Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXI (Ellison + Sterling + Fast + Paul)

As is my wont, a wide range of authors, SF styles, and covers…. From Harlan Ellison’s collection with the first expanded and non-magazine publication of his famous  1970 Nebula Award-winning and Hugo-nominated novella “A Boy and His Dog” (1969) to Barbara Paul’s best-known SF novel.

And, how can you resist the gorgeous Karel Thole cover for Fast’s collection?  I know little about the author….

And finally, in my youth I was a cyberpunk fanatic and I adored (perhaps I was misguided, hah) Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net (1988).  At last I have his first novel in my hands!

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome!

1. The General Zapped an Angel, Howard Fast (1970)


(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1970 edition)

From the back cover: “HOWARD FAST, world-famous bestselling author, has been a reader and fan of science fiction all his life.  Here in this remarkable new book he presents nine of his own fine short stories of the fantastic and the science-fictional.

You will find some unforgettable tales here–stories of the unusual and strange in the world around us–tales like the little story of what happened when a twenty-foot long flying being was shot down over Indochina, like the man with the copy of tomorrow’s newspaper who tried to cash in on his advance information, like the strange results of the wounding of Mother Earth (See cover painting), like… but read them for yourself.

Louis Utermeyer writes: “In his new book, Howard Fast is as imaginative and as boldly inventive as ever.  I can’t think of a current book that is better reading, and what’s more important, rereading.”

2. Involution Ocean, Bruce Sterling (1977) (MY REVIEW)


(Visions Graphics & Film and Charles Bush’s horrid cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “COME! SEE NULLAQUA! …AND DIE!

The entire habitable portion of Nullaqua lies at the bottom of an immense crater 70 miles deep, 500 miles across.  The rest of the planet is dead.

How quickly ca a person climb?  Two miles a day?  You would be two miles above sea level before you were even over the boulders at the foot of the NUllaquian crater.  After two days of climbed you would find it impossible to breathe.  The sky would turn black before you were halfway up The Cliffs.  After a month you would be climbing rockers undisturbed for four billion years.

And yet…something lives down there at the bottom of that ocean of dust.  Something cool and watchful.  No one talks about it on Nullaqua.

All this… and the crew of the dustwhaler Lunglance… make up this strange and memorable world.  For instance, you will never forget the winged woman Dalusa, or the hero of this novel, John Newhouse, who had the misfortune to fall in love with her…”

3. Bibblings, Barbara Paul (1979)


(Paul E. Stinson’s inept cover for the 1979 edition)

From the back cover: “WAR WORLD.  Lodon-Kamaria, a planet in a perpetual state of war.  No one in the Federation of United Worlds knew what the Lodonites and Kamarians were fighting about, nor, in the normal course of events, would anyone have cared.  But this was a world rich in alphidium, the most previous substance in the galaxy–and so, Lodon-Kamaria would have to become a member of the Federation.  And it was up to the Diplomatic Corps team, nicknamed the Anglo-Saxon Invaders, to do the recruiting.

It should have been an easy assignment.  Either make peace between the Lodonites and Kamarians, or figure our which side would be easier to deal with and see that it won the war.  That would have been the reasonable, rational approach.  But on a world where everyone is insane, reason just doesn’t apply…!”

4. The Beast that Shouted Love at the Heart of the World, Harlan Ellison (1969)


(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1969 edition)



A terrifying paranoid delusion of a man whose vampirish friends feed on his slow charisma leak.

A James Bond Santa Claus who shoots it out with Ronald Reagan in the men’s room of a mental hospital.

The dizzying notion of a Jesus who has a strange, obsessive relationship with Promoetheus.

And a major new novella written especially for this volume, with the deceptively gentle title A BOY AND HIS DOG.”

19 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXI (Ellison + Sterling + Fast + Paul)

  1. I love Sterling, but I’ve never found Involution Ocean–I’d be interested in your review. And I remember really liking “The Beast That Shouted Love At The Heart Of The World”, although I suspect many of the stories may date poorly–too topical of the time they were written.

