As always which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. The Mind Master (variant title: The Dreamers), James E. Gunn (1981)
From the back cover: “IT IS THE 22ND CENTURY… IT IS THE AGE OF ECSTASY… Man has perfected the chemical transfer of information. Pop a pill and experience the Garden of Eden, the knowledge of centuries, or the vicarious thrill of someone else’s life. And in this world, one man—The Mnemonist—holds the task of keeping society functioning.
but it is time to choose his successor.
While his body is bound to the ultimate computer, his mind roams, monitoring lives.
Who will serve?
One of the bright, beautiful children who wait only for the latest “capsule of dreams?”….
A brilliant historian who is tempted to risk all of his work for a promise of delight?…
A doctor who in serving loses the love his most wishes to gain?…
Who will serve?
Now that serving means the end of sweet delirium.
And not serving means the end of all else…”
Initial Thoughts: James Gunn is a Joachim Boaz favorite from the earliest days of my site. While I haven’t returned to his work in a few years, I remember his powerful dystopic rumination on the healthcare system of the future in The Immortals (1962) fondly. Check out The Joy Makers (1961) as well! I read, somewhat enjoyed, but never reviewed The Listeners (1972).
2. Still Forms on Foxfield, Joan Slonczewski (1980)
From the back cover: “THE QUAKER PLANET.
Fleeing the final war that would destroy Earth;s civilization, a small group of Friends—Quakers—found refuge on the uncharted planet they named Foxfield. Somehow they managed to survive, with the aid of the bizarrely gifted native life-form, the Commensals—and, even more extraordinarily, they kept up the practice of their gentle but demanding beliefs.
Then, after nearly a century of silence, Earth contacted them—human civilization had miraculously survived the war and had spread out to the stars, flourishing to an undreamed-of richness.
And the Friends of Foxfield were a part of it—whether they agreed or not…”
Initial Thoughts: A few months ago I procured Slonczewski’s best known novel, A Door Into Ocean (1987). But, as is my wont, I tend to explore the lesser known works of an author first. And Slonczewski’s take on Quakers in space fits the bill.
3. Annihilation Factor, Barrington J. Bayley (1972)
From the inside flap: “Castor Krakhno believed he was waking from a nightmare. Opening his eyes, he found himself lying on his side on a concrete pavement. Near him were bodies, collapsed like rag dolls. They were all dead…
Prince Paredan had been having violent and unpleasant dream. He forced himself awake and rolled off the couch. Faintness, vibrations, an overwhelming desire to give in, to lose consciousness assailed him. Peredan stumbled out of his apartments into the bright outer offices. The offices were littered with unconscious forms. The prince struggled on…
The Patch was happy. I had eaten well. It rested, savoring the flavor of the planets it had devoured. Then it began to move, following the slipline, drifting on to yet another inhabited world…”
Initial Thoughts: This post feels like a trip down nostalgia road! Barrington J. Bayley, like Gunn, featured heavily in the early days of my site. While I doubt I’d be as kind towards his idea-heavy but often ramshackle novels now, The Fall of Chronopolis (1974), The Garments of Caean (1976), and Collision Course(variant title: Collision with Chronos) (1973) contained legitimately fascinating ideas.
4. The Generals, Per Wahlöö (1965, trans. by Joan Tate, 1974)
From the inside flap: “Time: the not too distant future. Place: a small island in the temperate zone. Scene: an extraordinary court-martial at air-force headquarters. Corporal Edwin Velder is on trial for his life. Some of his 127 alleged crimes are military, but others are civil and moral: bigamy, rape, and sacrilege. Per Wahlöö’s new novel takes the form of the proceedings of the trial, stretching over three months.
This trial is of great political importance to regime. The result is a foregone conclusion: Velder has been prepared in prison by “specialists” for three years. He is a physical and mental wreck and confesses to all but one of the charges. In reality the court-martial is an elaborate rehearsal of the events of the last eight years. The past and the dead are on trial.
A group of civilized, intelligent men took over the island, we learn, and began to build an ideal state. There were no politics, religion, laws, bureaucracy, or taxes. The country was carefully developed and enjoyed great prosperity and general happiness under the loosely exercised authority of the state’s founders. After five years the first cracks appeared with a disagreement in the ruling council. Slow disintegration set in: a secret armed force was built up by one of the rulers, and eventually civil war broke out. The rout of the liberal party was followed by full-scale fighting between the “fascists” and the “reds.”
At the time of the trial the country has enjoyed, officially, three years of peace after the cease-fire, but in fact the Generals, who rule with an iron grip, are ceaselessly struggling for power with one another. The military tribunal, a gallery of fanaticism and obtuse cruelty, forces Velder to reconstruct the events, personalities, ideals, battles, and final defeat of the island revolution. As the inevitable verdict is pronounced on the innocent, unprotesting Velder, the latest coup takes place.
The Generals is a political book but told with Wahlöö’s sardonic humor and thriller writer’s sense of suspense. He is too subtle a moralist to draw an obvious allegory or point a message for his readers. They must draw their own conclusions from what is Wahlöö’s most demanding and satisfying novel.
Per Wahlöö and, his wife, Maj Sjöwall [this is an error on the publishers part. They were NEVER married but were partners for 13 years], have been called the ‘reigning king and queen of mystery fiction’ by the National Observers. They received the Edgar Award for the best mystery novel from the Mystery Writers of America in 1970, and a film of their Laughing Policeman, starring Walter Matthau, has recently been released.”
Initial Thoughts: I’ve been on a mini-Scandinavian science fiction kick as of late. I enjoyed Sven Holm’s Termush (1967, trans. 1969) recently and placed Anders Bodelsen’s Freezing Down (1969, trans. 1971) on my best reads of 2019 list. This one look like an intense read! I look forward to it.
For book reviews consult the INDEX
For cover art posts consult the INDEX
For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX