Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLI (Lessing + Zelazny + Engh + Priest)

Fresh off reading Christopher Priest’s An Infinite Summer (1979) and his even more amazing novel The Affirmation (1981) (which I’ve been unable to review for a variety of reasons), I acquired yet another one of his challenging gems….

And M.J. Engh’s Arslan (1975), which appears to polarize audiences—for example, Ian Sales’ negative review of her novel [here].  One of the odder and lesser known Golancz SF Masterwork inclusions for sure….  I.e. normally my cup of tea.  Seriously problematic seems to be Arslan‘s operating word.

And more Zelazny novels! I’m close to owning everything he wrote, other than the Amber sequence, up to the 1980s.

And there’s nothing wrong with more Lessing! (I wish MPorcius would stop writing such intriguing reviews of her work—haha.  Here’s his review of Briefing for a Descent Into Hell).

As always, thoughts?

1. Arslan, M. J. Engh (1975)


(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “THE CONQUERER came riding into Kraftsville, Illinois one day, leading his armored column, and installed his crack troops in the schoolhouse.  He was Arslan, and to make the town understand he intended to be obeyed absolutely, he killed a school teacher, then raped a young girl and boy as the soldiers cheered and the townspeople looked on.  Of course, Kraftsville knuckled under—as all the world had already done…

ARSLAN was now the supreme power on earth, and he had an idealistic plan to save the world by destroying man.”

2. Doorways in the Sand, Roger Zelazny (1976)


(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “Man is not alone in the cosmos… The aliens have given a precious relic to the people of Earth.  Star-stone.  The harmony of the galaxy is at stake when they discover the disappearance of their star-stone.

Likeable [sic] Fred Cassidy is an eternal undergraduate.  All he thinks he knows about the star-stone is that it came to Earth in an interplanetary trade for the Mona Lisa and the British Crown jewels.  Then Fred is accused of stealing the cosmic artifact, and he is pursued from Australia to Greenwich Village and beyond, by telepathic psychologists, extraterrestrial hoodlums, and galactic police in disguise; as he enters multiple realities, flipping in and out of alien perspectives, through doorways in the sand.”

3. Briefing for a Descent Into Hell, Doris Lessing (1971)


(Uncredited cover for the 1981 edition)

From the back cover: “A fascinating look inside the mind of a man who is supposedly “mad.”  Professor Charles Watkins o Cambridge University is a patient at a mental hospital where the doctors try with increasing drugs to bring his mind under control.  But Watkins has embarked on a tremendous psychological adventure where after spinning endlessly on a raft in the Atlantic, he lands on a tropical island inhabited by strange creates and strange customs.  Later, he is carried off on a cosmic journey through space…”

4. The Glamour: A Novel, Christopher Priest (1984)


(Linda Fennimore’s cover for the 1985 edition)

From the inside flap: “You are about to enter a bizarre and unfamiliar world—the underworld of “the glamor.”  It’s a place both seductive and sinister, where men and women possess enviable powers.  A world of alternating states, a world that exists on the edge of reality, behind a veil of invisibility.

In the world they call the glamour, Richard and Susan meet and fall very much in love.  For Richard, the victim of a terrorist bombing, fighting to piece together his shattered memory, it is a love both strange and new.  But for Susan, a woman fighting for their future, it is a love that began long ago in Richard’s forgotten past.  Now she must help him to remember the past they share—and the power they possess.  It is a power that allows them to cloak themselves in a mysterious aura or glamour.  People who possess it can fade in and out of sight.  The glamour is a power they can use for good or for evil Yet for Richard and Susan, it is becoming a power they must escape, or be haunted by forever.

As sophisticated as it is provocative, THE GLAMOUR is a mesmerizing novel of psychological suspense that dares to prove the powers of the mind, ESP, and the ways in which people see—or fail to see—each other.  Both a captivating love story and a haunting metaphor of modern life, it is an unforgettable reading experience.”

24 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLI (Lessing + Zelazny + Engh + Priest)

  1. I read the M J Engh as the slightly more descriptively titled A Wind from Bukhara several years after it was first published, and knew it had received good reviews.
    I didn’t care for it much.

    And I’ve read the other authors but not these particular books.
    I know Zelazny’s Amber Chronicles is available in the US as a single omnibus of all 10 books, but there’s a major break after the first 5, so I’d suggest you stop there if you ever decide to read them! (In the UK Orion issued a Fantasy Masterworks edition of the first 5 and never bothered with the other set)

    • I don’t have the Amber books them because I don’t want to read them 😉 I suspect I had at least a few them at one point. But, I’ve been pairing down the collection as of late.

  2. I sympathise with your dilemma! We MUST have a major clearout of books, as it’s getting ridiculous. The piles are threatening to engulf a straying grandchild… The Christopher Priest book looks intriguing – I find I’m in a love/hate relationship with his work, but that one sounds fascinating. Thank you, once again, for an intriguing, enjoyable roundup of past gems.

  3. “Nine Princes in Amber” was really a very good novel.It’s a pity it couldn’t have been a longer stand-alone novel,with the entire dreary,original five volume saga compacted into one book.

    It reminds me of Philip J.Farmer’s “Riverworld” opus,which seems a shame,as Zelazny is a better author than Farmer.

    Don’t let the pile get too high and get trapped in the top of your tower!Now you know why I tend to stick to the authors I know,and am careful what I read,buy and collect.

    Thanks for an enjoyable post.

    • The problem is SF is only a minor part of my massive book collection — my wife’s collection (contemporary lit, literary theory, etc) is at least half of the books we own, and then I have all the books that are related to my profession, at least tangentially (and other obsessions)…

      I am more likely to be crushed by my tower!

      • You’re like me,you haven’t got just SF ahead of you to read,that makes it more difficult.I’m currently reading Katherine Mansfield’s “Selected Writings”,but not enjoying it much.I should have gone for the Ernest Hemingway short story collection,whost work I know.

      • It’s a wonderful art history inflected study of medieval conceptions via images in Bible Moralisée etc of the nature of a “religious order” and its relationship to the past…. super cool!

  4. I love “Doorways In The Sand”. The main character is very likable, and the supporting characters are quirky. Zelazny plays some interesting games with the novel’s structure (in some ways it is similar to “Roadmarks”) but not to the detriment of the story.

    And I also strongly recommend the Amber series–both the original five and the second five. I recently listened to the entire series on Audiobook and they held up very well.

  5. Looks like a good haul! More Priest, yay! And I’ll be reading Doorways in the Sand soon. And those Mporcius posts about Lessing have been hard to pass up…

  6. After the first couple of chapters I thought ARSLAN was going to be one of the greatest SF novels I’d ever read. By the last quarter I was dying for it to end. But I still recommend it because the idea is done without the RED DAWN rah-rah crap or the “We deserve this for our many sins” crap, without being without point of view. After all the years when I think of this novel I think of the early scene where everyone is rounded up and something very bad is done to demonstrate that resistence is pointless.

    • I read about 100 pages and called it quits. I’ll probably return to it at some point. But yeah, “We deserve this for our many sins” type narrative was completely absent… but, there are some seriously uncomfortable elements, for example, the male character’s concern for only the young boy’s rape rather than the girl’s… and she fades completely from the narrative.

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