Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXVI (Pamela Sargent, Warren Miller, Robert Thurston, and a Themed Anthology on Deep Space)

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

Preliminary Note: I’ve made two big changes to the site. My revamped review index now contains every single short story and novel I’ve reviewed on the site listed by author. In the past, you had to sift through the anthologies to find short stories. Hopefully this is easier to navigate [you better say yes — it took me more than eight hours — hah]. Let me know if it is a useful change.

I’ve also updated the site template to make it easier to navigate on a mobile device. I still like my old template but this seems functionally identical and visually similar.

Now to the science fiction!


1. Deep Space, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973)

John Berkey’s cover for the 1976 edition

From the back cover: “Beyond the rim of the solar system, past the orbit of Pluto, far into uncharted space, a man in a life hutch is held prisoner by a deranged robot. A galactic agent learns that there is a cosmic reason for his distasteful, dangerous job. A man discovers he is the only human being not controlled by an analogue—an invisible guardian. And the planet Centaurus holds a stunning surprise for three space voyagers when they reach their long journey’s end. Unbounded possibilities await the reader’s imagination in these eight stories brought back from the other end of the stars.”

Contents: Chad Oliver’s “Blood’s a Rover” (1952), Jack Vance’s “Noise” (1952), Harlan Ellison’s “Life Hutch” (1956), Damon Knight’s “Ticket to Anywhere” (1953), Robert Silverberg’s “The Sixth Palace” (1965), Gordon R. Dickson’s “Lulungomeena” (1953), Terry Carr’s “The Dance of the Changer and the Three” (1968), A. E. van Vogt’s “Far Centaurus” (1944).

Initial Thoughts: In my generation ship read-through, I reviewed A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II” (1947). I am curious by his suspended animation take on the same colonization voyage theme–“Far Centaurus” (1944)—although I do not have high hopes. After Chad Oliver’s wonderful “The Wind Blows Free” (1957), I’m eager to explore his others 50s short fiction. Carr, Vance, Ellison, and Silverberg all have the ability to spin a fantastic tale.

2. The Shore of Women, Pamela Sargent (1986)

Rallé’s cover for the 1987 edition

From the inside flap of the 1st edition hardback (my copy is a battered library book so I found an image online): “The Shore of Women is a thought-provoking suspenseful love story set in a world we might create, a world in which men and women live apart and love between them no longer exists. And yet there are those who wonder whether such love might be reborn.

In a postnuclear future, women have built a new world on the ruins of the old. It’s a world of vast walled cities where women live apart from men, who roam the wilderness outside. Women control all science and technology, determined that men must never regain the power to destroy earth. And they also control the men by teaching them to worship female beings. Love between men and women is scorned; reproduction is a loveless act.

One young woman, Birana, is cruelly expelled from her city for her mother’s crime, condemned to wander in the primitive and violent world of men, her very survival threatened daily. Outside the city, a young man named Arvil longs for the time when he will be summoned to the city he regards as a holy place. When he discovers Birana—a clearly human woman, not a Goddess–his faith in what he has been taught is shaken, but a stronger emotion begins to grow in its place. Birana knows that in order to survive she must now put her life in Arvil’s hands, but she must also fight her growing attraction to him, a feeling she has always been taught was unthinkable. As the two roam a violent world where death can come at any moment, they search for a place where they can be safe from both the women and cities and from men, while struggling against the feelings they have awakened in each other. Can Birana find love with one she has been taught to despise? If she reveals the secrets that keep men forever controlled by women, will she betray her own kind? Or will love overcome the barriers between the sexes?

With its vivid background, high adventure intricate detail, and epic scope, The Shore of Women is a powerful love story that will grip readers from the first page to the last.”

Initial Thoughts: Over the years of my site I’ve dabbled at the edges of Sargent’s fiction:

It’s time to read her best-known novel.

3. Alicia II, Robert Thurston (1978)

Norm Walker’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “In the not distant future the world hasn’t changed so much—men and women still fall in love, laugh, and sip wine—but some have changed, some will live forever as retreads, old souls implanted surgically in the empty bodies of the young.

Voss Geraghty is a retread, a retiring government researched who has been rewarded with a new body. What he wants out of his new life is fun, sex, and adventures, what he finds is disappointment. His “shell” was the property of a young man who was not eager to die and donate his body–the “shell” has been damaged and Vos is impotent–so he has to settle for adventure this time out.

