Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXVIII (Julian May, C. H. Cherryh, Neal Barrett Jr., and William Greenleaf)

1. Julian May’s The Many-Colored Land (1981), winner of the 1982 Locus Award for Best SF novel (Nebula-nominee and third in Hugo voting), does not have a premise that grabs me (time-travel to the Pliocene Era of Earth). But count me intrigued! And her novel is graced with a fun map that I’ll post in a future Monday Maps and Diagrams post.

2. Kirby’s cover has serious problems… check it out. It’s an alien worm? Neal Barrett Jr.’s Stress Pattern (1974) seems to blend Dune with a more anthropological mystery take on SF à la Lloyd Biggle, Jr.’s The World Menders (1971)?

3. More early C. J. Cherryh! My recent review of Port Eternity (1982).

4. I’ll confess, I’m a fan of stranded on alien planet survival tales… don’t have high hopes for this one but I adore the James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) cover.

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


1. The Many-Colored Land, Julian May (1981)

(Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1983 edition)

From the back cover: “FLIGHT INTO THE UNKNOWN.

An orderly and peaceful interstellar society, the twenty-first century’ Galactic Milieu had little place for the incurable adventurer, the secret psychotic, or the ruthless con man.

So, when a one-way time tunnel to Earth six million B.C., was discovered, every misfit for light-years around hurried to pass through it, hungry for adventure, the romance of the unknown, and a life free of the Milieu’s stuffy rules.

Each sought his own brand of happiness. But none could have guessed what awaited them. Not even in a million years…”

2. Stress Pattern, Neal Barrett Jr. (1974)

(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1st edition)


The essence of a truly null-Earth logic may never be as clearly defined as in this novel-length package of interplanetary surprises.

Consider this marooned astronaut. His spaceship and supplies are swallowed in one gulp by something from beneath the featureless plain of an unknown world.

The natives are not hostile but they seem incurious. He is welcome to use their free railroad system–the ‘almentary express’ of a world-girdling WORMWAY. Those he regards as sane are considered to be crazy. The culture techniques he is sure are crazy turn out to be quite rational–by that world’s standards.

He fathers a child without ever touching the mother. It’s when he does physically create his true offspring that he gets his most startling surprise.

STRESS PATTERN is a deceptively easy novel. Delightful reading, it will turn out to be something you will not forget in a hurry.”

3. The Faded Sun: Kesrith, C. J. Cherryh (1978)

(Gino D’Achille’s cover for the 1978 edition)

From the back cover: “This is the story of three people: Sten Duncan, a soldier of humanity; Niun, the last warrior of the mri, humanity’s enemies; Melein, priestess-queen of the final fallen mri stronghold.

This is the stor of two mighty species fighting for a galaxy: humanity diriving out from Earth, and the enigmatic regul struggling to hold their stars with mri mercenaries.

This is a story of diplomacy and warfare, of conspiracy and betrayal, and of three flesh-and-blood people who found themselves thrown together in a life-and-death alliance.

This latest novel from the author of BROTHERS OF EARTH and HUNTER OF WORLDS is top-flight science fiction worth of the winner of the John W. Campbell Award.”

4. The Tartarus Incident, William Greenleaf (1983)

(James Gurney’s cover for the 1983 edition)

From the back cover: “‘SOMEBODY GET US THE HELL OUT OF…’

This was the last transmission received from Oliver McElroy’s audit team. What could never happen… was now a terrifying fact. The five-person crew of the UNSA audit ship jack-a-dandy had simply disappeared during a routine materialization from Graywand station to the planet Sierra.

It was the end of their comfortable routine, and the beginnning of the interstellar nightmare known as…


For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

21 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXVIII (Julian May, C. H. Cherryh, Neal Barrett Jr., and William Greenleaf)

  1. I read May’s entire series in translation as a 14-15 year old, and I thought it was fantastic back then. I’ve seen it in English in second hand shops numerous times, but I don’t dare a reread.

    • I tend to avoid rereads from my youth as well! Although I didn’t read SF until my late teens, and got really into it in my twenties when I was in grad school and needed a way to decompress.

  2. The thing on the cover of #2 looks like a big disembodied cock to me. But then again, it would.

    I read THE MANY-COLORED LAND yonks ago and credit it with my sudden and shocked realization that there had been such things a chalicotheres in the world, not even that long ago! Wow! Megafauna FTW
    The books were, well, um, so…um…yeah. Like that.

