Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIII (John Sladek, C. J. Cherryh, John Morressy, Edmond Hamilton)

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

1. Tik-Tok, John Sladek (1983)

Peter Gudynas’ cover for the 1985 edition

From the back cover: “Tik-Tok was one of the finest domestic robots ever made, but his asimov circuits were defective. He could injure people as much as he pleased–and he pleased to do it often!

But the life of a robot (if that isn’t a contradiction) is still all service and unpaid labor. Tik-Tok served many masters, all of whom came to a bad end. Happily he went on gathering steam with a trail of catastrophes getting bigger and bigger, destined to culminate with his campaign for the vice-president of the United States!

Science Fiction Review calls Sladek “one of the true and original lunatics of science fiction… one of the funniest writers in the field.

Now read the hilarious autobiography of Sladek’s asimovian scofflaw!”

Initial Thoughts: Sladek is up there with Sheckley among my favorite SF satirists. Both swing wildly between sequences of outright hilarity and avant garde fun—just look at the images in Sladek’s The Müller-Fokker Effect (1970)—and deep introspection.  Sladek’s “The Poets of Millgrove, Iowa” (1966) is a satire of the highest caliber (an unstable astronaut confronts his adoring fans and bedecked hometown)… I look forward to exploring my third novel of his! I read but never reviewed his average first SF novel Mechasm (variant title: The Reproductive System) (1968).

2. Sunfall, C. J. Cherryh (1981)

Michael Whelan’s cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “Men had gone to the stars; they had trod the soil of distant planets and settled their colonies; yet the homeworld of Earth remained. It was legend; it was a place of nostalgia for mankind’s lost youth; it was always there. For every son or daughter who had departed for the stars, there were those who preferred the original skies and winds of the world which had first endured humanity’s trials and triumphs.

The cities remained. Over the eons, facing the sunset of Terra, they still stood. Changed, yet retaining their individuality, their unique characteristics, their ancient prides.

C. J. Cherryh, many honored author, has produced in SUNFALL a book of marvel in which six mighty cities laden with the grandeur of history contront their fates… and those of the Earth-born who love them. This is a truly original work.”

Contents (all original to this volume): “The Only Death in the City,” “The Haunted Tower,” “Ice,” “Nightgame,” “Highliner,” “The General.”

Initial Thoughts: I don’t think I’ve ever read a C. J. Cherryh short story. I’ve tackled the behemoth that was Cyteen (1988) but never thought about tracking down her short stories…. until now. The themed framework of the collection (the memories of Earth cities?) appeals.

3. What’s It Like Out There? and Other Stories, Edmond Hamilton (1974)

Uncredited cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: WHAT’S IT LIKE OUT THERE? is a collection of the best stories from Edmond Hamilton’s remarkable 40 year career of writing Science Fiction. Featuring:

“The Stars, My Brothers”—where a scientist awakened from a century-long slumber in the depths of space had to make a choice between his own people and an alien race.

“What’s It Like Out There?”—when Haddon returned from the expedition to Mars, everyone wanted to know what it was like… he could never let them know.

“Twilight of the Gods”—myth changed to reality around a man who sought to answer the mystery of his lost identity.


Contents: “What’s It Like Out There?” (1952), “The King of Shadows” (1947), “Castaway” (1969), “Serpent Princess” (1948), “The Stars, My Brothers” (1962), “Dreamer’s Worlds” (1941), “Twilight of the Gods” (1948),  “Sunfire!” (1962), “The Inn Outside the World” (1945), “The Watcher of the Ages” (1948), “Transuranic” (1948), “The Isle of the Sleeper” (1938)

Initial Thoughts: Purchased for one story alone — “What’s It Like Out There?” (1952). Give me more depressing astronaut stories like this one please.

Are any of the others worth reading?

4. Starbrat, John Morressy (1972)

Uncredited cover for the 1st edition

From the back cover: “STRANGER IN THE 27th CENTURY…

For sixteen years, Del Whitby lived quietly among the pious farmers of the planet Gilead, in a society bypassed by 27th century progress.

Then, on the eve of his sixteenth birthday, he was kidnapped by a band of Daltrescan slave traders, and sold to a gladiatorial school of Tarquin VII.

After a series of excruciatingly close encounters, Del proves his prowess in the arena, and is awarded his freedom, and a spaceship.

He now begins the perilous voyage home to distant Gilead, a trek which will take him to the outermost reaches of the galaxies, and back.”

Initial Thoughts: I’m a fan of John Morressy’s Frostworld and Dreamfire (1977). Under a Calculating Star (1975), also in the Del Whitby sequence, was far less satisfying. If Starbrat (1972), the first in the sequence, falls somewhere in the middle I’ll be happy.

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29 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXIII (John Sladek, C. J. Cherryh, John Morressy, Edmond Hamilton)

  1. The Sladek sounds like a grim nihilist parody of Barrington J Bayley’s Soul of a Robot?
    I’ve got a copy of Cherryh’s SUNFALL . Its dying earth aromas beckon.
    Coincidentally I’ve been reading Edmond Hamilton over the last week or so: The Best off Edmond Hamilton (http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?407013). Some stories I love. In the World’s Dusk. Alien Earth. Requiem.
    What’s it like out there is great. Will dust it on of. On a Hamilton thing. Your collection sounds cool will track it down.
    Starbrat reminds me of the first Conan film—only in space!

