Over the last few months I’ve been reading more of Philip José Farmer’s 50s/60s SF — including the novelization of Night of Light (1966) [unreviewed], his deservedly famous 1968 Hugo-winning novella “Riders of the Purple Wage” (1967) [unreviewed], and the short story collection The Alley God (1962). I still hold that Strange Relations (1960) contains his most sustained and well-formed short fiction. For extensive discussion of his work, see the reviews (and their comments) I linked and for my views on his later SF more broadly — i.e. such as the 1973 novel Traitor to the Living. I rather not recap here. But, I have another one of his novels, I appear to be returning to his 70s work…
A novel with Chicago as a character over the millennia? Might as well give it a go, right?
I might snark occasionally at Bob Shaw, but, yet another one of his early novels enters my collection. Maybe the Diane and Leo Dillon cover sealed the deal rather than the probably dull contents.
And, I return to Sydney J. Van Scyoc… Her novel Assignment Nor’Dyren (1973) was one of my earliest reviews—written before the site even started—and I have no idea what I would say about it now.
1. The Stone God Awakens, Philip José Farmer (1970)
(J.H. Breslow’s cover for the 1973 edition)
From the back cover: “He was only a twentieth-century scientists whose experiments with atomic stasis had “petrified” him. But when he was accidentally “unpretrified” millions of years later on a radically changed Earth, Ulysses Singing Bear was worshipped as a god by people no longer human…
To enable his species to survive, he had to find a human mate. To do so, and to fulfill the single condition set by his worshippers, he had to confront a far greater spirit—the Tree, a vegetative devourer who reached from continent to continent to continent, from the heavens to hell.
It would have been an easy task for a god, but he was only a man—and perhaps the only man at that.”
2. Starmother, Sydney J. Van Scyoc (1976)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1976 edition)
From the back cover of the 1976 paperback edition with same art: “GODDESS FROM THE VOID. Centuries had passed since the first Earth colonies were founded. Evolution had played cruel tricks. The backplanet of Nelding was an especially tragic case. There, an eruption of grotesque mutations had divided the colony into two hostile races.
Peace Cadet Jahna came to Nelding to care for mutant infants, and soon found herself the center of a strange sacred rite, the object of both deep veneration and fearful, murderous hatred. Hailed as the bearer of new, healing life by some, vilified as a force of devastation by others—was she the long-awaited deity from the skies, the awesome and legendary StarMother?”
3. The Two-Timers, Bob Shaw (1968)
(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1968 edition)
Short summary blurb from inside page: “THE TWO-TIMERS is an unpredictable and fascinating novel of a man literally fighting himself… while the universe fell apart…”
4. The Time-Swept City, Thomas F. Monteleone (1977)
(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1977 edition)
From the back cover: “ETERNAL CHICAGO built to serve man and now seeking mystery of man.
ETERNAL CHICAGO evolving like a live organism over the millenniums toward the zenith of monstrous perfection.
ETERNAL CHICAGO flourishing behind its force fields as disaster ravishes the globe—and voyagers into space vanish among the stars.
ETERNAL CHICAGO the ultimate battleground between human and extra-human—where the future of earth and the universe will be decided.”
14 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLIV (Farmer + Shaw + Van Scyoc + Monteleone)”
I’m more familiar with Monteleone as a horror writer. I had no idea he wrote any SF. Then again, my public library has very little of his work in it, and I’ve only read that.
Libraries have ditched most of their earlier SF collections, as we’ve discussed, never a good indication of the range of earlier works out there.
I’ve only read one of his short stories which appears to form part of this novel! “Chicago” (1977) in the depressing anthology Future City. And, he edited some interesting volumes — for example, The Arts and Beyond: Visions of Man’s Aesthetic Future (1977)
I know what you mean about libraries. As soon as the book gets one little scratch on it, they want it out, even if it’s the only copy of the book they have. And, me being a trained library technician now, I probably know that as well as anybody can what the protocol is.
If only I had enough money to buy stuff on Abebooks on a regular basis…
I’m not sure I spend more than $40 a month on SF books. Recently I’ve been traveling a bit and perusing some top-notch used book stores…. But my local Half Price has yielded at least 30 of my purchases over the last few months — at $1 each. I rarely buy from Abebooks unless there’s something more esoteric I want. It’s not that expensive of a habit…
And I certainly buy way more than I can physically read, in part due to the site and all the great SF discussions books create.
It’s hard to find this stuff at my local library (though I’ve picked up a bunch of books on my to-find list at library sales – 25 cents!). But I just discovered that my university library has kept a lot of their stuff. The entire Orbit, Universe, and New Dimension series are there in hardcover, as well as various Lafferty anthologies and other volumes that can be hard to find. University libraries are worth checking out.
I read “The Stone God Awakens” during my early SF reading days.My memories of it are very vague now,but I seem to remember that I quite liked it at the time,even though it’s ultimate effects soon proved emphemeral.Most of Farmer’s fiction seems to be like that.He just churned out too many in too short a time to satisfy.
His fourth volume of his “World of Tiers” series,published the same year as TSGA,”Behind the Walls of Terra”,was far superior,but is no good as a stand-alone novel.
He certainly was prolific — they had to be at the time if they wanted to make a living. One reason so many authors wrote in so many genres — the list of SF authors who wrote erotica of some sort (at one point) must be extensive: Barry N. Malzberg, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, and Langdon Jones immediately come to mind — but there are probably tons more.
I know,having to be productive to make a living from writing SF was the bane of several authors.Some if not more though,were better authors than Farmer,and wrote books that were more lasting.Also,for some or a few,the SF genre was the only place that would accept their books,so they had to stick to the one genre.
Yes,Farmer wrote erotica too,for Essex House.Obviously you know of them.
I reviewed ‘The Stone God Awakens’ here:
I found it to be a competent, but not particularly imaginative, sf adventure. One that Farmer wrote to pay the bills, rather than make an Artistic Statement. Which, for a novel Farmer published in the height of the New Wave era, may not be such a bad thing, when you think about it…..
I like Farmer when he goes “full New Wave” (I know, I know, not your thing) — > for example, “Riders of the Purple Wage” (1967)
In Regard to “Riders of the Purple Wage”,I think that even during the time it was published,”Dangerous Visions” contained some pieces that were less shocking or radical than others.The variation in quality between some authors must also have been noticable,particularly I think of the “old wave”.What was more outstanding,was it’s impartiality,representing as full a spectrum of authors in SF as possible,including those outside the genre.
I don’t think Farmer’s ROTPW was one of the best in that anthlogy.I really didn’t get it at the time I was reading it,and so it’s not at all memorable for me.I think it must have lost it’s shock appeal.”The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod” was much better I thought.Still,it appeals to you though I suppose,and we will like different things.
I read Riders a few weeks ago, it’s firm in the memory…. Not sure I’m judging their quality solely on whether they are shocking and radical.
I agree,no reason why you should.ROTPW might have been at the time,but it just didn’t seem to make any impression on me when I read it,and that was three years ago.