An unusual choice: it is rare for a retread like Voss to risk his precious body on real adventure, but he feels out of place in his new body, out of place also in a world of youngsters and superannuated retreads. Voss becomes a troubleshooter for the Space Service, and an inadvertent hero. On his return, the government, controlled by the entrenched retreads, capitalized on his fame and popularity to support the immortality program against the growing radical underground that sees the inequity in a society that allows the young to die so that the old may live on.

The guerrilla underground has perfected a biological science capable of curing Voss of his impotence. In order to receive this cure, however, Voss must strike a deal with the underground to help them in their mission to sabotage the retread centers, thereby assuring his own eventual death. Voss hesitates before his decision until he meets Alicia, a member of the underground, and is forced to choose between life and love in a society that will not permit both.”

Initial Thoughts: Last year I acquired Robert Thurston’s Set of Wheels (1983). Still haven’t read it. Immortality remains a favorite of theme of mine–and reusing bodies, etc. Check out my index on the topic if you haven’t already.

4. The Siege of Harlem, Warren Miller (1964)

Uncredited cover for the 1965 edition

My edition does not contain a plot blurb. Here’s the one from SF Encyclopedia: “Miller’s sf novel proper, The Siege of Harlem (1964), is a Near-Future tale in which Harlem (northern Manhattan) (see New York) declares itself a separate state.”

Initial Thoughts: I have plans for a short review sequence of three 1960s near future novels on racial violence in NYC novels from a white (Warren Miller), Chicano (Hank Lopez), and black author (John A. Williams). I am intrigued exploring diverse takes on a similar topic. I’ll post the Williams’ book next week. Hank Lopez’s Afro-6 (1969), which I featured last November, is the first SF novel by a Chicano author.


For cover art posts consult the INDEX

For book reviews consult the INDEX

For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

42 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXVI (Pamela Sargent, Warren Miller, Robert Thurston, and a Themed Anthology on Deep Space)

  1. I have a first edition HB copy of Deep Space (http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/pl.cgi?9731)–though tbh I’m not a collector, i just happen to have found it. It’s not a great collection. The stand out is Ticket to Anywhere by Damon Knight (not Ellison). I have an immense fondness for this story–more than the story that it is sort of a sequel to (The Analogues). Knight truly encapsulates the sensawunda too often lazily attributed to sf as its single defining feature. Stumbling upon it many years ago set me off down a Damon Knight rabbit hole which also spurred me on to read other 50s era sf. Maybe it even helped kick off this extended retreat from contemporary sf…
    The Chad Oliver is also good (he vaguely recalls…).
    Of the other books. Pamela Sargent’s The Shore of Women appeals the most. I keep coming across references to it. Maybe time for a sf feminist bender.

    • Ah, thanks for catching my mistake. I’ll have the listing fixed momentarily. Harlan Ellison wrote “Life-Hutch” (1956).

      You might remember that my first exposure to Knight was the very average (and poorly titled) collection Three Novels (1967) which contained “Rule Golden” (1954), “Natural State” (1951), and “The Dying Man” (variant title: Dio) (1957) — of which I enjoyed the latter only: https://sciencefictionruminations.com/2014/06/25/book-review-three-novels-damon-knight-1967/

      Then I read “Down There” and “I See You.” So, my view of Knight is shifting a bit from a brilliant editor and poor writer to a brilliant editor and very solid writer as well. Knight’s Beyond the Barrier (1964) still might be one of the worst SF novels ever written….

      The Sargent novel is long unfortunately… reading lots and lots of earlier novels has made me less excited about 450+ page novels!

      • Hi again,
        yes the SF litt are a sort of short format litt; most of the writers are at their best as short story writers. Yes there are of course some novels level “masterpiece”.
        But they are seldom long ones.
        The Sargent novel are available in Swedish (have not read it).

        • Absolutely. Have you read anything by Knight?

          Here’s SF Encyclopedia’s entry on the Sargent novel: “The Shore of Women (1986), reversing another Cliché, features a Post-Holocaust Dystopia in which women dominate high-tech urban Keeps while men live in the hardscrabble wilderness beyond; Sargent’s presentation of this is ambiguously Feminist: women’s dominance of science and technology has a punitive ring, and the world depicted seems less than stable.”

          As Anthony said above, I’m always up for an important feminist SF work. Although its length does put me off…. novels got fat in the 80s! hah.

