Another Michael Bishop novel for my upcoming guest post series (announcement coming soon)! Irresistible after the brilliant Stolen Faces (1977) and his masterpiece A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975)….
The rest are fun but not high on my list of must reads. I’ve never been a fan of A. E. Van Vogt (could not tolerate the inarticulate labyrinth of a novel The World of Null-A) but the Powers cover on The War Against the Rull (1959) was fun.
I’ve heard good things about Edgar Pangborn, although people seldom discuss West of Eden (1953), perhaps with good reason.
Fletcher Pratt’s Invaders from Rigel (1932) is one of those AMAZING covers but incredibly dubious reads. Even the back cover is rather non-sensical.
1. Transfigurations, Michael Bishop (1979) (MY REVIEW)
(Mike Hinge’s cover for the 1979 edition)
From the inside flap: “In 1973 Michael Bishop wrote a stunning novella—“Death and Designation Among the Asadi”—a haunting story of a driven man’s attempt to understand an alien culture and and unparalleled evocation of the very concept of “alienness.” The novella was a Nebula Award finalist. Now, Bishop has extended the story, the alienness, and the compulsion to understand into a compelling, mesmerizing novel—Transfigurations. Six years before the events of this book, Egan Chaney disappeared while studying the Asadi, the native race of the colonized planet BoskVeld. No trace of him was ever found, though searches were made. His assistant at the time, Thomas Benedict, put together his notes and published “Death and Designation Among the Asadi,” a monograph detailing the strange ritual behavior of the hominid aliens. Now Chaney’s daughter, Elegy Cather, has come BoskVeld determined to uncover the truth of her father’s disappearance. She has read the monograph and believes fiercely that she can succeed where others have failed. She brings with her a sad and wonderful creature, a baboon who has been genetically altered to look like an Asadi and have a high level of intelligence. He is to be her bait—her entrée into the silent world of the aliens. Benedict remained on BoskVeld after Chaney’s disappearance and had learned to live with the unanswered questions. But now, despite himself, he finds he is drawn into Elegy’s obsessive need to follow Chaney’s path to a final resolution. Together, they are led into the Asadi rituals and finally, deep into the rain forests of the planet, they find the hidden ancient temple that Chaney wrote of in his notes… and in the temple is revealed the probably truth of the Asadi past, and the horrible fate of Egan Chaney.”
2. West of the Sun, Edgar Pangborn (1953)
(Hoot von Zitzewitz’s cover for the 1966 edition)
From the back cover of a later edition: “THE EXPLORERS. Four men and two women at the end of an eleven year spaceflight to the unknown planet they named Lucifer—looking forward with desperate longing to the completion of their mission and their return to Earth. But when their spacecraft crashed, they became THE COLONISTS—warring fiercely to survive in an untamed world of savage predators and even more deadly humanoids. They needed every last vestige of their skill and sanitary to stay alive… and one of them was made.”
3. The War Against the Rull, A. E. Van Vogt (fix-up novel: 1959)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1962 edition)
From the back cover: “IS THAT A RULL SITTING NEX TO YOU? Now man has conquered all of space and seemingly he is at peace with everyone in it. That is, everything except the Rull. Who and what are the Rulls? They are a race so alien and paranoid that they must have originated in another galaxy. In their true form they resemble some sort of dark, large worm with a variety of appendages. But you almost never see a Rull as he really is. A Rull, you see, can change its outward appearance at will, so that even your closest friend or must trusted colleague may suddenly turn out to be a spy in disguise. IS THAT A RULL SITTING NEXT YOU?”
4. Invaders from Rigel, Fletcher Pratt (1932)
(Uncredited cover for the 1964 edition)
From the back cover: “INVADERS FROM RIGEL. Astronomers had observed the comet for some time, and had predicted its course. It would collide with Earth. There was no hysteria; scientists were apparently convinced that the results wouldn’t be dangerous to life. But Murray Lee woke up with a feeling of overpowering stiffness in every muscle. He turned over in bed and felt his left elbow, which seemed to be achingly particularly—and received the shock of his life. The motion was attended by a creaking clang, and his felt like a complex wheel. Why–he was metal all over!”
11 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. C (Bishop + A. E. Van Vogt + Pangborn + Pratt)”
Transfigurations is outstanding! It’s too bad it doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
Well, I am putting together a Michael Bishop guest post series — I’ll be writing the review for the Transfigurations 🙂
I recommend Bishop’s Stolen Faces (1977) — if there’s any unknown but deserving novels it’s that one.
And the original version of A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire is still his masterpiece in my opinion — obviously, I haven’t read all of his work yet.
(I have reviews of both of those and Beneath the Shattered Moons on my site).
I’ll be looking forward to that series! It’s probably more accurate to say that his novels are under appreciated in general.
Most definitely. Have you read Stolen Faces (1977)? It’s great!
I haven’t read Stolen Faces yet, but I added it to my list after reading your review.
Cool. I look forward to hearing what you think about it!
The stories in _War Against the Rull_ are good, but the original versions are better than the fix up versions. They suffer from the changes introduced to make them a single narrative with a single protagonist.
Yeah, that often happens in fix-up novels unfortunately. You know, I’m sort of in the mood for one of Van Vogt’s famous novels, Slan or The Weapon Makers… Both are on my shelf. Which of the two do you prefer?
….or, should I read a superior author’s work first, such as Lafferty’s Past Master?
I read Transfigurations way back in the late 70’s when I was 13 or 14. I haven’t thought of it in years, but seeing the cover makes me want to reread it. I look forward to your review.
I am currently posting a Guest post series on Bishop’s work! I’ve reviewed Stolen Faces, A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, and And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees and I plan on writing a review of Transfigurations soon. He’s one of my favorites.