Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXV (C. J. Cherryh, Gene Wolfe, Jane Palmer, Chris Boyce)

1. Gene Wolfe’s first novel—purchased for the Peter Elson cover alone…. Wolfe disowned the book, which apparently underwent substantial editorial amputation.

SF Encyclopedia‘s description: “Wolfe’s first novel, Operation ARES (1970), where a twenty-first-century America which has turned its back on Technological advance is propagandized and benignly infiltrated by its abandoned Martian colony, was heavily cut by the publisher, and reads as apprentice work. Nevertheless it is very characteristic of Wolfe that his protagonist, having pretended membership of the pro-Mars underground called ARES, should unwillingly become its effective leader.”

2. Another The Women’s Press publication joins my shelf.

3. The unknown quantity of the post…. Clute over at SF Encyclopedia describes it as follows: “[Chris] Boyce’s most important work was the sf novel Catchworld (1975), joint winner […] of the Gollancz/Sunday Times SF Novel Award. Catchworld is an ornate, sometimes overcomplicated tale combining sophisticated brain-computer interfaces […] and Space Opera; the transcendental bravura of the book’s climax is memorable.”

4. I recently read (but haven’t yet reviewed) C. J. Cherryh’s Port Eternity (1982). My exploration of her early 80s novels continues!

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


1. Operation ARES, Gene Wolfe (1970)

gene wolfe, operation ares

(Peter Elson’s cover for the 1978)

From the back cover: “USA, twenty-first century. For two decades now they’d been turning against technology, slipping back into a primitive past. They’d even abandoned the multi-billion-dollar colony and mars and left its inhabitants to cope alone up there in space.

Back on Earth, the government ruled by repression, food was scarce and killer packs of animals prowled the night. In conditions like these, life was pretty tough for ordinary people. So there were a lot of Americans who welcomed the invaders from Mars when they came storming back to Earth on that fateful winter’s evening…”

2. The Watchers, Jane Palmer (1986)

(Fiona Macvicar’s cover for the first edition)

From the back cover: “The planet Ojal has been invaded. A mysterious vampire force visits and the energy pools on which the Ojalie depend have been almost sucked dry when Controller Opu is called upon to seek a solution. Breaking with galactic law, and coping with severe childcare problems, Opu’s search leads ultimately to Earth itself, where the characters we meet are not all they seem… a schoolgirl heroine, a less-than-convincing spiritualist, a bullet-proof Black policeman, and a youthful watcher, reputed to be over a hundred years old…

Another joyous send up of the sf genre, combining Jane Palmer’s gift for satire with a new cast of eccentrics, ‘as plausible as anyone you’d find in the average bus queue’ Mary Gentle, Interzone.”

3. Catchworld, Chris Boyce (197)

(Robert Korn’s cover for the 1977 edition)

From the inside flap: “The starship Yukoku journeyed across the galaxies in search of the homicidal creatures that threatened the very existence of the human race. The members of its crew had committed bribery, murder, and worse to be assigned to this noble mission of vengeance. But the unsuspecting crew was about to discover that they too had been marked for death as soon as they had outlived their usefulness, that their role in this mission was simply to serve as slaves and human fodder to the Machine Intelligence in charge—unless they could find a way to fight back.

And, unbeknownst to either man or machine, an alien force known only as the Crow was patiently watching their futile battle of wits. For this creature of unfathomable supernatural powers knew that no matter which side won the desperate power struggle, the of the Yukoku was inexorably set… and its destination was the CATCHWORLD.”

4. Voyager in Night, C. J. Cherryh ()

(Barclay Shaw’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “Two voyages, two ships. One had been en route for over a hundred thousand years, was the size of an asteroid, and its place of launching beyond the trace of any man-made telescope. Its crew was an enigma.

The other ship had been out of Endeavor Station just a few months, was a tiny ore-prospector with a crwe of three: Rafe, Paul and Paul’s wife Jillan.

Two ships were on a collision course which neither could avoid in time. The three humans were the first of their species the masters of the monster had encountered, nut now two were already dead and one was dying. But that could be remedied—and was, multifold.

Here is a truly novel by the author of the Hugo-winning DOWNBELOW STATION, that dares to explore the unexplorable–for what does alien mean, what can an infinite universe hold, and what would being merely human signify in that terrible context?”

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

20 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXV (C. J. Cherryh, Gene Wolfe, Jane Palmer, Chris Boyce)

    • Do you read books disowned by authors? I’m not sure what to think of it — not only was the book cut against the author’s will, it’s apparently also quite deeply steeped in Libertarianism, which aint my thing. I’m surprised there isn’t a history of Libertarianism in SF (sounds like a dissertation).

      I love Elson’s cover though….. the reason I tracked down the UK edition!

  1. Where did you get the info on Libertarianism? In later work, Wolfe injects lots of Christianity to such an extent it puts people of. I wonder about the transition from Libertarianism to religion.

    Also interesting that his first novel deals with a society going primitive again. New Sun deals with a related theme, Long Sun too.

  2. I found Voyager in Night strange, but fun. It’s very much a weird mash of haunted house, LotR’s Frodo/Sam/Smeagol triad, and Cherryh’s Merchanter books. It’s light, but sort of the same way PKD can be light, where that’s a benefit so it can play fast and loose with ideas and style.

      • I really love Port Eternity since I’m a sucker for Arthuriana and … clones, I guess? I realize my comment of “lightness” is more to do with word count than anything else. All three novels (PE, ML, and VinN) are very taut and compact in execution and probably not much more than 65K words long if I had to guess.

        • Yeah, I enjoyed the interplay between the “literary programmed role” and free will… and whether it exists for the clones (who are programmed). I hope to have my reviewed posted this weekend — at one point I posted them more regularly but the teaching life drains so much out of me…..

  3. I’ve known of Wolfe’s first novel, but it hasn’t been praised much.I’ve felt skeptical about it.Although I haven’t read It, it seems obvious from the description of it, that he hadn’t found his voice yet.His novel published three years later, “The Fifth Head of Cerberus”,was excellent.Gene Wolfe was an author virtually unknown to me when I first became aware of his books in the 1980s.

    I like the Peter Elson cover though.He did the cover for Philip K. Dick’s “Dr. Bloodmoney”,but I prefer this one.The colours and composition are better.

    I’ve read Cherryh’s “Visible Light” collection.It don’t think it was bad,but I don’t remember much about it now.

    • The SF Encyclopedia quote I included (John Clute is the critic) does state that elements are very characteristic of Wolfe….

      Of the UK Foss clone army, I think Elson’s my favorite. Especially when he’s using that color scheme — here’s his 1976 cover for Nova 4.

  4. I read your quote,but I still feel skeptical.However,it might not be as bad as I think,even though Wolfe is a visionary and complex author whose later books were Gothic in emphasis.

    I like the almost monochrome colour scheme of Elson’s “Nova 4”.I have “Vulcan’s Hammer” with that cover,but I didn’t know he did it.I prefer the one he did for “Dr. Bloodmoney” though.

  5. Read Catchworld by Chris Boyce and I liked it, but that was so long ago, and times have changed, and so have I, so who knows how it has held up. My copy has a great Don Maitz cover though.

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