Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCIII (Holdstock + Attanasio + Conrad + Abe)

1. While browsing through various New Dimension anthologies I’ve procured recently (stay tuned for an all New Dimension post), I found a few names that I hadn’t heard of… I impulsively purchased A. A. Attanasio’s first novel–nominated for the 1982 Nebula Award.

2. I’ve read and reviewed a few short stories and novels by Robert Holdstock over the years. Eye Among the Blind (1976) had promise. And before I jump into his most famous works, I thought I’d explore more of his short stories first.

3. More Japanese SF in translation! This novel takes place in a vast underground hospital complex. COUNT ME IN!

4. Not sure what possessed me to grab this Curtis Books edition of an author those stories were rarely anthologized… oh wait, it included the words “overpopulation.” If you haven’t yet, check out my list of overpopulation-themed SF.

All the images are hi-res scans of my personal copies.

As always, thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated.

Enjoy (and happy book buying)!

1. Radix, A. A. Attanasio (1981)

(Fred Marcellino’s cover for the 1981 edition)

From the back cover: “Thirteen centuries in the future, the Earth is people by telepathic voors whose lives originated in a far-off galaxy; by tribes of distorts desperately trying to breed themselves back to human normality; and by the Masseboth, tyrannical normals whose attempt to preserve a pure gene pool has become a weapon of worldwide oppression. One man is destined to stand in the way of disaster. We watch as Sumner Kagan wages a guerilla war against outlaw distorts, survives the brutal police camps, and is trained as an elite killer in the service of the Masseboth.

Haunted from within by his voor-son Corby, and stalked from without by Nefandi, an artificial killer sent by the mysterious intelligence who threatens destruction, Sumner is read for his destiny. From the yawp Bonescrolls he learns of his alter ego, the Delph, a godmind containing the crystallization of human experience which has existed for eons in the mind of one man. From the distorts Ardent Fang and Drift he learns friendship and humanity, and with them sets out to wake the godmind from its dreaming.

As he approaches the center of the godmind’s power, he must elude Defandi and the troops sent by the Masseboth. And he must use the voorish powers within him to battle the telepathic forces that seek to cloud his mind and his visions of the truth. On the success of Sumner’s quest hands whatever future humankind will have.

Radix is a complete world, brilliantly realized by the most talented new writer since Frank Herbert.”

2. In the Valley of the Statues, Robert Holdstock (1982)

(Chris Brown’s cover for the 1988 edition)

From the back cover: “Featuring the original story for the bestselling Mythago Wood.

From the landscapes of prehistory to the 40th millennium AD, from post-war England to the full canvas of the inhabited galaxy, Robert Holdstock’s haunting mythic imagination weaves eight stories of arresting power and ingenuity.”

Contents: “Earth and Stone” (1980), ” A Small Event” (1977), “Ashes” (variant title “Ash, Ash”) (1974), “Travellers” (1976), “The Touch of a vanished Hand” (1977), “The Graveyard Cross” (1976), “Mythago Wood” (1981)

3. Secret Rendezvous, Kobo Abe (1977, trans. 1979)

(Tadanori Yokoo’s cover for the 1979 edition)

From the inside flap: “One summer morning an ambulance–no one remembers having sent for one–suddenly drives up to the salesman’s house and carries his wife away.

In this brilliant, nightmarish, savagely funny novel by one of Japan’s greatest living writers, we follow the bereft and astonished husband in his desperate search for the vanished woman, as he pursues the mysterious ambulance to a vast underground hospital, as he struggles to find his bearings in a system so complex that patients have to hire agents to help them deal with it–a maze of information-gathering technology from which no information can be extracted. Here every room and hallway is electronically bugged (tapes of patients’ “secret” trysts are collected to further the advance of science, and sold by mail order as erotic accessories). Here patients are cured only to the extent that they remain alive to be cured again…