  2. I’m being inspired to finally dust of the Cherryh!
    Soul of a Robot is good. I’ve read it at least twice though not in 20 years. It even has a sequel. His short stories are best. And Collision with Chronos.
    I haven’t looked at Potpourri in a while. It’s a great archive. So many leads.

  3. The Whelan cover on the Cherryh novel is winning me over.
    She won the Hugo with her short story „Cassandra“, but I haven’t read a short story by her, yet. Only those doorstoppers 😁 I‘m curious if her shorter works are worth it!

  4. I’m sure I read Sunfall, but I’m afraid I remember nothing about it. Sounds interesting though!

    Tik-Tok was ok, and I’m sure I would have liked it more if it hadn’t seemed a bit too similar to Roderick & Roderick at Random, both of which I had read the previous yearnot long before it came out.
    I tend to prefer his short stories to his novels..

    • Thanks for stopping by. Have you read the spectacular Sladek short story I linked above? “The Poets of Millgrove, Iowa” (1966)? It encapsulates everything I love about Sladek.

      I haven’t read either robot novel. Do they have different tones? Purposes? But yes, they’ve always seemed similar when I look through his catalog….

  5. Yeah, I’ve read it several times over the years – I still have my copy of Keep the Giraffe Burning and it’s in that. Good stuff! The only other book by him I’ve kept is the collection Alien Accounts.
    Roderick at Random was continuing his adventures so there wasn’t much overlap in the actual events and his learning curve continued, but Tik-Tok seemed to copy events and his personal growth closely enough that it seemed possible to me that his publisher had asked for another robot book like the last two and Sladek had complied.without having any particular new insight or ideas.
    Could well be better without knowledge of the previous titles though!
    And it is a long time

    • I nabbed a copy of Keep the Giraffe Burning a few years ago but haven’t gotten around to reading it.

      So, which Sladek robot novel should I read first? (I suspect from your comments you’ll say Roderick at Random).

      • No, I think I’d say Roderick. Start at his most innocent and naive. But, as I said, I think it’s probably fine to start with Tik-Tok if you haven’t already read his Roderick books.

      • Roderick and Roderick at Random are really one novel, split arbitrarily by publisher demand for the US edition. You definitely want to read them in order … best option is the “The Complete Roderick”.

        I haven’t read either it or Tik-Tok since original publication, but my memory is that Roderick is a bildungsroman (literally, the original subtitle was “or, The Education of a Young Robot” and a bit of a Candide; Tik-Tok is indeed a nihilist comedy intent on breaking every one of Asimov’s Laws as often as possible.

        • Hello Jim, thanks for the comment.

          I’m all for nihilist comedies. I look forward to reading it, although, as your probably know, it could be a while before I get to it.

          Do you have a favorite Sladek work?

  6. I love TikToK!, Read it a few times through over the past five years. Recommend it to anyone who reads just to see their impression and their reaction. Better than Soul of the Robot; I’ve read and liked both. Sladek’s Tik Tok is akin to suffering Jim Crow regarding robots. Comes off as a homicidal revolutionary who really only cares about himself. His ventures into the rohobo jungle are interesting.

    • I must confess, from the perspective of someone who hasn’t read it — isn’t the Jim Crow parallel an ultra forced and potentially problematic one? I mean, those fighting against Jim Crow laws were definitely not “homicidal revolutionaries” who cared only for themselves.

      I would wager that Sladek is referencing Asimov’s “The Bicentennial Man” (1977) (my review) which is a more straight-laced take on robots gaining their rights slowly as an analogue to the Civil Rights movement.

      • No intention on saying or implying Jim Crow and homicidal revolutionary go together. Only stating that despite him suffering injustices he mainly seems to be playing the revolutionary who actually only cares about himself.

        • Absolutely, I’m only talking about Sladek’s intention — if it was his intention. But it does sound like the book is drenched with references to Asimov, including, potentially “The Bicentennial Man.”

  7. Hi Joachim

    Boy this a diverse selection of authors and approaches to the genre you have here. I have been meaning to read the title story of the Hamilton collection for some time. My New Worlds anthologies are shelved literately at my elbow as I type this so I just read the “The Poets of Millgrove, Iowa”, it is probably the first Sladek I have read. I have to admit I did not care for it. But I have several of his novels and collections so I will try something else. C. J. Cherryh and Whelan were everywhere when I started working full time and could afford to buy book regularly so I have fond memories of both of them.

    All the best

    • Hello Guy,

      Why didn’t you care for “The Poets”? From what I remember, I loved the demystification of the cult of the astronaut, the commercial desires, the small down America glitz and glamour, all, of course, empty….

  8. Hi Joachim

    I disliked literally everything, sorry For one i think I am more for wonder and less for people and personal dynamics. I am more fond of old Ballard or Old Dick than their later stuff. Maybe a bit too much space opera in my blood. I realized recently that is why I prefer older horror and weird tales as well instead of writers like Stephen King.

  9. Good heavens, the Peter Gudynas cover of that Tik-Tok book! I might have bought it for the cover alone if I ran across it in the used bookstore near me … I feel like I’ve read a short story along those lines (gleeful murderous robot, “revolutionary” but not along social lines) but I don’t remember the author unless it might have been one of Willis’s shorts, which seems unlikely but somehow she comes to mind.

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