Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVIII (Roberts + Cherryh + Blish + Knight + Pangborn)

Finally, a famous (“Joachim Boaz you will adore it”) fix-up novel by Keith Roberts enters my collection….

Overpopulation SF never gets old—even if I have low expectations about this one.

More Pangborn and a singleton Cherryh novel I had never heard of….

Thoughts?

1. A Torrent of Faces, James Blish & Norman L. Knight (1967)

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(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1968 edition)

From the back cover: “‘You may never again see a novel of science fiction within which there is an imaginary world so intricately detailed and fleshed out.’

—Amazing Stories

‘In the year 2794 the Earth is ravaged by over-population and lack of food, even through all available foodstuffs are in use.  A new race, the Tritons, have come from the sea to mingle with humans.  The only hope for ultimate survival lies in a long-awaited interstellar drive, but all efforts so far have failed.  The novel is essentially one of brave people fighting against insurmountable odds… A good science fiction theme.’

—Publishers’ Weekly

‘The authors have brought the characters and their problems to life, and the story is well paced.  Excellent.’

—Library Journal”

2. The Judgement of Eve, Edgar Pangborn (1966)

JDGMTV1967

(Krauss’ cover for the 1967 edition)

From the back cover: “EVE: She was the true descendant of the first Woman—still craving the knowledge of life in the new world after the holocaust… CLAUDIUS: Only he remembered the world before the One-Day War.  Would this memory help him find the truth?  ETHAN: He had the heart of a lion… but to conquer Eve he needed the heart of a man.  KENNETH: He had confronted both the lady and the tiger… now he would have to face THE JUDGEMENT OF EVE.”

3. Wave Without a Shore, C. J. Cherryh (1981)

WVWTHTSHRB0000

(Don Maitz’s cover for the 1981 edition)

From the back cover: “Freedom was an isolated planet, off the spaceways track and rarely visited by commercial spacers.  It wasn’t that Freedom was inhospitable as planets go.  The problem was that outsiders—tourists and traders—claimed the streets were crowded with mysterious characters in blue robes and with members of an alien species.  Native-born humans, however, said that was not the case.  There were no such blue-robes and no aliens.  Such was the viewpoint of both Herrin the artist and Waden the autocrat—until a crisis of planetary identity forced a life-and-depth confrontation between the question of reality and the reality of the question…”

4.  Pavane, Keith Roberts (fix-up: 1968)

PVNZBDHSSZ1976

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1976 edition)

From the back cover of the later Gollancz Masterwork edition: “1588: Queen Elizabeth is felled by an assassin’s bullet.  Within the week, the Spanish Armada had set sail, and its victory changed the course of history.  1968: England is still dominated by the Church of Rome.  There are no telephones, no television, no nuclear power.  As Catholicism and the Inquisition tighten their grip, rebellion is growing.”

54 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVIII (Roberts + Cherryh + Blish + Knight + Pangborn)”

  1. “Pavane” is similar to Kingsley Amis’s,”The Alteration”,in actual theme and premise,but is a far better novel.As I remember,it was more pastoral and descriptive in prose.The other one,while quite good,focuses on the horrors of a perpetuating religion,but is less effective I think.

    It’s quite a lot of years since I’ve read it though,and I don’t own a copy.

    1. I have The Alteration as well — unread. For the longest time I’ve not been in an alt-history mood — but, might bring Pavane on my trip this summer.

      (I also have an issue with The Church portrayed as solely—keyword—repressive. Obviously, repression was part of institutionalized religion at points in time but not its sole descriptor. As someone who studies the intellectual movements of the medieval period I find such simplistic portrayals of religion infuriating. And of course, as someone who admires later individuals such as Erasmus and Thomas More as well as protestant intellectuals…).

      1. Why do you have to be in the mood for alternative history novels or short stories? What matters to me is the ideas or concepts that can be poured into and evoked in such premises,and then see the end product.Philip K.Dick’s “The Man in the High Castle”,besides “Pavane”, is another obvious but sharp case in point.

        I don’t think religion in sf is consistantly about repression.Religion has long been a favourate theme among sf authors,who like to theorise about existance.I suppose you’re referring to those about institutionalised religion,such as Walter Miller’s,”A Canticle for Leibowitz”,which I found increasingly dull.

        1. Umm, we all have moods…. And yes, I do have to be in the mood for something — how else would I choose what to read out of the 400+ novels I have unread on my shelves? Perhaps I want something deep and dark, or silly, or something by one of my favorite authors or something unknown or something philosophical or etc etc etc.

