Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CII (Disch 2xs + Anderson + Pollack)

My fiancé picked these up for me as she perambulated through Dallas, TX—the birthplace of Half Price Books.  And, easily the best one in the country.

Two more Disch novels to add to my collection (I only owned Camp Concentration).  The cover and cover blurb for On Wings of Song (1979) is terrifyingly bad—the contents are supposedly magisterial.

I have no idea if Rachel Pollack’s Golden Vanity (1980) will be any good—looks like average space opera.

And, who can resist Poul Anderson?


1. Echo Round His Bones, Thomas M. Disch (1966)


(Uncredited cover for the 1967 edition)

From the back cover: “It all began when Captain Nathan Hansard of “A” Artillery Company of Camp Jackson/Mars Command Post went to Mars.  The message he was sent there to deliver made him wish he were dead — in only six weeks’ time the total nuclear arsenal of Camp Jackson/Mars was to be released upon the enemy.  Something had to be done and fast.  Captain Hansard left for Earth via the instantaneous transmitter of matter, hoping to arrive immediately.  But when he sank into the manmitter’s once solid steel floor, he realized that he was a ghost.  Only he did not remember dying… Well then, it was as  a ghost that he would have to try and save mankind from atomic destruction…  Here is an unusual—and ingenious—SF novel by one of the most talented and popular science fiction writers of our day.”

2. Golden Vanity, Rachel Pollack (1980)


(Dan Long’s cover for the 1980 edition)

From the back cover: “Earth was finally entering the galaxy…  The “Alies” [sic — Allies?] had arrived, sweeping down from the stars to offer a jaded Earth the marvels of the cosmos.  And Earth had gone crazy.  Farmers sat back to wait for Vita Flakes to fall from the sky.  New York City drank itself into a permanent starstruck stupor.  Blissed-out teenagers wandered into the Great Mexican Defoliation Desert to wait for the New Gods to bear them off to the astral plane…  But the “Alies” weren’t in the business of trading something for nothing.  This impertinent little marketworld might fetch a nice price on the interstellar auction block… particularly if a runaway wondergirl named Golden Vanity was tossed into the bargain!”

3. The Winter of the World, Poul Anderson (1976)


(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover: “FIRST CAME THE ICE—and a magnificent civilization collapsed beneath the glaciers.  Then all men became barbarians living in a time of chaos.  But out of confusion came new and perhaps stronger cultures: the Seafolk, who were slowly rediscovering the precious knowledge which had long been forgotten; the Rahidian-Barommian Empire, determined to weave its web of power over the entire world; the Rogaviki, a nomadic people whom many named barnarians through they might prove to be the most advanced civilization of all.  Each of them had a destiny to fulfill.  But if the Empire carried out all its plans, neither the Seafolk nor the Rogaviki would long survive.  So Josserek Derrain came secretly to Andalin to meet with the Lady Donya of the Rogaviki.  And when the Imperials were ready to march down their road of conquest, Josserek and Donya had made plans of their own.  Thus it was that the masters of warcraft collided with the powers of science and a people not quite human in an explosive meeting which changed the future of their world…”

4. On Wings of Song, Thomas M. Disch (1979)


(Lou Feck’s cover for the 1979 edition)

From the back cover: “TO FLY…  America—a generation from now.   Not as it should be, but as it will be.  Back East, there’s violence, starvation, moral decline.  But here in the Free State of Iowa, the undergoders preserve the old ways.  No smoking, no dancing, no fooling around.  And no singing—because to sing is to fly.”

16 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CII (Disch 2xs + Anderson + Pollack)

  1. She’s going to catch a chill, dressed like that.

    I always rather liked Wings of Song, but I’m not at all persuaded by that cover for it.

    I’ve read echo but had forgotten who it was by. Quite fun as I recall, not very serious.

    • Yes, I remember your great review!

      I think Echo is definitely more “fun” than his other more serious works. But I don’t have high expectations of it.

