Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXI (Zelazny + White + Daventry + Gerrold)

A nice grab bag of used book store finds…  I’m nearing completion of my collection of Zelazny’s pre-1980 novels (I do not own nor really want to read any of his purely fantasy works).  Also, I couldn’t help but pick up David Gerrold’s 1974 Hugo and Nebula Award nominated novel The Man Who Folded Himself (1973) although I have been utterly underwhelmed with his work in the past—for example, Space Skimmer (1972) and Yesterday’s Children (1972).

I also found the first volume of a trilogy by Leonard Daventry—owned only the third one for some reason.  And, who can resist another James White novel.  I desperately want to recreate the joy that was White’s The Watch Below (1966).

Thoughts?

1. Damnation Alley, Roger Zelazny (1969)

(Alan Gutierrez’s cover for the 1984 edition)

From the back cover: “HELL AND DAMNATION.  Tanner pushed ahead, cutting a diagonal by the green sunset.  Dust continued to fall about him, great clouds of it, and the sky was violet, then purple once more.  Then the sun went down and the night came on, an the stars were very faint points of light somewhere above it all.  After a time the moon rose, and the half-face that it showed that night was the color of a glass of Chianti wine held before a candle.  He list another cigarette and began to curse, slowly, softly, without emotion.  Hell Tanner on Damnation Alley.”

2. A Man of Double Deed, Leonard Daventry (1965)

Screen shot 2014-12-29 at 8.52.39 AM

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1967 edition)

From the back cover: “DANGEROUS MISSION.  The world of the twenty-first century is living in fear of the numerous bands of youths roaming the cities and terrorizing them without purpose.  There is no end to the malicious homicide, the savage violence, and senseless suicide that is being committed.

Only the Keymen—a group of Telepaths, the custodians of humanity—are fully aware of the implications of the worsening situation.

Claus Coman, a top Keyman, is sent on a dangerous mission, which if successful will mean the deportation of these destructive youngsters to another planet.  But there are many who want to maintain the status quo—and who are unscrupulous enough to let nothing stand in the way of their goals—not even the murder of a Keyman…”

3. The Man Who Folded Himself, David Gerrold (1973)

(Uncredited cover for the 1974 edition)

From the back cover of a later edition: “A PIONEER IN TIME.  Dan Eakin’s uncle just died—but not before he left Dan a mysterious package.  Inside is a black leather belt with a luminous digital panel; the trademark reads TIMEBELT.  Dan has just viewed the instructions and strapped the belt around his waist—and now his finger is poised over the “Activate” button.  In a moment, his world will begin to expand with exhilarating potential as the barriers of time fade into insignificance.”

4. Tomorrow is Too Far, James White (1971)

(Matt Davis’ cover for the 1981 edition)

From the back cover: “SECURITY RISK.  Jim Carson was Security Chief at the Hart-Ewing plant—and he was very good at his job.  That is, he accomplished what he had to unobtrusively.  The nature of the job made Carson cautious and meticulously thorough.  What he brought to his profession was a most thoughtful sensitivity.  So when Carson became uneasy, he knew something was really wrong.  And methodically, as usual, he started going over the multitude of details and impressions he had been picking up day-to-day for weeks.  He came up with a most astonishing result!”

33 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXI (Zelazny + White + Daventry + Gerrold)”

  1. I haven’t read DA.I’ve said before,that I think it will probably be better to read the original short version if any.I’m not that keen on his novels,and “The Doors of His Face,the Lamps of His Mouth”,is the only short piece
    by him I’ve read.Both “This Immortal” and “The Dream Master” were expanded from novellas.

    Have you read,”To Die in Italbar “? I did recently,and didn’t think it was all that good.

    1. We’ve definitely discussed Zelazny at length. I enjoyed This Immortal, The Dream Master, and Lord of Light. I started reading Isle of the Dead and then my copy fell apart (!!) — so, I glued it back together and then forgot all about it. Should pick it up again…

      The only of Zelazny’s novels I’ve not enjoyed was Jack of Shadows. I was unable to articulate my thoughts so I never reviewed it although it was only a year ago.

      1. Haven’t read “Isle of the Dead”,but it sounded like it could be one of his better novels from what I know of it,and is supposed to include a character included in the mediocre “To Die in Italbar”.Another novel written about the same time as IOTD,”Creatures of Light and Darkness”,doesn’t,at least according to Brian Aldiss in his sf history,”Trillion Year Spree”,sound all that good.

        “Lord of Light” was imaginative and done-up in a vivid prose,but lacked a concrete premise to make the atavism of the Hindu pantheon convincing I thought.It was a serious flaw.

        “Jack of Shadows” was the first Zelazny novel I read,and think I quite enjoyed it at the time,but haven’t read it since the 1970s.

      2. I also picked up Roadmarks (or rather, my fiancé picked it up for me). Will put that in a later post.

        Creatures of Light and Darkness is supposedly his most radical and experimental. Regardless of Aldiss’ views I’m willing to give it a shot if I find a copy.

