Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

On a recent trip to Chicago I spent far too much on vintage SF at Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records (twitter).If you’re in the city and love old SF paperbacks, stop by! I’ll certainly be back. Here are the first four books from that haul.

1. Jack Vance is an author I always tend to buy but never enjoy as much as I think I should–see my recent review of Emphyrio (1969). Thoughts on this one?

2. I have yet to read anything by Alexei Panshin—at least I now have a copy of his masterpiece, Rite of Passage (1968) (nominated for the 1969 Hugo + won that year’s Nebula).

3. A lesser-known 70s comedic novel from Brian W. Aldiss…

4. And finally, the one I’m most excited about. Evolved humans are thrust into conflict on a terraformed, but dying, Mars. With a fun Powers cover to boot! The rest of Frederick Turner’s SF output appears to be the epic poem variety according to SF Encyclopedia.

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

1. The Anome, Jack Vance (magazine, 1971)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the  1973 edition)

From the back cover: “DURDANE. A world of strange ways and stranger people. A land where men and women are marked for life by the torcs about their necks and bound to irrevocable destinies by the proclamations of the Faceless Man. A place where defiance is met with death. A kingdom of myriad mystery and incalculable peril within which one youth, Gastel Etzwane, dares challenge the unchallengeable in an extraordinary struggle for mastery of his own unalterable fate…”

2. Rite of Passage, Alexei Panshin (1968)

(Don Ivan Punchatz’s cover for the 1973 edition)

From the inside flap: “In 2198, one hundred and fifty years after the desperate wars that destroyed an overpopulated Earth, Man lives precariously on a hundred hastily-established colony worlds and in the seven giant Ships that once ferried men to the stars.

Mia Havero’s Ship is a small, closed society. It tests its children by casting them out to live or die in a month of Trial in the hostile wilds of a colony world. Mia Havero’s Trial is fast approaching and in the meantime she must learn not only the skills that will keep her alive but the deeper courage to face herself and her world.”

3. The Eighty Minute Hour, Brian Aldiss (1974)

(O’Brian’s cover for the 1975 edition)

No plot blurb on my edition.  SF Encyclopedia has little to say other than it’s a “comedy in which Aldiss’s penchant for puns and gestural invention was perhaps overindulged.”

4. A Double Shadow, Frederick Turner (1978)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “A TERRAFORMED PLANET.

Man had kindled Mars an extra sun, had brought ice and frozen air from the rings of Saturn, had given a dead world life. But thousands of years on the terraformed planet had changed man, too. These proud warriors, winged and armed for the status-war that will shape their planet’s destiny, are human—but no longer of Earth…”

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

22 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

  1. I read “The Eighty Minuet Hour” during my early SF reading days.I don’t remember much about it,but I can recall that I found it abstruse.If it was supposed to be an experimental novel,which I think it was,it failed
    miserably.I’ve mentioned “Greybeard” before,but I much preferred it to this one,being better structured and more coherent.

    • Yeah, Clute at SF Encyclopedia agrees with you there. I also enjoyed Greybeard (but never reviewed it).

      But, on the whole, I think I prefer Aldiss in short form — I’ve encountered so many brilliant short stories of his over the years.

  2. Good.Yes,he was looking towards the emerging “new wave” when he wrote “Greybeard” I think,before writing more involuted novels such as the one on your post.

    I read his collection,”The Canopy of Time” and a very few in anthologies,including one in “Dangerous Visions”[which I liked at the time,even though I don’t remember much about it].He was also valued for being a seminal critic of the genre.

      • Yes,the Vance novel.I’ve read four of his novels and failed to finish two or three others.”The Houses of Ism” was the best one,being short,simple but vivid.

        I haven’t read Alexei Panshin novel,but I know it was influenced by Robert Heinlein and was probably a pastiche of his fiction.I hope you like it,but I feel skeptical about it and would rather read Heinlein.It won the Nebula though for best novel of 1968,beating three novels I’ve read,Dick’s “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep”,Silverberg’s “The Masks of Time” and Blish’s “Black Easter”.

  3. Frederick Turner’s novel sounds interesting, but I suspect the cover’s the best thing about it. I am cynical about books with “wingèd men”….

    • He was! Not so sure I dig an Aldiss comedy though…. I mean, he loves puns and wordplay but none of his works have been overtly funny—that I can remember…. Do you know of any particularly comedic moments in an Aldiss novel/story?

      • As I said, I’ve not read that many. Certainly his non-sci fi work The Brightfount Diaries is very humorous. But I’ve read some early short stories and Report on Probability A and I think that’s all (although there are plenty lurking unread). There was certainly plenty of wordplay and tricksiness in Report which I loved, but I’ll have to read more obvs!