      I have come across that first edition hardback at stores ALL THE TIME. And I’ve always wanted the book, but couldn’t bring myself to buy that piece of crap. So, the Szafran cover comes around, got myself a copy 🙂

  2. “Camp Concentration” showed exception promise earlier in the book,but after that it slowly slid into gibberish!It was still far better than the dull “On Wings of Song” though.

    The only other piece I’ve read by him,was a short story in an anthology, first published in “The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy”,called “Downtown”.I think it’s much better than both of them.

  3. Your girl is an enabler. And it’s great!

    The “On Wings of Song” cover is so….. I dislike it; I suspect to the point I wouldn’t have been able to buy it.

    Anderson’s “WotW” cover, however, is great and would proudly be displayed for a few days on the piano!!!!

    Thanks for sharing!

    • I gave her a long list 😉

      I know! It’s a book I’ve but down so many times when I’ve come across it at stores. But MPorcius’ review (linked in his comment above) convinced me.

  4. I read Disch’s 334 and Camp Concentration, about 25 years ago, as a teenager. I may not have been ‘ready’ for them, at the time, and most certainly wasn’t as knowledgeable about obscure writers, philosophers, science and esoterica, etc – which are often referenced and quoted – as I am now, but I, too, found Camp Concentration hard going after about half-way through. It becomes quite abstract and full of meta-fictional type, convoluted annexes – It is epistolary, in that sense, and that isn’t my favourite form of writing. I must say, however, that I am not averse to such ‘New Wave’ type narrative and structural experimentation, and often prefer such writers over lesser ‘straight’ SF others, but perhaps I just wasn’t ready for it, aged 17! I think I would find it more comprehensible now, and hence more enjoyable and easier going.

    However, as with 334, I found them both really quite boring, and far too ‘minimalistic’ for my liking. They just weren’t challenging or exciting enough, in terms of ‘far out’ SF concepts, as with Ballard, Dick, et al. As a whole, 334 seemed only tangentially connected to what my idea of good science fiction is. Sure, Disch is seen as a ‘Soft’ SF writer, but perhaps if 334 was approached more as a ‘social-realist’ novel, with a bit of sociological/philosophical prophesy and minimal future technology developments thrown in, to give it a little bit more sparkle, then one’s expectations would be lower, and one would probably enjoy it more. This was so ‘Soft’ it was almost liquid SF!

    I would re-read these, to try and ascertain if my initial gut reaction was correct or not, but – unfortunately – there are thousands of other books which are clamoring to be read, in the meantime, and thus little time for such comfortable iterations (I wonder what everyone else’s thoughts on re-reading SF, etc, is?).

    I must say, though, that I thoroughly enjoyed Disch’s short story collection Under Compulsion, read around the same time, decades ago (US edition: Fun with Your New head). Unfortunately I can only remember a brilliant, horrifying, Existential and Kafkaesque story, ‘Descending’, involving a man stuck inside a huge, maze-like shopping mall, with escalators which go on forever and take him, MS Escher-like, back to where he started (sorry for the semi-spoiler, but I couldn’t resist, in case anyone else has read this little gem!). I would highly recommend this collection, at least.

    I suspect I would enjoy his earlier, ‘straighter’ SF stuff more, like Echo Round his Bones, The Genocides, The Puppies of Terra and his collaborations with the great, and woefully under-rated, John Sladek, like Black Alice (all still waiting in storage, to be read, at a future date!).

    I look forward to your reviews of his books, soon, Joachim….

    • I love epistolary novels — I think the best SF example of one is Malzberg’s Revelations (1972). The entire novel is the contents — some letters, some interviews, some transcripts, of the main character’s desk drawer.

      “Descending” sounds like my type of story! Need that collection 🙂 Thanks so much for pointing it out.

      I’ve heard great things about The Genocides!

  5. I have those exact cover versions of the two Disch novels. I liked Echo, although it’s been a while since reading it but Wings, read more recently, was a disappointment. I recall at some point having the thought – ‘Well? Did he or didn’t he?’ Echo I’ll save but Wings will be up for grabs at paperbackswap.com at some point.

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