Note: My “to review” pile is growing. Short reviews are a way to get through the stack. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.
1. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (1960)
(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1960 edition)
Over the almost decade of reading for my site, I’ve enjoyed Algis Budrys’ short stories and disliked his novels. After the moody and noir(ish) Rogue Moon (1960), I’ll continue exploring his oeuvre.
Rogue Moon, one of his best-known works, is an odd and oblique read. And odd in that reviewers seem to expect the science fiction al core should be given greater weight than the melodrama… Unlike the melodrama in Michael G. Coney’s Syzygy reviewed below, Budrys’ brand engages as each of his characters are possessed by disquieting psychological obsessions (sadomasochism, egotism, hypersexuality, etc.).
The central SF concept—an artifact found on the moon that creates insanity to explorers who enter it—tantalizes as the metaphysical culmination of the psychological drama that occupies the majority of the novel. Rogue Moon focuses more on the characters and their attempts to prove themselves to each other than the exploration of the alien death trap.
Bound to be a polarizing read, I found the tone and creepy obsessions hard to pin down. Like Jesse over at Speculiction, I am unsure of Budrys’ authorial intentions.
My other Budrys reviews:
- Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future) (1963)
- The Falling Torch (1959)
- [short review] Michaelmas (1976)
2. Syzygy, Michael G. Coney (1973)
(David Bergen’s cover for the 1975 edition)
2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)
I purchase Michael G. Coney’s SF, often highly unusual (see the fantastic short stories in the 1973 collection Friends Come in Boxes) and deeply affective (the 1975 novel Hello Summer, Goodbye), on sight. Unfortunately this was a miss…. It reminded me of the sinking feeling I felt reading John Brunner’s miserable Double, Double (1969) after reminiscing fondly about Stand on Zanzibar (1968).
At first glance, Syzygy‘s premise draws one in—the moons on an alien planet due to their erratic orbits synchronize once every fifty-two years. Coney foreshadows the transformative effects of the synchronization. Mark, a marine research scientist, is transfixed by a young man, who, at a dance becomes another person: “I wondered what was motivating him—in his normal role he was an eminently serious young scientist at my Research Station” (1-2). However, everyone who was alive 52 years earlier refuses to reveal what really happened. Rumors of spasmodic violence afflicting those near the ocean push the community into high alert as the it approaches.
The death of Mark’s lover young lover Sheila adds to the tension–who killed, or more importantly what, her remains unknown. And the community, possessed by a rugged individuality, grows suspicious as the Research Station co-opts their fishing vessels for research and evacuation procedures. As mysterious events pile up, a crisis brews!
Syzygy‘s world, although with touches of alien, feels far too much like a small English fishing village. And like various UK murder mysteries in small towns—I’m looking at you The Loch (2017)–the tangential side stories and rivalries and secretive characters tire the reader unless handled in an inspired manner. Coney’s drama reads like an alcoholic man’s wet dream—Mark spends much of his time lusting after the teenage sister almost half his age of his dead partner, who, despite all her teenage protestations and impulsiveness, deeply loves him…. Cringe-worthy melodrama aside, Syzygy, at moments, is downright creepy and mysterious.
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