          And, I would wager that you too have moods where you desire to I dunno, pick up another PKD novel to reread.

          I am not talking about religion in SF generally — I was referencing Amis’ The Alteration only. I enjoyed A Canticle profusely (and, that wasn’t exactly anti-Church institution).

          1. I suppose so yes,we all have different fancies at different times,but I never tire of exciting or ingenious new ideas or concepts.That can occur in any sort of science/speculative fiction.

            I have recently reread yet again,”The Man in the High Castle” and “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”.Philip K. Dick has been very important to me from my fairly early sf reading days.I could never get enough of his profuse stuff,and there was nearly always something new to discover;he rarely dissapointed me.He means much the same to me as Barry Malzberg does to you I think.

            I understand your distain for Amis’s dark pessimism of religion in TA,but think it might be a satire pertaining to some issue at the time he felt strongly about,rather than a speculative history of a tyrannical and conservative religion.It’s done effectively too,despite what I said earlier about it.His novel “The Green Man” is quite good also.

            Miller’s novel was quite a good book,but it became tedious for me at that length.No,I don’t think it was anti religious,but there was some skepticism expressed I think over church anxiety about technology.

            1. Exactly, whims/moods/desires possess us all… PKD was formative for a much younger me as well and perhaps sometime in the future I’ll reread his stuff. Although, I have tried desperately to branch out (I have read the majority of his work but before the blog as I’ve said before) from the very standard canon since then.

            2. PKD was very far from what you call the “standard canon”.Prehaps now that he’s been sancitioned as a major literary author within the paler walls of The Library of America,that may be much closer to the truth,and will be thought of as “required reading”.Fortunetly,I read him before he died,and then and after,he was a very personal and select choice.

            3. I am most definitely referring to his work now. But yes, his reception history has definitely entered him into “standard speculative canon.” (When I read him, in the late 90s/early 2000s — i.e. my teenage years — he had a similar position to now I suspect)

              Now PKD = standard speculative canon. My wife in her English graduate/undergraduate studies read PKD… He is perhaps the most standard assigned author for classes at universities in the US which touch on genre (along with Le Guin).

        1. David Pringle,for his inclusion of it in “Science Fiction The 100 Best Novels”,says,”the anti Catholic theme seems to wake Amis’s rebelliousness.Once more he is on the attack.” As I’ve said,it’s probably meant to be a sort of satire.I’m not sure what you mean,there’s a reason why this world is so backward,but I read it many years ago.

          David Pringle also states that “Pavane” is “acknowledged slyly in his text”.

  2. I like Blish but don’t recall ever reading A Torrent of Faces. And Pangborn is another hole in my sf reading.
    Pavane is, of course, a classic and the Cherryh novel was intriguing. At the time I remember thinking it seemed almost like a Brain Stableford book, maybe a Daedelus Mission, not a C.J.Cherryh one. Which was odd, because one of Stableford’s books at the time struck me as more like something Cherryh might have written! (I was reading pretty much everything both of them were having published at the time)
    And, of course, looking at the dates now, I can’t be sure which Stableford novel I was thinking of. Castaways of Tanager probably.

  3. Like so much else, I might not like it so much now, but back then I enjoyed him…
    Anyway, Cherry’s use of architecture reminded me of the Mr. X comic by Dean Motter.

  4. Cyteen was the first one I didn’t read! Didn’t appreciate being it sold as three slim books coming out a month apart. Could easily have been (and was later) published as a single novel. Marketing lost her an, until then, loyal reader…

  5. Yes that’s right,but up to the time of his death and a long time afterwards,PKD was very unread,unrecognised and virtually unknown in his own country.That is a fact.Only because the late Paul Williams founded the Philip K. Dick Society,of which I was a member,soon after he died,did he start to gain eminence in the USA,that has led to his present literary canonization.

    In England,as well as in Europe,during his lifetime and afterwards,he gained respect denied him in his homeland.I can’t shake him out of my collective system after so many years.I can still enjoy him seriously at a personal level without pressure from the higher realm of academic dominion.

    1. Of course you can enjoy him! (my point was simply that because of his current position firmly entrenched in the pantheon I obviously read a lot of his work when I was first getting into SF.)

