Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXIV (Malzberg + Geston + Anthony + Barjavel)

Part 5 of 5 acquisitions posts covering my haul from Dawn Treader Books in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  I’ve saved some good ones for the end — namely, Mark S. Geston’s Out of the Mouth of the Dragon (1969).  I’ve previously reviewed his first novel — Lords of the Starship (1967) — which was a relentlessly dark vision that showed great promise.  Besides the work of Stanislaw Lem, I know very little about non-English language SF so I snatched up a copy of Rene Barjavel’s Future Times Three (1944).  According to some critics, his treatment of time travel proved profoundly influential.

The other two novels are somewhat bigger risks.  Brian N. Malzberg’s The Empty People (1969), written under his pseudonym K. M. O’Donnell, is one of his first SF novels and supposedly quite average.  And, Piers Anthony’s Macroscope (1969) strikes me as a rather bloated, pseudo-spiritual, New Wave extravaganza (but not in a good way) — we’ll just have to see.


1. Out of the Mouth of the Dragon, Mark S. Geston (1969)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1969 edition)

From the back cover: “Among VanRoark heard the prophet speaking in the marketplace of the decaying city.  Timonias spoke with all the glowing words and crystal clarity of his calling.  And the young man listened and he followed.  The call was to the Meadows, to the Wars, to the Armageddon in which all the forces of God and all the forces of Evil would meet, would clash, would decide the fate of the already doomed world.  There had been other Armageddons, false ones, so Amon believed, in the lifetimes of his father, and his grandfather before him.  But when Amon looked at the ruined world around him, at the lost technologies, the vestiges of dying cultures, the warped rays of the sun, he knew he must answer the call to this last Armageddon, in which Creation would either be renewed or finally be let to end.”

2. Macroscope, Piers Anthony (1969)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From the back cover:  EXISTENCE IS FULL OF A NUMBER OF THINGS… many of them wondrous indeed — and those are the things of this soaring novel.  First among them is the Macroscope — a doorway that leads to all time and all space, and confronts the four who dare enter with challenges mankind has never dreamed of.  Among the things the travelers find is a place so unthinkably distant in space and time that it may in fact be at the other end of the continuum — within us — a place where ancient symbols come to life and battle with the souls of men.  And perhaps most wondrous of all in the crowded, adventurous universe of this novel, a boy become a man; a spirited girl achieves womanhood; a man’s deepest beliefs are vindicated; and a woman finds a purpose in being…”

3. Future Times Three (original title: Le voyageur imprudent), Rene Barjavel (1944)

(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition)

From the back cover: “FUTURE TIMES THREE… A SCIENTIST — who possesses the secret of time, of death, even of life…  A MAN — chosen as the human guinea pig to travel backward and forward through history…  A WOMAN — who plays a terrifying role in the universe that will be… Here is a fantastic journey that takes you from the past to the near-future — then to the year 300,000 A.D…. into a world where a single female creature the size of a mountain, gives birth to all of society!”

4. The Empty People, Brian N. Malzberg (as K. M. O’Donnell), (1969) (MY REVIEW)

Screen shot 2013-10-06 at 10.35.54 AM

(Howard Winter’s cover for the 1969 edition)

From the back cover: “The inner aliens.  First there was Della, the woman who wanted…  love?  She did not — could not — know, for where love should have been was emptiness.  Then came the Poet, who wanted only to please, but did not know how.  His every effort was rejected — but he could not stop trying.  Rogers was the completion, the part above all other parts that made the whole.  And then there was Archer — and the thing in his brain…”

16 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXIV (Malzberg + Geston + Anthony + Barjavel)

  1. “Macroscope”, in my opinion, is an unfortunate product of its time. It’s a sort of hybrid novel, in which Anthony dumps a bunch of New Wave concepts and some uncomfortable sexual tension into a very 1950’s space opera. Some parts of it are very nice, but (again, my opinion) most of it just doesn’t quite work.

    • Macroscope is one of those things I know I read and enjoyed as a kid, but remember nothing about. (It’s not one of the ones with the mantas, is it?) “Space opera with sex” is definitely a sort of book I would have been into in my youth, and today as well, if it was well done.

      In the last year or so I read Anthony’s Chaining the Lady, which you could also describe as space opera with sex and new age silliness, and which I thought would have been OK if it had been a third or so shorter.

      Cthon, which I also read relatively recently, is likely Anthony’s finest work.

      • No, the one with the Mantas is “Omnivore”, which had some interesting concepts, but I felt suffered from the same sort of mismatch between style and content.

        “Macroscope” is the one about the giant orbital telescope that intercepts an alien signal that lets the crew turn it into a kind of teleporting starship thing.

