Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXI (Effinger + Farmer + Malzberg + anthology)

Two remaining books from the $1 hardback sale at my local bookstore….

A collection of Malzberg stories!

Another novel by one of my favorite SF authors, George Alec Effinger (i.e. his amazing metafictional novel What Entropy Means to Me (1972) blew me away)…

And finally an overpopulation/ecological disaster themed collection containing some great authors–Pamela Zoline, J. G. Ballard, Katherine MacLean, Kit Reed, Zelazny, etc.


1. The Unreasoning Mask, Philip José Farmer (1981)

(Artifact’s cover for the 1981 edition)

From the inside flap: “The Unreasoning Mask is the story of Ramstan, captain of al-Buraq, a rare model of starship.  It is capable of alaraf drive: instantaneous travel between two points of space.  Three of these special ships were built to explore and make contact with the sentient races of the universe.  Suddenly, one of the ships mysteriously disappears.  And then it is discovered that an unidentifiable “creature” is marauding through the universe, totally annihilating intelligent life on planet after planet.  Ramstan, a thoughtful and moral man, becomes a fascinated yet reluctant pawn in the hands of the strange forces which arise to fight the deadly destroyer.  Ultimately, he is the only man who, in a fearful race against time, can stop the destruction.  But what price must he pay for becoming the savior of intelligent-kind?  The Unreasoning Mask is Farmer at his best—fast-paced, complex, slightly mysterious, high-action adventure.”

2. Heroics, George Alec Effinger (1979) (MY REVIEW)

(Gary Friedman’s cover for the 1979 edition)

From the inside flap: “Here is a symbolic excursion into a future where people need not worry about food, clothing, or any of the necessities of existence.  The big problem is human interaction and boredom.  The main character, elderly Irene, lives with her daughter.  Irene’s life consists of collecting depression glass.  She has spent fifty years collecting it, and has only gotten a dozen pieces.  Her pilgrimage is to go cross the country and find the author of the only book on depression glass in the modern world.  At the age of eighty-two, she sets out across a pastoral America toward California.

She encounters Glorian, a character out of Effinger’s first novel, What Entropy Means to Me, who is determined to guide Irene on her quest.  First he changes Irene into an old man—she is furious—then a young man—she likes this better—which she uses in her various adventures and encounters with different people, all of whom cope differently with this new world.  There is wry humor (the Great Plains have been turned into a Teflon-coated billiar table), philosophy, and symbolism, all of which combine to make this an entertaining and intriguing science fiction adventure.”

3. Voyagers: Scenarios for a Ship Called Earth, ed. Rob Sauer (1971)

(Uncredited cover for the 1971 edition)

From the inside flap: “VOYAGES is a thought-provoking collection of science fiction stories focusing on the very ecological and environmental problems confronting the modern world.  Such imaginative contemporary writers as Ray Bradbury, J. G. Ballard, Frederic Brown, C. M. Kornbluth, Roger Zelazny, Katherine MacLean, Kit Reed, Emilio S. Belavel, Norman Spinrad, Pamela Zoline, and Doris Lessing have contributed to this anthology.”

‘The short stories and vignettes in this book have the themes of overpopulation and/or environmental destruction in common, but in every other respect each is different from the others.  Hopefully they will provide the reader with many fresh insights into today’s problems and tomorrow’s possible solutions.’ Paul R. Ehrlich and Anne H. Ehrlich.”

4. The Many Worlds of Barry Malzberg, Barry Malzberg (1975)

(Jack Faragasso’s cover for 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “A WORLD where robots and neurotics try to make each other break down first.  A WORLD where assassins are both the hunters and the hunted in a grisly maze of overkill.  A WORLD where dreams turn into trios through times and frightening revelation and ultimate horror.  A WORLD where death is not the end but just the beginning of the strangest and most terrible nightmare of all.”

17 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXI (Effinger + Farmer + Malzberg + anthology)

  1. I read Unreasoning Mask when I was a teenager and loved it, then read it again about ten years ago and still really enjoyed it. It’s a bit wild–I’ll be interested to see what you think of it.

    • From the blurb it doesn’t exactly sound like my type of SF. But Farmer is highly unpredictable so who knows (I enjoy his 50s stuff, disliked Riverworld and the horrid sequels, and disliked Traitor to the Living).

  2. George Alec Effinger is one of my favorite authors, but honestly I don’t remember much about “Heroics”–not sure if I read it and it didn’t make an impression, or if I didn’t read it.

    I can strongly recommend “The Nick Of Time” and “The Sweet Bird Of Time” (an interesting pair, since they are time travel novels and each one is the sequel to the other, depending on which one you read first) “The Wolves Of Memory” (very sad) and his cyberpunk books, “When Gravity Fails”, “The Exile’s Kiss”, and “A Fire In The Sun”.

    I am so glad to see someone else who loved “What Entropy Means To Me”, most folks that I know who have tried it gave up because it was too weird.

    • Me too. I am intrigued by Heroics because one of the same characters enters the narrative from What Entropy Means to Me (in my top 5 favorite SF novels).

      I will slowly work through his canon. I have his collection Irrational Numbers (1976) and his second novel, Relatives (1973) on the shelf.

      I love weird!

  3. “The Unreasoning Mask” is included in David Pringle’s “Science Fiction The 100 Best Novels”.It’s funny,but he concedes that he’s written no masterpieces,except for one of his Tarzan pastiches,which can’t be called sf,and preferred his shorter stuff.

    His defense for including it,is apparently to do with a favourable review by Ian Watson,who called it a masterpiece.I’d say it’s too long,typically badly composed,and just plain boring.

    Just seems a case for patrimony.

  4. Good,I’m a pretty bad speller,and expect to spell some wrong,but there’s no excuse when it interferes with the meaning of the word.

    Yes,he’d have been better writing at shorter length and consolidating his stuff……I’d like to have read the then groundbreaking “The Lovers”, in it’s original,short form.

  5. Some great hardback covers and all for a dollar too, sounds like a bargain to me. Look forward to reading your review of the Effinger novel, I loved Entropy too so I might well stick this on my list.

    • Yes! I read your review… I’ve already read the Ballard story (Billenium) and one or two others.

      I love so-called “lame New Age tales”–as for not fitting the theme, that’s more an issue of the editor than the author I guess.

  6. They just released a bunch of Effinger’s books on Kindle in April. The only bad thing about that is they come now with crappy modern covers. Whatever happened to great cover art?!?! I tend to do Kindle if I can get away with it just because I run out of physical space for books.

    I can’t tell if Heroics is supposed to be a comical romp or not, I don’t know, looking at the cover, whether I’m supposed to laugh or wince.

    • I found What Entropy Means to Me to be a comedic romp (albeit with some seriously disturbing moments)… So, I wouldn’t doubt that Heroics is similar 🙂

      I don’t have a Kindle but I’m really glad he’s getting more exposure.

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