Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLX (Scott Russell Sanders, Charles G. Finney, Gail Kimberly, Anthology of the Best SF of 1980)

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

1. The Unholy City (1937) and The Magician Out of Manchuria (1968), Charles G. Finney

Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1968 edition

From the back cover: “Long out of print, THE UNHOLY CITY is one of the most remarkable novels of fantastic adventures ever written. The nightmare City of Heilar-Wey, with its ghoulish pleasures, its zany riots, and a giant tiger ravening in its streets, is not a nice place to visit—but it’s a delight to read about!

THE MAGICIAN OUT OF MANCHURIA—a new short novel, published here for the first time–is an exotic saga of the travels of the Magician, a lost Queen of remarkable talents, and their very odd companions, in search of a far land where magic may still live—a story of perils, pratfalls, and pure enchantment.”

Initial Thoughts: I am a huge fan of mysterious “nightmare” cities, strange urban expanses…. And Charles G. Finney, best known for The Circus of Dr. Lao (1935), according to reviews I’ve peered at online seems to deliver.

2. Terrarium, Scott Russell Sanders (1985)

Angus McKie’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “In the 21st century, humanity has abandoned the Earth for the Enclosure: a network of cities, built from the salvage of the old world, sealed against al of nature.

Within the Enclosure the human race lives protected, all its material needs provided for. Within the Enclosure the citizens hide beneath masks and layers of ritual, and discontent is wiped out by the drugs and weapons of the Health Patrollers.

Within the Enclosure are a few people who want out.

In Oregon City, a small group plans to escape to the wild Earth beyond the walls. United by something much more than just an idea, they meet in secret. But they are not unobserved. And what they find outside is not what they expect.”

Initial Thoughts: Domed (and doomed?) cities! I desperately hope Sanders’ Terrarrium (1985) avoids the pitfalls of so many humans live out their drugged existence in post-scarcity future novels. George Bamber’s miserable The Sea is Boiling Hot (1971) comes immediately to mind.

3. Flyer, Gail Kimberly (1975)

Jack Faragasso’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back covers: “HUMANITY WAS SHATTERED INTO THREE PARTS.

The Flyers ruled the mountaintops high above the clouds, where the wings that grew from their human bodies enabled them to soar away from danger.

The Walkers were supreme upon the land, fighting incessant wars for territory and slaves, power and plunder.

The Swimmers built their great cities below the surface of the sea, and there laid their plans for world conquest.

But a rebel Flyer named Jerenz had no home, no safety, as he desperately searched for the secret of the mysterious past that had divided up humanity, and for the legendary key that would bring mankind together again before the monstrous process of self-destruction was complete….”

Initial Thoughts: Unknown author and unknown book. While Pyramid is not the highest quality press, I hope there’s something redeeming past its evocative Jack Fargasso cover.

4. The 1980 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1980)

Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “IN STEP WITH THE TIMES. If you do not have time to read every issue of every science fiction magazine and anthology, you can still reap the crop of the best of those stories. Because the editors of this annual selection have done the work for you.

Every year there are fine stories by the established masters and surprising tales by newcomers. Science fiction is a flourishing and self-renewing field of literature in step with a world that is going ahead in scientific development and the working out of the world’s future.

In this, the 1980 collection, you will find such familiar names as George R. R. Martin, John Varley, Larry Niven, and others. You will also encounter brilliant new writers including Connie Willis, Tanith Lee, Somtow Sucharitkul, Orson Scott Card, and more.”

Contents all published 1979: George R. R. Martin’s “The Way of Cross and Dragon,” Somtow Sucharitkul’s “The Thirteenth Utopia,” John Varley’s “Options,” Orson Scott Card’s “Unaccompanied Sonata,” Richard Wilson’s “The Tory Writer,” Connie Willis’ “Daisy, In The Sun,” Larry Niven and Steve Barnes’ “The Locusts,” Tanith Lee’s “The Thaw,” Richard Cowper’s “Out There Where the Big Ships Go,” Ted Reynolds’ “Can These Bones Live?”, Joanna Russ’ “Extraordinary Voyages of Amelie Bertrand.”