    • Hah. Tried to imply as much with my “It’s an alien worm?”

      I often enjoy Kirby’s whimsical and weird art but I’m shocked that got past the art director.

      Tell me more about your ambivalence/dismissal of The Many-Colored Land — is everything other than the backdrop/world bland?

      • I just found this comment in my WordPress box. I’m sorry, I wasn’t deliberately ignoring you. I’m one of those tiresome old men who just can’t dismiss offensive ideas once he sees them. This uberaryan u/dystopia was pubbed before Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being or I’d’ve smacked “THE UNBEARABLE WHITENESS OF TORC-ING” on its back cover & dismissed it. Ew.

  3. Hi

    I read the May series, as I recall I was somewhat lukewarm on it by the time it ended. The Faded Sun trilogy I read and remember liking, I am a Cherryh fan. I have been tempted to reread it but there is lots of her work I have not read and I should try reading some of those titles first. That said at my age I am not sure if I should even approach the 19 volume Foreigner series. The cover for the Greenleaf is nice but you used the word “intrigue” in your post and well that would have to be the Kirby cover. And then there is the ‘almentary express’ of a world-girdling WORMWAY” quote from the back. Wow!!

    I really enjoyed seeing these selections. I may even have to look at the work of Neal Barrett Jr. more closely. I have only read his first novel Kelwin which had a fairly standard post-apocalyptic feudal society plot. It was okay as I remember.

    Happy Reading

    • The Barrett story has a fascinating premise, phallic Kirby worm art aside….

      I might read Stress Pattern soon — it seems light a lighthearted riff on some of the Dune elements. Perhaps with the feel of Lloyd Biggle, Jr. — that’s my guess from the back cover blurb.

      Barnett seems to be best known for his later Through Darkest America sequence of brutal post-apocalyptic USA novels.

  4. Seeing the cover of The Many-Colored Lane brought back a slew of very happy memories – my husband, then my boyfriend, introduced me to this series and it blew me away… It was the first major science fiction series I’d ever read and I loved the sheer epic ambition of it and where it went, from distant past to far future. Though I’d agree with the comment above which mentioned that it is far more than a straightforward time travel adventure.

    I’ve also read The Faded Sun, and in it I recalled being reminded of similar themes that surface more fully in the early Foreigner books – I need to catch up with those. Thank you for these offerings, Joachim – it was a joy to be reminded of these books which I read with a lot of pleasure:)

    • Sounds like it holds a powerful place in your memory. It might not be worth rereading! It might diminish your memory of it…. Sometimes I feel like the power a particular text held is worth preserving. Thoughts?

      I have not read the early Foreigner books but I’m very interested reading all of her early works (70s and early 80s). She’s an author I enjoyed when I started reading SF and continue to do so!

      • Oh, I’m absolutely with you on that – I have no intention of rereading it at all. I’m in a completely different place, right now. It would not only be a huge disappointment to discover it wasn’t as wonderful as I’d recalled – as well as polluting a precious, joyful recollection that I wouldn’t be able to repair once it was overlaid with a more critical take on the book. I’m not a believer in threatening those wonderful memories…

        I’ve read a fair amount of her work – the ones that stand out in my memory as particularly wonderful are the Company Wars series – I like them all, but Heavy Time is outstanding, I also particularly love the duology Cloud’s Rider and Rider at the Gate, too. Have you managed to get hold of those? And like you, I love her writing style – I find that intense, focused pov mesmerising…

    • Sounds better than I expected it be!

      I have no idea why by the Gurney cover is really evocative. Gazing at the unknown… the alien landscape… the craft’s landing legs….

      He perfected crawling vessels in Dinotopia: The World Beneath — loved those as a kid!

  5. I liked the novel ‘The Tartarus Incident’ enough to have read it several times. It was what I liked at the time. I would probably still like it if I were to read it again. A fairly decent pulp sf adventure novel that could have easily have appeared in something like ‘Startling Stories’, or ‘Thrilling Wonder Stories’ in the early fifties. Greenleaf wrote about a half dozen sf novels of one kind or another before transitioning into book doctoring. See https://greenleafliteraryservices.com/.

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