Despite my incredible busyness my reading of SF has not slowed that heavily as I find it a relaxing activity before bed. There is a chance (time permitting) that I will post (two paragraph?) mini-reviews of such gems as Disch’s Camp Concentration (1968) + Lafferty’s intriguing Past Master (1968) + Mann’s Wulfsyarn (1990) et alii in the coming weeks in order to get caught up (I haven’t been in more than a year)…
That said, I am still working through my recent acquisition posts for a stack of books that have slowly come in over the last few months. More psychological SF via Wilhelm, a Mars novel originally in German, a collection of 50s – 80s short SF by an unsung master (according to some), and Sheckley at his most bizarre…
Three of the following novels came via Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings on his book store trip… Grateful as always for his book hunting skills on his travels and willingness to send me a large box (and paypal bill! — haha).
1. The Earth is Near, Ludek Pesek (1970, English trans. 1973)
(Uncredited cover for the 1974 edition)
From the back cover: “Excitement rose when a shining bright violet ball appeared on the crest of a dust dune, slowly floating towards us over the ridges of the land. Fascinating, we watched its zigzag course. It was gathering speed as it leaped over the hollows. Involuntarily, we flinched back from the windows as the ball of light made straight for us, at tremendous speed. A blinding light filled the cabin. It felt as though the fiery ball had touched the toughened glass of the porthole, I thought I heard the crackling of electric explosions. Then the ball disappeared, and we heard pattering sounds on the rood of the vehicle. I don’t know—none of us knew—how many seconds we waited in suspense. Then the flaming light leaped up on one of the Lizards. The little blue lights went out at once, the ball shone more brightly than ever, and vanished suddenly as it had come.”
2. Soldier Boy, Michael Shaara (1982)
(Boris Vallejo’s cover for the 1982 edition)
From the back cover: “Peace-loving, untrained in war, their only hope against an alien invasion was… soldier boy. This highly acclaimed short story by the brilliant Michael Shaara is presented here in book form for the first time—along with fifteen more of his finest short stories including DARK ANGEL and STARFACE, two brand-new works.
GRENVILLE’S PLANET: It was the greatest possible discovery—a world covered almost entirely by water. For Grenville, it was the living end…
THE BOOK: A strange world, its people faced death at every moment—and yet found the secret of total peace.
CITIZEN JELL: An alien man settles on earth to retire—but he just can’t resist working a miracle or two.
STARFACE: He wanted a new face—everyone was getting them—but was he prepared to become a work of art?”
3. Crompton Divided (variant title: The Alchemical Marriage of Alistair Crompton), Robert Sheckley (1978)
(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1979 edition)
From the back cover: “THE BIZARRE CASE OF ALISTAIR CROMPTON. He is a tortured soul. Separated at an early age from two conflicting personalities, Alistair Crompton has hatched a daring scheme to reintegrate himself. Installed in different host bodies and dispatched to distant planets, the two other Alistairs have developed lives of their own: Loomis—as grossly self-indulgent and amoral as Alistair is moderate and prim. Stack—as vicious and impulsive as Alistair is meek and cautious. What happens when the original Alistair reengages himself first with Loomis, then with Stack?
Discover for yourself in this odyssey by one of the grand masters of science fiction. It’s mind-bending.
4. City of Cain, Kate Wilhelm (1974)
(Uncredited cover for the 1978 edition)
From inside flap of a later edition: “Psychic Man vs. Omnipotent Government. There was a proposal before the U.S. Senate—a proposal to build a secret underground complex to house the nation’s defense facilities in the event of nuclear holocaust.
But the complex was to have another purpose as well, a purpose only a handful of men were entrusted to know: it would be a city designed to protect the nation’s “elite” in time of crisis, leaving the “unqualified” to fend for themselves. A city that would serve as a testing ground for scientists to experiment with human mind control. A city that would destroy America—unless Peter Roos, brother of the project’s chief sponsor, could find a way to stop it!”
15 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVI (Sheckley + Wilhelm + Pesek + Shaara)”
Editing all of the time, leaves me little time for leisurely reading. But I want to read these particular sci-fi novels. I love the covers of all of them. There may be much more serious computer generated images these days, and fantastic special effects where sci-fi is concerned, but give me a good book, ebook anytime to read and imagine for myself. I am going to get “The Earth is Near” first and then let you know. I think that’s why my passion is book editing, I get so much exposure to different writings old and new. Thanks for sharing.
As I have NOT read these I have no idea about the quality. Also, what type of SF do you enjoy? I tend to aim for more odd stuff…
I am a true coward, so I like space creatures from Mars and just a little bit of spooky. I still have trouble with the 1930s Dracula and Wrenfield. I know, I know, I’m hopeless. But the covers on those book were from long ago and I think I may be able to hand them. Thanks for sharing them.
Goodness but every one of these covers typifies a kind of SF cover art that I love.
Great covers. Crompton Divided sounds like an expansion of Sheckley’s short story “The Humours” from his Store Of Infinity collection.
Definitely, did not realize it until I looked back at my review of that collection…. I thought it was a wonderful collection!
I’ve read practically all of Sheckley’s short fiction, and none of his long form stuff. Your views on the comparison between the short and long versions will be interesting. Looking forward to it.
I have read a handful of his longer works — Journey Beyond Tomorrow, Immortality Inc, The Status Civilization. Reviews can be found via my handy index — https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/science-fiction-book-reviews-by-author/
So far, Journey Beyond Tomorrow is the best of his long works — as in, it’s a masterpiece.
Just finished Crompton Divided a couple of days ago and enjoyed it. I was thinking while reading that the humor undercuts the main premise, but I should have trusted Sheckley. In the end it served a purpose – a purpose that made it all worthwhile. Hope you find it funny, too.
I tend to buy Sheckley on sight — at the very least he is always readable and witty. I find he uses humor in a way similar to Lem’s more lighthearted stories — they remain profoundly effective.
The few stories of his I read failed me impress me. Are there any that you would recommend?
Tons. Consult my substantial Sheckley review list!
For example: https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/book-review-store-of-infinity-robert-sheckley-1960/
I read Sheckley’s Mindswap recently and it was fun and intermittently witty, with some great concepts, but it tended to weaken, become too repetitive, and run out of ideas, as it went along.
I get the impression he’s best at the short story form. Although, his novel Journey Beyond Tomorrow was brilliant.
I just went downstairs before coming over to your site to grab my copy of Soldier Boy because I want to read it again. It is in contention for my favorite read of the year at this point.