Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXVII (Lafferty + Malzberg + Cowper + Anthology)

A strange bunch….

Another Barry N. Malzberg novel—Chorale (1978)—to add to my nearly complete collection of his SF novels + short story collections.

Another Richard Cowper novel—purchased months ago mainly due to the gorgeous Paul Lehr cover.  The whimsical subject matter of the work unfortunately does not match the profound and surreal stillness of Lehr’s vision.

A short story collection containing a nice range of nebula-nominated (and winning) short SF from 1970: Sturgeon, Laumer, Wolfe, Fritz Leiber, Lafferty, Harrison, Russ.

And finally what is supposedly one of Lafferty’s oddest experiments: Annals of Klepsis (1983).


1. Phoenix, Richard Cowper (1968)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1970 edition)

From the back cover: “‘A misfit, a throwback, a genuine freak.  The Last Romantic”—thus the eighteen-year-old Bard, with typical eighteen-year-old romanticism, described himself and his attitude toward the 24th century Utopia in which he lived.  It was dangerous bravado, for the rebel of the 24th Century could find himself “rehabilitated.”  But Bard had a plan, a scheme rather: he would enter the Caves of Sleep until he reached the age of twenty-one and then he would be his own man without let or hinderance, and with control of a fairly large fortune.  But even in the 24th century, schemes and plans have a way of going awry…”

2. Chorale, Barry N. Malzberg (1978)

(Gary Friedman’s cover for the 1978 edition)

From the inside flap: “Kemper had the Answer; Reuter had the Problem.  Kemper had figured it all out by the twenty-second century; he was a man of temporal science.  The past did not exist.  The past upon which the present was based had no credence unless it could be reconstructed, bit by tiny bit.  Surrogates would have to go back in time and become the cast of thousands.  Napoleon was needed; likewise the Kennedys, all four of them.

There were those who would have taken argument with Kemper, but Kemmper, unfortunately, was beyond dispute; in other words he was like all the other famous and infamous was dead.  Kemper had the Answer; Reuter had the problem.  Reuter, after proper indoctrination, has gone back to Vienna in the early 1800s to be, no less, Ludwig van Beethoven.  Unfortunately Reuter is tone deaf, despises music, is appalled by Vienna, finds Immortal Beloved unreasonable, and doesn’t like being Beethoven too much either.  Beethoven, Reuter has decided, was a disgusting man.  Now and then Reuter jaunts back to his historical present to explain the problem to his supervisors.  Unfortunately, they will not listen.  Unfortunately, Reuter feels driven to take drastic action.  Someone must listen.  Didn’t they realize that it was all a fraud?

3. Nebula Award Stories Six, ed. Clifford Simak (1971) (MY REVIEW)

(Wilson McLean’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From the back cover: “SLOW SCULPTURE by Theodore Sturgeon.  “Best Novelette 1970”.  A haunting tale of a brilliant scientist in self-exile, a world which misuses its technological discovers, a Japanese bonsai tree, and the woman who penetrates the mystery of all three.

ILL MET IN LANKHMAR by Fritz Leiber “Best novella 1970.”  As exotic as the tales of the Arabian Nights, the story of two men who plot to destroy the wicked ‘House of Thieves’ in the notorious city of Lankhmar, men who prowl through death-filled alleys to rob the rich, and their two women who fell victims to a deadly spell.


4. Annals of Klepsis, R. A. Lafferty (1983)

(James Gurney’s cover for the 1983 edition)


Plots and intrigues and romances abound.

Smoke pictures, ghosts, and treasure chests to be found.

Magnifying monocles and hallucinogenic grapes—

the unvoiced dreams of the dregs of space.

Long John Tony Tyrone, the peg-legged historian,

journeys there…

And marries a Princess with rainbow hair.

But the Ghost of Christopher Brannagan will not rest

Until the mathematician Alonysius has put to the test

His Theory concerning the Doomsday Equation

Which might save the planet from total devastation.

Or might not.

15 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXVII (Lafferty + Malzberg + Cowper + Anthology)

  1. Nebula Award Winners Six looks like a good collection; truly diverse, with literary types like Lafferty and Wolfe as well as the Leiber sword-fighting adventure tale.

