Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXIV (Suzette Haden Elgin, Paul Cook, Herbert W. Franke, Charles Eric Maine)

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

1. Furthest, Suzette Haden Elgin (1971) (MY REVIEW)

From the back cover: “Coyote Jones, agent for the Tri-Galactic Intelligence Service, had been sent to a planet so unimaginably distant from the rest of the Federation that it bore the descriptive name Furthest. His mission: to find out why the total body of data about Furthest showed the world’s inhabitants to be absolutely average down to the last decimal place. That data had to be false.

Jones was permitted to live on the planet, but the natives were so wary of him that he could uncover nothing—until he chanced into a personal crisis faced by his young Furthest assistant. The boy’s sister had been sentenced to Erasure, and he wanted Coyote Jones to take the fugitive girl in and hide her.

Against his judgement, Jones agreed, and thereby became a criminal on a world he didn’t understand. But suddenly the answers began to come, and he found that this planet named Furthest held more strangeness than he could ever have imagined…”

Initial Thoughts: Back in 2013 I reviewed Suzette Haden Elkin’s At the Seventh Level (1972), part of a loose sequence of novels that feature Trigalactic Intelligence Service agent Coyote Jones and his voyages to various worlds. While not blown away by the book, I remained intrigued enough to track down the rest of the volumes. I finally own all four published in the 70s—The Communipaths (1970), Furthest (1971), At the Seventh Level (1972), and Star-Anchored, Star-Angered (1979). A further volume, Yonder Comes the Other End of Time, appeared in 1986.

And the Diane and Leo Dillon cover is gorgeous.

2. Duende Meadow, Paul Cook (1985)


For six long centuries after mankind’s Last War, a handful of survivors dwelled in a place of eternal twilight below the fields of Kansas. transformed into duendes, ghost-like beings, by the fields of organic energy which protected them, they waited for nature to heal the wounds of the Earth. But when, at last, they reached the light, they found their land in the hands of their age-old enemies…”

Initial Thoughts: Paul Cook is a new author to me. I acquired Tintagel (1981) in 2019 but haven’t read it. My local Half Price Books had a stack of his SF so I grabbed this one!

3. Survival Margin (variant title: The Darkest of Nights), Charles Eric Maine (1962)

From the back cover: “Worst plague in Human History. Government goes underground. Emergency measures to counter epidemic: Don’t travel. Don’t mix. Millions surrender to incinerators. Full stop: Britain goes into deep freeze. Unit five to black leader: block access roads.”

Initial Thoughts: Another author I know little about other than the handful of reviews I’ve encountered over the years and his SF Encyclopedia entry.. I bought this after a positive assessment over at the sadly defunct The Numinous Book of Review.

4. The Mind Net, Herbert W. Franke (1963, trans. Christine Priest, 1974)

From the back cover: “Herbert W. Franke, who is rated as one of the four best science fiction writers of modern Europe, is quite tricky. What may seem simple usually turns out to be deceptively complex. What may seem simple usually turns out to be deceptively complex. What may seem irrelevant may have an impact like an earthquake.

In THE MIND NET we encounter a vast spacefleet exploring the cosmos. They find some organic remnants in the lifeless soil of an ancient world. But when the space explorers test these mysterious objects they suddenly find their ship trapped in an alien mental web and face a menace never allowed for on their computers. But that is only the beginning and thereafter we encounter seemingly isolated scenes on alien worlds with unearthly growths, in mechanical civilizations, in rebel cities where everyday people face extraordinary problems. The whole ties in with a shocking impact… and THE MIND NET will prove again that the name of Franke ranks with those of Philip K. Dick and Stanislaw Lem as a science fiction innovator.”

Initial Thoughts: I read Franke’s Zone Null (1970, trans. Chris Herriman, 1974), enjoyed it, but never got around to writing a review. I should give it a reread. I’ve also read two of his short stories for my current astronaut series but haven’t put pen to paper. This, supposedly lesser Franke, was sitting amongst a gorgeous array of vintage paperbacks at my local Half Price so I snagged it. And it has a Freas cover I can firmly get behind!

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7 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXIV (Suzette Haden Elgin, Paul Cook, Herbert W. Franke, Charles Eric Maine)

  1. #1 Coyote Jones is completely new to me. I only knew Haden Elgin from her NATIVE TONGUE series. That was a, well, strange read; but I still think about the stories so it was a good one.

    Maine? Franke? Who are they? I hope their turns will come some time before I expire. 😛

    • I procured Native Tongue in 2019 but haven’t read it yet — I’ve heard good things!

      As for the Coyote Jones, I’m not exactly sure what to make of the only one I’ve read — At the Seventh Layer (1972). I praised the use of linguistics, the formulation of societal ideologies, and critiqued the ramshackle plot and Orientalism.

      I really liked Franke’s Zone Null (1970) — a fascinating voyage into a weird restricted zone… Loved it. But never reviewed it.

  2. I read FURTHEST long long ago, and THE COMMUNIPATHS somewhat later. I remember liking FURTHEST a good deal, THE COMMUNIPATHS not quite as much. I don’t really remember FURTHEST beyond that I liked it — but I did write about THE COMMUNIPATHS here: http://rrhorton.blogspot.com/2018/11/ace-double-reviews-83-communipaths-by.html.

    Sadly, I never continued with Elgin. I have heard good things about Franke, but haven’t read him. I know essentially nothing about Paul Cook. A bought a Charles Eric Maine novel called TIMELINER recently and someone immediately told me “Don’t waste your time”, but I probably will read it sometime. I have heard that his novel ALPH (aka WORLD WITHOUT MEN) is, like many such novels (that is, novels set in women only societies) written by men, rather cringe-inducing, but as I haven’t read it I can’t say for sure. (I am just now rereading THE FEMALE MAN, though!)

    • I left a comment on your review!

      As I mentioned over there, the slapdash feel unfortunately did not diminish by the later Coyote Jones novel I read — At the Seventh Layer (1972). It too was comprised of some previously published material. I get the feeling that she, at least in these early works, struggled knitting the parts together. At the Seventh Layer felt a bit uneven with the core of the previously published short story–“For the Sake of Grace” appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May 1969)–more interesting than the novel as a whole. And maybe she shined more when the novel did not contain originally published work that she had to expand like Native Tongue (1983).

      As for Maine, we shall see! I’m slipping back into a post-apocalyptical fiction type of mode (I blame Wyndham’s The Chrysalids).

  3. Suzette Haden Elgin was an American researcher in experimental linguistics, construction and evolution of languages (from her Wiki page) was like Paul Cook, an accomplished scholar. I remember reading them both back when I was a young’un. Time for a refresher course, I believe.

    I never read Franke, but D.A.W. published ALOT of foreign authors at one time, and the cover for his novel is fantastic, needs work on the background, but it has a sense of surrealism that I like. Maine is and author whose books I own, but have never read.

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