Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXXV (Fowler + Bishop + Brunner + Blish)

Dallas Part V (and some older finds) (Part IV, Part III, Part II, Part I)!

Love Brunner, want his short stories, enough said….

Also, I have a love hate relationship with Blish (love his “hard” SF and dislike his juveniles of which he wrote a many and often in a “hard” SF series)—The Frozen Year (1957) supposedly is his attempt at a “realistic” SF novel.  I’ll just have to see…  I feel weirdly compelled to read it.

As for the Karen Joy Fowler collection—yes, she wrote in the 80s!—the book sorters at the Half Price Books failed to realized that it was a signed copy!  So for a mere dollar I now have only my second signed SF work after D. G. Compton’s Scudder’s Game (1988).  As people have probably realized, I completely eschew conventions and have little connection with fandom and thus do not go out of my way to procure signed editions…

Michael Bishp=one of my new favorite authors (after reading Beneath the Shattered Moons and A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire).  Hence, Catacomb Years (1979) is a welcome addition to my collection.


1. No Future in It, John Brunner (1962)

(Uncredited cover for the 1965 edition)

From the back cover of a later edition: “What happens when a time-traveler from the future bumps into a medieval wizard?  What do you do when you’re building a satellite in outer space and the corpse of a murdered man keeps getting in your way?  How does a lone man re-seed a dead Earth with human life?  These and other fascinating questions are answered in this challenging and immensely readable book by a gifted young British writers of science fiction and fantasy.”

2. The Frozen Year (variant title: Fallen Star), James Blish (1957)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1957 edition)

From the back cover: “‘I’m Julian Cole.  I’m a science writer.  I’ve read about every theory of history you can name, and only one makes sense; the one which assumes that every historical event is aimed personally at my very own head.’  Sounds paranoid, doesn’t it?  But wait.  Supposed you had the job given to Julian Cole: official historian to a grandstand Arctic explorer who sets off on a disastrously ridiculous expedition to the far North.  Suppose you had to cope with the explorer’s highly pneumatic wife and an assortment of characters one of whom is either a Martian or insane?  And, to cap it all, suppose you held in your hands proof of the biggest science story of the century—and nobody would believe you?  Wouldn’t you feel a little like Julian Cole?”

3. Artificial Things, Karen Joy Fowler (1986)

(Tito Salomoni’s cover for the 1986 edition)

From the inside flap: “‘The Lake Was Filled with Artificial Things’—a moving story of a woman’s attempt to remake her past.  ‘The War of the Roses’—a lyrical tale of courage and resistance in a fantastic future.  ‘The View From Venus’—a tongue-in-cheek study of 20th-century mating habits from an alien perspective.  ‘The Dragon’s Dead’—the powerful account of a magical meeting between a young tomboy and an ancient witch.  In all, thirteen stunning tales that demonstrate Karen Joy Fowler’s extraordinary storytelling gifts and confirm her place as one of America’s finest new writers.”

4. Catacomb Years, Michael Bishop (1979)

(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1979 edition)

From the inside flap: “Michael Bishop, one of the most important science fiction authors of the 1970’s has drawn a single cohesive tale from his famous Future History of Atlanta in the 21st century.  The Future History is one of the unique contributions of the SF field—a chronicle of events over a long period of future time, portraying the possibilities of human society, human technology, and the dreams and aspirations of humanity in a variety of future settings all of which cohere to a central “line of history.”  Robert A. Heinlein, Poul Anderson, James Blish, Frank Herbert, Ray Bradbury and Isaac Asimov are among the SF writers who have used this form with stunning and important effect.  Now Michael Bishop joins these distinguished authors with his Urban Nucleus series, one of the major SF events of the decade.  Complete with a future history chard and linking background material on the continuing progress of humanity in the Urban Nucleus of Atlanta, CATACOMB YEARS is the masterwork of a major talent in Science Fiction.

In the year 2004, after the collapse of the USA, the Domed City of Atlanta forms an Urban Nucleus that is part of the Urban federation of city-states which is trying to preserve civilization.  But the government, once relatively benign, is sliding into dictatorship.  Bizarre cults and sects develop and decay as people respond to the new realities around them.  The Septigamoklans, an experiment in group living and marriage among the aged, are disbanded by the dictator.  The Glissadors, young people employed as messengers who meet for dance and exercise, are exterminated.  Religious fervor becomes intense, and even alien visitors from the stars convert to “Ortho-urban” Christianity.  A rich and detailed panoramic view of the historical process in action, CATACOMB YEARS leads inevitably to the triumphant renaissance of humankind in the new south.”

19 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXXV (Fowler + Bishop + Brunner + Blish)

    • Well the other two I reviewed recently were amazing. Catacomb Years isn’t really a novel — it’s more a series of previously published short stories and a few new ones placed in chronological sequence. More like a collection of similarly themed stories….

  1. I stumbled across the two signed works in my SF collection at library sales where the books went for 25 cents: Gregory Benford’s Timescape and Connie Willis’ Doomsday Book. When you dig around libraries and used bookstores enough, you’re bound to run across a few treasures.

      • You’ve definitely got me beat there!

        I excitedly checked the price of Timescape when I first found it, and quickly had my hopes dashed when I realized it was basically worthless. Benford apparently does a lot of signing. But the book itself was one of my favorite SF reads last year.

  2. I’ve read a lot of Blish, but never that novel – I’ll have to find a copy and Iook forward to your review. His “Case of Conscience” is one of the best SF novels about theology, his “Black Easter / Day After Judgment Day” series was truly bizarre, and his hard-to-find historical novel “Dr. Mirabilis” is excellent.

    (I’m always amazed when dust-jacket blurbs from that era refer to women’s endowments as “pneumatic”…that was truly a weird expression.)

    • Yes, I loved A Case of Conscience — but I read it at least 7 years ago. It is probably in the 5 or 6 SF novels that I really should reread (Stand on Zanzibar, A Case of Conscience, Dhalgren, and a few others…)

      • I think it was supposed to mean that the woman’s breasts were so big they looked like inflated balloons – a very weird image.

        There’s a writer (for the Simpsons, I think) who has a blog which quotes bizarrely sexist blurbs and quotes from 1960s genre fiction and films, that sounds like one of them.

  3. I rather liked the Blish novel. It’s a reasonably realistic piece in tone, about an expedition to (in part) find meteors in the arctic, and as such it’s got kind of a Clarkean motivation behind it. There’s a twist at the end which arguably makes it science fiction, although it’s not oppressive (and it can be rationalized away to make the novel pure contemporary 1957-era fiction).

    But I admit it’s not really a gripping novel. At least, for me, the appeal is the exploration and discovery, and that feels good, but that’s not one that packs emotion.

  4. I can’t stop being impressed by Richard Powers artwork. His style reminds me of the great Charley Harper’s illustrations of roughly the same time period…and come to think of it, the current work of Juan Ortiz.

    • Haha.

      ….in reality I do not own more than 10 or 11 duplicate books 😉 (I have a few Ballard short story collections with Powers covers and then his complete collected shorts in a recent volume and then a few duplicates of Blish etc that my father didn’t know that I owned already but wanted to read himself). But yes, I do find covers irresistible!

      • My sister says the sign of a bibliophile is overpacking a ridiculous number of books (like 10 or 12 for a 2 day trip) because of the fear that at some point, somewhere on the trip you may have some spare time and not have the book you want to read at that particular moment…

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