Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.
1. A Storm of Wings, M. John Harrison (1980)
4.5/5 (Very Good)
A Storm of Wings (1980) is the second volume, after The Pastel City (1971), of the Viriconium sequence. Far more dense and oblique than its predecessor, A Storm of Wings revels in the creation of a surreal urban tapestry–redolent with decay and decadent excess. Two Reborn Men (Fay Glass and Alstath Fulthor) attempt to animate the somnolent city of Viriconium to the dangers of an intelligent insect army invading Earth. Like a swarm of locusts destroying the fields of a lonely oasis down in a desert, the dominate metaphor of scuttling entropic chaos collides with disturbing sequences of body horror.
Highly recommended for fans of convention-breaking fantasy/SF more focused on disquieting scene and metaphor. But be prepared for a moody inundation… let yourself sink in, float across its waters as the moon dims, and beware the severed insect heads!
For a more detailed review check out Jesse’s over at Speculation.
M. John Harrison has long been a Joachim Boaz favorite. I struggled for months trying to write a proper review. If you’re new to his work, check out my more substantial reviews for a better sense of his style and themes:
- The Centauri Device (1974) 4/5
- The Committed Men (1971) 4.5/5
- The Machine in Shaft Ten (1975) 4.25/5
- The Pastel City (1971) 4.25/5
- “Baa Baa Blocksheep” (1968) 4.5/5
2. Some Will Not Die, Algis Budrys (1961, rev. 1978)
My love/hate relationship with Algis Budrys continues!
Some Will Not Die (1961, rev. 1978) is a multi-generational future history post-apocalyptic thriller. A plague wipes out the vast majority of humankind, and the remnants coalesce around the figure of Mathew Garvin. Years later after his death Garvin takes on heroic adjectives by those seeking to replicate the stability he brought (through violence and perseverance) to New York City. The novel follows the evolution of society etc. It’s filled with violence and endless manly sequence of gun-waving and dreams of rebirth… I found it bland and forgettable. It might be my growing frustration with positivist narratives of “change and process” waged by gunpoint.
If a bleak and violent look at post-apocalyptic America over multiple generations sounds like something you might enjoy, this might be for you.
Check out my earlier reviews of Algis Budrys’ SF:
- Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future) (1963) 3.5/5
- The Falling Torch (1959) 3.25/5
- Michaelmas (1976) 3.25/5
- Rogue Moon (1960) 4/5
Note on Publication History: In 1954, Budrys published his first novel False Night. However, as it was “seriously abridged” by the publisher, the original version was republished in 1961 under the new title Some Will Not Die. In 1978, the Starblaze edition (which I read above) created a “unique, updated version.” I’m not sure what was added or subtracted. However, I’m not motivated to find out.
2. The Tartarus Incident, William Greenleaf (1983)
2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)
After a variety of depressing reads for my recent sequence on “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them,” I decided to decompress with a brief SF adventure! And, I can’t lie, I adore the James Gurney (of Dinotopia fame) cover….
The Premise: The Mothership Graywand acts as a central hub for exploration pods (like the one in the Gurney cover). Like a glorified office building replete with windowless cubicles, the pods flit in and out via the “Kohlmann stream” (7) (queue lots of laborious mumbo-jumbo). The operations of the Graywand itself is controlled by a vast bureaucracy. A series of unfortunate accidents lands the Jack-o-Dandy pod of colonial auditors (think investigators checking whether a colony uses its funds correctly) on another planet with terrifying secrets!
The Plot: Two plots unfold. The first follows a low-level technician, who accidentally sent (through no error of his own) the Jack-o-Dandy to the wrong planet, as he attempts to navigate Graywand’s bureaucracy and uncover the location of the lost pod. The second follows the crew, without substantial expertise in space exploration and survival, who must use their wits to survive.
I found The Tartarus Incident a simple yet diverting story. The horror elements on the plant Tartarus never amount to much. I found the Graywand-centered storyline far more interesting.
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