Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXVI (Eric Frank Russell, Cherry Wilder, Tim Powers, and Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.)

1. I adore the SF Rediscovery series published by Avon (full listing with covers here): the large size, the font and formatting, the framing of the art, and the general feel of the volume in my hand. If there’s a downside it’s the so-so quality of the art itself. I own and have reviewed two in the series previously: Barry N. Malzberg’s brilliant Revelations (1972) and E. C. Tubb’s generation ship novel The Space-Born (1955).

I have yet to read any of Eric Frank Russell’s SF—The Great Explosion (1962) seems to fit the satirical anti-Imperialism mode… we shall see!

2. A book an author whom I know little about…. Tony Roberts’ cover and the back-cover blurb intrigue!

3. Tim Powers’ first two novels were science fiction for the Laser Books imprint. I do not have high hopes (the imprint was notoriously low quality) but always enjoy exploring the early visions of authors. Miserable cover aside, it has a fun (if silly) premise!

4. A generation ship novel! (with a few unusual twists?)

Let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!

1. The Great Explosion, Eric Frank Russell (1962) (MY REVIEW)

(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1975 edition)

From the back cover: “THE BOONDOCKS OF SPACE. The giant Terran battle cruiser had plenty of guns and military personnel. Enough, surely, to subjugate any backwater planet. But it was one embarrassment after another as the Earthmen sped from planet to planet spreading the gospel of ‘civilization.’

One planet had developed from a million colonists, each of them a criminal… another was an insane world where clothing (especially uniforms like the Earthmen’s) was strictly forbidden… another planet was a planet where the only weapon was passive resistance—enough to disable Earth’s fighting power completely. And the mighty Earthling soldiers with dreams of Empire found themselves in real trouble at the hands of the “barbarians”…

In THE GREAT EXPLOSION, sf master Eric Frank Russell has produced a deliciously imaginative, fast-paces novel rich in entertainment and originality.”

2. Second Nature, Cherry Wilder (1982)

(Tony Robers’ cover for the 1986 edition)

From the back cover: “Strange reports of sightings of fiery fragments streaking across the night skies over Rhomary—distant outpost of the galaxy inhabited by descendants of a crew from the planet Earth, shipwrecked nearly two hundreds years before—-have reached the ears of the Dator of Rhomary, Maxim Bro, collector of information about past worlds and lives.

Now watching over the Vail—the wise, senteint beings who inhabit the great Western Sea—Maxim Bro leads a band of explorers in search of their ancient pasts, and to find the answer to a dream prophecy—that men from Earth will some day come again in a rain of fire!”

3. Epitaph in Rust, Timothy Powers (1976)

(Kelly Freas’ atrocious cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “When Brother Thomas tries sky-fishing from the monastery roof he knows he is breaking the law, but the few risks seem a small price to escape the stifling boredom of his cloistered life. What he doesn’t understand is why his insignificant brush with the law makes him the object of a massive manhunt and triggers off such a dramatic chain of events. Certainly he achieves his aim and finds the excitement he craves—but in the process the lives of everyone around him change as well.”

4. Mayflies, Kevin O’Donnell, Jr. (1979)

(Vincent di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “THE BRAIN PLANT. You are an ordinary man, with an ordinary future, when the accident happens. When you awaken twenty years later you are the computer braincore of a world-sized ship shepherding 25,000 humans on a thousand-year journey to the stars. First you are confused. Then angry. Then finally bored. That’s when you decide to play god..”

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

31 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXVI (Eric Frank Russell, Cherry Wilder, Tim Powers, and Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.)”

  1. #3 has The Worst Cover of 1976 on it. Makes the book look like a BDSM fantasy. Shuddersome indeed.

    Who the heck is Cherry Wilder?!

      1. She did YAs when I was past that point, so I never got hooked. I don’t even remember seeing her in the little mags, though, despite the extensive pub history. Shows you what time does to memory.

