Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLVIII (Lafferty + Shaw + Wilhelm + Thomas + Anthology)

A nice range of 60s/70s SF….

A wonderful Richard Powers cover and another by Don Punchatz which grows on me ever day (hauntingly surreal in its illustration of the book’s plot)….

Bob Shaw is Mr. Perpetually Average–see my reviews of Ground Zero Man (1971) and One Million Tomorrow (1971)—but MPorcius claims Night Walk (1968) is worth the read [here]—I took a peek at the first few pages and it shows promise.  But SF Potpourri’s lengthy rundown of his other work casts a shadow [here]!

Who can pass up Lafferty?  I have to admit, the premise of this particular novel does not appeal to me in the slightest.  But, I purchased the book for less than $2 and it’s a $25+ (with shipping) paperback online!

Another Ted Thomas and Kate Wilhelm collaboration—one of my Kate Wilhelm’s SF guest posts [here], by Mike White, argues convincingly that it is not one of her better novels…. alas.

And an anthology edited by Robert Hoskins.


Some great covers!

1. The Reefs of Earth, R. A. Lafferty (1968)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1968 edition)

From the back cover: “A PLAGUE OF DEMONS—that’s what the people of Lost Haven called the six children (seven, if you counted Bad John) of the Dulanty family.  They looked like normal Earth children… except when they flicked their ears like animals, or made their eyes glow with a green fire… and if you looked at them sideways they did look strangely like nightmarish gargoyles.

The truth is: these children are Pucas, aliens from a strange planet.  And they have taken it upon themselves to reduce the world to a population of six (seven, if you counted Bad John).  Wishing will make it so, for by making up an appropriate death-rhyme, they can destroy their victims.

These frightening, far-out kinds take a black delight in destroying their neighbors, and the Earth people are hopeless against them….”

2. Night Walk, Bob Shaw (1967)

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 7.55.32 AM

(Don Punchatz’s cover for the 1970 edition)

From the back cover:  “INTO THE BLACK.  The police of prison planet Emm Luther had taken Earth agent Sam Tallon’s eyes and exiled him into a swamp as dense and eerie as the black void of his sightless days…

But then Tallon invented a means of seeing—awkward, painful, but still a way to make escape just faintly possible.  He saw through the eyes of a bird, a doc, a woman guard.  Soon he would see himself through the eyes of his enraged Emm Lutheran pursuers.  For they’d never let him go.  They’d seal off the whole planet first.  For Sam Tallon was the possessor of the most important single secret in the universe…”

3. The Year of the Cloud, Ted Thomas and Kate Wilhelm (1970)


(James Spanfeller’s cover for the 1971 edition)

From the back cover: “There was a race going on such as the world had never experienced before.  It was a race to save humanity from death by thirst…. It was a race that might not even finish much less win.”

4. The Far-Out People: A Science Fiction Anthology, ed. Robert Hoskins (1971)


(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1971 edition)


TOMORROW!  Dreams of human progress to boggle the mind.  Nightmares of human degradation to shatter the spirit.  Which destiny awaits man as he plunges into the twenty-first century and beyond?  The inquisitive authors in this volume cross the frontiers of time and traverse the boundaries of the human psyche as they speculate on life tomorrow with the far-out people.

The writers whose work appears in this collection are Isaac Asimov, Michael Fayette, Robert Hoskins, John Jakes, Kris Neville, William F. Nolan, K. M. O’Donnell [i.e. Barry N. Malzberg), Chad Oliver, Alexei Panshin, and Roger Zelazny.”

22 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLVIII (Lafferty + Shaw + Wilhelm + Thomas + Anthology)

  1. Hi

    Night Walk is already in my pile to take to the cabin, a friend recommended it. But while I like my cover by Frank Frazetta, Don Punchatz’s is wonderful, I see Rowena also did a neat one.


  2. The Shaw is a good first novel and much better than the other two you have read. You have started with the worst possible choices, and you might want to avoid The Two Timers, too.
    I haven’t been to SF Potpourri’s site (yet!) but do not understand the negative comments: Orbitsville can hold its own against the best of Trad/hard SF novels and the first half of The Ragged Astronauts trilogy is up there too. The fix-up Other Days, Other Eyes has parts that are excellent (Light of Other Days, Burden of Proof). These are just the ones I can remember of the top of my head.
    Having just done an Exorcist neck twist I also see the rest of the Orbitsville trilogy and another good early novel, The Palace of Eternity, not to mention A Wreath of Stars (BSFA award winner, but I felt a bit lukewarm about that one). There are also a number of good or better short stories I could list as well.

