Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXI (Harrison + Sturgeon + Moorcock + Buzzati)

1) Early Elric stories from Michael Moorcock’s pen. Confession: I bought it in Scotland due to the disquieting cover rather than any love of heroic fantasy—albeit M. John Harrison’s The Pastel City (1971) was pretty darn good.

The fantastic cover is uncredited: thoughts regarding the artist?

2) I adored Dino Buzzati’s magical realist novel The Tartar Steppe (1940). And the movie adaptation The Desert of the Tartars, dir. Valerio Zurlini (1976) inspired by the aesthetics of Giorgio de Chirico —I even wrote a half-baked and cursory review of the movie many years ago. While browsing I discovered that Buzzati wrote what is considered the first serious Italian SF novel—Larger than Life (1960). I can’t wait to read it!

3) More Theodore Sturgeon short stories….

Relevant reviews: A Way Home (1956), The Cosmic Rape (1958) and Venus Plus X (1960).

4) A while back I watched, and struggled to enjoy, the 1975 film adaptation of William Harrison’s short story “Roller Ball Murder” (1973). Time to read the source material. Copy snagged in Edinburgh, Scotland.

As always, I look forward to your thoughts.

1. The Stealer of Souls, Michael Moorcock (1963)

(Uncredited cover for the 1968 edition)

From the back cover: “Mighty Elric… Mightier Sword!

Elric – the most unusual hero in the great tradition of heroic fantasy.

Elric – the albino sorcerer and battle-thirsty prince.

Elric – doomed beyond hope to wander a world of barbarism and treachery.

Elric – seeker of impossible goals, fighter of remorseless battles, embittered poet.

Elric – held in the grip of his own sword, the enchanted STORMBRINGER.

Elric –

Moorcock’s mightiest creation!

2. Larger Than Life, Dino Buzzati, trans. Henry Reed (1960) (MY REVIEW)

(Lena Fong Long’s cover for the 1967 edition)

From the inside flap: “Of such vital national importance is the assignment offered Professor Ismani that its exact nature cannot be disclosed until he and his wife, Elisa, have actually arrived at the government research station in a remote mountain region. Though Ismani accepts the secrecy as being necessary for security reasons, something about the driver sent to fetch him alarms his fears. And then suddenly the desolate barren countryside through which they are driving gives way to a landscape as lush and promising as the world’s first spring.

Even the guards at the last security outpost sealing off the research area have no clue to the mystery beyond, though all are certain that it has nothing to do with atomic plants or missile stations. On questioning them, Ismani discovers that in spite of their loneliness they are reluctant to apply for transfer elsewhere. But what a pity that their dogs keep whining and straining toward the research center until they have to be sent down the mountain—or destroyed.

A fantastic tale by one of Italy’s leading writers, the author of the classic The Tartar Steppe.”

3. Caviar, Theodore Sturgeon (1955)

(Darrell K. Sweet’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “GHOST OF A CHANCE: When Gus fell in love with a total stranger, he had no idea that their becoming familiar could turn a trip to the altar into a journey to the grave…

SHADOW, SHADOW ON THE WALL. Bobby wasn’t a really a bad little boy. In fact, he got to be rather good at certain games of imagination. Unfortunately for some people, his imagination had a way of getting the better of them…

MICROCOSMIC GOD. Mr. Kidder had as much power as any man could want. He had already invented just about everything anyone could dream of, and he had even created life. But that turned out to be a greater responsibility than even Mr. Kidder could have imaginaed, because suddenly playing God wasn’t just a simple game anymore…

BRIGHT SEGMENT. The nicest thing that ever happened to the old handyman had been an accident. Only it wasn’t really a nice thing at all—and soon it wouldn’t even be an accident….

—Plus 4 more from Sturgeon’s Row.”

4. Rollerball, William Harrison (1975)

(Cover for the 1975 edition a still from the 1975 film adaptation, dir. Norman Jewison)

From the back cover: “Rollerball Murder—the deadly game of the twenty-first century. At a signal forty players run, skae and bike for their lives around a high banked, hardwood track, dodging the careening 25-pound oval balls which scatter and maim at over 300 miles an hour. No rules, no rest periods, no substitutes. It’s play up or die. Just two ours of brute speed and crowd-pleasing carnage viewed simultaneously the world over on multivision…

ROLLERBALL MURDER is one of the thirteen tightly written, provocative and, ultimately, unforgettable stories of the past, the present and the horrifying future.”

15 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXI (Harrison + Sturgeon + Moorcock + Buzzati)”

  1. Hi

    I have to say I read a lot of Moorcock’s heroic fantasy as a teenager but it got very predictable. I liked the nihilism of the villains in the Hawkmoon books, but I felt the various series were just being churned out to finance Moorcock’s other projects. While not a Sweet fan I do love the cover for Sturgeon’s Microcosmic God. I watched Roller Ball many years ago it was okay for the time I guess, I read Rollerball Murder not long ago and found it interesting to compare to the movie but overall it did not do much for me.

    Happy Reading
    Guy

    1. Do you remember anything about his early Elric stories? I think this collection gathers some of the first ones…. If I’m not mistaken.

      I agree regarding the Sweet cover — one of his best, without question.

      How did they compare? (I couldn’t finish the movie).

      Joachim

      1. Hi

        I think the early stories where he was building the worlds for the various manifestations of the Eternal Champion, Dorian Hawkmoon, Elric, Corum Jhaelen Irsei etc were interesting and then the formula took over go on quest to find the magic artefact maybe whine about being a hero and try to avoid fulfilling the expected role. The antihero feature of the protagonists also made them interesting but the stories really did not hold up over the course of the individual series. I struggled to finish the entire Hawkmoon collection although I liked the first book Count Brass, once I finished the collection I immediately gave it away.

        As for RollerBall with James Caan I remember it being more heroic and glamorous than the portrayal in Rollerball Murder which was much grittier.

        All the best
        Guy

      2. I suspect I’ll only read the early Elric stories then. To get a sense of what he was trying to do… Not sure I’ll like them!

        As for the film, I couldn’t really get past how idiotic the sport looked. A trivial element I know… I found it most admirable (if there was an admirable quality) in its attempt to say something greater about the world and society via the sport. But, at least up to the point where I quit, it never quite managed.

    1. I find all the UK editions I wouldn’t otherwise come across in the US! I did buy the Dino Buzzati novel online though — it’s normally around 25$ but someone listed a copy for 3$.

  2. I’m excited about your Buzzati find. I love The Tartar Steppes. Indeed, from the description, Larger Than Life’s theme resonates with that of ‘Steppes. I’ve mentioned this before but your should read Julien Gracq’s The Opposing Shore (Le Rivage des Syrtes). It bears comparison to Buzzati’s Steppes, but is the superior work in my estimation.

    1. It might be one of the rarer books in my collection — there are only a few copies available online. From what I can gather from that very vague cover blurb, it does have many parallels to The Tartar Steppes — and those are certainly elements I loved in the latter!

      Maybe you should track down a copy!

      1. I wonder if it would be possible to access any of the press’ documents where they discuss their goals and process for covers… I wish it were possible to track someone down affiliated with Sphere for an interview.

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