    I attacked “Slow Sculpture” on my blog, but it is probably a good representation of what Sturgeon’s body of work is all about.


    I didn’t find “Ill met in Lankhmar” to be one of the most memorable Fafhrd and Grey Mouser stories (I think “Seven Black Priests,” “Stardock,” “Bazaar of the Bizarre,” and “Lean Times in Lankhmar” are better) but it is not bad. And I do think some of the F & GM stories are bad.

    I should reread Wolfe’s “The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories,” but I don’t think it is as good as two of the other Archipelago stories, “Doctor of Death Island” and “Death of Doctor Island,” both of which I have reread several times.

    The stories I haven’t read in the collection, especially the Lafferty, I would definitely want to try.

    • I’ve enjoyed the Leiber SF short stories I’ve read so far (the collection A Pail of Air). But, haven’t tried is more fantasy oriented stuff…

      I’m looking forward to the Wolfe story—I tried to buy the collection by the same name a while back but the abebooks seller cancelled my order for some reason.

      I’m no fan of Sturgeon either (as you know). The only story of his I’ve loved was Bulkhead (1955).

    • Hi. I’ve read a lot of science fiction, though I can’t say I’m a major fan. But I love paperback cover design, and this genre provides the greatest space for illustrators’ imagination to play in. So I scrolled through your entire blog, enjoying the art. But, somewhat to my dismay, I didn’t notice a single book by Stanislav Lem! Any reason? Just curious. Dave

      • Not exactly sure why you presume that just because I do not have a review means that I have not read the author.

        I’ve read almost everything that Lem has written both fiction and non-fiction — mostly before I started this blog…. Hence, the main reason for the lack of reviews. Likewise, I am rather selective in what I review (sometimes I don’t feel like writing about certain books, especially the more popular ones) — for example, I read Lem’s The Futurological Congress a year or so ago but never got around to writing a review.

      • I hadn’t “presumed” anything. As I said, “just curious.” You seem to have covered just about every other author out there! At the same time, seeing what I “presume” to be your love of great cover art and design, and feeling that the covers of the Avon and Harcourt editions we have are are really just so-so, I thought maybe you just didn’t want to feature his covers. Whatever the case thanks for your great work!

        • Glad you enjoy the site. Most of my cover art posts are more thematic rather than art I necessarily enjoy (although I do point out when I love a cover) — so perhaps the Signet covers have not matched the themes.

          Ah, there are quite a few authors I’m missing and have not read yet — Wolfe, Varley, Lafferty, McIntyre’s novel length works, etc.

        • Have you read any of Lem’s non-SF? I think my favorite is A Perfect Vacuum — a series of book reviews of non-existent books. Fantastic — a play on a series of Borges which did the same thing.

  2. You were right about the Lehr cover for Cowper’s Phoenix, it’s an absolute stunner! Seems like a good varied mix of titles there.

    • Two that come to mind right away are Robert Silverberg’s “Hawksbill Station” and Louis Charbonneau’s “Down to Earth.” Both deal with people who are manning or are sentenced to stations on uninhabited worlds – one isolated in time (Silverberg) and the other in space (Charbonneau). I haven’t read either book since the late 1960s, when I was in my early teens, so I can’t swear anymore that they are good reads – but both have stuck in my memory.

      • I highly recommend the Silverberg you mention but I hated the Charbonneau (both are reviewed on my site).

        A few more come to mind (all reviewed here).

        Poul Anderson’s Enemy Stars (1958)
        Malzberg’s In The Enclosure (1973)
        Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo (1973)
        Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962)
        Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959)
        Joanna Russ’ We Who Are About To… (1976)
        Robert Silberberg’s The Man In a Maze (1969)

  3. I liked the novella version of Hawksbill Station; haven’t read the expanded version. I also liked Enemy Stars and Man in the Maze.

    Like Joachim, I read Down to Earth and gave it a negative review on my blog.

    A novel that I love and won all kinds of awards, and is about a small number of people in dangerous claustrophobic conditions, is Frederick Pohl’s Gateway. I’m not a Pohl booster by any means, but somehow in Gateway he came up with a masterpiece.

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