Updates: Recent Science Fiction/Fantasy Acquisitions No. CCXVIII (Wolfe + Saxton + Tilley + New Worlds Anthology)

1. This looks like a splendid New Worlds Quarterly anthology replete with book reviews, articles, and interior art by John Clute and James Cawthorn. When I review it (hopefully soon), I’ll include a few examples of the art. The quantity of authors I’ve not read in this anthology is high—for example, A.A. Attanasio, Harvey Jacobs, Rachel Pollack, among many others. See content lists below.

For more fantastic Mati Klarwein covers check out my recent art post.

2. Gene Wolfe’s novels are a major hole in my SFF knowledge. Here is an early fantasy work that I might in the near future. I tend to take perambulatory paths before tackling an author’s great works. Thoughts on this lesser known one?

I’ve read quite a few of his 60s and 70s short stories. For example, the spectacular “Silhouette” (1975) and “The Changeling” (1968).

3. It’s been a while since I raved about Josephine Saxton’s delightful The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969). An author I must return to….

4. Silly early 80s post-apocalyptical adventure anyone? Sometimes you need a break from Christopher Priest and J. G. Ballard! hah.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Hated?


1. New Worlds #6 (variant title: New Worlds #7), ed. Charles Platt and Hilary Bailey (1974)

(Mati Klarwein’s cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “At the forefront of contemporary SF writing stands the controversial NEW WORLDS series. As a monthly British magazine, NEW WORLDS was banned by South Africa, Australia, and many British newsdealers because of alleged obscenity. At the same time, praise from such distinguished writers as Angus Wilson, Anthony Burgess, and J.B. Priestley helped NEW WORLDS win a major award for literary excellence for three years in a row.

This Equinox edition, like its predecessor, NEW WORLDS #5, affords discriminating American readers an opportunity to discover the qualities that gave NEW WORLDS its reputation as Britain’s most adventurous, exuberant, and uncompromising publication of new short fiction. Here are twenty-four vivid, thought-provoking, totally original visions by brilliant young writers whose prose and ideas herald the future of science fiction—and, indeed, of mankind.”

Fiction Contents: Michael Moorcock’s “Pale Roses” (1974), “Barrington J. Bayley’s “Maladjustment” (1974), Rachel Pollack’s “Black Rose and White Rose” (1975), John Sladek’s “The Kindly Ones” (1974), Rick Gellman’s “The Return of the Mandarin” (1974), Gerard E. Giannattasio’s “G.I. Sparrow” (1974), Bertil Martensson’s “A Modest Proposal” (1974), Ronald Anthony Cross’ “The Jewel Thief” (1974), Eleanor Arnason’s “The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons” (1974), Brian Aldiss’ “The Secret of Holman Hunt and the Crude Death Rate” (1970), Gwyneth Cravens’ “Miss Subways” (1974), Ruth Berman’s “Lakewood Cemetery” (1974), Ian Watson’s “The Ghosts of Luna” (1973), M. John Harrison’s “‘The Wolf That Follows'” (1974), K. Cassandra O’Malley’s “Red Sky at Night” (1974), Bruce Boston’s “Break” (1974), Rona Spalten’s “Liberation” (1974), A. A. Attanasio’s “Once More, the Dream” (1974), James Sallis’ “Insect Men of Boston” (1974), Jeremy Gilchrist’s “The Thalidomide Kid” (1974), Harvey Jacobs’ “The Man Who Made a Baby” (1974).

2. The Devil in a Forest, Gene Wolfe (1976)

(F. Kegil’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “Deep in a forest wilderness lay a village so humble, so insignificant, that only a handful of people knew it existed. Yet it was here that a mighty battle was waged in the endless struggle between Good and Evil.

Led by Fate into the timeless struggle were:

WAT: the savage, and charming, highwayman;

MOTHER CLOOT: the cunningly cruel possessor of mysterious powers;

BARROW MAN: the awesome spirit of a long-dead but still worshipped warrior.

And there was Mark, not yet totally seduced by Evil; not yet totally convinced by Good. As he confronts his own conflicts, Mark forces each of us to explore our own vulnerability to Evil.

THE DEVIL IN A FOREST is a fantasy—a fantasy about the reality that we all must face sometime in our lives.”

3. Queen of the States, Josephine Saxton (1986)

(Melinda Gebbie’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “Queen of the States is about Magdalen, a woman who is on her own planet, out to lunch and on her own trip. She moves through time and space, from a private mental hospital to an alien spaceship where she is interrogated about human behavior and the function of sex. Is Magdalen mad, or have the aliens really landed? She weaves her way through the fantasies of those around her—husband Clive, psychiatrist Dr. Murgatroyd, lovers, friends and friends’ lovers—until, finally, she can reclaim her own existence.”

4. The Amtrak Wars. Book 1: Cloud Warrior, Patrick Tilley (1983)

(Uncredited cover for the 1983 1st edition)

From the back cover: “The Visionary Chronicle of the Ultimate Struggle to Rule Earth. Ten centuries after the Old Time ended when Earth’s cities melted in the War of a Thousand Suns. Now the lethal high technology of the Amtrack Federation’s underground stronghold is unleashed on Earth’s other survivors—the surface-dwelling Mutes. But the primitive Mutes possess ancient powers greater than any machine….”

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

24 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction/Fantasy Acquisitions No. CCXVIII (Wolfe + Saxton + Tilley + New Worlds Anthology)

  1. Oh, I did so love “The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith” when I read it in the 1970s. I never saw Sexton’s other works, sadly, though that one doesn’t sound like something my teenaged self would’ve picked up. And “New Worlds #6” has several gems in it…the Arnason in particular is a favorite in my memory. happy sigh

    • Have you read Arnason’s later SF novels? I was browsing through the authors I didn’t recognize (her name included), and her first SF novel—To the Resurrection Station—wasn’t published until 1986. Her earliest novel, The Sword Smith (1978), is fantasy.

