Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCIII (Wolf + Simak + Reynolds + Anthology edited by Silverberg)

1. I recently proclaimed my fascination with sports-related SF (despite my general lack of interest in sports) in my review of William Harrison’s “Roller Ball Murder” (1973)… A few of my blog friends have favorably reviewed Gary K. Wolf’s Killerbowl (1975) — couldn’t resist buying a copy online.

I reviewed Wolf’s The Resurrectionist (1979) last year.

2. An anthology edited by Robert Silverberg filled with a veritable horde of great authors–Ursula Le Guin, Terry Carr, R. A. Lafferty, James Triptree, Jr…..

3. A family friend sent me a large box of science fiction paperbacks, which arrived on my doorstep while I was hiking in the Adirondacks—I’ll be posting them slowly. Some I’d purchase if I’d encountered them in a used book stores, others I’d avoid… All greatly appreciated!

And goodness me does this Simak novel have a stunning Richard Powers cover!

4. Part of the gift–Mack Reynolds. Hmm. I am always weirdly excited about opening his books only to discover shoddy plots, half-baked political philosophy, and a few fun ideas hidden in forgotten corners…. At first glance, this fix-up novel reminds me of Rick Raphael’s slice of life novel Code Three (1967).

As always. thoughts and comments are welcome.

Note: Images are hi-res scans of my personal copies.


1. Killerbowl, Gary K. Wolf (1975)

(Steve Marcesi’s cover for the 1975 edition)

From the inside flap: “T. K. Mann, at the age of thirty-four, is the oldest living survivor of organized football. After thirteen years of street football, a twenty-four-hour game with armed players, Mann is sharp, still quick, still eager to play the game. But he’s not bloodthirsty enough to please IBC, the network television conglomerate which profits heavily from the sport. Though ratings are impossibly high, and the nation hangs hungrily on every play, IBC is not satisfied. They want more viewers, higher ratings, more profits. To get it, they need more violence.

Pierce Spencer, ruthless IBC president, dreams up an ingenious scheme: manufacture a confrontation between T. K. Mann and Harv Matision, a young tough-and-coming killer. The network has everything at its disposal. It manipulates government officials, engineers the outcome of matches, turns Mann into a laughingstock–and owns Harv Matision, directing his actions by remote control. And the final setup is to be Superbowl XXI, when the odds are stacked and the game is rigged…”

2. New Dimensions 3, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973)

(Dennis Anderson’s cover for the 1973 edition)

From the inside flap: “Here is the top drawer anthology of science fiction filled with the kind of imagination that beguiles you with plausibility, the kind that makes you think even while it entertains you. Some of the stories are fanciful, others are horrifyingly suspenseful–but all of them are unforgettable.

In Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” you’ll be transported to a distant paradise where pleasure reigns supreme. Anything desired is granted–wealth, beautiful girls, happiness and laughter. Yet hidden deep within the city recesses lies a locked and darkened room. Confined by its walls sits an unmentioned something so weak it hardly manages to exist–yet with a power so fierce it could destroy all of paradise forever.

“The Girl Who Was Plugged In” by science fiction master James Tiptree, Jr. is a strange love story of a deformed woman given a second chance at romance. Put in command of an artificially created female body, the ugly one can only sit at a sterile control panel and live out another life not really her own. Then the unexpected happens–a handsome man falls headlong in love with the robot girl, and the homely controller, 4000 miles away in an electronic labyrinth, must make the age old decision of breaking the man’s heart or breaking her own.

Damon Knight’s “Down There” takes a long, hard look at 21st Century Man. Living in a bustling metropolis with buildings that dwarf even the tallest of today’s skyscrapers, Mr. Average, Bob Norbert, works his four day as a writer of romantic fiction. Bob likes his job, has plenty of friends and is never without money. Yet he’s willing to risk everything to make a hazardous voyage Down There–down below the lowest level of the city…. where only the night people go.

In “How Shall We Conquer?” by W. Macfarlene we meet a group of aliens with an intriguing proposition for the people of Earth: “We invite a family to come live with us to understand our society… you choose the family.” But were the aliens sincere? Do they have an ulterior motive? What if no Earth families want to go? Only one man could have guessed the motives behind this baffling enigma.

In topic and treatment NEW DIMENSIONS 3 ranged from speculative vignettes to the purest form of classical science fiction–11 superb stories that will challenge your imagination.”

Otherstories in the collection: Terry Carr’s “They Live on Levels,” R. A. Lafferty’s “Days of Grass, Days of Straw,” Barry N. Malzberg’s “Notes Leading Down to the Conquest,” Geo Alec Effinger’s
At the Bran Factory”, F. M. Busby’s “Tell Me All About Yourself,” Gordon Eklund’s “Three Comedians,” and Gardner R. Dozois’ “The Last Day of July.”

3. The Werewolf Principle, Clifford D. Simak (1967)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1968 edition)

From the back cover: “BACK FROM THE STARS. Andrew Blake, found frozen in a space capsule after 200 years on a wandering asteroid, is brought back to a strangely different Earth.

In his search for identity he suddenly becomes frighteningly aware of two alien beings that lurk within his body. With this discovery as a clue to his origin, Black gradually unearths the mystery-shrouded “Werewolf Principle”–a scientific theory buried in the past that promises startling consequences for the future…”

4. Police Patrol: 2000 A.D., Mack Reynolds (fix-up: 1977)

(Uncredited cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “Now, in this new book, Mack Reynolds presents his readers with an imaginative and action-packed look into the everyday life of a twenty-first century policeman.

