Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIII (Mary Gentle, Robert Reed, Mike Resnick, and Jayge Carr)

1. As a historian, I am particularly fascinated by future histories—stories or novels chronologically organized to convey the historical scope of a society’s evolution. Mike Resnick, a new author to me, presents a future history in the form of linked original short stories. The format reminds me of Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years (1979), although the stories in the latter volume were previously published.

Barry N. Malzberg also tried his hand at a future history (albeit, a distinctly Malzbergian take) in the underrated Universe Day (1971).

2. I’ve read extensively about Mary Gentle but I haven’t picked up one of her novels–until now. I’d love to know your thoughts on this one.

3. Jayge Carr is best known for Leviathan’s Deep (1979) which I bought a few years back but haven’t read. Here’s a lesser known work—it only received one printing—in a trilogy.

4. And finally, another complete unknown…. SF Encyclopedia describes Robert Reed’s first novel, The Leeshore (1987), as “a tale which combines adventure-sf plotting (a pair of twins, the sole humans left on the eponymous water-covered colony planet, must guide a task force in pursuit of the Computer-worshiping zealots who have killed everyone else) with an almost mystical sense for the genius of place, the intricacies of self-hood.”

Count me intrigued! I’m all for unusual planets…..

As always, let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!

~

1. Birthright: The Book of Man, Mike Resnick (1982)

(Uncredited cover for the 1st edition)

From the back cover: “THE GALAXY WAS MAN’S FOR THE TAKING—BUT KEEPING IT WAS ANOTHER MATTER…

On an insignificant planet far from the heart of the galaxy. Man gazed at the stars and dreamed of conquest. And with the passing millennia, Man’s ships began to roam the spaceways, making that dream a reality. Claiming star system after star system, Man settled peacefully on hospitable places like the fifth planet of the Sirius system and fought deadly wars over territories like the water world of Gamma Leporis IV. Almost too soon, Man was acknowledged to be the dominant species in the galaxy—and that was when the glorious dream changed into nightmare…”

2. Golden Witchbreed, Mary Gentle (1983)

(Uncredited cover for the 1988 edition)

From the back cover: “The distant world of Orthe is littered with the spectacular remnants of its once great civilization. Now the Ortheans have deliberately turned away from the technology which nearly destroyed them—and from anything that links them with their past.

To Orthe comes Lynne de Lisle Christie, envoy from Earth. Her assignment: win the confidence of the planet’s leaders. All too quickly, however, she finds herself at the centre of a conflict which threatens to explode into war—and which puts her own life in peril

GOLDEN WITCHBREED is a brilliant, epic adventure of fierce imagination.”

3. Navigator’s Sindrome, Jayge Carr (1983)

(Jan Esteves’ cover for the 1st edition)

From the inside flap: “The planet Rebelais is a world unlike any other in the  galaxy—wilder, stranger, and infinitely more dangerous. The masters of Rabelais maintain their cruel, perverse dominance by an extraordinarily complex system of contractual arrangements which are as binding on the subject race as they are incomprehensible to the unfortunate travelers whose star-course intersects the planet’s co-ordinates.

One any other world, for instance, Jael’s black Navigator uniform would have protected her. And on any other world, Freighter-master Hannibal Reis wouldn’t have to hide his real motives for staying on the evil planet. But on Rabelais, Lord Golden Singh makes the rules, and the Golden Rule is Lord Golden’s pleasure. He’s manipulated the obscure laws into a protective screen of legitimacy, but–though he doesn’t know it—there are powers in the galaxy much greater than his, powers that become very angry when he tries to make offworlder Jael the victim of his self-legislated self-indulgence…”

4. The Leeshore, Robert Reed (1987)

(Wayne Barlowe’s cover for the 1988 edition)

From the back cover: “THEY THOUGHT THEY KNEW ALL THERE WAS TO KNOW ABOUT DANGER… UNTIL TWO ARMIES BROUGHT WAR TO THEIR WORLD.

Abitibi and Jellico were the only humans to be born on the Leeshore. To them, it was home. But the Islanders hated the watery planet. Beneath its canopy of airborne plants they felt suffocated by the stench of decay and blinded by the eternal darkness. Their only hope lay in rescue.