    • Well, you know what I enjoy (I’ve reviewed Ellison favorably in the past), and I generally am hyperaware of the context in which his stories were published. So, I don’t think the “topical” nature of Ellison’s work will be an element I dislike. But some probably would be put off by it.

      And, so many of these 50s/60s/70s authors were very very political, so again, not something with generally bothers me.

      In a way, one OF the reason I read SF from this era is because of its topical nature (all SF is topical anyway, informed by its context, one just has to identify the elements, or the ways in which authors are reacting against said elements).

  2. I’ve read Sterling’s “The Artificial Kid”,but none of his other stuff.Have you read it?It wasn’t bad,and preferred it to William Gibson’s “Neuromancer”,which I think is badly composed,unstylish and bland.

    I read the Pan version of the Ellison’s collection last year.Overall,I wasn’t impressed.”A Boy and His Dog” was a raw,crude piece,not like much of his elegant,stylish stuff.I prefered “All the Sounds of Fear”,the second volume of a collection of which “The Time of the Eye”,was the first.

    • I enjoyed Neuromancer, I found it stylish and not at all bland (especially considering the historical context and how radical it was for the day).

      As for The Artificial Kid, I have not read it. What is it about?

      • It’s about a genetically engineered marshall arts fighter who sells his skills for cheap entertainment.It also involves a sea adventure on a very strange world.I haven’t read it since the early ’90s,so my memories of it are very vague,and it didn’t leave much impression on me,despite finding it quite readable and entertaining at the time.I had to look up a number of sites to recall what it had really been about.I think in some few ways,it lacked substance though.

        Yes,I think “Neuromancer” was radical and of strong historical importance at the time,but I didn’t find it’s themes very vivid or readable.Sterling’s novel,despite it’s flaws,I would say was far better.

  3. Howard Fast is probably better known for his historical fiction like ‘Spartacus’ and ‘April Morning’,than for his Sci-Fi. I liked ‘April Morning’ a lot, it’s a good recreation of the Battle of Lexington, it’s been years since I read any of his Sci-Fi short stories but I remember finding them too moralistic. as though he wants to teach a lesson disguised as a sci- fi story.

  4. I liked Involution Ocean when I read it (at least twice so I must’ve liked it!). And Island in the Net was a big fave too at the time. I recall enjoying Schismatrix and the Artificial Kid. It’s been more than 20 years since I’ve read Sterling. The last thing I read of his was a short story collection. I remember being very much a fan of his work so I’m not sure why I suddenly just stopped reading him. Ah the mid 90s…

    • A generally do not nitpick small elements that do not make logical sense… but, this novel is littered with them. For example, the crewmen have no audio pick-up in their masks to communicate with their officers? Did Sterling read a lot of naval fiction, because, seamen constantly shout back and forth, how else can you coordinate or report problems!

      I remember loving Islands in the Net but not that much of the content. I have also read Schismatric but not Artificial Kid.

  5. Hairsplitting, but according to Ellison’s introduction to ‘Vic & Blood’ the original version was 18,000 words and Ellison sent an abbreviated/cut version of 15,600 words to Moorcock. So not really ‘expanded’…

  6. For me INVOLUTION OCEAN was interesting. The crew was amusing in their stolid dull way. Kind of Herman Melville/Joseph Conrad. No big climax, and depressing in that the initial motive is drug addiction. I actually like that cover, but it’s a happier cover (sun, water) than the book reads (haze, dust).

    • “Interesting” and “solid dull” are the operative words. Intriguing premise and really bland delivery (that said, I am not finished yet). I find the drug addiction motivation the most interesting element, however, actual drug addiction is way more debilitating/disturbing than what he portrays so far. Perhaps that’s because according to Ellison’s intro, Sterling was 21 when he wrote the novel (it wasn’t published for a few years). I cannot imagine tackling such serious issues at 21!

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