Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXX (Ben Bova, Suzette Haden Elgin, Louis Trimble, Josephine Saxton, Orbit Anthology)

1. Ben Bova is not a site favorite…. But I’m willing to give a handful of his better known novels a shot. Here is the first (in the internal chronology) of the Kinsman sequence. Low hopes.

If you want to know why I have low hopes check out these three reviews:

2. Side 1 of an Ace Double. Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Communipaths is the first in her Coyote Jones sequence. I had mixed views on the third volume: At the Seventh Level (1972).

3. Side 2 of an Ace Double. Back in 2012 I reviewed Louis Trimble’s intriguing SF allegorical city tale The City Machine (1972). It was a competent work that, in the hands of a more polished writer, could have been so much more. Not sure what to expect from this one…. the zany nature of the blurb is off-putting.

4. Josephine Saxton’s The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969) still haunts me. I need to read more of her short fiction.

5. And finally, my Orbit anthology series collection grows!

Previous reviews:

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


1. Kinsman, Ben Bova (1979)

(Uncredited cover for the 1981 edition)

From the back cover: “ALL KINSMAN WANTED WAS THE MOON.

In was the threshold to space and the stars, to new industries, new worlds, and a new destiny for mankind. It was vital that the United States established a Moon colony—and Chet Kinsman was determined to lead it.

But the opposition was fierce, well-financed, politically powerful. To fight and win, Kinsman would have to use—to betray and perhaps destroy—the woman he loved, his oldest friend, and—if it came to that—himself.

A stirring novel of character and human conflict as well as adventurous technology, Kinsman brings to vivid life the near-future epic of the newest and widest frontier of all.”

2. The Communipaths, Suzette Haden Elgin (1970)

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


Gentle Thursday was not so gentle to Anne-Charlotte or her baby. Four Fedrobots came and took the baby away. Later they charged Anne-Charlotte with high treason against humankind because the baby was needed as a Communipath.

Anne-Charlotte screamed foul and dreadful things, and her mind projected an obscene sticky business that tried to drown us. She flew over the ground like a low-flying bird, and then teleported herself in fits, popping up all over the landscape.

We don’t know what to do about Anne-Charlotte. Patrick says she is insane and not responsible. But what if her baby is insane too? Now we won’t know until the baby gets mad enough to rip apart the galaxy…”

3. The Noblest Experiment in the Galaxy, Louis Trimble (1970)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the inside flap: “In the midst of his uneventful life, Zeno Zenobius awoke to find himself a fentried citizen of Wooten Dorset, England—a most unusual little town. A utopia of perfect, pleasant weather. A c ornucopia of jasmine, eucalyptus and banana treeds. He gave little thought to the amazing anachronisms amid the Victorian elegance: hovercrafts, electric lights, typewriters, and Zeno’s very own computer.

But then a nagging worry just below the depths of his conscious finally busrt out like an infected boil, and Zeno discovered there were two of him: Zeno Past and Zeno Present, Zeno I and Zeno II. And the purpose of Zeno I was to find out what Zeno II was doing in Wooten Dorset…”

4. The Travails of Jane Saint and Other Stories, Josephine Saxton (1986)

(Sara Schwartz’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “Down-to-earth, matter-of-fact, determined, daring and occasionally confused, Jane Saint fights to improve the status of women on earth. She is helped in her search for the lost Kodebook by a canine phenomenologist ‘unimpressed with magic as a political tool,’ Simone de Beauvoir, Joan of Arc, an amiable griffin and a bottle of Guinness.

Gordon things he is alone in a world of perfect female automatons. Alone? Not quite…

A strangely familiar victim of a cruel stepmother finds imperfect happiness when she’s abducted from her friends the mutants… all seven of them.

The End of Everything heralds an unusual street party and a proliferation of mountain climbing.”

Contents: “The Travails of Jane Saint” (1980), “Woe, Blight and, in Heaven, Laughs” (1978), “Gordon’s Women,” (1976), “The Message” (1986), “Heads Africa Tails America” (1971), “The Pollyanna Enzyme” (!986).

5. Orbit 11, ed. Damon Knight (1972)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1973 edition)

From the back cover: “ALIEN STONES. Deep in space the GLADIATOR’s sensors detect a ship of unknown design drifting aimlessly through the void. captain Daw and his crew have seen abandoned ships in the past, but their latest discovery represents a historic first—the first ship ever found which is clearly of non-human origin. When the men of the GLADIATOR board the strange vessel, its bleak and airless interior gives no hint of the frightening revelation about to be thrust upon them.