Yet when the starships finally appeared, they carried men whose goals were not to liberate, but to destroy. Rivals in struggle for supremacy that had begun on another world, the Alteretics and the Earthmen were preparing for the ultimate confrontation. Any they would use any weapon–or anyone–to win. Soon, in a var they can neither understand nor envision, Abitibi and jellico will be forced to choose sides. For the final battle will be fought on… THE LEESHORE.”

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

32 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIII (Mary Gentle, Robert Reed, Mike Resnick, and Jayge Carr)”

  1. #2 An interesting book. Be on the lookout for the phrase, “are we to be arykei, then?”

    #4 Somewhere in my ever-deepening memory-gloom this book is lodged and shouting at me. Maybe it’s the character named for a Quebecois mining city, and the other for the Solar Queen’s Captain Jellico, that twangs a web-strand?

    I hope you love them all

    1. I’ve read 50s-70s novels for so long that the length of Gentle’s novel threw me for a loop — until I realized (I knew of course before) that that was an 80s (to the present) fad….

      We shall see! I’ve been trying to write reviews. I’ve read quite a lot that’s sitting around unreviewed. I suspect from this post it seems like I’ve mostly been procuring rather than reading. hah

      Read any good SF recently?

  2. I’ve read both Golden Witchbreed and its sequel Ancient Light multiple times. The sequel’s rather “downbeat” ending is the only thing about either of these novels that I don’t care for.

    …And speaking of “downbeat” endings, if you don’t like them, either, you probably won’t like Rsenick’s Birthright. I read this novel once, nearly three decades ago, and the cyclical “it’s all meaningless, but eventually something new will crawl out of the slime and replace humans” just didn’t work for me. (Seems rather standard in tone for a Resnick novel, though.)

    I’m unfamiliar with the other two books, but they look interesting.

    1. I’m definitely okay with downbeat endings — especially if it relates to an “empire” created by man! (i.e. Birthright) That said, I have a ton of issues with the notion of cyclicality in history (as a historian myself). Depends on how it’s implemented I guess. We shall see!

      As for Golden Witchbreed, I’m optimistic. She’s a new author for me and I’ve only heard good things–especially about her newer The Book of Ash sequence.

  3. I have this book still by Mike as well as a copy of another novel by him called The Soul Eater. Excellent story set in the same universe. I think I also have a third novel by him, however I must check my archives which are in storage at the moment. I wish he had written more.

  4. The Robert Reed novel, THE LEESHORE, was his first and impressed me — in memory, still impresses me.

    I’ll be interested what you think. I believe Reed is an author who, like Lewis Shiner, has never really gotten the break he deserved. This may sound strange, given that Reed has won a Hugo and for decades has dominated the SF magazines with his prolific production of short work. But he lost his book contract with Tor after 2008 and since then has never been with a major publisher, so has somehow been limping along on mostly magazine sales.

    And nevertheless I would hazard that Reed’s produced more good stories at this point than, say, Robert Silverberg.

    He’s also produced some volume of merely competent stories to outright stinkers, too. But you can’t hit hit runs unless you keep swinging for the ball. And Reed did that. Recently, however, he closed down operations — pulled his website and his Facebook page, and his blog activity, desultory as it was. And since then, whereas for about two decades he averaged sixteen story sales a year, there now hasn’t been a peep from him for something like ten months. Maybe he figured he was done banging his head against the wall. He certainly deserved to fare better in terms of money and recognition, although I can think of reasons why he didn’t.

    A not incidental aside: Peter Watts also is now without agent and publisher, AFAIK, so for American writers of real core SF these may be hard times. American publishers seem to have an endless appetite for fantasy or military SF, very little for actual SF. On the other hand, the British have a strong cadre of SF writers currently and publishers there are still publishing real SF. Besides established figures like Paul McAuley, there are interesting new writers like Anne Charnock, James De Abaitua, and Tim Maughan.

    (And as you may know, M. John Harrison has a new novel dropping in June, THE SUNKEN LAND BEGINS TO RISE AGAIN. Yay! Of course, by no stretch of the imagination will it be “real SF”.)

