Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXX (Lafferty, Sheckley, Lightner, Ball)

There is no better book store for used SF in the US (that I have been to) than Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan….  Thankfully, I made the pilgrimage for an altogether different purpose — I delivered a paper at a conference at the University of Michigan — but couldn’t help but spend a while amongst the heavenly stacks (well for a SF fanatic).  This is part 1 of 5 acquisition posts which will showcase the bounty I procured.  And there were probably close to 80 other books I wanted.  Alas.

So, what have we here?  One of Lafferty’s most famous novels — nebula nominated Fourth Mansions (1969).  I’ve only read his shorter work so I’ll be devouring this one soon. More Sheckley for one can never have enough of his biting, wonderful, and hilariously satirical short stories.  A straight-forward space opera by Brian N. Ball (yes, I know, not normally my cup of tea) on recommendation from Mike at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature… And a somewhat more risky purchase, A. M. Lightner’s The Day of the Drones (1969) — this work of social SF is supposedly her most mature work (she tended to write for the young adult audience) but it was still edited for publication to be suitable for younger readers.  Despite the socially relevant theme, I suspect it will come off as rather corny/undeveloped.

1. Fourth Mansions, R. A. Lafferty (1969)

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

From the inside flap: “Seven very special people blending to create a higher form of humanity; A laughing man living alone on a mountaintop guarding the world; The returnees, men who live again and again century after century; A dog-ape plappergeist who can be seen only from the corner of the eye; — And a young man named Foley, very much like you or me, who begins to find out about these people and these things, and how they are shaping the destiny of the world….”

2. Singularity Station, Brian N. Ball (1973) (MY REVIEW)

(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1973 edition)

From the back cover: “Border post of eternity.  Robotic minds made interstellar travel possible, but human mind still controlled the destination and purpose of such flight.  Conflict develops only when a programmed brain cannot evaluate beyond what is visible and substantial, whereas the human mind is capable of infinite imagination — including that which is unreal.  Such was the problem at the singularity in space in which the ALTAIR STAR and a hundred other vessels had come to grief.  At that spot, natural laws seems subverted — and some other universe’s rules impinged.  For Buchanan, the station meant a chance to observe and maybe rescue his lost vessel.  For the robot navigators of oncoming spaceships, the meaning was different.  And at Singularity Station the only inevitable was conflict.”

3. Citizen in Space, Robert Sheckley (1955)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1962 edition)

No summary on back cover or inside flap.  This collection contains 12 stories by one of my favorite 50s-70s authors who excelled at the short form and as a result has unfortunately been somewhat forgotten.

4. The Day of the Drones, A. M. Lightner

Screen shot 2013-09-22 at 10.47.38 AM(Gene Szasfran’s cover for the 1970 edition)

From the back cover: “Possible? Probable? Predictable?  For Amhara’s people, black is beautiful and white is taboo.  In Evan’s primitive, superstition-ridden white world, people live like bees, and he is a drone.  Their defiant romance forces them to flee for their lives, in a world where England is leveled and radioactive and Africa alone holds the promise of continued civilization.  A thrilling, exciting adventure of the future.”

19 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXX (Lafferty, Sheckley, Lightner, Ball)

  1. I haven’t been to Dawn Treader. Have you been to Uncle Hugo’s in Minneapolis? I thought they had a pretty impressive selection the one time I made it there.

  2. Dawn Treader is one of the best book stores, period. There’s a number of good used book stores in the Metro area, but aside from John King Books there’s really nothing that matches Dawn Treader for selection, especially rare and vintage. My only problem is their wares tend to be expensive, I’m too used to library sales I guess.

    I can also vouch for Singularity Station, very impressive for an unknown author—it’s similar to C.J. Cherryh in that it’s space opera with a brain. Citizen in Space is amazing, I’ve been picking at it off and on for a while now and it’s a worthy purchase. Looking forward to your review of the Lafferty.

  3. Yes, Leo and Diane Dillon are awesome. On My list of favorite SF cover artists. I really love the “broken pieces” mosaic style they do that has graced many covers like Brunner’s Jagged Orbit or Ellison’s Aproaching Oblivion, just to name a few. I really want a copy of L & D’s cover that was done for The Left Hand of Darkness (I own the “Ice Heads” looking one). btw, I own the Fourth Mansions one and Szasfran’s (another favorite) Day of the Drones. …..just too cool for school!

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