    2. To say that Dick, up to the time of his death, was “very unread, unrecognized and virtually unknown in his own country” is nothing but enthusiastic myth-making. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick#Awards_and_honors

      Thinking back to the 1970s, I’d say Dick – while recognized – simply wasn’t viewed as one of the greats, much less the greatest American SF author, much less the greatest American writer of the 20th century. There were exceptions to this general opinion, like Stanislaw Lem’s high praise of Dick (to which Dick responded by writing to the FBI and telling them to watch out for “Lem,” whom he claimed probably wasn’t an actual person, but rather a Communist party committee). Lem’s praise corresponded to his very low opinion of every other American SF author.

      The 1975 Lem essay on Dick is here: http://www.depauw.edu/sfs/backissues/5/lem5art.htm

      More here, touching on the infamous SFWA “Lem Affair” of the early-to-mid ’70s: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanis%C5%82aw_Lem#Controversies

      Dick’s FBI letter here: http://enclave.entropymag.org/phillip-k-dick-writes-to-the-fbi/

      1. Yes, I agree that Blade Runner, Total Recall, Screamers, and Minority Report all increased Dick’s reputation. I gladly admit that whenever I think of Dick, Blade Runner’s visuals come to mind before any of Dick’s own writings do. That’s not the case with, say, Arthur C. Clarke. The City and the Stars and A Meeting with Medusa come to mind before 2001: A Space Odyssey does. Which proves nothing about anything but me, of course. 🙂

      2. I have probably overemphazised this,but I hope here I can clarify any misunderstanding.Yes,we all know that he won the Hugo for “The Man in the High Castle”,which proved that he was writing books for a
        knowing group of readers who wanted the esorteric stuff that he made
        his exclusive territory.However,the bane of his lack of recognition,seems to lay largely at the feet of publishers,who wouldn’t publish his next two novels,”We Can Build You” and “Martian Time-Slip” when first submitted for publication.MTS round-up as a magazine serial and it took two years to become a book,and then as a paperback by Ballantine in 1964,not Ace,despite being his regular publisher,while WCBU took seven years no less to even become serialised,and ten years altogether before appearing as a book by Don Wollheim at Daw paperbacks,his old editor at Ace,who distained “Martian Time-Slip”!MTS also took 12 years before it was printed in Britain,with WCBU soon following .

        It’s small wonder in this case,that he would have resided in the shadows of obscurity,with such treatment by uncaring and contemptuous publishers who were probably indifferent or afraid of his daring and radical stuff.He lived in near poverty subsisting on amphetamines to churn out novels for Ace.In the 1970s,he was still awaiting unpaid royalties due to him by the same company that kept him poor during his most productive period.The reasons for his near anominity in sf aren’t really surprising I think.What would you expect when treated with such careless disregard?

        Yes,with the establishment of the Nebula awards in 1965,he was one of the first to be nominated,with his novels “The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch” and “Dr Bloodmoney”,but lost out to the far more popular “Dune”.”Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep” was also nominated for a Nebula three years later,but was beaten by an unknown author with no previous honours in sf.In 1974 the ever popular and venerated Ursula LeGuin beat him for his Hugo and Nebula nominated “Flow My Tears,the Policeman Said”,but it did pull-in a John Campbell Memorial Award.The fact that his books were nominated for awards,at least showed that there were a significant number of writers and fans who liked his stuff,but was still unappreciated by the vaster body of sf.

        I hope I’ve made clear the facts I was trying to make,at least to some extent.He was certainly upheld by a strong inner core of readers.

  6. Quite obviously, I think you’ll enjoy Pavane… Of the (few) books I’ve beat you to reviewing, it’s one of the few where I thought “Man, Joachim would love this.” Could totally be wrong of course!

    I’ve seen that cover to Wave Without a Shore several times but cannot remember it for the life of me—I keep forgetting Cherryh wrote it. Not one of her well-known works at any rate. I’m still working my way (chronologically by publication) through her works so I should get to it in a few years.

    The Blish and Pangborn should be interesting—I’ve read four or five of Pangborn’s 1970s short stories this year and they were all quite good. I’ve yet to form an opinion on Blish as I haven’t read many of his works, but A Torrent of Faces being in the Ace SF Specials series leads me to believe it’ll be well worth reading.

    1. Wave Without a Shore first came out in 1981 but was reprinted in 2000 as part of the DAW omnibus of three of her novels, Alternate Realities, which may be easier to find.
      The other novels included are Port Eternity and Voyager in Night, both of which I also liked.

      1. I think I read Port Eternity…. But, I don’t remember exactly. I know I read Merchanter’s Luck, Brothers of Earth, Forty Thousand In Gehanna, Downbellow Station, Hammerfall, Finity’s End, Heavy Time…. maybe one or two others.