  4. Hi Joachim. Long time no chats. I need to catch up on what’s been going down around these parts…
    I read one of Turner’s sf epic’s recently, “Apocalypse: An Epic Poem”. I quite liked it. The epic style often lent itself to the subject matter, and rarely dragged or even seemed inappropriate. I’m keen to read his earlier epic about the terraforming of Mars: “Genesis: An Epic Poem”.
    Vance’s Durdane books have been on the to-read pile for way too long. I’m not sure what it is about Vance. I’ve often loved his work (e.g. Emphyrio), but am hesitant to dive back.

    • Hello! I’ve missed your comments!

      I knew you’d be intrigued by Turner’s SF poems. I even reviewed a SF poem a while back that I will ship to you if you’re interested (it’s signed): https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2019/04/26/book-review-cybernaut-e-g-valens-1968/

      I too feel constantly drawn to the unread Vance novels I have. Perhaps it’s his delicate world-building, perhaps the fun little footnotes he places in his stories…. but there’s something that disappoints me every time — his works are so slight…. they do what I expect them to do. So often they are little more are pleasant diversions.

      • I can’t say your review of E.G. Valens has inspired me to seek out their work! I read some D.M. Thomas many years ago, which first got me thinking of writing sf poetry–apart, that is, from the sterling example of my good friend Gerald Keaney (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Z9Xc52w3kc).
        I recently read what was reputedly one of Vance’s best short fictions: The Moon Moth. I appreciated the world building, and the wonderfully absurd system of communication he conceived for the story. But the story itself–so much thin drapery over a baroque scaffold.
        Have you read Clark Ashton Smith?

        • You might have a higher tolerance for SF poetry than me!

          Yeah, that is my view of Vance as well — really fascinating sheen….

          I have not read anything by Smith — yet. What should I start with?

          • I’m not sure what’s best to start with with CAS. I’ve read most of the Zothique and Hyperborea stories. I just worked my way through them using an online list and an e-book version. But I wouldn’t claim to be an expert on Smith. I found his languid, poetic prose appealing, though the stories took on a samey feel after reading a few in succession (but then many authors suffer from this “defect”–for instance the great and variable PK Dick comes to find). I reckon MPorcius would have more interesting things to say about CAS then me.

  5. I’ve read almost all of Aldiss’ s books (and that’s a lot of reading) but I’ve never got more than 20 pages into “Eighty Minute Hour”. I found it really bad, and had not much idea what was going on. I think Brian loved space opera, but could never really write it, and the puns didn’t work for me.
    There are so many better books by Aldiss. I loved his horror trilogy with his versions of Frankenstein, Dracula and Moreau, Helliconia is great, and his later books are full of comedy, but I guess you are aiming at books from the 60s and 70s. I would recommend “The Malacia Tapestry” from that period.
    I think the best of his books are the Squire quartet. They are only marginally SF, but his writing is at a peak in these.

  6. The Eighty Minute Hour came out in paperback in the UK not long after Frankenstein Unbound and sounded the more interesting book to me, but like others above, I found it hard going. Frankenstein Unbound was his return to writing science fiction at (fairly short) novel length after a break of several years while he wrote the first couple of his Horatio Stubbs books.
    His next, The Malacia Tapestry was much better and is still on my shelves awaiting a re-read! I’ve read various other Aldiss titles but my favouite remains the one I started with – Non-Stop. Or Starship in the US, which re-titling ruins the reader’s realisation of the set-up…

    The Vance is fun, part one of a trilogy, although to me it reads like a pair of novels, with a sequel tacked on – although I like the sequel too, possibly because I came across it well before I could find the first two books! So it was a good thing for me it was semi-detached! And it does answer questions raised but never answered in the first two books.
    I am a big fan of Vance but I never claim it’s great literature (although I know people who do); I mainly claim it’s good fun, which seems to me to be good enough grounds for liking it!

    The Panshin was good at the time, but is basically a ‘coming-of-age’ YA adventure, much like the Heinleins it was emulating. I read it a second time before deciding whether to dispose of it and it was a very easy decision after that.

    And, for completeness, my only comment on the Turner is that I’ve never read him.

  7. Read “Rite of Passage” maybe sometime last year (yes, I remember reading it while waiting for a doctor’s appointment). Interesting and intelligent adventure SF coming-of-age tale, with a young girl in the role of the main protagonist. I liked it.

Comment! Join the discussion!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.