Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXX (The Scotland Edition No. 2) (Ballard + Wyndham + Shaw + Aldiss)

Still abroad. Need my desk and familiar surroundings to write book reviews. Alas.

That said, more books from my Scotland travels. Here’s Part I in my Scotland series.

1) I need to read more John Wyndham. I often find short stories are the best place to start. And as I was journeying around the UK, Penguin editions are plentiful!

2) One of J.G. Ballard’s best known novels. The one Cronenberg got his hands on…. Relevant reviews: Billenium (1962), High-Rise (1975), and The Voice of Time and Other Stories (1962).

3) A late 70s Brian W. Aldiss collection. He’s long been a favorite on this site—especially his short fiction. I’ve reviewed the following collections: Starswarm (1964), No Time Like Tomorrow (1959), Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960), and Who Can Replace a Man? (variant title: Best Science Fiction Stories of Brian W. Aldiss) (1965).

4) And finally, another Bob Shaw novel. I’ve heard that The Palace of Eternity (1969) is one strange read.

Note: As I am still abroad and without my handy scanner, I’ve had to include cover images of two of the books which I do not own. At some later point I might replace the images with high-res scans.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts and comments!

1. The Seeds of Time, John Wyndham (1956)

(Uncredited cover for the 1966 edition)

From the back cover: “Shots of the future from the author of The Day of the Triffids. John Wyndham catapults the reader of these stories into a world where time barriers have ceased to exist, where there is discrimination against Martians, where not only thought transference but body transference is an everyday event. Yet so convincingly are the inhabitants of this extra ordinary world, that its remoteness vanishes in a second.”

Contents: “Chronoclasm” (1953), “Time to Rest”  (1949), “Meteor” (1941), “Survival” (1952), “Pawley’s Peepholes” (1951), “Opposite Number” (variant title: “Opposite Numbers”) (1954), “Pillar to Post” (1951),  “Dumb Martian” (1952), “Compassion Circuit” (1954), “Wild Flower” (1955)

2. Crash, J. G. Ballard (1973)

(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover of the 1993 Falmingo edition: No premise blurb. Here are two of the critic comments: “‘An ugly, frightening, deliberately provocative book, it would well turn out to be the key British novel of the decade… one of a handful of books this country has produced that can comfortably stand alongside Burroughs at his best.’ Time Out

‘The novel is both obsessive and obsessed, with a numb, luminous quality that loiters in the mind. It is also his most mannered and literary book… a mournful and hypnotic tour de force.’ Martin Amis, Observer.”

3. New Arrivals, Old Encounters, Brian W. Aldiss (1979)

(Uncredited cover for the 1981 edition)

From the back cover of the 1983 Granada edition: “Ranging across the mind-blowing wastes of space and time, the dozen short stories in New Arrivals, Old Encounters are by Brian Aldiss at this sharpest and most inventive. Here are space colonizers, god creators, god implanters, visions of future Earths (on one of which the EEC has become a horrifying bureaucracy where people speak SpEEC) and new stories of the zeepees — the Zodiacal Planets.”

Contents: “New Arrivals, Old Encounters” (1977), “The Small Stones of Tu Fu” (1979), “Three Ways” (1979), “Amen and Out” (1966), “A Spot of Konfrontation” (1979), “The Soft Predicament” (1969), “Non-Isotropic” (1979), “One Blink of the Moon” (1979), “Space for Reflection” (1979), “Song of the Silencer” (1979), “Indifference” (1978), “The Impossible Puppet Show” (1979)

4. The Palace of Eternity, Bob Shaw (1969)

(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1972 edition)

From the back cover: “The Palace of Eternity. A tremendous story of mankind’s interstellar battle to the death against an implacable alien culture. The astounding outcome is told with total conviction and audacious imagination.

22 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXX (The Scotland Edition No. 2) (Ballard + Wyndham + Shaw + Aldiss)

    • I look forward to it! Did you have a favorite element of the novel?

      In the past I’ve enjoyed Ballard’s prose — although he might take a standard idea (The Drowned World and his other disaster novels) or even an time-worn premise (chess mimicking the moves of the two characters in End-Game) his prose and underlying ideas are truly wonderful.

      I’ll have a review of Ballard’s collection The Terminal Beach (which contains some of his best early 60s stories) up when I get home from Italy. Highly recommended!