      Glad my posts generate an occasional “happy sigh”!

  2. I read (I think!) several of the “Book of the Lost Sun” series back in the day (well – my 20s) and I wish I could remember more about them. However, I do have a collection of his short stories lurking somewhere which I really ought to get to – so thank you for the nudge! 😀

    • What would you read of his? Or, would you reread? I, of course, would suggest (not having read his novels) to read a few of his short stories — they might (re)tantalize you to pick up his more imposing works!

      • I’d like to re-read The Book of the New Sun – it’s a long time ago but I remember it being complex. With a lot more reading under my belt, I might find it less so. But as I said I have a book of short stories – possibly his collected stories – and I think I read the first one and was impressed, so maybe that’s the best way to go! 😀

  3. I recommend that you act promptly to get the other 5 volumes in the ‘Amtrak Wars’ series, as surviving copies of the mass market paperbacks are being more steeply priced with each passing year.

    If ever you see ‘The Illustrated Guide to the Amtrak Wars’ on a store shelf, grab it without delay – it’s particularly precious (a speculator on amazon wants $314 for it) !

    • More importantly, are they worth reading? Have you reviewed them? I’m not really a collector — I like buying what I might want to read. And if I dislike the first volume, I’m probably not going to read the rest.

  4. I’ve recently reread “The Shadow of the Torturer”,the first volume of the novel “The Book of the New Sun”.As an entire piece,it’s excellent.I haven’t read the one on this post,but “The Fifth Head of Cerberus” is also excellent,much better than the only other novel of his I’ve read,”Peace”.

    The only short story I’ve read by him,is “The Death of Doctor Island”,which wasn’t bad,but was far from awestruck by it.Wolfe was an author virtually unknown to me when I first bought and read his fiction in the 1980s.

      • THE DEVIL IN A FOREST is a great novel.

        Not great in the fannish sense but in the literary one. Be forewarned/spoiled that it’s not a fantasy but a historical novel — such magic as occurs fairly clearly is only within its characters’ heads. Nonetheless, IIRC, its viewpoint/tone often feels like a fantasy because Wolfe’s take on late medieval pastoral England is so vividly askew from how the period and people are usually imagined.

        Amazingly, it was published originally as YA. It does have a YA-aged protagonist and resemblances to a certain strand of top-drawer historical YA in the UK that’s been accepted there as literature for decades — I am thinking of the kind of stuff that Alan Garner writes. Nonetheless, for all that it is, yes, arguably Wolfe’s most straightforward novel construction-wise — almost like a Durer print in its simplicity — it feels very adult because of some of the things it has to say about good and evil in people.

        As for Wolfe story collections, you might most profitably check out — especially since you like the retro 1970s-80s editions with their cover art — Wolfe’s first collection, THE ISLAND OF DOCTOR DEATH AND OTHER STORIES AND OTHER STORIES, in the Pocket paperback edition from 1980 with Don Maitz’s cover.

        • Thank you for stopping by and providing an assessment of the Wolfe novel — I went with “fantasy” as the front cover claimed it as such.

          I will confess, as a trained medievalist (PhD + publications, etc), I am profoundly suspicious of “medieval” fantasy/SF… For example, Richard Cowper’s The Road to Corlay. I am interested in Wolfe’s take, perhaps as a counterpoint to many other medieval fantasies, as most examples are highly critical of organized “medieval” religion (Catholicism, or future versions of Catholicism, or alternate versions of Catholicism). I am intrigued!

          As for the collection, I’ve read quite a few short stories in the collection already in various other publications. And yes, I plan on tracking down a copy!

          Do you have a favorite Wolfe short story?

  5. New Sun are among the best books I’ve ever read. I dropped out of Long Sun in book 3, but I liked Cerebus a lot as well. I have several of his other books on my TBR, but that will take me years and years, as I tend to read the same author only twice a year max.

    • Yup, 100% aware of the canonical status of the Long Sun sequence. I look forward to reading them! (although, as I mentioned in my comments, I’ll perambulate a bit through his other novels before I get to his “classics”).

      • I remember you pointing me to Brunner, Mahlberg and the likes a few years ago when I started blogging (thanks for that btw), but I guess The New Sun is the most out there book I’ve ever read, both formally as a narrative and the overal story.

        • No problem. Although I disagree more often than not about your assessment of novels with any polemical aim, I love reading reviews to get a sense of the genre from differing perspectives… and, although I might not immediately buy the book under review, I’ll think about it at a later point and press the buy button! hah.

      • I cannot recommend The Fifth Head of Cerberus highly enough. It is actually three separate novellas but they connect in interesting ways and they include many of the themes that Wolfe was to rework over his career.

        I read The Devil in Forest years ago. I cannot remember a thing about it other than I wasn’t very impressed by it.

        Every Wolfe fan will have a different favorite story, but my two favorites are The Other Dead Man and The War Beneath the Tree. One of the Universe anthologies has The Death of Doctor Island, which was the first work by Wolfe I ever read. I’ve been a fan ever since.

        • I look forward to reading The Fifth Head of Cerberus! But yes, I’ve definitely heard that it’s a masterpiece.

          Now I need to identify my favorite Wolfe story…. at least so far.

  6. Joachim,
    I read the Tilley series while traveling around Australia back in 1999. I enjoyed them immensely as they were page turners, but not sure you’d like them ’cause in retrospect they seemed a little shallow despite the number of pages. A better Australian author was McMullen with his Calculor series and his stand alone The Centurion’s Empire.

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