Initial Thoughts: This Best Of collection contains a fantastic range of authors—from Joanna Russ to Somtow Sucharitkul. Both are authors I want to explore further. And, considering my Tanith Lee kick as of late, her short fiction beckons.


For cover art posts consult the INDEX

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

35 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLX (Scott Russell Sanders, Charles G. Finney, Gail Kimberly, Anthology of the Best SF of 1980)”

  1. The 1980 Annual World’s Best SF immediately appeals. I’ve begun working my way through these from the beginning. Currently slowly reading through the 1968 edition.

    1. I’m mostly interested in the Tanith Lee, Joanna Russ, and Somtow Sucharitkul stories. And I haven’t read Card since I was a teenager…. but then again, a lot about Card’s politics and views on homosexuality has come to light since then! I went to high school with quite a few Mormons and their obsession with his work made sense only years later.

      1. I’ve never read Card and have no interest in his famous novel. Indeed 1979/1980 runs dangerously beyond my usual hunting grounds of the 40s 50s and 60s! if i keep reading this series i’ll get there eventually.

        1. If I’m going to return to Card it’s certainly not to his famous 80s fictions like Ender’s Game and that ilk. Rather, I’d track down works I’ve never read like A Planet Called Treason (1979) and collections such as Capitol: The Worthing Chronicle (1979) (I might have read some of the stories in the Worthing sequence but I can’t remember). But he’s definitely not at the top of the list for quite a few reasons!

  2. The Wollheim/Saha sounds pretty solid, indeed…though there’s little Card I enjoy, nor have since 1978. Pyramid while edited by D. R. Bensen was doing mostly good work…but a few bad apples, indeed. Not as prone to sadness as, say, Doubleday in the ’70s, or any number of others.

  3. My two favourite Charles Finney novels! In one volume!

    I bought the Panther reprints around 1977, a little after they came out and loved them both. The Unholy City raced ahead at breakneck speed, not just the cars racing down the main street, but the excess, the larger than life, well, everything! The UK punk scene was bursting out all around me and to me the book chimed with the times, despite being written 40 years earlier. Magician Out of Manchuria was was a lusher, slower-paced chinoserie and I later got the Donald M. Grant h/c, expecting him to issue The Unholy City next, but it never came out. His edition of The Magician is a very nice volume though.

    I read Terrarium by Scott Russell Sanders three years ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. I came to it by reading the companion novel, The Engineer of Beasts, written afterwards and set in a slightly different future. But they’re on opposite coasts of America, so that hardly matters! Enjoyed picturing the various characters concealing all their features and buying the latest looks and all ending up looking absurd! Both novels have strong ecological messages and, although he moved away from sf, he’s still well respected in the conservation movement for his books and essays.

    And, talking of domed cities, I finally got around to ordering The City and the Cygnets, which should arrive next week. It’s the tidied-up, tweaked omnibus edition of Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years & A Little Knowledge. Getting it should persuade me to finally re-read them!

    1. Getting my dates a bit mixed up – I read Terarrium only back in January, and Engineer of Beasts in October 2019.
      The book I meant which I read 3 years ago was another Charles Finney title, The Ghosts of Manacle, a collection I wouldn’t recommend.!

      1. You add to the chorus of “good things” I’ve heard about Finney’s The Unholy City (definitely the tale that interests me the most from the omnibus volume I purchased)!

        Weirdly enough, I’ve been on something of a 30s speculative fiction kick as of late. I read and am mostly finished reviewing Josephine Young Case’s At Midnight on the 31st of May (!938(. Although as I’m writing a bit about the novel for another publication (as always happens when writing for someone other than myself), I’ve struggled putting my thoughts on paper.

        I’m a huge fan of Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years (1979). He’s definitely on the Joachim Boaz side of the Domed City spectrum…. I haven’t read the A Little Knowledge sequel yet. Although Heloise reviewed it reviewed it for my guest post series. I’m not sure how I feel about later “rewrites” and “updates.” Unless an editor butchered them the first time around…..

