Priest, McIntyre, Vance, and a few others…. Haha, I doubt I’ll be able to only look for them 😉

          • You wouldn’t be far wrong Joachim – it was priced at £1.50. The bookshops in my home city of Sheffield are usually pretty rubbish so I tend to trawl online most of the time. I recently visited a friend in Scotland who took me to the largest secondhand bookshop North of the border. It’s fair to say I went a little mad! Good luck in Ann Arbor, hopefully we’ll see some of your finds here in due course.

  7. The Mayflower edition is the one I have! Picked up for about 50p in a charity (thrift) shop years ago. It’s an excellent cover – do you know who the artist is?

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