As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Millennium: A Novel About People and Politics in the Year 1999, Ben Bova (1976)
From the inside flap: “We are thrust into the terrifying world of the future in this chilling novel about people and politics in the year 1999. The Earth’s population has soared to eight billion. The two major powers are on the brink of nuclear war as they vie for control of the planet’s dwindling supply of natural resources.
Meanwhile, a few hundred kilometers above the Earth’s surface, on their respective Moon colonies, the United States and Soviet Russia feverishly race to complete networks of ABM satellites to protect themselves from missile attack.
Each side knows that if it can complete its own satellite ABM network before the other side does, the decades-long nuclear stalemate of terror will be broken. A decision advantage would be obtained. A preemptive nuclear strike could be hurled at the enemy, with the ABM satellites blunting the inevitable counterstrike.
Two men are deeply involved in this potential holocaust: the heads of the American and Russian colonies. Fortunately, for the sake of humanity, they are both idealistic men of good will, determined to work together to establish a world in which co-existence is possible. How they accomplish this, the forces that are thrown against them, and whether or not each man himself survives in the dramatic story of Millennium.”
Initial Thoughts: As Bova recently passed away, I’ve gone ahead and acquired his first short story collection and one of his best known novels. As I’ve said before, I do not have high hopes as Bova’s fiction has never resonated with me.
2. The Beehive, Margaret O’Donnell (1980)
From the inside flap: “Gorston’s dictatorship has lasted for thirty years, bolstered by propaganda, wholesale indoctrination and the ever-present secret police. No one can escape the programming, least of all the nation’s women. Conditioned to function as either wives or Grey Ones, the wives are enforced child bearers, and the Grey Ones oppressed workers, leading an existence as drab and asexual as their dyed grey hair and shapeless clothes.
This is the background to Margaret O’Donnell’s haunting futuristic thriller. In an un-named country, in an imminent future, she creates a plausible society that is only one step away from our own.
Can the women challenge their masters? Are they capable of playing the cruel cat and mouse game in which Steiner, the all-powerful head of the secret police, takes such delight? Is a non-violent revolution possible in the face of torture and bullets? Led by Hillard, the Grey Ones prepare for the Rising, knowing that at any moment the conspiracy could be betrayed or exposed. In the face of overwhelming odds, they gamble everything in one desperate bid for freedom for themselves and their country.
Controversial and absorbing, The Beehive is an extraordinary first novel—a menacing revolutionary thriller that argues lucidly through its Orwellian vision the possible outcome of women’s struggle for equality.”
Initial Thoughts: While Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985) the discourse on feminist SF about the future oppression of women, earlier fictions are ripe for exploration. Suzy McKee Charnas’ glorious Walk to the End of the World (1974) comes to mind. Margaret O’Donnell’s The Beehive (1980), while occasionally appearing in academic scholarship on feminist SF, appears to have vanished (or never made a splash in the first place) completely. And considering how much I had to shell out on this hardback from the UK, copies are scarce!
3. Gentle Invaders, ed. Hans Stefan Santesson (1969)
From the back cover: “The Alien is most often described by science fictionists as a horror-inspiring monster with insidiously evil intentions.
Our monsters are different.
There is a lady fetchingly endowed with some of the more alluring female attributes, who is sent from Galaxy Center to teach Earthlings about love… but her methods are rather unorthodox.
And a strange looking red-headed man who does even stranger things to television sets.
And a man from Mars who discovered how to make a fortune on Earth.
Contents: Sasha Miller’s “Sit by the Fire” (1958), Leigh Brackett’s “The Queer Ones” (!957), Miriam Allen deFord’s “Freak Show” (1958), Zenna Henderson’s “Subcommittee” (1962), Edward D. Hoch’s “Unnatural Act” (1969), Fritz Leiber’s “The Night He Cried” (1953), Mack Reynolds’ “The Martians and the Coys,” Frank M. Robinson;s “Quiz Game” (1953), Eric Frank Russell’s “Dear Devil” (1950), William Tenn’s “Party of the Two Parts” (1954).
Initial Thoughts: It’s rare to encounter a 60s anthology with women authors (Sasha Miller, Leigh Brackett, Miriam Allen deFord, and Zenna Henderson) comprising 40% of their contents. Damon Knight’s Orbit series from three years earlier is another notable example. As of now, I’ve only read Tenn’s contribution to the volume–and enjoyed it!
4. Way-Farer, Dennis Schmidt (1978)
From the back cover: “According to every reading it was a paradise planet—a warm and fecund world far more desirable than the teeming, polluted warrens of the planet-city that Earth had become. Yet when the least of the one-way transports had landed its cargo of Pilgrims, the men of Earth were to learn of a danger that no machine could detect, and against which no machine could defend them—the Mushin, mental entities that stimulate and amplify the dark streak of violence that lies near the core of every human being.
Seven generations would pass before a descendant of the scattered remnant of the original colonists would be ready to face the power of the Mushin. But first he would have to learn to wield the weapon that is no weapon—and that only where there is no Will, is there a Way…
His name is Jerome. This is his story. He is the WAY-FARER.”
Initial Thoughts: Unknown author and unknown book. I have no idea what to expect. This one came up on twitter in a discussion on space opera conflict resolved using peaceful means.
Anyone read this one? Or cringe at the Benvenuti cover?
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