As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Strength of Stones, Greg Bear (1981)
From the back cover: “Ages ago this world was named God-Does-Battle. No one remembers wh. It was colonized in the most up-to-date way possible, supplied with the best Cities ever built by Robert Kahn. Huge laboratories labored for decades to produce the right combinations of plant, animal, and machine, and to fit them into the right design. The result was magnificent; living Cities, able to regenerate broken parts, to produce food on demand, and medicine, and clothing. so careful, so advanced was Robert Kahn that he even built into his Cities the ability to protect their inhabitants; to sense the presence of the occasional person whose potential for violence or cruelty made him a threat to society, to remove him from the City, and to erect walls of needle-sharp crystal to be sure he did not return.
Robert Kahn designed too well. It was not long before the shining Cities began to exercise their built-in imperative to protect. They removed from society the cruel and violent, then the potentially cruel and violent, then the bad-tempered, the unpredictable—until at last the Cities stood safe, having ejected all of their inhabitants into the harsh desert plains of God-Does-Battle.
Generations have passed, but the Cities inside those impassable walls remain intact: The nomads who camp around the walls have not lost hope. Somehow there is a way inside. The time is ripe for a hero.”
Initial Thoughts: I recently read Greg Bear’s early short story “Webster” (1973) and thought I might as well track down more of his early novels. According to SF Encyclopedia, a lot of Bear’s earliest novels are “lame” [I find this a very poor choice of words. It’s hardly clear why they are flawed from the article]. In the earliest days of my site, 2theD (Mike) frequently covered SF from this era and his review of Strength of Stones (1981) lodged in my memory. So Mike, if you still stop by, I bought this one because of you! And it hardly seems “lame”….
2. Under Heaven’s Bridge, Michael Bishop and Ian Watson (1981)
From the back cover: “The Kybers are an unnerving sight for human eyes, more like Giacometti sculpture than living things. Are they flesh or machine? No one knows–and the Kybers themselves remain impassively silent on the subject. Only Dr. Keiko Takihashi, ship’s linguist, has been able to establish any communication with them; each day a Kyber comes (The same each day? No one knows.) to hear what she teaches of Earth’s language and history. In return it tells her—nothing. What the Kybers call themselves, how they view the world, their two suns, all remains a mystery.
But a time is coming when the Kybers must respond, or die; one of their suns is about to go nova. Surely nothing could live through that fierce heat–assuming, that is, that the Kybers are living.
Keika Takihashi is convinced that they are, and determined to save at least some of their race from annihilation. The Kybers have singled her out; surely the will tell her their secrets, open themselves to her, allow her to take some few on board ship and away to safety. In interfering so, Keiko is about to step over a line established at man’s first contact with alien races; she knows all too well that no one can predict what will happen now.”
Initial Thoughts: Both Michael Bishop and Ian Watson rank highly in the reviews on my site. I reviewed Watson’s The Very Slow Time Machine (1979). I even conducted a guest post series on Bishop’s fiction. I’ve reviewed the following five novels and collections on my site. Check them out if you haven’t already!
- A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire (1975)
- And Strange at Ecbatan the Trees (1976)
- Catacomb Years (1979)
- Stolen Faces (1977)
- Transfigurations (1979)
The co-written Under Heaven’s Bridge (a transatlantic pre-internet collaboration!) is not supposed to be either’s best work. But… I think I’m a bonafide Bishop completist (pre-1985). We shall see if I get around to this one. The cover is another story. Goodness it’s terrifying!
3. Drinking Sapphire Wine, Tanith Lee (1977)
From the back cover: “Four-BEE was an utopian city. If you didn’t mind being taken care of all your long long life, having a wild time as a “jang” teen-ager, able to do anything you wanted from killing yourself innumerable times, changing bodies, changing sex, and raising perpetual hell, it could be heaven.
But for one inhabitant there was always something askew. He/she had tried everything and yet the taste soured. And then he/she succeeded in committing the one illegal act–and was thrown out of heaven forever.
But forever is not a term any native of that robotic utopia understood. And so he/she challenged the rules, declared independence, and set out to prove that a human was still smarter than the cleverest and most protective robot.
You don’t need to have read Tanith Lee’s DON’T BITE THE SUN, which set the original scene, to find this new one of the same high merit that distinguished this author’s THE BIRTHGRAVE.”
4. Metropole, Ferenc Karinthy (1970, trans. George Szirtes, 2008)
From the back cover: “On his way to a linguists’ conference in Helsinki, Budae finds himself in a strange city where he can’t understand a word anyone says.
One claustrophobic day blurs into another as he desperately struggles to survive in this vast overpopulated metropolis where there are as many languages as there are people. Fearing that his wife will have given him up for dead, he finds comfort in an unconventional relationship with the elevator-operator in the hotel.
A suspenseful and haunting Hungarian classic, and a vision of hell unlike any other imagined.”
Initial Thoughts: According to the brief author blurb on the back cover, Ferenc Karinthy (1921-1992), “son of the renowned humorist genius Frigyes Karinthy, was a novelist, playwright, journalist, and water polo champion. He is the author of over a dozen novels. This is the first to be translated into English.”
I’m always up for SF in translation by authors I know little about.
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