26 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXCIII (Wolf + Simak + Reynolds + Anthology edited by Silverberg)

  1. Simak was one of those authors that was a standard in my libraries and so I think I might have read this book about four or five times growing up. But that was easily forty years ago. I remember liking it, but I also loved The Goblin Reservation, City, Destiny Doll, All the Traps of Earth and Other Stories, Worlds Without End (bought clandestinely with my saved lunch money), and Cemetery World (which I read as a serial and as a Science Fiction Book Club hardcover). I read, and re-read all of these in my pre-twenties days, and now that I’ve reached my sixties, I’ve been afraid to re-read them now, as I don’t want to spoil my fond memories of them. Growing up, only those Robert Silverberg adventure juveniles, Andre Norton, and those Robert Heinlein juveniles held as much magic for me. Maybe I was much more forgiving back then, but, that’s the way it was.

    Coverwise, I think I like the Reynolds and the New Dimensions covers the best. I’ve always liked the illustrative, as opposed to the impressionistic, book covers. But then, go explain my liking for everything Paul Lehr. Go figure.

  2. Joachim,
    I’ll add Killerbowl to my want list despite mixed reviews, some citing excess verbiage substantially detracting from the story. It may be some time before I obtain it since it’s currently pricey on Abebooks.
    Simak’s book has been on my low priority list for a while. I’d like to find the Pan edition with the Ian Miller cover.
    I read Police Patrol some time ago and it struck me that Reynolds (1) has two main types of characters, Joe Mauser and Max Mainz, and he populates all his fiction with clones of these two, and (2) he wrote in an easy reading style that probably accounts for the cover blurb. I blazed through the story without it making much of an impression. I’m guessing you won’t bother to finish it…

    • I must confess, I did spend a few more dollars than I normally do buying a copy of the first edition of Killerbowl ($8).

      Tarbandu over at The PorPorBooks Blog adored it! (we don’t always agree on books—he dislikes a lot of what I love about New Wave SF—but he introduced me to John Crowley so I respect his views).

      Here’s his review.

      He suggests the complete opposite of the criticism you mentioned (which review did you read?) — Tarbandu indicates that the novel lacks unnecessary verbiage that detracts from the story and its social intentions:

      “‘Killerbowl’ works very well as both a page-turning action novel and as a social satire, something that many sf novels try for, but rarely accomplish. Author Wolf uses a clear, declarative prose style – never a given for an sf novel published during the New Wave Era – to lend a documentary-like quality to the violent proceedings of the SFL season and the Super Bowl. “

      Also Thomas, who commented above, enjoyed it as well –> his review.

      • I did another Google search and Goodreads had one of the specific reviews that cited excess verbiage for Killerbowl.
        I tend to find for the most part that the books you’ve posted about, and what I originally termed esoteric eddies, have been well worth pursuing and opened my mind to a much broader spectrum beyond the rut of mainstream SF of Asimov, Bester, Clarke etc. This has lead me to avidly collecting Stanislaw Lem novels that I’d previously ignored, especially his shorter and most enjoyable shorter fiction about Pirx the Pilot.
        My collection includes about 95% of Mack Reynolds output that I don’t enjoy as much now when as when I reread them from a more mature perspective. The Mercenary From Tomorrow, which is the first book.of his I read, is the dead horse subject he kept flailing away at until it became the desiccated skin was scraps and the pulverized bones became dust.

  3. I read “The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas” by Ursula LeGuin,many years ago,but can remember being emotive and enjoyable.The other one I’ve read in the “New Dimensions” anthology,The Girl Who Was Plugged In” by James Tiptree Jr.,I had forgotten what it was about and have just reread it.I thought it was too introverted and lacked transparency,and didn’t bring out any emotional response,so it’s not surprising I didn’t find it memorable.

      • Well,I didn’t find much clarity in it because of the inward manner in which it was written,that failed to make me empathise for the plight of the characters,as I feel it should have done.It don’t think it comes alive until near the end,when the man makes the realisation about the robot doll.

      • Yes,I know,I’ve read it.I remember commenting on both of them on this post,before you’d reviewed them,so came back to look at what I said.

          • Well,nothing new.I’ve been rereading Philip K. Dick along with Evan Lampe’s podcast,but it’s fun to do.It’s interesting to compare his earlier novels with those of the 1960s,some of which are surprisingly good and better than some of those in what is supposed to be his most creative period.I feel the same way about a few undervalued ones he wrote then though,but are probably among his best,including bits of his shorter fiction,which are among the best novels/pieces he wrote.

  4. Mack Reynolds is a strange one. Onetime Trotskyist turned sf writer. Some of his shorts are good, though to be honest I haven’t read many (Compounded Interest, Earthlings Go Home, Pacifist). I’ve read most of his Joe Mauser stories (Mercenary, etc.). The first one is a solid adventure, nothing out of the ordinary. I like the back story to this future, in which welfare capitalism has given way to a hereditary caste/class system in which market and nation-state completion is regulated through small scale wars and gladiatorial combats that are heavily commodified and televised. Nice use of his “critical” Marxist perspective, and not too heavy handed. In fact it is the most interesting part of these stories, as the stories themselves are fairly straightforward thriller/adventure tales. So, um, yeah, not sure about recommending him! But he definitely deserves a place in the history of sf by virtue of the smattering of critical ideas he peppers his works with. Maybe in the hands of a more competent story teller they would have been gold.

    • PS. I like the cover to ‘Police Patrol’. The Romanesque body armour seems to have come to pass, if we consider French cops for instance. But the helmets are ridiculous. To channel the English for a moment, they look well and truly like tits.

      • Now that I’ve OD’d on his Joe Mauser stories I’m not sure if I can recommend his novels. Too much repetition and action, whereas the more interesting political commentary and back story is not well integrated into the story (except maybe the first of the Mauser stories, Mercenary). So yeah, not chaffing at the bit for more Reynolds novels, but definitely some more shorts.

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