  4. That 1980 anthology captures a peculiar time in sf history very well, a few years before cyberpunk, a few years after the seventies feminist/female sf boom.

    The selection of authors reflects that: Joanna Russ as one of the darlings of the seventies, John Varley as arguably the most existing sf writer of the time and newcomers like Willis and Card who would be much more important in the next decade. Hard sf stalward Larry Niven is in there but only in a collaboration with Steven Barnes, which would set a trend for him in the eighties.

    (Barnes is of course the only Black writer in the anthology. Cowper, Lee and Sucharitkul the only non North Americans.)

    I don’t know if you’ll agree, but reading this anthology and similar ones from that time it always struck me that there was a lack of energy or excitement to science fiction in that period.

    1. I’ve never enjoyed Card or WIllis’ SF so I suspect that when I get around to reading it I won’t rate it highly.

      While I understand your argument that the ultra late 70s was a liminal time, I’ve encountered plenty of exciting late 70s SF. Perhaps not in the collection but I haven’t read it yet.

      Christopher Priest was at the top of his game with collections like An Infinite Summer (1979)

      As was Michael Bishop with Catacomb Years (1979)

      Although, unfortunately, neither author is in the collection!

    1. As I mentioned to another commenter, there was plenty of exciting SF at the end of the 70s ( James Tiptree, Jr., Christopher Priest, John Crowley, Michael Bishop, etc. come to mind) — but that definitely doesn’t mean that Wollheim didn’t pick some stinkers for this particular collection. I’ll take a look at your review (which I remember reading when you posted it years ago).

      1. I loved the Carr/Wollheim anthologies of the 60s, but they seemed to have this dichotomy to them. I always felt that the more adventurous stories were picked by Carr, while the more traditional stories were selected by Wollheim. And I feel that Wollheim’s later, solo anthologies were that out. As you say, there was some exciting SF coming out in the late 70s–I just wouldn’t go to Wollheim’s anthologies to find them. Nor would you find much in his DAW imprint of books.

          1. You’re right–that is a pretty solid collection. Like you I would have been skeptical of Asimov’s story. Now I’m intrigued. I’ll have to track it down.

            It would be interesting to do a side by side comparison of Wollheim’s Best of anthologies with Carr’s Universe anthologies for the years that both came out. I remember the Universe books being pretty first rate and even though they had original stories, I bet they stack to Wollheim’s books pretty well.

  5. Huh. I would have put the Martin about five years later.

    I had an idea for a review series where I read one of each best SF of the year anthology series but finding copies of T.E. Dikty and E.F. Bleiler seemed impossible…

    (and then I found a battered but readable copy of their 1949 book)

    I suspect if a Niven fan stopped reading his new work with, say, A World Out of Time, they would miss few of his best works.

    1. Do you mean when you thought Martin started writing SF or when he published that particular story?

      Yes, those early Bleiler and Dikty anthologies go for $25+ online. One could track down each story in their original magazine publication but that would be an excessive activity and you wouldn’t see the editorial comments.

      Niven is another author that I haven’t read it more than a decade. At the time I was more interested in “hard” SF than I am now.

      1. That story. I was collecting Martin’s work in the 1970s so I knew he was writing back then.

        I am working my way through Niven’s “essential” collections, which I draw a line under when he jumps from Del Rey to Tor. The difference is the Tor collections tend to be blatantly padded.

  6. #3’s cover is a corker…I’d know what to think of those rainbow wings if it had been published in 1980 or so, but the rainbow didn’t have the modern connotations until November 1978 when That Assassination took place.
    #4 does have some very promising stuff in it, esp. that Sucharitkul.

