Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXVI (Effinger + Morgan + deFord + Bishop)

A nice haul from the local used book store and various internet sources….  After Effinger’s masterpiece What Entropy Means to Me (1972) I was desperate to get my hands on another one of his novels (or short story collections — Relatives is not supposed to be as good but, perhaps it will prove the critics (well, namely John Clute) wrong.

Miriam Allen deFord was a prolific 50s short story writer.  Xenogenesis (1969) is the only published collection solely of her stories — thankfully it’s graced with a wonderful Richard Powers cover.

Despite the hideous cover, Michael Bishop’s first novel A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975) is generally considered quite good.  I’ve already read and reviewed Dan Morgan’s average but inventive SF thriller Inside (1971) but included it in this post anyway because I had yet to reach my four new acquisitions for a post.

Have you read any of these novels?  If so, what did you think?

1. Relatives, George Alec Effinger (1973)

(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition)

From the inside flap of the first edition: “Ernest Weinraub, Ernst Weinraub, Ernst Weintraub — three slightly different versions of the same name, the same man.  Each incarnation of Weintraub/Winraub inhabits a slightly different versions of our world: Ernest Weinraub lives in a maddening overcrowded New York, in a world ruled by six despotic men; Ernst Weinraub lives in a decadent world in which America has never been colonized, Europe and Asia are crumbling, and Africa has only one populated city; Ernst Weintraub lives in a world in which the Allies lost the First World War.

The single factor unifying these three startling different worlds is Weinraub/Weintraub.  But even he is molded and distorted, it would appear, by the various environments and societies, and his problems seem entirely different in each of the three worlds.  Yet, as the book progresses, both he and the reader learn that neither time nor place matters — every person must sooner or later make certain basic decisions.

Relatives is a novel about personalty, and about duty, chiefly one’s duty to the state.  The Weinraub/Weintraub variations are carefully orchestrated so that each tells the same story while presenting vastly varying reasons for a single outcome.  Once having experienced these three powerful visions of an individual’s interaction with society, one is compelled to consider, and reconsider, the foundations of moral and social responsibility.”

2. Xenogenesis, Miriam Allen deFord (1969) (MY REVIEW)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1969 edition)

From the inside flap: “If anyone had taken the trouble to count the known methods of reproduction that exist on the Earth today, the figure would surely go into at least sever hundreds.  Survival has to be highly adaptive processor benign old Mother Earth kills off the species.  What then of other planets, other stars?  What unimaginable strains, stresses, conditions will produce how many thousand different ways of perpetuating a race?  Miriam Allen deFord here considers a few possibilities — funny, tragic, tender — in every range of human emotion and several unhuman [sic] ones, on Earth and off it.  And always with the vivid sense of joy in living which she brings to all her writing.”

3. Inside, Dan Morgan (1971) (MY REVIEW)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover: “The Strangest Asylum in the Galaxy.  Inside: The Domed City of Mars, a lush, subtropical enclave, controlled by the coldblooded Moule, driven in a fantastical experiment whose implications reach far beyond he comprehension of those who would destroy it.  Inside: The powerful Clyne, recruited to destroy Moule’s control and disrupt the balance of terror.  His love for the beautiful aura at once impels and threatens the heroic task.  Inside: A science fiction adventure filled with hoax and doublecross, blind alleys and sudden, unforeseen acts illuminating a fierce struggle for Earth’s survival.”

4.  A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975) (MY REVIEW)

(Gene Szafran’s hideous cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “THE BEST-LAID PLANS…. of SPACEMEN!  It seemed like a good idea; even a novel experiment.  But the outcome was sheer hell.  When the Balduin brothers escaped from the tedium of the human hive in Atlanta, Georgia, they had a mission.  They were to voyage to the planet Trope.  Contact a tribe there known as the Ouemartsee.  And transport it to a Glaparca for a useful purpose.  But suddenly the Balduin brothers discovered that they were in the slave trade, and that the Ouemartsee had made one of them a god…”

20 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXVI (Effinger + Morgan + deFord + Bishop)

  1. I don’t know “Relatives”, and I’m rather surprised that I don’t–I like Effinger quite a lot.

    I’d recommend “The Nick Of Time”/”Sweet Bird Of Time” (a time travel diptych that can be read in either order) “Death In Florence”, “The Wolves Of Memory” (a painfully poignant novel that I suspect was inspired by his own ongoing medical problems) and his cyberpunk trilogy “When Gravity Fails”, “A Fire In The Sun”, and “The Exile’s Kiss”.

    • Yeah, I’ve heard good things about The Wolves of Memory (you might have recommended it before now that I think about it…). But yes, Relatives seems to be his most seldom read novel despite coming right after What Entropy Means to Me — which was pure genius.

