Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIX (Gwyneth Jones, Thomas F. Monteleone, Knut Faldbakken, Stefano Benni)

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

1. Guardian, Thomas F. Monteleone (1980)

Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1981 edition

From the back cover: “GUARDIAN. There existed nothing like it in the known World. It climbed boldly into the sky, a symbol of the power and imagination of those who had created it…. Varian Hamer stood face to face with a robot. It was not only fantastic—it was impossible. In the known World there were no such things as robots. They had been destroyed, along with everything else, thousands of years before, in what many supposed was Armageddon.

But there it was, staring him in the eye. And shortly, Varian and and a small band of adventurers embarked on the greatest search the world had ever known. To find Guardian. The sentinel of the First Age. The last artifact of a lost civilization.

And while they searched, Guardian waited.”

Initial Thoughts: I have Monteleone’s The Time-Swept City (1974) on the shelf — unread. Not sure why I late-night purchased this one…. I am a sucker for Paul Alexander covers (which is surprising considering my normal art obsessions).

2. Escape Plans, Gwyneth Jones (1986)

Lionel Jeans’ cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “‘So you’re not dead after all, Pioneer Aeleysi.’

I was surprised that she recognized me so easily. I was surprised she could recognize anything at all. For Yolande was transfigured. The effect had been masked while she was sleeping. Now I could see her face was hollowed to the bones. She hadn’t slept or eaten, obviously for several days. Her eyes were burning, the pupils dilated far too strongly even for this dull light. I realized with a sinking heart that this was not, as I assumed, a curiously transparent stratagem for infiltrating the enemy. That route accident had been real. Concussion, I guessed. The nasty kind, the little bits of grey matter sticking to the bone. An expression of irritation crossed the incandescent features. Yolande didn’t appreciate my unspoken verdict….

This is the future of earth, but not this earth. Yet something is happening here that may have happened to this earth once. Not one can be sure, the evidence is contradictory. But if it is true it will change everything… everything…”

Initial Thoughts: A new author to me…. SF Encyclopedia describes it as follows: “Escape Plans (1986) attempts some of the same density of effect of the first novel [Divine Resurrection] through an acronym-heavy style and a bruising presentation of the Computer-run Dystopian world in which the action takes place, but the sacrificial descent from other-world luxury of the female protagonist and her implication in an inevitable revolt have little of the resonance of her predecessor’s structurally identical gift of self.”

3. Twilight Country, Knut Faldbakken (1974, trans. Joan Tate, 1993)

Uncredited cover for the 1993 edition

From the inside flap: “Knut Faldbakken is one of Norway’s leading contemporary writers, and his novels have been published in fourteen countries. Twilight Country is the stark portrayal of a civilization with unnerving similarities to our own. When life in a stagnant and polluted city of Sweetwater becomes unbearable, its citizens desert in one by one to take refuge on the Dump, the repository of the city’s unwanted surplus. Here they find freedom from the city’s bureaucratic tyranny and filth as well as the material goods they depend on for survival. Twilight Country depicts the struggles of individuals who learn to cooperate, creating a new society from the detritus of the old.

Initial Thoughts: Scandinavian SF has recently found a perch in my heart–huge fan of Sven Holmes’ Termush (1967, trans. 1969) and Anders Bodelsen’s Freezing Down (1969, trans. 1971). I look forward to tackling this one!

4. Terra!, Stefano Benni (1983, trans. Annapaola Cancogni, 1985)

Seth Jaben’s cover for the 1985 edition

From the back cover: “The year is 2157. Six atomic wars have left Earth shrouded in the icy blanket of nuclear winter—but we do find a dazed population bravely facing its grim tests? No on your life!

In the wild and wickedly irreverent futurescapes of Terra!, Paris has become a subterranean funhouse of decadence, complete with pornorobots and video games that kill Two-hundred-year-old Jagger and McCcartney are now global industrialists, while a wily promoter is trying to buy T-shirts right to the end of the world.

From the depths of space, a cryptic message lands on Earth pointing to a new planet lush with life, and a n-holds-barred space race takes off from the energy-starved planet. Off rocket the three superpowers—the Samurai Empire (in microships); an Arab-backed U.S.-Soviet coalition well fueled on drugs, sex, and rock’n’roll; and a ragtag Sino-European expedition, whose dubious crew members make Han Solo look like Prince Valiant. Their goal: Terra, the new Eden.

It’s a madcap tour through time and space for adventurers from every segment of Planet Earth!”

Initial Thoughts: I’ve read a bit of Italian SF although I just discovered this author. The satire in Terra! seems a bit wide-ranging. We shall see! Check out my reviews of Tommaso Landolfi’s “Cancerqueen” (1950) and Dino Buzzati’s Larger Than Life (1960, trans. 1962).


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17 thoughts on “Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIX (Gwyneth Jones, Thomas F. Monteleone, Knut Faldbakken, Stefano Benni)”

    1. I have a giant backlog of books read but unreviewed and it could be a decade ’till I read it (one never knows!). I’d browse what I have reviewed if you’re looking for lesser known gems than wait for any particular review…

        1. Oh, I haven’t started and it went with the rest on my giant shelf with 1k other unread SF novels, collections, and anthologies. Of the bunch here, I’ll probably get to Twilight Country (1974) first. As this is a hobby, I’ve never been one to make reading plans or if I do I abandoned them immediately. I read whatever I want in that millisecond. And often identifying my next book to read takes hours of gazing at the shelf, starting books, and setting them back down for no reason other than to satiate my passing whims!

            1. The initial thoughts for Jones only consisted of a quote from SF Encyclopedia about the book and that she’s a new author to me. Often I know quite a bit about a book before I read it from other reviews and articles I peruse.

            2. Thanks for clarifying!
              The joy of selecting a book for reading is half the price. So many unread items lurk on my shelves that I often look at them while reading and I have to tame them. Your time will come! 😁

  1. “Two-hundred-year-old Jagger and McCartney” is a nightmare I’ll now be having. “Thanks.”
    And the cover of “Guardians” is cool, say what you will about the artist.

      1. I interpreted “which is surprising considering my normal art obsessions” as dismissive, apparently unfairly. Anyway, it’s an effective image and I even think it’s used well (makes a change from a lot of the covers in that era!).

        1. Yeah, I find my love of his work surprising. It’s not a ding on his quality — or I didn’t mean to imply it as such. His work reminds me a bit of John Berkey. Both have the same obsessive attention to mechanical detail.

  2. Jones is good. Second the Aleutian trilogy comment from Sales above.

    Monteleone is not. I found an old Dikty YEARS BEST from 1955 (I think) and he had a terrible story in that. Basically, he seems to have kept on getting published intermittently for thirty-plus years despite being tenth-rate, which earns him points for indefatigability at least

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