Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)

(Detail from Chris Foss’ cover for the 1977 edition of The Grain Kings (1976), Keith Roberts—full cover below)

1. Always thrilled to have a new Keith Roberts collection! And this one with one of the few Foss covers that appeals to me….

2. As a teen Vernor Vinge was a must read author. I devoured The Peace War (1984), Marooned in Realtime (1986), A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), and A Deepness in the Sky (1999). I haven’t returned to him since. I am curious about his earliest published novel—Grimm’s World (1969)—gorgeously decked out with a Paul Lehr masterpiece of a cover.

3. My knowledge of cyberpunk is mostly limited to the early works of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. Here is a lesser known work that certainly wasn’t “talked about for years to come” (book jacket advertisement). Clones, sentient handheld computers, etc. Looks like a fun brew.

4. Another “let’s explore early cyberpunk” purchase—in this case a near future work about information overload (and dolphin + human sexual relationships) marketed as mainstream literature. SF Encyclopedia describes Ted Mooney’s Easy Travel to Other Planets  (1981) as follows: “Set on a Near-Future Earth against a backdrop of global information sickness, war in the Antarctic and a new emotion nobody has ever felt before, it tells a love story – with visionary ramifications – concerning a woman marine biologist and the dolphin on whom she conducts experiments in Linguistics. It has been seen as a proto-Cyberpunk work, but its cool, pellucid, dissecting style – perhaps influenced by J G Ballard – is far removed from the hectic insistence that has characterized much of that school” (full article on Mooney).

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

1. The Grain KingsKeith Roberts (1976)

(Charles Foss’ cover for the 1977 edition)

From the back cover: “‘We reap and we thresh; grain for half the world. We are the Grain Kings raised of old.’

They call them the Grain Kings, Gigantic mechanical monarchs of the wheat-bearing plains that were once the frozen Alaskan wastes. Whole eco-systems in themselves, they can supply the food so desperately needed by the teeming millions of our overpopulated planet. But even now, as the whole world waits in hungry suspense, the great powers battle for control of the prairies and two competing combine harvesters find they are heading on a course of collision. A collision with catastrophic consequences—not only for the hundreds of crewmen aboard each massive machine but for the future survival of all mankind…

Awesome, evocative, and brilliantly inventive, The Grain Kings demonstrates the full range of Keith Roberts’s storytelling genius.”

Contents: “Weihnachtsabend” (1972), “The White Boat” (1966), “The Passing of the Dragons” (1972), “The Trustie Tree” (1973), “The Lake of Tuonela” (1973), “The Grain kings” (1972), “I lose Medea” (1972).

2. Grimm’s World, Vernor Vinge (1969)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “Mistress of GRIMM’S WORLD—the enigmatic, ruthless Tatja. She had won a kingdom by fraud, then set out to conquer the entire planet, all for one burning purpose: to reach out toward the vast interstellar civilization she knew must exist.

Then an emissary of that civilization

Publication note: In 1987 a different version was published as Tatja Grimm’s World. It’s a fix-up of “The Barbarian Princess” (1986) and “Grimm’s Story” (1968). For the listing of the Tatja Grimm’s stories consult the Internet Speculative Fiction Database entry.

3. Mercedes Nights, Michael D. Weaver (1987)

(Bill Sienkewicz’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “This stunning novel marks the arrival of a major SF talent. Mercedes Nights is a wildly inventive novel imbued with the unreality and manic energy of Philip K. Dick, but wholly original in concept and in the scope of its author’s imagination.

A black market cloning operation plots to sell duplicates of Mercedes Night, the hottest vidstar around, to clients with enough money to indulge in such pleasures. But the clones have minds of their own—and soon the real Mercedes must come to grips with the existence of several exact duplicates of herself. The characters whose lives are touched by the Mercedes Nights include the twisted and paranoid Arthur Horstmeyer, who waits for the day he can evolve past humanity; Lancelot, the handheld intelligent computer; and the mysterious Magnus, owned of Sub-Space Corporation and unseen manipulator of people and events. And drawing them all together is Mercedes Night—one of the most captivating, sharp-edged, unforgettable characters in all of science fiction.

Unique, ironic, and absorbing, Mercedes Nights is a novel that will be talked about for years to come.”

4.  Easy Travel to Other Planets, Ted Mooney (1981)

(Uncredited cover for the 1983 edition)

From the back cover: “Author TED MOONEY has been compared to John Irving, J.D. Salinger, Walker Percy, and Ernest Hemingway. His novel is about communication and lovemaking—between a woman and a dolphin and between somewhat more conventional couples.

The place is a world which is moving too fast… a world where people who can’t talk to each other suffer from a disease called “information sickness.”

The time is the very near future.

The reading experience is one you will not forget.”

For more book reviews consult the INDEX

10 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)”

  1. I just told someone on Facebook I wanted to read more Keith Roberts and said his collection The Grain Kings looked liked it should be the one to try. I’ve only read Pavane.

    1. I’ve also read but not reviewed Pavane and random stories here and there. One of the stories in The Grain Kings (“The White Boat”) is in Pavane.

      I’ve also read:

      “The Deeps” (1966)

      “High Eight” (1965)

      “Sub-Lim” (1965)

      “The Inner Wheel” (1965)

      “Molly Zero” (1977)

      Speaking of short stories that you might not have encountered yet, I highly recommend the collection that I just reviewed: Jacques Sternberg’s Future Without Future (1971)

  2. I hope you like the Keith Roberts collection.The only collection of his I’ve read,was “The Lordly Ones”,which was very dull.His novel “Pavane” though,was excellent.

    1. Yeah, Pavane, a fix-up novel, was solid — “The White Boat” story in this collection appeared in Pavane (although it was one of the weaker sections if I remember correctly).

  3. Keith Roberts + Chris Foss = quintessential 70s British sci-fi!

    I’ve not read much Roberts other than a decidedly weird Kiteworld novella in three parts back in Spectrum magazine (a British small press magazine from the late 90s) and Anita, which is a fix-up novel that follows the (mis)adventures of a young British witch. Despite its occasional foray into soft erotica, it’s very well-written and some of the short stories play quite cleverly with some interesting ideas.

    Vinge I’m aware of but have never read. The other two are completely new to me. Love that Sienkiewicz cover, though. And the Paul Lehr really makes me want to read the book!

    Very interesting post. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks for stopping by (and the kind words)!

      I am generally not a Foss fan– but I did find this cover appealing… So I tracked down the UK edition.

      From what I’ve read about Grimm’s World, it’s considered Vinge’s weakest novel–it’s his first so I’ll probably give him some slack. I recommend starting with his early 90s novels–A Fire Upon the Deep + Deepness in the Sky.

  4. As others have said, it’s a good Keith Roberts collection.
    I found the Vernor Vinge title to be dull and unengaging despite the premise concerning a complete centuries-long run of an SF magazine kept on a houseboat, but at least I think I finished it – unlike the even duller The Witling a few years later.
    Much preferred Outcasts of the Heaven Belt by his then wife, Joan. 🙂

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