  1. Crash is a compellingly obsessive novel — I think you will appreciate it. Hopefully you will get on better with than previously with the Shaw: I remember it as one if his best early novels, along with Nightwalk

    • A while back I read the first 30 pages of Nightwalk and enjoyed it — not sure why I put it down but it didn’t relate to the quality of the book. I need to give it another go.

  2. “Crash” is an excellent piece,but I preferred his earlier and later more existential stuff .By that,I mean in mood,mystery and environment.Still,I haven’t read it since the ’90s,so my impression of it would probably be different now.

    I have the Flamingo edition,and most of the books I own by him are those published by them.They are quite smart and aesthetic I think.I don’t like the above edition.I have the Panther edition of “The Crystal World”,which is quite nice.

    • I look forward to reading it! As a fan of High-Rise, which was written later, I suspect I’ll enjoy it (and yes, it’s quite different).

      As with you, I have a preference for his 60s fiction. But will need to read more to firmly argue this position….


      • I’ve no doubt you’ll enjoy it.It’s visceral and unflinching as I remember.I quite liked “High Rise”,and “Concrete Island” was nothing less than excellent,having the power and strangeness of his 60s stuff.

  3. Never read Wyndham myself – another one I need to get on with, like yourself! I have read around 12 of Aldiss’s in all, since my teens, around 30-odd years ago (many just a few years ago, when I was preparing to interview him for radio – what a lovely, amazing chap he is!).

    Crash is one of my favourite ever novels – much can be, and has been, said about it; suffice to say it is truly unique and some sort of literary phenomenon. it is one of the most revelatory and astute novels of the 20th century, in my humble opinion. Though, of course – whilst not wanting to sound pompous or conceited (like many so-called ‘Ballardians’ unfortunately can be, especially here in the UK) – some readers just cannot handle the sexual perversions and violence, etc. Either that, or they do not fully understand it – but that is their loss or weakness, ultimately. I mean, if you have ever read William Burroughs, Hubert Selby, or even Lautreamont, Crash isn’t much different from them, in terms of pushing the envelope of ‘acceptable’ taste, for the time. I suspect you will give it 5 out of 5, as a ‘masterpiece’, but we will see, eventually!

    Only got around to reading one Bob Shaw, so far, and it was just about average, and pretty flawed and underwhelming in some places. It was his late 60s time travel story, The Two-Timers. I would give that one a miss, if I were you, if you ever see it in a shop. However, I haven’t let it put me off trying many of his others, in the future (especially since I have at least 10 more of his, stored in my huge collection!), and I too have heard that The Palace of Eternity is one of his better efforts. The Ceres Solution, A Wreath of Stars, Vertigo, and Orbitsville (though the latter is more Hard SF) are all meant to be some of his best, too

    (and if I had known you would be in the UK – London, perhaps? – we maybe could have met briefly for a pint in a pub! I could also have briefed you on the best bookshops for second-hand SF! Next time, maybe)

    • Unfortunately I was only in Scotland (Edinburgh and the Orkney Islands and some places in the Cairngorms). I visited London two years ago — but did not have enough time to search the used book stories.

      Have you seen Cronenberg’s film version of the novel? I enjoy many of his movies but people do not seem to be a fan of his take on Crash…..

      I look forward to reading Crash! Bob Shaw, not as much… hah. My views might shift a bit as a week ago I read one of his short stories “Light of Other Days” (1966) which forms part of his novel Other Days, Other Eyes (1972) and was VERY impressed.

  4. Ah, well, if you ever visit London again, at any point, do get in touch (via my blog), and I will show you the best places for old SF paperbacks – the few second-hand bookshops still extant, at any rate (I may even have a few good SF ‘doubles’ you can have, in return for a pint of beer!). I hope Bonny Scotland was a great trip….

    Ah yes, ‘Other Days, Other Eyes’ is the ‘Slow Glass’ novel – it’s meant to be ace. I nearly picked it up to start the other day. I must put it on my ‘M.R.A.S.A.P.’ pile….