  2. The Great Explosion is probably my favourite Eric Frank Russell novel and also, I think, the only ReDiscovery title I still have. And, if you’re wondering, the ‘great explosion’ refers to the human diaspora outward from Earth, not some cataclysmic event!
    I really liked Cherry Wilder’s collection Dealers in Light and Darkness, which collected stories from the late 70s to the early 90s. I’ve always meant to read more of her work based on my liking of that book – and I’m also slightly surprised that I seem never to have read the earlier titles published by Timescape, as I used that as an indicator of quality back then…

    1. I am intrigued by the novel — I haven’t read any of his work. And recent reviews I’ve read (Ian Sales for example) of his best-known work, Wasp, aren’t entirely positive.

      I’m going to read the Wilder novel very very soon. I’ll definitely let you know if it’s worth tracking down!

      1. They’re somewhat similar, but I prefer Next of Kin to Wasp. (Which is the other |EFR book I’ve kept!) The Great Explosion runs out of steam a bit towards the end but the first half is very good.
        I checked a little and Wilder’s Timescape books were issued in the UK by Unwin (Unicorn) so I doubt many of the US editions made it across the ocean! Unicorn had some interesting books, iirc, but their books generally didn’t appeal to me much.

  3. Hi

    I have Second Nature but have not read it. My copy does have an okay (uncredited) cover by Timescape Books but yours is great. I have read lots of Russell. I recently reread the Jay Score stories, which I found only okay. I did not like Wasp but I always enjoy the short story “And Then There Were None”. I also remember liking his Fortean inspired Sinister Barrier and Dreadful Sanctuary. I thought Sentinels from Space could have been interesting but it turned into a sexist mishmash.

    Happy Reading
    Guy

    1. Hello Guy, I hope all is well.

      Of his novels, this is definitely the one I’m most interested in.

      I’ve tried to identify the art for the first edition of Wilder’s novel but without luck.

      Did you review anything by Russell? If so, I’d love to read your thoughts!

  4. Hi

    Yes I did do a post on Sentinels of Space. Russell’s Fortean influence and his association with Unknown has long interested me. I enjoy Charles Fort’s ideas, silly as they may seem, and my wife has been a long time subscriber to the Fortean Times so it seemed a good fit. As I mention in my post below I did find an unexpected connection to the novel as well. It was by no means his best work. Sorry I am not sure how to transfer a live link.

    https://ajaggedorbit.blogspot.com/2017/08/sentinels-of-space-by-eric-frank-russell.html

    All the best
    Guy

  5. I am a great fan of Kevin O’Donnell Jr. He didn’t write many books, but I can’t think of a clunker in the bunch. I’m now inspired to go dig up “Mayflies” for a re-read!

      1. That’s a tough question, made even more so by the number of years that have passed since I devoured his work. As you know, what razzle-dazzled a younger self may not do so for a sophistimacated elder version.
        pause for intense pondering and examining his bibliography
        Nope, I can’t choose. That might sound like a weenie fan boy, but there it is. O’Donnell shines with me because he is one of those treasured writers that has grand SF ideas AND well-wrought characters. Lots of ideas and action.

        (I have to say up front that I have not read his non-fiction works on religion and Jack the Ripper)

  6. Never read an O’Donnel novel, but like Russell, I was a fan of his short fiction. Yea, the Freas cover is bad, but not as bad as Di Fate’s. Di Fate’s cover for Mayflies is a horrid, eye-hurting clutter of static images. On the other hand, the Chris Foss and Tony Roberts covers were fantastic, different than their typical spaceship art. Do I see a touch of Paul Lehr in the Roberts cover, or is that just me?

    Didn’t even know that Tim Powers novel even existed.

    1. Do you have a favorite piece of Russell short fiction I should track down?

      Yeah, as I’ve mentioned before, I prefer Di Fate’s early work — the overdone composite style isn’t really for me.

      1. “Dear Devil” is one of Russell’s best.

        Janet Aulisio did the cover of my edition of “Mayflies”. Not her most dynamic cover, but much better than that Di Fate.

  7. Growing up, I liked the Jay Score stories, but its been decades. Like Laurent Vaillancourt I think that Dear Devil was one of his best. It’s interesting that this was one of the few non-Astounding/John W. Campbell stories that he published, so it didn’t follow Campbell’s established pattern of fiction dealing with Campbell’s smug supermen.

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 )

Google photo

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

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter 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.