Update: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVII (Bulychev + Sladek + Effinger + Wilhelm)

A wonderful range of 70s and early 80s SF…

I am not much of a “collector” but I am getting the collector’s itch after acquiring one of many amazing volumes in the SF from the USSR series from Collier (and Macmillan in hardback) books in the late 70s.  The Lehr covers!

Sladek short stories….

Killer robots… (with societal commentary!)

And Geo Alec Effinger being Effinger…


1. Half a Life, Kirill Bulychev (USSR 1975, USA 1977)


(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1978 edition)

From inside page: “In these seven superbly executed stories—all shaped by the imaginative tweists, wry humor, and warmly human characters for which Kirill Bulychev’s work is well-known in the Soviet Union—American readers are lifted into a delightfully varied future where some very likable Earthlings suddenly find themselves in the most fantastic situations:

Half a Life: A Russian Woman abducted by aliens as a biological specimen teams up with strange captives from other worlds—objective: freedom…

I Was the First to Find You: A two-hundred-year-old space expedition finds the first evidence of intelligent life in outer space—with an ironic twist…

Protest: The trials and tribulations of the Galactic Olympics—when “fleeking” threatens interplanetary harmony…

May I Please Speak to Nina?: Twilight zone of time dislocation in modern Moscow—and a man’s thirty-year-old memories of war…

Red Deer, White Deer: The dawn and doom of humanoid  intelligence on a distant planet, poignantly conveyed…

Snowmaiden: The rescue of a beautiful snowmaiden from her dying ship and the touching tale of an impossible love—kindled at -55° C…

First Layer of Memory: An experimental operation—cynic takes on nice guy—all in one man’s mind…”

2. The Killer Thing, Kate Wilhelm (1967)

Al Nagy's cover for the 1967 edition

(Al Nagy’s cover for the 1967 edition)

From the inside flap: “In a last-ditch effort to liberate his beloved planet Ramses, a scientist in the twenty-third century develops a super-robot—one with a computer for a brain and a two-mile laser for an eye—that somehow destroys its inventor and programs itself to kill all life.

The universe is a strange and unimaginable.  Earth has colonized Venus, Mars and other planets in a series of devastating coups that have left civilizations scorched and populations decimated.  World Group Government keeps watch over an uneasy truce, but everywhere the contaminating greed of Earthmen is hated, their influence despised in a simmering passion that drives alien beings to quite human—superhuman—lengths.

Dr. Vianti, for example.  His native planet, rich in platinum ore, was summarily seized by the world Group, the mines taken over, and Vianti left with the task of speeding up production of a robot he had designed to do the work of twenty-five men in the mines.  Secretly, he worked on his own project.

When Trace, a Captain in the World Group Army, arrives on the scene, the killer robot has already succeeded in piloting a force-field and laser equipped sleet ship, destroying the entire city and threatening several small planets.  Trace and his crew chase the robot to an arid, desert planet, where a sinister and unexpected showdown occurs.  Suddenly Trace finds himself the sole survivor, pitted against an inhospitable planet and a computerized death machine on a rampage.  Weakened by the elements and the lack of food and water, Trace has just one advantage over the robot—imagination.  But is this enough to win his inexorable battle with THE KILLER THING?”

2. The Wolves of Memory, Geo Alec Effinger (1982)


(David Heffernan’s cover for the 1982 edition)

From the back cover: “NO ONE EVER RETURNS FROM THE FARAWAY PLANET CALLED HOME.  When the bumbling idiots of the human race turned over their cares and woes to the infinitely superior mechanism of TECT, they clearly made a wise choice.

Take the case of Sandor Courane.  TECT offered to make him a college basketball star.  When it turned out he could barely dirbble, TECT gave him a second chance as a science-fiction writer.  And when no one bought his books, TECT offered him a comfortable job on the assembly line of a Japanese auto plant.

When Courane had the effrontery to flunk as a screw-turner, TECT was even kind enough to send him to a rehabilitation program on a lovely pastoral planet.

The end-of-the-line world called Home.”

4. The Steam-Driven Boy and other strangers, John Sladek (1973)


(Collin Hay’s cover for the 1973 edition)

From the back cover: “New Angles on the Universe!  John Sladek is one of the most intelligent and versatile science fiction authors writing today.  With sharp insight and wicked humour he opens his readers’ minds to new angles on space, time, machines and men.  In this brilliantly entertaining collection you will encounter galactic spies, nightmarishly benevolent computers, some extremely peculiar aliens, offbeat time machines—not forgetting, of course, the Stream-Driven Boy itself…  In addition Sladek has included ten masterly parodies of the work of such all-time SF greats as Iclick As-i-move, Hitler I.E. Bonner, Barry DuBray, Carl Truhacker, Chipdip K. Kill and several others.  Read them—and experience a new high in outrage!”

43 thoughts on “Update: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVII (Bulychev + Sladek + Effinger + Wilhelm)

  1. I think the Sladek collection could be the next book to go for,even ahead of Malzberg’s “The Games Man”.The only short story I read of his,was in “Dangerous Visions”,although I don’t remember what it was about.

    The two volumes of the “Roderick” novel,was quite good I have to say,but the bane of tedium soon set-in.I think perhaps I’d find his shorter stuff more enjoyable.

    • I’ve read Sladek’s Mechasm (UK name: The Reproductive System) — something about it didn’t jive with me so I never reviewed it… I thought it was funny for sure. I also have The Müller-Fokker Effect — might be the next of his I read.