    • Mike at SF Potpourri despises Orbitsville and Shaw’s short story collection Tomorrow Lies in Ambush…. I have a both on my shelf waiting to be read. Maybe I’ll pick them up if Night Walk intrigues!

      As you probably know, I tend to explore an author’s lesser known works first — and, if I remember correctly, I picked up Ground Zero Man because of the great cover as a teen and then read it almost a decade later on a whim.

    • I just read Shaw’s short story Retroactive in Universe 2 and is was profoundly average. Russ, Conway, Silverberg (three of the 5 authors whose stories I read in the collection so far) blew him out of the water… I guess I need a copy of Other Days, Other Eyes! (I don’t think I’ll enjoy Orbitsville personally).

      • That is a strange one: according to my notes I didn’t like it all all the first time around but thought more of it when I read it in ‘Ship of Strangers’.
        What you want ‘Other Days, Other Eyes’ for are two of its fixed up short stories: ‘Light of Other Days’ (Analog 8-66) and ‘Burden of Proof’ (Analog ’69). You may already have these in other anthologies. If you don’t like these he is not for you.
        I should have added to my previous comments that although I think him ‘better’ (whatever that means) than Eric Brown he is at times much worse than him. I see from my notes that I didn’t particularly rate about half of his stuff (a lot of that short fiction). When he was good however, he was really good.
        He was also hugely popular in British fandom, not least for the ‘scientific talks’ he used to give at the annual Eastercon in the UK. I was lucky to be in the huge audience for one of these very funny talks in 1979.

        • I have never read Eric Brown and thus do not have an opinion on him. I went to one of the best US used bookstores (Powell’s Books in Portland, OR) for SF and snagged a copy of Shaw’s The Two-Timers — unfortunately they did not have a copy of Other Days, Other Eyes. Perhaps next time I buy books online I’ll look for a copy…

  3. I had a quick look at Mike’s site; I’m perplexed that he likes Eric Brown but doesn’t care for Bob Shaw. I like both, would say they are similar but that Shaw was the superior. Or at least I would have circa 2003: I haven’t read anything by either writer since then.
    As to reading author’s lesser known works first I would never do that now. Once I read indiscriminately but that just meant I read a lot of bad books as I found it hard to give up on anything. Life is too short, and nowadays the wisdom of the masses is at my fingertips!

    • I recommend arguing with him! 😉 We all have our perplexing tastes…. We also do not apply the same critical look towards everything we read.

      Ah, I don’t read “indiscriminately” — rather, I read “less known” works. I would never have discovered some of my favorite novels unless I had — Katherine MacLean’s Missing Men (1975) for example or the novels of D.G. Compton (at the time I started reading his work there was barely a peep about him online other than a few comments by Clute and a review here or there of The Unsleeping Eye. But, his less known works are masterpieces — for example, Farewell Earth’s Bliss (1966): https://sciencefictionruminations.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/book-review-farewell-earths-bliss-d-g-compton-1966/

    • I would also point out that the vast majority of the Eric Brown novels that Mike has reviewed and read are post-2003… And if you haven’t read those then you might not be able to make the argument that you are making.

      • I have read Eric Brown’s “Xenopath” and “Helix”.They are of a quite traditional and simple SF that I usually try resolutely to avoid,but were not without feeling or characterisation.In not straying far from the path of tradition,they seem to have shades of Bob Silverberg’s stuff,but are far less serious and ambitious in actually changing the face of the genre.

        They are quite enjoyable and well written though.

      • Perhaps, but I looked at his individual story ratings for the works in The Fall of Tartarus collection (which I have read) and they are way above what I would give them (five five star stories and three four star).
        And I say that as someone who originally published two of the five star stories 🙂

  4. I personally found The Reefs of Earth to be very funny, but you probably have to be in sync with Lafferty’s sense of humor. If you aren’t, might find it annoying. Some of his novels can be fairly deep and philosophical. This one isn’t. It’s largely just a goof.

    • I’ve read Past Master (it was fine but I never got around to reviewing it) and multiple short stories in various anthologies — I definitely prefer him in short form…

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