Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXX (Brian W. Aldiss, H. Beam Piper, Ann Maxwell, and Bo Carpelan)

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

1. Empire, H. Beam Piper (1981)

From the back cover: “”H. BEAM PIPER beloved author of LITTLE FUZZY, SPACE VIKING, and other classics, has left behind a veritable treasure trove of short fiction in his passing. Collected here for the first time anywhere are four of the best stories by one of the Grand Old Masters of science fiction.”

Contents: “The Edge of the Knife” (1957), “A Slave is a Slave” (1962), “Ministry of Disturbance” (1958), “The Return” (1954) with John J. McGuire, “The Keeper” (1957).

Initial Thoughts: Years back I read, but never reviewed, H. Beam Piper’s pulp extravagance Space Viking (1963) and detested it. I get the sense Space Viking might not be representative of his work? Piper has a devoted following and I want to know why.

2. Fire Dancer, Ann Maxwell (1982)

From the back cover: “BEHIND THEM LAY DEATH, BEFORE THEM THE UNIVERSE… The Senyas dancers—they practiced their unique skills on their home planet, Deva, their smooth skin glowing with complex energy patterns as they learned the power dances and mentally mastered the elemental forces of Nature. And the Bre’n mentors—large, fur-covered humanoids, they were the only living beings who could control and channel the power of a Senyas dancer. Yet Bre’n and Senyas together could not save Deva from becoming a flaming inferno devoured by its own greedy sun.

Somehow two survived—Rheba the fire dancer and Kirtn, her Bre-n companion. Their world had died by they swore their people would not, and together they set out to search the star systems for others of their kind. But the twisted trail they followed soon forced them into the clutches of the evil Loo-chim, galactic slavers from whose stronghold no one had ever escaped alive…”

Initial Thoughts: Ann Maxwell published nine SF novels (and zero short stories) between 1975-1986. I have yet to read any of them. She is a complete unknown to me. SF Encyclopedia says little: “The Dancer Trilogy – Fire Dancer (1982), Dancer’s Luck (1983) and Dancer’s Illusion (1983) – is a Space Opera featuring a passel of escaped slaves (see Slavery) and a very fast Starship in which they attempt to return home across the stars. 

3. Neanderthal Planet, Brian W. Aldiss (1970)

From the back cover: “TALES OF WONDER AND TERROR.

On NEANDERTHAL PLANET, in a time flung far into the future, the world is run by hi-tech automatons—and man is on the terrifying verge of obsolescence.

The past, present, and future are woven into a gigantic puzzle. If you wall into the wrong matrix, beware of the choices you face. The sign is clear: DANGER–RELIGION!

INTANGIBLES, INC. cannot be seen, but it rules the lives–and deaths–of a quirky husband, a practical wife, and their strange family.

SINCE THE ASSASSINATION: A drug granting immortality is conceived, a president is killed, and moon visitors find that time is distorted. What is happening to planet Earth?

Contents: “Neanderthal Planet” (1960), “Danger: Religion!” (1962), “Intangibles, Inc.” (1959), “Since the Assassination” (1969)

Initial Thoughts: I am a Brian W. Aldiss completist. I have read and reviewed a massive quantity of his work (see INDEX). Note: I read and adored but never got around to reviewing Greybeard (1964). My collection is one more step towards complete!

4. Voice at the Late Hour, Bo Carpelan (1971, trans. Irma Margareta Martin, 1988)

From the back cover: “Focusing on an ordinary family in the days after an initial nuclear blast, Voices at the Late Hour portrays the attempts of eight individuals to confront the unthinkable, to understand through their own imperfect lives the reason for such complete and indiscriminate death. Bo Carpelan weaves together diverse strains of isolated voices and pasts, creating a poetic requiem for a fragile world and its too fallible humans, caressing with regretful prose forests, meadows, seasons, and stones—things that will themselves dissolve in the final apocalypse.

Sparked by an unexpected, inexplicable explosion somewhere in the north, Carpelan’s nuclear tragedy erupts on the eve of Midsummer, when “June is standing cool and waiting at the door.” The family members have packed their suitcases in preparation for an annual gathering in the country with relatives, only to find their planned excursion transformed into terrified improvisation. Miraculously, they discover the rest of the family sound and their summer cottage unscathed, all cradled in the peaceful green of an archipelago whose soothing waves and breezes tempt them to harbor illusions of hope, to whisper, “There can be no mistake of such magnitude.”

Initial Thoughts: A Finnish author writing in Swedish, Bo Carpelan tackles a topic so many non-genre authors dabble with–the nuclear apocalypse. Despite the bland nature of the standard premise, I’ve had a lot of luck with contemporary Scandinavian takes by other mainstream authors. Sven Holm’s brilliant Termush (1967, trans. 1969) comes to mind.


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For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

28 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXX (Brian W. Aldiss, H. Beam Piper, Ann Maxwell, and Bo Carpelan)

  1. A Slave is a Slave is a terrible story but in Piper’s defence, Uller Uprising is arguably worse.
    I prefer Federation or maybe the Fuzzy books as a starting place for Piper.

  2. I know Ann Maxwell’s name but I also have not read any of her novels.

    I’ve read a lot of Aldiss’ work but not those stories. That looks like a somewhat minor collection. Still, it’s Aldiss. Have you read his non-SF? Brightfount Diaries? Hand-Reared Boy? His memoirs?

    Not surprisingly, I don’t know Bo Carpelan’s work at all. Could he be from the Aland Islands? Though I suspect a fair amount of the Finnish speak Swedish.

    As for Piper — I’ve always enjoyed his work. But the politics can be hard to handle, sometimes downright despicable. The most popular of his novels is surely Little Fuzzy, and that doesn’t have the same political problems either. I also thought the Lord Kalvan stories (his last work before he committed suicide) were quite fun. I do think Space Viking is one of his less good books.

  3. Re: Piper, I loathed SPACE VIKING, enjoyed the Fuzzy series when I was young, but really only ever fell in love with his Paratime work.
    Re: Capelan, read MALEVIL by Robert Merle instead. I’ve read both.

  4. JB: Piper has a devoted following and I want to know why.

    Pfft. John Norman’s Gor novels, Marion Zimmer Bradley, and STAR WARS all had or have devoted followings, too.

    JB: H. Beam Piper’s pulp extravagance Space Viking (1963) and detested it.

    Well, I liked it. When I was ten.

    As for the Aldiss, I bought it when it came out and have essentially favorable memories of it.

    The first three stories in it — “Neanderthal Planet”, “Danger: Religion!”, “Intangibles, Inc.” — are from Aldiss’s days writing for John Carnell’s old-school British SF mags NEW WORLDS and SCIENCE FANTASY, IIRC, and are somewhat clunky and old-fashioned as that mode could be. (I mean, “Danger: Religion!” — the edginess! the outrage! Well, in the 1950s.) But they’re basically decent.

    The fourth story, “Since the Assassination” is somewhat different, in that it’s full-blown late 1960s, and Aldiss was doing his take on PKD.

    Anyway, it’s Aldiss. It’s worth a read

  5. Hello again!

    Bo Carpelan was a very great poet. I have read many of his collections since the debut in 1947. I have read none of his novels. But they are considered as masterpieces often; works as Axel or Urwind.

    The swedish speaking community in Finland has contributed so much… to our Swedish litterature.
    /Mats

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