As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Some Will Not Die, Algis Budrys (1961, rev. 1978)
My 1978 revised edition contains no inside flap or back cover blurb. Instead, here’s the brief description of the novel and its complex publication history from SF Encyclopedia: “Budrys’ first novel has a complex history. As False Night (March 1954 Galaxy as “Ironclad”; much exp. 1954) it was published in a form abridged from the manuscript version; this manuscript served as the basis for a reinstated text which, with additional new material, was published as Some Will Not Die (1961; rev 1978). In both versions a Post-Holocaust story is set in a plague-decimated USA and, through the lives of a series of protagonists, a half century or so of upheaval and recovery is described. Some Will Not Die is a much more coherent (and rather grimmer) novel than its predecessor.”
Initial Thoughts: I recently read this one but forgot to put it in an acquisition post. I’ll withhold my comments until I write a review (if I get around to it). However, if you’re new to Budrys I recommend tracking down a copy of Budrys’ Rogue Moon (1960) or his short stories in Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future) (1963) instead.
2. Divine Endurance, Gwyenth Jones (1984)
From the inside flap: “She was intelligent and elegant and heartless, just the way she was meant to be. But they were too successful in making her a cat: she was far too clever at slipping under the locked doors in her mind. They could never let her go. It would not have been safe.
In the end there was Cho: Cho, the loving companion, the dear child. All she wanted was to make someone happy.
Together they went in search of the race who had left them alone and to find Cho’s brother. Cho believed she would be able to put an end to the world’s problems. Divine Endurance had promised her that. And it was true. Cho had the power, as her makers long ago had claimed, to grant every wish of the human heart.
And how do you grant wishes for someone who believes that desire is the enemy of the soul, that to give up will and self is the only way to reach reality?
In the Peninsula, to which they journey, Cho and Divine Endurance discover a land of intricate beauty. It is a land riddled with corruption: an exquisite mosaic of cruelty and abandonment, grace and desolation. A desperate struggle is in progress between the people and the indifferent power of their Rulers: brothel-keeping princesses, pampered puppet princes, a silent and secret government. Everywhere death creeps in like the tide.
Cats do not like being shut up and ignored. Divine Endurance had her own secret intentions. Cho was doing her best with all her loving heart. But she was finding it difficult to grant wishes. Her brother knew the answer. So did Divine Endurance.
This ambitious, beautiful novel is laced with dry (sometimes savage) humour. It includes a cool and convincing portrait of a functioning matriarchy. It is a novel full of insights and surprises.”
Initial Thoughts: I recent procured Jones’ Escape Plans (1987) but decided that I rather start with her first non-YA SF novel. According to SF Encyclopedia:
“Divine Endurance (1984), remains her most widely admired. Like the Zanne books, it is set in a Ruined Earth venue governed by a matriarchy, but neither setting nor premise are presented with the clarity appropriate in a juvenile text. No dates are given, but Jones’s enormously complex Southeast Asia venue has a Dying Earth tonality; and the matriarchal society she depicts is riven by profound ambivalences. The protagonist, a female Android named Chosen Among the Beautiful, and the eponymous cat which accompanies her, dangerously agitate the scene by arriving in it, and a civil conflict begins to devastate the long polity of the land. The hard melancholy and sustained density of the book are unique in recent sf.”
3. The Blind Men and the Elephant, Russell M. Griffin (1982)
From the back cover: “A HILARIOUS BLESSING IN HIDEOUS DISGUISE….
has arrived in a small, unsuspecting Massachusetts town to Durwood Leffingwell, TV weatherman. Durwood lives with a $400 Afghan who eats him out of house and home, and a wife who spends all the money he doesn’t have.
Then along came one Elephant Man, also known as Macduff—a five foot one monster who hides his deformities under a beekeeper’s veil, and is paraded for profit as the world’s ugliest mortal by an enterprising “uncle.” But while Leffingwell’s “find” sends his career skyrocketing, Macduff’s own past begins to haunt him—memories of a dark-veiled woman, voices talking of experiments and surgery…
And in the rollicking and treacherous search for Macduff’s mother, hounded by mysterious governmental agents, both man and monster will discover the high price of instant success…”
Initial Thoughts: While I acquired Griffin’s first novel The Makeshift God (1979) a while back, I haven’t gotten around to reading it. From the back cover of this one I can’t tell what tone it will strike. Intrigued by the premise.