        • Were you the one who recommended that I read Michael G. Coney’s Rax (variant title: Hello Summer, Goodbye)? I’m almost finished, I’ll have a review up soon… I’m enjoying it so far.

          John Clute (the SF critic who runs SF Encyclopedia) claims that Relatives isn’t as good as What Entropy Means to Me because the three parallel worlds don’t tie together (despite having the same character) very well… I will read it soon — perhaps after I finish Rax….

  2. I remember reading Relatives a very long time ago. While not in the same class as Entropy, I seem to remember enjoying it very much. I think it’s a mistake expecting there to be too much tie in between the three stories. They seemed more like three separate stories that were like variations on a theme.

    That Powers cover for Xenogenesis is rather odd. It seems more like a collaboration. The background if definitely by him, but the bit in the middle looks like it could have been done by the Dillons.

    • Good eye. I bet you’re right — the cover is certainly a strange one and as you pointed out I don’t think Powers painted the middle portion.

      Clute’s only critique of Relatives was their lack of “fitting together.” I think they are tied together (from what I have read already) solely by the fact that they are the same person… I mean, it gives a certain glue to the story and forces us to look at the individual decisions we make.

  3. Some intriguing picks! I picked up Xenogenesis, but haven’t read it yet.

    Just visited Eliot’s Bookshop in Toronto today – I saw Nightmare Blue by Effinger and Gardner Dozois, but was hesitant to pick it up, because I don’t know anything about Dozois, but maybe I should go back…

    BTW, if you’re ever in Toronto, Eliot’s is not bad for SF – I found some very nice UK imprints (esp. John Christopher, JG Ballard, Richard Cowper) that I’ve had a hard time finding in the US, because for some reason they were only sold in the UK, Canada, and Australia.

  4. I loved the early stuff by Michael Bishop – Funeral, Catacomb Years and Strange at Ecteban the Trees (I think that was te title, I’m pretty sure that was my favourite among the three) were there ones I read before I lost interest in genre fiction for a while (well, a couple of decades). I remember the novels as being weird in interesting ways and generally very good – I seem to remember they had a bit of a Zelazny feel to them (his writing not quite as brilliant, though) and a melancholy mood, not unlike early George Martin or Michael Coney. Something else I should put on my “stuff I really need to read again” list, I suppse. 😛

    • I was just about to buy Catacomb Years…. But decided to get Strange at Ecteban the Trees (variant title: Beneath the Shattered Moons) instead for whatever reason.

      Heloise, I just reviewed a Coney novel — Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975) — I enjoyed it immensely.

      • Oh lol, I recently bought Beneath the Shattered Moons as an e-book without realizing it was the same as Ecteban. 😛 Guess I know now why I thought the plot summary sounded so unusually appealing…

        And I remember you bought the Coney novel a while back (and saw your comment on this post) but didn’t get around to read the review yet – my blog reading has been a bit sporadic recently, I’m afraid. Will check it out soon, though. I’m glad you liked it, it might quite an impression on me back when I read it. 😉

        • I know! All the variant titles are difficult to keep track of — guess they thought that Strange at Ecteban the Trees was just too unusual of a title. So they had to go with the dullest fantasy-esque title ever, Beneath the Shattered Moons.

  5. Yes, it’s a pity, isn’t it, the original is so lovely (apparently comes from a poem by Andrew Marvell) and (as far as I remember) fits the novel so well. And agreed, the precision with which publishes hone in on the most uniminaginative possible title (or cover, or blurb) the more imaginative the novel itself is sometimes borders on the uncanny.

  6. … or Tiger! Tiger! vs. The Stars My Destination, to name one I always found particularly baffling. Maybe USian editors just don’t like poetry? 😛

    (Also, the Bishop title is not by Marvell but by Archibald MacLeish – that’ll teach me to look stuff up before posting. Well, it was close. Kind of. At least the intials were correct. 😛 )

    • Just reviewed And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees! I enjoyed it… I did find it somewhat underwhelming through — some of the metaphors and allegorical touches were delightful (review is up!)

      • Well, it’s been a really long time since I read it (and I’m talkng shortly after original release here, when it was translated into German – probably 1977/78), so I hope I’ll be excused if my memory is a bit hazy. 😛 I’m glad you mostly enjoyed it, though, But that I at all remember having read and enjoyed the novel after all this time (and a lot of other novels in between) rather speaks in its favour – if not necessarily of its intrinsic qualities then at least of the impact it obviously had. I definitely should read it again, and in the meantime am very curious about your further Bishop reviews.

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