    I have a LOT of opinions on Cronenberg’s Crash, plus most of the other Ballard film adaptations, so far. but I won’t take up more space relating them, here; suffice to say, I was bitterly disappointed with it. However, if you, or others, are at all interested, here is my – coruscating – review of Ben Wheatley’s High-Rise film, from a few years ago, which includes a mini-review of Crash, also (it’s a totally safe link, don’t worry!) : http://www.tripwiremagazine.co.uk/review/high-rise-review/

    • Will do!

      Unfortunately copies of Other Days, Other Eyes are not cheap in the US (for paperbacks — hovering around $10 without shipping). I haven’t been able to find a copy in used stories although I’ve kept an eye out.

      I enjoyed the High-Rise adaptation (I’ll read the review in more depth when I get home to the States). But then again I’m seldom interested in whether the exact feel of the novel is transferred to the screen — rather I want the cinematic experience to stand on its own merits.

  5. Hi

    It looks like you are finding great stuff. We are planning a trip to London in the fall and I am looking forward to see what I find in between visits to museums and galleries. I read a lot of WYNDHAM as a teenager, I believe his books were taught in school. I will have to take another look at him in the fall.


    • Definitely get in touch with AtomicBark above as he seems to know the best London used stores. And of course, I’d love to know what wonderful stuff you snag!


  6. I know what you mean about cinema standing alone from exact adaptations, and sometimes that is ‘valid’ or works, but, for me, it is a real shame that Ballard still hasn’t been ‘properly’ adapted.

    Yes, Guy, if you head over to London at any point, do get in touch, if you like!

    • I understand. I guess I disagree with the underlying concept (or even the possibility) of a “proper” adaptation. The directors aren’t the writers, and they are not in Ballard’s day. The 70s were fascinating because they were the 70s and any recreation of the 70s will have additional layers of artifice. Also, the screen is a profoundly different form…. I know these things are obvious but adaptations are adaptations and the director’s distinctive voice will always poke through. As Wheatley’s does in High-Rise….

  7. Sure, I agree in many ways – they are two different artforms, with their own rules and avenues of creativity, basically. But some directors’ own ideas and ‘ambience’, if not the exact same narrative or plot structure, will synchronise with the writers’ ideas and ‘vibe’ much more smoothly than others will, i.e. if they are too far away or disjointed from the writer’s original general intentions, then there isn’t much point in adapting the source novel – they should just start over. It’s a fine balance between bringing some original, but fitting, ideas to the table, and slavishly copying the source – I know it isn’t easy. But, for me, Wheatley had a lot of the tone all wrong in his film. Anyway, I explain a lot of this much better in my article, above (not on form, much, today!)

    • But he’s allowed to change the tone. His “adaptation” is an “adaptation” and provides the general inspiration for his own unique vision. I think it’s different to say you prefer Ballard’s tone and that Wheatley’s film could have benefited from it.

      I disagree firmly with the first part of your comment. He’s allowed to drastically modify, manipulate, and obfuscate the source material — as are all adaptations. Some of the absolute best adaptations are drastically different than the originals — think classical plays, Shakespeare, etc. Julie Taymor’s Titus (1999), Pier Paolo Pasolini’s Oedipus Rex (1967), and Richard Loncraine’s Richard III (1995) all come to mind. And in the SF realm — Tarkovsky’s Solaris (1972) and Stalker (1979).

  8. Sure, all of those are fabulous films, and they did indeed differ greatly, in many ways, from the source material. But, it doesn’t always work, and with Wheatley’s film, it was stuck in a kind of limbo – where it wasn’t either; a good, faithful adaptation, or a visionary ‘new’ work which used the original simply as a springboard for something unique or novel. And I never said, or at least meant, that directors aren’t ‘allowed’ to veer wildly from their source material – just that the quality will differ, with different directors, i.e. those that instinctively know how to produce a good adaptation, be it extremely ‘faithful’ or not, and those that don’t have a clue…anyway, let’s agree to disagree on this one! Cheers 🙂

    • I understand more with your clarification. I guess I got that sense as you used the term “proper.” As in, something that didn’t reproduce the tone (among other things), isn’t “proper.” And some of the least proper adaptations have been the best! (haha).

      No worries, all in the spirit of debate 🙂

  9. Yes, my mistake – using the term ‘proper’ was too vague and inappropriate. There are no hard and fast rules to creativity, or at least there shouldn’t be! Quality of said creativity, is another matter, of course….

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