4. Catastrophe and Other Stories (variant title: Catastrophe: The Strange Stories of Dino Bizzati), Dino Buzzati (1965, trans. by Judith Landry and Cynthia Jolly)
From the back cover: “In the first story of the collection, The Collapse of the Baliverna, the reader witnesses the caving-in of a great building which causes many deaths. THis story is, in a sense, a concentrating of Dino Buzzati’s technique—for each of these stories traces the collapse of the known, everyday world which leaves his characters fixed in a moment of terror. The macabre, nightmarish incidents common to its collection of stories are all rooted in the ordinary world but out of this very ordinariness grows a sense of menace which will hold the reader in suspense. Some of them have an almost parable-like connotation which lends them an extra dimension of depth. Intrinsically readable, comparable perhaps to Edgar Allan Poe, Buzzati’s work also tells us much about contemporary society.
Dino Buzzati first appeared in a Calder NEW WRITERS volume with his long story The Scala Scare which in Cynthia Jolly’s fine translation, is reprinted here. The other translations are by Judith Landry who displays a keen awareness of the atmosphere of unease which pervades the book.”
Contents: “And Yet They Are Knocking at Your Door” (1940), “Catastrophe” (1965), “Just the Very Thing They Wanted” (1947), “Oversight” (1950), “Seven Floors” (1937), “Something Beginning with ‘L'” (1939), “The Alarming Revenge of a Domestic Pet” (1946), “The Collapse of the Baliverna” (1951), “The Epidemic” (1954), “The Landslide” (1954), “The March of Time” (1965), “The Monster” (1946), “The Opening of the Road” (1935), “The Scala Scare” (191948), “The Slaying of the Dragon” (1939).
Initial Thoughts: Dino Buzzati (1906-1972), best known for his masterpiece of Italian literature The Tartar Steppe (1940), was a central figure of the Italian avant-garde. I’m a fan of the aforementioned novel as well as its film adaptation. Buzzati’s science fiction and graphic novel Poem Strip (1969) are also worth tracking down. I’m unsure how many speculative fictions are in this collection of short fiction but the theme, the surreal/nightmarish impact of catastrophe, resonates.
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11 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXI (Algis Budrys, Gwyneth Jones, Russell M. Griffin, Dino Buzzati)”
Huh, a Timescape I never saw.
I know little about it. What readers on twitter told me when I posted a picture of it a while back is that it’s super weird…
But yeah, I too didn’t recognize it when I was scrolling through all the Timescapes identifying ones I didn’t own. Hence the purchase!
I‘ve just recently read a short story by Gwyneth Jones – I always enjoy them but they are nothing to write home about.
Yup, I commented on your last Jones review. Perhaps her novels are a bit different.
I know I’ve read “The Blind Men And The Elephant”, and it was that edition, but honestly I don’t remember much about it.
Definitely an unknown quantity to me. I’m not sure which Griffin I’ll read first — maybe The Makeshift God that I linked above.
Interesting! Had no idea Buzzati did sci fi, though I’ve had The Tartar Steppe on my wishlist for ages. Very intriguing!
Yup. Buzzati’s Larger Than Life (1960) is apparently considered Italy’s first “serious” work of science fiction. I enjoyed it! As, I hope, my review indicates.
That said, it’s pricey to track down…
I recently read Budrys’ Man of Earth. I liked the set up of the novel but in all found it a disappointing read. I like some of Budrys‘ short fiction and suspect he is best at this—for instance, The End of Summer & Nobody Bothers Gus. To me he seems like the incarnate aspiration for a more literary sf rather than its complete realisation. Maybe this is too harsh. Like many others, i find his “great” novel Rogue Moon has a premise that is more interesting than its execution (tho it has been a long time since i read it).
I couldn’t finish this one. I disliked it passionately. One of my least satisfying Budrys’ reading experiences. I much preferred Rogue Moon — which I reviewed recently.
I’m probably done with Budrys’ work for the near future other than if I encounter an individual short story in an anthology.