    To return to the books at hand, I read Mary Gentle when she was new. I thought she could write, but not well enough to get around my personal disinterest in/aversion to the high/epic fantasy aspect of what she wrote.

    1. Reed’s last book, I think, was from a British small press, PS Publishing. During the 1990s, he churned out some good solid sf novels, and then seemed to be doing well with his Worldship stories for a few years. No idea why he suddenly went out of favour.

      Incidentally, Matt de Abaitua is hardly new – he was shortlisted for the Clarke in 2008. He’s definitely worth reading. Tim Maughan may be a Brit, but he lives New York and his novel was first published there. I don’t think it has a UK publisher yet.

        1. I think that’s an omnibus of previously-published material. He has self-published a lot of his fiction. As has William Barton, who has not be in contract for 20 years at least.

    2. I must confess, I know little about current SF publishing — or whether or not authors from the decades I enjoy the most are producing or not producing. Your comment was illuminating!

      I wish Barry N. Malzberg hadn’t stopped writing novels in the early 80s. I’m not sure why he did or if it had to do with the changing nature of SF presses at the time or a general disenchantment with SF in general.

      I am intrigued by the Gentle novel. And yes, I get the sense that it could slip more into high/epic fantasy but I think this one at least is more distinctly SF. We shall see!

      Thanks again for visiting + commenting.

      1. JB wrote: “I wish Barry N. Malzberg hadn’t stopped writing novels in the early 80s. I’m not sure why he did ….”

        Probably no Occam’s razor is required here. Malzberg went back to work for the Scott Meredith Literary Agency full-time and I assume that was because his books weren’t selling.

        I’ve a collection of Malzberg’s most recent critical writings, THE BEND AT THE END OF THE ROAD, lying around. If I went through it, I could probably substantiate my assumption with his actual statements.

        “Thanks again for visiting + commenting”

        Not all all. Thank you for dredging up and reconsidering SF books from this period. From about 1977 till about 1984, with the arrival of Gibson, Sterling, K.S. Robinson, Lucius Shepard, et al. I lost interest in SF because, well, a lot of it just didn’t strike me as very interesting or even competent.

        So you’re doing me the service of reminding me of the select books from this era that I did admire or calling to my attention books both good and bad that I missed.

  5. Mary Gentle has been on my list to read for ages, but I haven’t got around to her. Golden Witchbreed sounds like something I would like. I tried a novel by Robert Reed once and couldn’t get on with it, but would give him another go. I’ve liked his short stories when I’ve come across them in anthologies.

      1. I looked it up and the novel was Black Milk. I also found a note about one of the stories I liked, which was ‘Roxie’. There was another one about a man who gets transformed into something else but I can’t remember the name.

  6. I’ve read everything by Gentle except Ilario and Black Opera. Oh, and her debut, a fantasy. She’s one of my favourite writers. After Golden Witchbreed and Ancient Light, she started writing hermetic fantasies and historical sf/fantasies. Ash: A Secret History is an amazing novel. It was published in four parts in the US.

  7. Perhaps you’ll like “Golden Witchbreed” more than me. I don’t even remember what it was about. Although I managed to finish it, I thought it was unimaginative, overly long and tedious. I hope she’s written better novels than this. I haven’t read any of her shorter fiction.

  8. @ Ian Sales –

    Thanks for getting Mathew De Abaitua’s first name right, where my memory screwed up.

    Yeah. You’re right that he’s been a presence back in the UK for a while. I live in Calfornia, where I’ve only just discovered him by reading his most recent one, THE DESTRUCTIVES.

      1. You’re quite right Joachim. An example is Ursula LeGuin’s “Never Coming Home”, which I recently read but couldn’t finish, even though she’s one of my favourite SF authors.

    1. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!

      I’m a huge fan of Malzberg — I have a massive quantity of reviews of his work on my site. Have you browsed through some of them?

      But yes, tempted by the Resnick. We shall see! If you read it first, let me know what you though.

      1. Yup, been a regular reader of the site for awhile now! I share your enthusiasm for Malzberg and it’s also gratifying to see a reviewer grasp the black humor that runs through his output. Also great to see reviews of Malzberg books I didn’t even know existed (“Universe Day”, for example), gives me stuff to add to my reading list.

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