In the wake of the salesman we wander the endless corridors, encountering patients and staff–a weird, deformed, absurdly logical crew: the secretary who was a test-tube baby and, lacking human parents, also lacks a sense of human relationships… the truth expert who determined to perfect her marriage by subjecting every conversation to a lie detector…her husband, the assistant director, whose surgical solution to his problem of impotence has made him into a kind of centaur… And we meet the thirteen year-old nymphomaniac whose bones are gradually liquefying and who has become for the assistant director an obsession, and ideal–the forever incurable patient. It is she whose deadly fascination exerts itself on the salesman, eclipsing the importance of his original quest; dulling for him–though not for us–the impact of the grotesque pageant in which he at last discovers his wife. Lost with him in the labyrinth, we come to sense with him the seductiveness of the hospital and of its philosophy: that to be truly civilized is to embrace disease.”

4. The Da Vinci Machine, Earl Conrad (1968)

(Uncredited cover for the 1970 edition)

From the back cover: “A trip to the tomorrow world of obsolete man.

Cross the time dimension and enter an era of fantastic population explosion–an era where men such as Drinkwater are indulgently allowed to practice cannibalism. A world which rock-and-roll star Ook Ook Ook is enlisted to unite a nation gone mad, mad, mad…

Cross the time dimension, if you dare, and into the world of tomorrow–and come face-to-face with obsolete man…”

14 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCIII (Holdstock + Attanasio + Conrad + Abe)

  1. A quick hint on getting the covers to look better (here, especially “Secret Rendezvous”) — after scanning them in and putting them into Photoshop or Gimp, bump up the contrast a lot. With that cover, I’d start at 30%. It’d make the colors brighter and (at least mostly) get rid of the washed-out look without losing detail.

    Thanks for putting all of this stuff up. It’s what I grew up on. Brings back memories.

    • It’s an ex-library book — what you see obscuring the image is the plastic sheet protecting the dust jacket. The reality is not every book I purchase is in prime condition, and I’m not that bothered if it comes up in the scans. I’m probably not going to change the original contrasts.

      • Yes, I’ve read two of the three sequels. And some of his other novels. Wyvern, an historical novel, isn’t bad. I never got around to reading his Arthurian fantasies or his Dominions of Irth series.

        • I started one of the Radix sequels (they’re sort of stand-alone) but abandoned it half way through…
          Wyvern’s definitely my favourite book by him but it’s mainly set in the Dutch East Indies and India in the early 18th C (iirc) and you’d probably wince at the history all the way through! I really liked it though, and still have my h/c of it.
          I read a couple of other books of his after that, hoping they’d be as good, but didn’t really take to them.
          I did read a wonderful short story of his in a magazine back in the late 1980s/ early 90s which I’m vaguely looking for (I remember almost no details (except that I thought it should be on Award ballots and it wasn’t!) and even bought The Best of Crank Magazine a couple of years ago thinking the date of his story in it made it a likely contender (it wasn’t)
          Now I suspect it was in Strange Plasma #5 from 1992, which I’m unlikely to come across, but I have ordered another collection with that story in it… I hope it’s worth the hunt.

  2. I think Radix is a fantastic novel; the other books that followed as sort-of sequels didn’t grab me, there may be one I never read, but there was a lot to this one. And the opening thematic quotation has been in my head since the day I first saw it:

    “Things can Be – and their being is grounded in nothing’s ability to Noth.”

    Do I still have it right?

    • Thanks for visiting, and the comment!

      Let me go look….. rummages around all the new book piles, looks here and there, distracted by piles of gorgeous covers

      Yes, you’re right — it’s a quote by Kenneth Burke. Does the novel explore linguistic themes in any serious way?

      • It’s a hard life you lead, beauty on all sides… I think Radix more generally philosophical than linguistically so, at least that’s how I remember it. There’s a lot in there about “change of the self”; the protagonist’s transformation is the most obvious because we’re along for the ride as it takes place, but a key ally and the, sort of, ultimate antagonist are both beings that are profoundly altered from what they once were.

        • Sounds intriguing.

          I can’t promise I’ll read it any time soon — I’m a moody reader, whatever intrigues me at that exact moment is what I read. I refuse to make reading lists or accept review copies of books as I never get around to reading them….

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