  2. I read Barjavel’s Ashes, Ashes, & found it pretty bad.

    Barjavel apparently thought that modern, technological society was about to collapse under its own weight (not an unreasonable position to take in 1943 France), and so the book ends in what Barjavel clearly thought was utopia: an absurd rural, misogynist, polygamist, dictatorship, ruled by a grouchy patriarch who bans all technology.

    It’s one of those books in which everyone except the protagonist is a faceless moron.

    But I’m still willing to give Barjavel another chance – I’ve got The Ice People sitting on my shelf.

  3. Joachim says, “I’ve found very few works from the 40s satisfying in anyway.”

    This sounds like some kind of challenge!

    Wikipedia has 34 entries in the 1940s Science Fiction novel category. I believe I have read 11 or 12 of them.

    Henry Kuttner’s Dark World. I didn’t like it, but people far more important than me like Roger Zelazny did.

    Moore and Kuttner’s Earth’s Last Citadel. I didn’t think much of this one either.

    Orwell’s 1984. This is a great novel.

    L. Sprague DeCamp’s Queen of Zamba. Mediocre sword and planet kind of thing.

    Burrough’s Synthetic Men of Mars. I love all the Barsoom books (this is the ninth) but apparently this is considered one of the weaker ones.

    Lewis’s That Hideous Strength. I didn’t care for this, but Lewis is of course very popular.

    Frederic Brown’s What Mad Universe. This is very well regarded, and I thought it was not bad, with lots of interesting elements, though the resolution of the story was, for me, a let down.

    Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky, Space Cadet, Red Planet, and Rocket Ship Galileo. All of these are worth reading, though Galileo is the weakest.

    There are several of Smith’s Lensmen books on the list, but I don’t think I’ve read those yet; I think I have just read the earlier ones.

    • I’ve read Heinlein’s Orphans, Space Cadet, and Red Planet. Orphans of the Sky was fine…

      Of course 1984 was brilliant.

      Read all the C. S. Trilogy when I was younger — remember little….

      I want to read What Mad Universe.

      And I’ve read all the Burroughs Mars series — they’re fun pulp, but, his paradigm is from much earlier — as in when the series started in the 1910s….

    • I have to point out that in addition to the excellent novels listed by mporcius, the 1940s was much more an era of magazine fiction, and its output of original novels was comparatively low.

      Some of that can be traced back to wartime paper shortages, but publishers specializing in just genre fiction didn’t really get started until after the War (e.g., after the Depression): pre-War you have Arkham House, post-War you have Gnome, Fantasy Press, Avalon, etc, then Doubleday comes around with the SFBC. Paperbacks literally didn’t exist yet: paper shortages in England saw a rise in softcover novels, and the G.I.s reading those inspired the paperback original publishers of the ’50s (Ace, Bantam, Ballantine, Avon, Fawcett, Dell, et al.)

      Some can be traced back to SF being mired in the pulp ghetto and having yet to escape into “acceptable” forms of media. John Campbell’s break from gee-whiz! Buck Rogers-style adventure only began in 1937-38, so the ’40s were kind of like the genre getting a second set of formative years. (Well, it also got a third round with the New Wave.)

      Anyways, the ’40s has a pretty good selection of short fiction. Not just the big guns (Asimov, Heinlein, Clarke) who I’ve always found hit or miss and indebted to nostalgia. I’d point to Fritz Leiber (Gather, Darkness and Conjure Wife), Ted Sturgeon (Without Sorcery and half of E Pluribus Unicorn), Ray Bradbury (The October Country), van Vogt, Kuttner and Moore, Ed Hamilton (though he was always more of a ’30s author), Leigh Brackett (writing some of her best space opera), Judith Merril, Ward Moore, Frederic Brown, Poul Anderson, Eric Frank Russell, Charles Harness, Stanley Weinbaum, Clifford Simak (City), … et al.

      • Perhaps I spoke too hastily. hehe

        The Judith Merril works I prefer are from the 50s — same with Anderson and Simak (I enjoyed City but think some of his other works are better). Weinbaum doesn’t thrill me, neither does Ed Hamilton. That said, I haven’t read any of Harness’ works yet, not Frederic Brown, nor Ward Moore. The author I dislike the most from the 40s is A. E. Vogt — I find his novels, if you really think about what is happening, near incomprehensible due to inept pacing, poor attention to detail, and the overwhelming desire to imbue his narratives with as many double-crosses as possible.

        • I find van Vogt frustratingly enjoyable; I’ve enjoyed some of his books, but he is a truly awful writer in terms of craft, storytelling, form, content… just awful.

          I think you’d enjoy Ward Moore’s Greener Than You Think. Powers cover to boot. Anderson definitely improved in the ’50s, as did Merril; I’d have to stand by City at this point but I don’t have an exhaustive Simak collection. Brown could be very good, and less rigid than Kuttner, who could had brilliant ideas and put them in workmanlike fiction. Moore was a brilliant stylist and paired well with Kuttner. Bradbury and Sturgeon were amazing writers from the start.

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