  2. Nice haul! Damnation Alley is still on my post-apocalypse wish list. The Daventry sounds pretty pulpy, but it’s got a Powers cover, though he’s done better… Interested to see what you say about Man Who Folded Himself.

  3. It’s been a few years, but I recall that Damnation Alley was somewhat aimless – kind of an atmospheric story about a road trip across a post-apocalyptic landscape. I enjoyed it, but wasn’t blown away.

  4. I assume then you’ve read Aldiss’s book,so I don’t want to repeat what he said here,but the fact that he says,”It has a sense of tiredness,formularized responses to cliched events”,suggests it was lacking in concrete depth,and failed in execution,like other books that are radical and experimental.Still,no matter,this is only my words.

    “Five Princes in Amber” was quite good,but the volumes that followed it unfortunately,were tiresome and repetitious.

    By the way,since I’ve had to sign-in with my Facebook account,news of your comments,don’t appear in my emails.Can you help please?

    1. No, I have no read Aldiss’ Billion Year Spree. Not yet at least. As for fantasy, I’ve not been in the mood since I was 20 or so. The only fantasy which intrigues me is the much more literary/experimental and non-medieval world stuff. Such as Jeff VanderMeer’s wonderful (and metafictional) Shriek: An Afterword (2006).

      I am unsure of the settings related to facebook. You might need to click to “notify me of new comments via email” box below the comment box when you post.

      1. “Billion Year Spree” was the original 1970s foundation volume for the expanded 80s,”Trillion Year Spree”.I have to say,I think it’s essential for an understanding of the history of sf,which I assume you are,tracing it from it’s non-generic roots through to it’s creation as a genre,and it’s development in modern times.

        I read one book of Vandermeer’s short fiction,but can’t remember what it was called.Fantasy usually means that it lacks anything ideative I think,unlike speculative fiction,that can contain elements of it,without any banal drivel.It’s difficult I think to define the line where it begins and ends.

        I have clicked the “notify me of new comments via email” box.It’s meant I just have to “journey” here to look instead,which doesn’t hurt,but it’s not the way it’s supposed to work.Thank you.

        1. “I think it’s essential for an understanding of the history of sf” — if one is interested in the history of SF from the 1980s perspective from an author not trained as an English academic or historian.

          As a professional historian I tend to prefer my historical/literary analysis from those trained as academics. I know, I know — obviously Aldiss is incredibly knowledgeable and I love his SF etc.

          I much rather read Adam Roberts’ scholarly analysis of the genre. He’s a SF author/academic/professor.

  5. Brian Aldiss is academic and extremely well read…..he has a vast knowledge of subjects,including history,and was once literary editor of a newspaper.He proposes in TYS,that Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein”,was the first sf novel,long before anybody invented the term,and this is I think,universally accepted,but I don’t know what you think,nor Adam Roberts.His understanding of Gothic literature as the very deep roots of all modern sf though,is undeniable.

    I can well understand your preference for an analysis of sf from a non-generic perspective however,tracing it from it’s earliest,humble literary beginnings,and I think you’d find Aldiss’s book does the same.

    I will have to look at Adam Roberts on Wikipedia,as his book sounds intriguing.I think I read a short story of his,in an anthology.

    1. But, he is not an academic. Part of academia is the peer review element of your work. You are constantly critiqued by your fellow scholars and held to certain standards of your profession and must draw on your extensive training at the highest university levels. But yes, I suspect some of his non-fiction work is darn good. But, I do have a preference if I want to learn about the history of something to read scholarship by scholars. If I wanted to learn about Aldiss and his view on SF his book would be at the top of my list…

      I have some quibbles and qualms with Adam Roberts’ analysis of SF as well. But, I know where he is coming from and what theory he is engaging with.

      1. Yes,as I’ve just said,I can understand your preference for a history and development of sf from a non-generic viewpoint.The creation of it from a literary form into a magazine genre was not good for it’s development I think,but means it’s shunned by most scholars,who are not familiar with what’s to be found within the written genre.Needless to say,it’s more likely to be studied by those not academically trained.

        Aldiss didn’t go to university,but was privately educated.No,I suppose he isn’t an academic,but is quite knowledgeable and perceptive for somebody self educated.While he grew-up reading the pulp magazines,he pursued works that could be called speculative literature outside the genre by the likes of Stapleton,Wells and Orwell.This is hardly the attitude of an obsessed fan.

        However,I don’t entirely disagree with you,and respect your views.I would like to read Adams book,and I hope you’ll read Aldiss’s book and be suprised at it’s content.

  6. The James White book I read and liked was THE DREAM MILLENNIUM, a generation starship novel. I look forward to your FOLDED HIMSELF review. It was one of the bunch of “adult” sf books I read before I reached high school, and like the others it had me thinking about things I never thought about before. The “experimental” writing might date it, but I’m utterly bored by current sf I’ve encountered, so I go easy on the older stuff that jumpstarted my brain. ….ROADMARKS was great fun, nothing hardcore or deep, but enjoyable. I recently reread DAMNATION ALLEY and liked it MORE this time, after all these years.

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