    1. I don’t know what to make of the wings either. Fargasso’s weird urban lump and landscape are striking though.

      I’ve only read Sucharitkul’s unexciting Starship and Haiku (1981): https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2016/05/06/book-review-starship-and-haiku-somtow-sucharitkul-p-s-somtow-1981/

      But I’ve heard good things about his Mallworld stories which I nabbed but haven’t read: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2016/10/10/updates-recent-science-fiction-acquisitions-no-delany-disch-sladek-zelazny-edmondson-bryant-sucharitkul/

      1. I liked Starship and Haiku when it came out, but stalled 1/3rd of the way through on a relatively recent re-read. I really liked the first of his Inquestor quartet and really should read the whole set sometime!
        The Shattered Horse was good – set in the ruins of Troy several years after after the Greeks go home, iirc. I guess it’s probably to historical for you to want to read! ;-}
        Fiddling for Waterbuffaloes was good, as were other short stories I read. Still regret lending a good but somewhat obscure collection to a customer and never getting it back again.

  7. Like most good hearted people, I bought all the Best of Annuals in the 1970s and I generally rated Carr’s the highest. I wonder how they stand up?

    Wollheim and Saha ranged from 10% to 30% stories by women, increasing with time. Lester del Rey also increased the fraction of women from 7% to about 30%. Carr ditto, from 8% to about 25% (one year was half and half, though)

    A mystery: I remember as a teenager coming home with a sack of new books and realizing more than half were by women, on the basis of which I decided SF by women was where it was at [1] But I have no idea what was steering me to those books. Women didn’t get reviewed as frequently as men in the magazines I read and they sure didn’t make it into Best Ofs.

    1: I remember I got a ride from my father, which puts this epiphany before summer 1978, when Bill became topologically unsustainable. I remember the trip but not what the books were.

    1. While not Best Of anthologies, I suspect Knight’s Orbit sequence had the highest ratio of women writers — they often verged on 50% (alebit, they often contain James Tiptree, Jr. stories…) female authors. Or, at least the ones I’ve read/reviewed on the site and looked through on isfdb.org

      I, reading SF as an older teen in the early 2000s, did not read a lot SF by women (I read tons of fantasy by women)– because I simply went on what my dad remembered reading back in the late 70s. Eventually I read the entire Hugo list up to the year 1990 at around age 19 and discovered Le Guin, McIntyre, and Wilhelm and my reading patterns soon broadened beyond the established male “classics.”

      1. It turns out a local used book store has almost all of the Orbits. Now to pick a representative volume and hunt down that old thread on tor dot com about what happened when traditional sf author got angried up about Knight’s outrageous commitment to quality,

    2. James Nicol: “I generally rated Carr’s the highest. I wonder how they stand up?”

      Pretty damned well.

      They were the only Best Ofs I bought. In my view at the time, the Wollheims didn’t rate by comparison. Although picking some of those up now there are stories in them that I overlooked or underrated then, and besides they embody a different POV about what constitutes good SF than Carr’s (or mine), which I appreciate a little more now I look back on it as a historical thing.

      Back to how well the Carr Best Ofs stand up….

      I keep most of my SF in storage, but one book I do keep around with me is Terry Carr’s Best SF of the Year 1975 because some of the stories in it are so good (and in some cases unavailable elsewhere, like the Budrys). Check out the TOC —

      13 • Down to a Sunless Sea • [The Instrumentality of Mankind] • (1975) • novelette by Genevieve Linebarger and Cordwainer Smith [as by Cordwainer Smith]
      40 • Retrograde Summer • [Eight Worlds] • (1975) • novelette by John Varley
      60 • The Hero As Werwolf • (1975) • short story by Gene Wolfe
      75 • The Silent Eyes of Time • (1975) • novella by Algis Budrys
      119 • Croatoan • (1975) • short story by Harlan Ellison
      132 • Doing Lennon • (1975) • short story by Gregory Benford
      143 • The New Atlantis • (1975) • novelette by Ursula K. Le Guin
      165 • Clay Suburb • (1975) • short story by Robert F. Young
      177 • The Storms of Windhaven • [Windhaven] • (1975) • novella by George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle
      231 • Child of All Ages • [Melissa] • (1975) • short story by P. J. Plauger
      249 • In the Bowl • [Eight Worlds] • (1975) • novelette by John Varley
      279 • Sail the Tide of Mourning • [Space War Blues] • (1975) • short story by Richard A. Lupoff

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