Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIV (Melissa Scott, Murray Leinster, Ian MacMillan, Dick Morland)

As always which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Blakely’s Ark, Ian MacMillan (1981)

Tom Hallman’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: THE CEPH… A parasitic virus. Invariably lethal. In two generations, it had reduced the population of America to 10 million people.

New Jersey is populated by roving gangs of children, savage and insane. New York City is a sealed-off Dome.

America is a wasteland. And Dave Blakely just may be the last whole man in the world.”

Initial Thoughts: I’ve been in a post-apocalyptic mood for the last year or more. I’ve started (and much to my surprise, enjoyed) my watch through of Survivors (1975-1977). And devoured Leigh Brackett’s The Long Tomorrow (1955).

This is Ian MacMillan’s only SF novel. And SF Encyclopedia describes rather than appraises it… As I often say, “we shall see!” Even if I dislike it, the process of charting out the post-apocalyptic landscape of this period fascinates.

2. Albion! Albion!, Dick Morland (aka Reginald Hall) (1974)

KRUDDART’s cover for the 1986 edition

From the back cover: “England in the 1990s: an England in which the partisan and hysterical hooliganism of football supporters has got completely out of control. Parliament has been dissolved, and the country has been divided into four clubs—City, United, Wanderers, and Athletic—all violently opposed to one another.

It is into this savage world that Whitey Singleton, an expatriate journalist engaged in America in counter-revolutionary propaganda against the regime of the Club Managers, is pitched when he plane is hijacked and diverted to London. Singleton is sucked into a nightmare of sinister intrigue which culminates in a rally at Webley Stadium that turns into a riot of explosive frenzy. Originally published in 1974, this prophetic novel anticipated the Brussels riot as well as the Bradford disaster.

Albion! Albion! is a powerful SF parable about modern society which is frightening relevant and utterly gripping.”

Initial Thoughts: If you’ve followed this site for the last two or so years, you’ll know that I enjoy sports-themed science fiction–and not due to any special love of sports. Rather, “I’m a proponent of sports as a SF vehicle for social commentary on commercialism, trauma, alienation, and violence.” Dick Morland’s novel suggests that a fascist state will emerge from the supporters clubs of the biggest football teams. The game itself, if it was ever a “game”, is no longer played. Rather, the structural apparatus of the club remains along with their traditions and heroic histories. It’s a fascinating premise but I’m not entirely convinced by the delivery so far (50 pages to go).

I recently created an INDEX of SF on Sports and Games.

And I highly recommend William Harrison’s “Roller Ball Murder” (1973),  Gary K. Wolf’s Killerbowl  (1975), and George Alec Effinger’s “25 Crunch Split Right on Two” (1975)

3. Five-Twelfths of Heaven, Melissa Scott (1985)

Kevin Johnson’s cover for the 1st edition


and harnessed the newly discovered power of the elemental harmonies–Alchemy. In so doing, they changed the face of technology for all time. But it was pilots like Silence Leigh who conquered the starlanes. Silence herself dreamed of a ship–a ship of her own and a destiny removed from the Hegemony’s oppression. But not until she joined the crew of the Sun-Treader did the dream take on reality…. and a destiny never imagined become Silence’s own as well.”

Initial Thoughts: Tarbandu over at The PorPor Books Blog reviewed and raved about Melissa Scott’s Silence Leigh sequence. He rarely gives out 5/5s! So I tracked down the first in the sequence….

4. This World is Taboo, Murray Leinster (1961)

Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “Land on Dara? One might as well commit suicide!

Untouchable, like the Darans—that’s what they’d call Calhoun if he broke the quarantine. And they’d wipe him out on sight.

But Dara needed him and that was the kind of challenge this Interstellar Med Serviceman would never dodge.”

Initial Thoughts: A few weeks ago I reviewed Murray Leinster’s Doctor to the Stars (1964) and thought I’d purchase the rest in the series.

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For cover art posts consult the INDEX

28 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIV (Melissa Scott, Murray Leinster, Ian MacMillan, Dick Morland)

    • Why did she rewrite them? Eh, I’ll review the first published versions. I understand rewriting when it was destroyed by an editor, but…. sometimes the editors are right!