DUNE’S EDGE. Five people seem doomed forever to scramble toward the summit of a monstrous sand dune, always slipping back frustrated. What happens when one conceives a plan to finally climb over the dune’s edge makes this story a truly memorable example of fantasy at its spine-tingling best.

TO PLANT A SEED. Is many really master of the Universe? In this brilliantly conceived story, an incredible project is launched to preserve the human race—not only from the death of Earth’s sun billions of years in the future… but from the ultimate collapse of the entire Universe itself!”

Contents: Hank Davis’ “To Plant a Seed,” George Alec Effinger’s “Things Go Better,” David J. Skal’s “They Cope,” Charles L. Grant’s “The Summer of the Irish Sea,” Jack Dann’s “The Drum Lollipop,” John Barfoot’s “The Chrystallization of the Myth,” Vonda N. McIntyre’s “Spectra,” Kate Wilhelm’s “On the Road to Honeyville,” Steve Herbst’s “Old Soul,” Charles Platt’s “New York Times,” Gardner Dozois’ “Machines of Loving Grace,” Frederik Pohl’s “I Remember a Winter,” Robert Thurston’s “Good-Bye, Shelley, Shirly, Charlotte, Charlene,” Philip José Farmer’s “Father’s in the Basement,” Edward Bryant’s “Dune’s Edge,”Edward Wellen’s “Down y the Old Maelstrom,” James Sallis’ “Doucement, S’il Vois Plait,” Gary K. Wolf’s “Dissolve,” Joe Haldeman’s “Counterpoint,” Gene Wolfe’s “Alien Stones.”

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

10 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXX (Ben Bova, Suzette Haden Elgin, Louis Trimble, Josephine Saxton, Orbit Anthology)

  1. A Josephine Saxton collection! I am wildly jealous, I’d never heard of it before. With you on the Bova trepidation…hope it goes well for you. And the Orbit collection’s expansion is heartening.

  2. I enjoyed Millennium, which later became Book 1 of the Kinsman Saga, in high school. I have not read it since.

    I also enjoyed Star Watchman (which I just reviewed: http://galacticjourney.org/october-26-1964-a-revolting-set-of-circumstances-october-1964-galactoscope-2/) a fair bit more than you did. If anything, Bova did a good job with military tactics — at least to this Charles Roberts aficionado.

    His optimism for Shinar’s future under Terran rule seems misplaced, however. I am trying to find an example of a province that rebelled, brought in outside aid, then decided to throw its lot back with the empire and had it turn out fine.

    At least in modern times.

    I am looking forward to your Orbit reviews “when they come out”!

    • Millennium (1976), according to isfdb.org, is the second published work in the sequence–after The Weathermakers (1967)–but it is placed chronologically 2nd after Kinsman (1979). I do not know enough about the sequence to know how much the internal chronology matters or adds to the narrative. Here’s the listing: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pe.cgi?751

      I must confess I remember very little of Star Watchman — my review is from almost a decade ago. Military tactics tends to be low on my list of SF elements I look for… The plot blurb you provide indicates that the novel might be interpreted as an apologist text for empire — which is odd. And no, I can’t think of an historical example.

      • The Weathermakers has nothing to do with the Kinsman Saga, though it might take place in the same universe. It’s a young adult novel of plucky scientists using the first global weather control system. I enjoyed it in high school, but the science is woefully outdated. 🙂

        I think Star Watchmen is a less an apologist text for empire (there is plenty to find unsavory about the Terrans, and those things are explicitly outlined in the book) than an attempt at making predictions about a world that, at the time, was transitioning from global empires to national self-identity. Many of the transitions were less than ideal, and Bova was suggesting a “middle path” between outright independence and total integration might be workable.

        History has since shown that it hasn’t been. The rule seems to be toward less and less political federation (and in the last few years, less economic integration, too — viz. the U.S. and the U.K.)

        • Yeah, it’s simply been far too long since I’ve read the book to discuss its stance. And my reviews a decade ago were much briefer — and, perhaps a testament to how dull I found it, rereading my review is not triggering my memories!

  3. Oh my gosh! I’m so excited you’re going to read the Travails of Jane Saint! That was the first women’s press sf book I came across in the wild (after searching for a while in vain in NYC’s used bookstores) and I was totally blown away by the title story, and by “The Message”.

    I’ve never read anything like Saxton in all of my SF/Fantasy reading. I remember finding it a little muddled/frustrating at the time, but ultimately extremely rewarding. I’ll be excited to hear your thoughts if you review it here!

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