        • Good idea! He seems to be the consummate light-hearted but with serious themes SF satirist. Although Lem probably gives him a run for his money 😉

          You’re doing a very Joachim Boaz thing — exploring the short fiction of an author before the major novels!

          • The only Lem novel I’ve ever tried to read,was “The Cybernaid”,but gave-up on it early.I should hope it’s better than that!

            Well,the “Roderick/Roderick at Random” was a major novel I think,but based on my experience of that one,I think it’s best I try the shorter fiction first.

      • The Cyberiad was great! I loved it! Comedy, philosophy, intellectualism, etc. A great brew.

        But, he wrote a lot of serious work as well — I’ve read at least 8 of his novels and a good 20 short stories and even some non-fiction.

        Check out Solaris (serious first contact novel), His Masters Voice (a serious novel), and The Futurological Congress (a more light-hearted SF romp).

    • The blurb is pretty, ehh. But yes, I understand where you are coming from as I am currently reading (hopefully I have time to write a review) Effinger’s collection Irrational Numbers. Some of the stories in there are profoundly affective and effective…

      • His short stories are marvelous. I recommend the collection “Dirty Tricks”, too, if you can find it. Although, I’d have to say that “What Entropy Means To Me” will always be my favorite Effinger–although I’ll be damned if I can figure out what the Hell it’s supposed to be about.

      • Soviet sf is great – well, some of it at least (like all sf). Bulychev is good, the title story is very good. But my personal fave in the collection is Red Deer, White Deer. You should def read anything written by the Strugatsky Brothers, particularly Hard to Be A God and Far Rainbow, all of the Noon stories, blah. I don’t review much, unlike yourself. But there is a review of the Ivan Efremov’s seminal late 50s Soviet sf “Andromeda” over at one of my blogs. Andromeda is just ok, but apparently a very important pivot for the likes of the Strugatsky’s, Bulychev, etc.

        • @ Warwick Stubbs. I too enjoyed Andromeda, but some of it grated, which isn’t saying much I suppose considering the often sudden lurch from the sublime to the ridiculous in much of pulp sf. Have you read my review? http://tinyurl.com/oab8ydm Plus you should definitely check out the 1967 film version of Andromeda if you haven’t already. It looks amazing.

        • I’ve only read Lem’s Solaris and The Invincible, both very good and dealing with typically Lemian (!) themes. In fact I have just posted another review which mentions Lem, though the book reviewed is by the early French sf author J.-H. Rosny aîné. You may be interested: http://tinyurl.com/p527wwu

      • Stapleford describes his “translations” as “adaptations”? Yuck, much rather have a solid translation! But then again, if I really got hooked on early (pre-1930s) SF I could track down the French editions and read those…

        • They are actual translations, I’ve checked the French. I think Stableford is trying to cram a criticism of translation into the term he uses – an unwise move in my reckoning.

  2. It’s not unusual for us to have different tastes in books it seems.Still,I don’t mind what you like.

    I would like to try his other books though,and probably the best one is “Solaris”.

  3. The Kate Wilhelm looks a really intriguing read – I’ll be fascinated to read your take on it once you’ve finished it… And once more, the book covers are amazing.

  4. I have read that same Sladek collection, and it is very good, in general. Not amazing, and the quality is inconsistent, but there are a few little gems in there, and most of the others are worthwhile. I felt the same way about The Reproductive System – so-so. I started the first 50-odd pages of The Muller Fokker Effect a while ago (but then got distracted by life and had to stop, so I will have to re-start it again, soon) and it is brilliant, so far…

    I have most of that same series of Russian SF, but haven’t read any of them, yet. They all sound fab, though. I recently picked up the Strugatsky Bros ‘Hard to be a God’, which was recently made into an amazing, 3-hour movie, reminiscent of Andrei Tarkovsky :


    Joachim – if you have never seen this rarely seen Russian space epic, from 1935, then you are missing an incredible film, which is in the same field of pioneering science fiction films like Fritz Lang’s Frau im Mond (Woman in the Moon, 1927), but is actually way better :

  5. Oh dear, now you’ve done it – I put Collier’s Best of Soviet Science Fiction into Amazon – I’m doomed….

  6. Hi Joachim

    The Wolves of Memory is one of the most moving and powerful books I have ever read. Given Effinger’s very real encounters with the medical establishment his entire life it seems almost prescient. I am intrigued by Soviet author you picked up, my wife and I are planning to start reading the Strugatsky brother’s works. So many books so little time.

    Happy reading

      • I have read Sturgeon,but none of his novels.He was as far as I know,along with Heinlein,Van Vogt and some others,important in the early pulp magazines in developing what sf would become in the 1950s and since.

      • Really? I honestly think he’s one of the greats. Have you read “More Than Human”? In terms of the writing style, and how it captures the human hunger to find connections, it’s a staggeringly beautiful book. Indeed, it seems more “human” than Venus Plus X, which (at least for me) seemed more like a log of really great ideas for a novel. Still think it’s superior to many other SF books from the period.

        And many of his short stories are excellent (though there are plenty of duds). The good ones: “Bianca’s Hands,” “The World Well Lost,” “The Perfect Host,” “A Saucer of Loneliness,” “The Touch of Your Hand,” and… a lot of what he wrote from about 1952-3 to the early 1960s (when he pub. Venux Plus X).

  7. Another good haul there Joachim, I love that Lehr cover and can see why it’s sparking the collector in you! I read The Steam-Driven Boy earlier this year and thoroughly enjoyed it, you must let us know what you think when you get around to it. All the best.

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