      • I think the rewritten versions are generally considered better. I suspect the original ones were rushed, and Scott later decided she could do a better job.

        • I guess I’m not looking for what’s objectively better. I want to read the originals as they were published in the time they were published (the historian in me). It’s an entirely different thing to, post-success, revisit earlier works and “fix” them retrospectively…. As I’m less interested in contemporary SF, the same thing goes for contemporary rewrites. So no, I do not plan on tracking down the new versions.

          The same thing goes with Michael Bishop’s claim that his rewritten version of A Funeral For the Eyes of Fire is the one we should read. I loved the original version. I’ll be the one to judge. I’m not going to blindly follow the retrospective views of authors — haha.

          And as someone who wrote an entire dissertation on an author who constantly updated his earlier works (navigating the publication history was infuriating at times), I find it fascinating what is added/subtracted/updated and why. For example, I read the latter version of Wilson Tucker’s fantastic The Long Loud Silence (1952, rev. 1969), in which he inserted Vietnam War references (instead of Korean War references?) and re-added the cannibalism scenes cut by the editors.


          I suspect the desire to revise and be critical about one’s early work is natural so I get why authors feel the need to revisit their earliest works.

            • I understand. I also know that sometimes editors are right (as someone whose first academic article was cut and mangled and refashioned by editors — and for good reason — hah).

            • I do have a decision to make when the revision happens within my area of study. I’m thinking about acquiring a copy of Algis Budrys’ Some Will Not Die.

              The 1961 edition radically revised/changed his first novel False Night (1954). But, the 1978 edition was updated even further. So… I’m not sure what I want. A 50s, 60s, or 70s take on the post-apocalypse. Maybe I’ll read the 70s version and compare it to the 50s version.

  1. re: ALBION! ALBION! “Originally published in 1974, this prophetic novel anticipated the Brussels riot as well as the Bradford disaster.”

    The apocalypse has arrived! Gangs of those hated and feared British soccer fans run wild across over society’s ruins!

    On one level, hilarious.

    On another level, not so much. There were reasons to hate and fear them. Back in the day in London, I went to school with one kid in London who used to boast about how he had razors embedded in the steel cps of his Doc Martens and took a brick to soccer games to throw up in the air amid the roar and distraction when the other side scored a goal. Why, yes, he was a sociopath, since you ask.

    Obviously, this Morland book won’t come anywhere near Anthony Burgess’s A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, which was an earlier effort inspired by such types. Those genteel Brits!

    • Hello Mark, I can’t tell from the comment whether you have read Albion! Albion! or are only referencing the back cover blurb.

      But yes, I am enjoying the novel so far — I have about 50s pages to go. The ideas are more interesting than the delivery. I like the incorporation of primary sources at the beginning of each chapter (humorously part of a Richard Nixon Guest Series of Historical Lectures). I’d like to think that I know enough about English Football to get some of the jokes. For example, one of the violent first riots at a game (and a traumatic event in the life of the main character) occurred at a third round FA clash. The fact that fans of those small (er) clubs would be go to such lengths….

  2. The only book here that I’ve read is the Leinster book, but it’s been so long ago. I really like all of the covers this time around, although the cover for Albion! Albion! looks closer to a zombie cover than social commentary. Tom Hallman’s cover is a good mix of the foreboding, the apocalyptical, and the bucolic. I just gotta read something by Melissa Scott sometime soon.

  3. MacMillan was kind of self-important jerk. But I still need to read ARK, as well. I also have his short story collection, LIGHT AND POWER. (I was at the University of Hawaii when he still was. He cofounded HAWAII REVIEW, of which I was briefly editor in chief).

  4. I read the Silence Leigh trilogy and remember much of it very fondly. Though I’d call none of them great novels, they’re set in a compelling future and feature a very appealing trio of protagonists. One is I have is the way Scott attempts to meld science and magic into her concept of interstellar spaceflight, which can lead to very dull and turgid passages where she’s painstakingly detailing everything Silence Leigh is doing to power the ship (in a weird way, trying to make fantasy elements read like very techie hard SF). So while its disparate ideas don’t always come together harmoniously in the storytelling, there are other parts to the stories that recommend them pretty well. I keep meaning to dig into more of Melissa Scott’s work.

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