        1. Port Eternity and Voyager in Night both fit into her Alliance/Union background (iirc) but I think Wave is completely stand alone.
          If I had more time, I’d like to reread some of her books. Only ones I’ve reread for ages were her Faded Sun books. And the start of Downbelow, but I was distracted and never got very far into it…

  7. Knowing nothing about the Pangborn novel, can anybody explain what “a vaulting novel of science fiction” is? There are pictures in my mind of athletes reading whilst using the wooden horse!

    1. I think of a novel pole vaulting…. The Pangborn novel is the second in the Tales of a Darkening Wold sequence (kicked off with his MUCH MORE famous novel Davy).

      1. I think of ‘vaulting ambition’ so I expect any novel described as ‘vaulting’ to be, well, ambitious in scope somehow.

    1. Her famous Hugo-winning novels… Downbelow Station and Cyteen. If you don’t like them then decide whether to continue her stuff or not. She is definitely of the political machinations + endless paranoia camp. I do not find her prose that great but I really enjoyed her stuff as a kid — it’s been 8 years or so since I’ve read her work though.

    2. I’m not convinced they’re your cup of tea or even mine anymore… Definitely heavy on the politics of her worlds and endless scheming + secret agendas etc — not as interested in fascinating concepts or delivery. Cyteen probably succeeds the most in terms of concepts but, it is a GIANT behemoth of a novel and takes a long time to get through.

      1. I see.I would have put one on my Amazon wish list,but now I’m not so sure.I have others on there by Connie Willis,Pat Cardigan,Nicola Griffith,Vonda McIntyre’s “Dreamsnake”.

        By the way,I read Harlan Ellison’s,”All the Sounds of Fear”,the first part of what included “Time of the Eye”.It includes the classics,”I Have no Mouth,and I Must Scream” and “Repent Harlequin,Said the Ticktockman”,but most of them,are really quite good,and the whole volume deserves a three star rating.For me,it was also the fulfillment of a dream,that goes back to my early sf reading days.

        Like TOTE,it was published by Panther,this one in 1973,but wasn’t reprinted.Nor has been “Alone Against Tomorrow”,the original version that was split into the two volumes for British publication.

          1. They include a colllection of her short stories,”Time is the Fire:The Best of Connie Willis”.

            You should like his other collections then,”Deathbird Stories” and “The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World”..The latter one has the classics that include the one in the title,and “A Boy and his Dog”,but DS is better for overall quality.

  8. Since reading the “fix-up” byline in your title for Pavane, I’ve been tossing the idea around in my head: is Pavane a fix-up? And the answer is, I don’t know. To my mind, the classic fix-up is the book which has jammed short stories together and smoothed over the joints so that from the outside, it looks like a standard novel. And Pavane is certainly not that. It’s a book whose pieces have been lain side by side – carefully organized side by side – but still side by side, the lines between the pieces clearly visible. From that perspective, it would seem to be a collection. But having read the novel, it’s certainly not a collection. In order to be fully appreciated, one must look at the whole – that careful organization. In fact, the manner in which Roberts kills two birds with one stone: successful short and long is the greatest technical achievement of the novel. But is it a fix-up novel? Still don’t know… Maybe mosaic novel? 🙂

    1. I thought the definition was simply previously published material that is gathered together in some way as a novel. Which is very original for SF… and not at all outside of SF….

  9. Hi Joachim,
    Looking at your (great) blog you don’t seem to have read Pavane yet, so a couple of things. The original book had five stories and a Coda (The Lady Margaret (magazine version The Lady Anne), The Signaller, Brother John, Lords and Ladies, Corfe Gate). A sixth story that was written six months later, The White Boat, was added to the novel in all the later editions. The correct place for that story is between Lords and Ladies and Corfe Gate. I think the only edition that got it right was Terry Carr’s Ace special. It’s not that important but I’ve been geeking out while rereading Pavane over the last week or two and need to get it all of my chest!
    More significantly, the magazine version of Corfe Gate was revised significantly for the book edition–basically split into Corfe Gate and the Coda, with the latter section significantly rewritten (I could be more specific but it is spoilerish and I would send you all to sleep, if I haven’t already). IMHO, I would read the magazine version if you are only going to read one. If you read the book and then then the magazine version you will see what I mean.
    Paul Fraser
    PS Re your Triax review, the novella Molly Zero was a favourite of mine, the novel expansion was disappointing.

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