      • I’ve only read one of his novels: Hell’s Pavement. Apart from containing his good short The Analogues as chapter 1 it’s not a good work. I get the sense that Knight was not able to pull off the novel form for whatever reason. I’ve read most of his short fiction and find in contrast that he often excels in this form. The Best of Damon Knight (1976) is possibly his best single collection, but his other collections are worth wading through too—particularly Far Out, In Deep, Off Center and Turning On.
        Like you I hesitant about any work over 200 pages. Brevity is an art not a curse. The turn to bloated “epics” in sf in the 70s and 80s is surely when it all went to shit.

  2. When I first read Van Vogt’s “Far Centaurus” many years ago I thought the first part was brilliant, the embodiment of pulp sense of wonder. However, the rest of the story was not at the same level. Also, I remember reading that Alastair Reynold’s considers it one of the influences on some his stories or novels.

  3. That Pamela Sargent was quite splashy in the 1980s. I don’t remember reading it, though I do remember owning it. Maybe your eventual review will click the lights back on in that corner.

    Very bright, this revamp. Lots of white!ness. The index is chef’s kiss

    • I like that, you’re honest about an “eventual” review…. I could be a ghost and write an eventual review. 🙂 hehe

      In all seriousness, I liked that the previous site format had three columns that removed some of the whiteness. However, it looked awful on a phone and didn’t resize based on your screen! So it looked very old….

  4. I’ve read “Life Hutch” in Harlan Ellison’s “Time of the Eye”, the first book of his I read. It’s quite a good piece of SF as I remember, even though I haven’t read it for a long time.

    • I don’t think I’ve read any of Ellison’s 1950s stories. I’ve definitely read more of his 60s and 70s fictions — “A Boy and His Dog” (1969) (although I never reviewed it) and the like.

      • I think he first found his own voice in the 60s as a “new wave” author, with his aggressive style. I read a few opening lines and paragraphs of “Life Hutch” a little while ago, his power as a stylist was begining to emerge then.

        Did you like “A Boy and His Dog”? I din’t like it as much as some or several of his other short stories or novelettes. My favourite of his, is “Jeftty is Five”.

        • I was unable to review “A Boy and His Dog” as I didn’t know what to make of it — seemed like a subversive take on American rural “boy fiction” (you know — maybe not as you’re not from the US although I suspect there are UK analogues that I don’t know–Old Yeller farmer/rancher-type boy wanders the countryside hunting and living life with his nice dog). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Old_Yeller

  5. “I have plans for a short review sequence of three 1960s near future novels on racial violence in NYC novels from a white (Warren Miller), Chicano (Hank Lopez), and black author (John A. Williams).”

    If at some point you get the urge to add the Reagan-era Night of Power by well-meaning Caucasian Spider Robinson, I implore you to resist it.

    • I think it’s more my historian sense (interested in reactions from a variety of perspectives of the fear of racial violence in the turbulent 60s) than an expectation of good fiction. My historical fascinations drive me as well — so I’ll put the Spider Robinson (whom I’ve never read) novel on the list. haha. Although, as it’s 80s, I doubt I’ll get to it for this series.

  6. I enjoyed the Sargent back when in came out but haven’t re-read it yet – it’s still on my shelves, along with the first two of her Venus books (there was a long break before v3 finally came out).
    Anyway, I liked her book more than the similarly themed Gate to Women’s Country by Tepper, although the Tepper got more attention.
    In the anthology, the story by Vance (Noise) is worth reading. Fairly sure I’ve read some of the others but it’s getting late…

  7. To my taste Damon Knight was one of the best writers of short SF of the ’50s and later., though like the rest of them (Sturgeon, Budrys, etc.) he was a bit uneven. His solidest collection is IN DEEP, which includes the particularly brilliant “The Country of the Kind” (widely regarded as his masterpiece), “Stranger Station,” and “The Handler,” in addition to “Ticket to Anywhere.” Other Knight stories not to be missed include “What Rough Beast?”, “Masks,” and “I See You.” There are plenty of others almost as worthwhile. His published collections have been compiled into his SF Gateway omnibus volume.

  8. Had no idea Ellison had appropriated the title “Blood’s a Rover”, let alone from an anthology he was in.

    “WellMeaningCaucasian” is a twitter hashtag waiting to happen, thanks to JDN for that!

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