Updates: Recent Science Acquisitions No. XXVII (Vance + Neville + Fairbairns + Coney)

A fascinating collection (one of three acquisition posts incoming) via Dunaway’s Books in St. Louis, MO (on one of my numerous perambulations…).  And there were nearly one hundred more novels I would have snatched up if I had unlimited funds and unlimited room.

A hard to find feminist SF novel, and supposedly quite solid, by Zoe Fairbairns.

A Michael Coney novel I’ve been dying to get my hands on—the immortality concept delightfully satirical/hilarious.

A strange 70s fix-up novel of 50s material by an author championed by Barry N. Malzberg (and John Clute)—Kris Neville.

And Vance, one rarely goes wrong with Vance…


1. Friends Come in Boxes, Michael G. Coney (1973)

(John Holmes’ cover for the 1973 edition)

From the back cover: “BRAIN TRANSFERENCE IS IMMORTALITY.  The problem of immortality was solved in the 21st Century.  It was a matter of successful brain transference.  When you reached forty, your brain was removed and transferred to the head of a six-months-old infant.  In that way, you got another forty years of life, until you could do it all over again.  All you had to do was obey the laws and make no trouble.  Besides, it solved the population crisis—who wanted to have a baby that would soon become a total adult stranger mentally? So there was a growing waiting period between transfers—and in the interim disembodied brains were conscious in special boxes known as Friendship Boxes.  If you would be companion to such a box, you would be truly charitable.  But as the old saying might have it, if you had a Friend in a Box, you didn’t need any enemies.  This is the brilliantly different novel of the day it all came to a head.”

2. Bettyann, Kris Neville (1970 fix-up of 50s material)

(W. Thut’s cover for the 1970 edition)

No cover or inside blurb.  John Clute’s laudatory description on SF Encyclopedia shall suffice: “Neville’s best known story is probably “Bettyann” (in New Tales of Space and Time, anth 1951, ed Raymond J Healy) which, with its immediate sequel, “Overture” (in 9 Tales of Space and Time, anth 1954, ed Raymond J Healy), eventually comprised Bettyann (fixup 1970). More powerfully than in most of his work, the two tales combine a clearly-felt elegiac sense of how lives can best be lived, in terms familiar through the work of Ray Bradbury and Clifford D Simak, along with a more radical and passionate sense of the primacy of love, in terms reminiscent of Theodore Sturgeon; but these indications of influence mark a conversation, not a dependency. An Alien lost in infancy on Earth, Bettyann grows into a deep rapport with the humans she learns to know, though the arrival her fellow beings from the stars to “rescue” her forces her to recognize her Superman abilities, including Shapeshifting, Telepathy and the power to heal. Her decision not to leave with her essentially touristic fellows, and to devote her life to humans, hints of Uplift but within a complex presentation of the complex fate of being human.”

3.  Benefits, Zoe Fairbairns (1979)

(Uncredited cover for the 1979 edition)

From the back cover: “In an all too plausible vision of what the future could hold for women. BENEFITS journeys beyond 1984 into a society convulsed by an anti-feminist backlash.  A government struggling for survival in a world devastate by political and economic catastrophe makes the women’s movement the scapegoat for all that is wrong.  To encourage women to return to their traditional roles as mothers and housewives, the government initiates a seemingly innocuous program to pay “benefits” to dutiful mothers.  But the program soon takes on sinister undertones as the social and genetic engineers convert it into a tool to restrict reproduction to those women who produce the most “desirable” offspring.  As desperate politicians use increasingly horrifying methods of control, women of diverse social and political persuasions unite in a last-ditch attempt to save themselves.”

4. The Pnume, Jack Vance (1970)


(H. R. Van Dongen’s cover for the 1979 edition)

From the back cover: “The Pnume were an ancient race of the planet Tschai, living underground in a vast network of caverns with their human slave-species, the Pnumekin.

The Pnume were the historians of Tschai, collecting its past with ruthless and scholarly dedication.  Surface-dwellers never saw the Pnume—if they were lucky.

Adam Reith was not so fortunate.  The Pnume had heard rumors of a strange man, claiming to have come from the planet Earth, and they wanted him for Foreverness, the museum of Tschai life.  Adam Reith was about to become an alien exhibit.

This, the fourth and final novel of Jack Vance’s classic series of the Planet of Adventure, is complete in itself—and presents a really surprising and exciting climax to Vance’s greatest creation.”

7 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Acquisitions No. XXVII (Vance + Neville + Fairbairns + Coney)

    • Let’s just say only got things I really wanted. Including some more Malzberg (one novel and a collection). I’m only missing Oracle of a Thousand Hands, Screen, Underlay and Scop (not counting those with Prozini).

  1. The Pnume is my favorite volume in the Planet of Adventure series. (I actually think the Planet of Adventure series is considerably inferior to Vance’s Demon Princes, Cadwal, and Cugel series.)

    I own the Daw edition you reproduce above, and love the Jack Gaughan frontispiece–in fact, years ago, I photocopied it and put the copy in a frame, and it hangs over my SF bookshelves.

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