Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Earth Is Room Enough, Isaac Asimov (1957)
From the back cover: “ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN and probably will RIGHT HERE ON EARTH.
You don’t have to rent a spaceship or sign up for a singles cruise to Saturn or spend your weekends star-hopping along the Milky Way because EARTH IS ROOM ENOUGH.
Earth is where the action is and each tomorrow unleashes new discoveries.
Here are brilliant, witty, frightening, and fascinating stories of the future by the greatest science fiction master of them all. Just hitch your mind to these weird and wonderful tales for a spin around the world of tomorrow that will take you right to the center of your wildest dreams.”
Contents: “The Dead Past” (1956), “Franchise” (1955), “Gimmicks Three” (1956), “Kid Stuff” (1953), “The Watery Place” (1956), “Living Space” (1956), “The Message” (1956), “Satisfaction Guaranteed” (1951), “Hell-Fire” (1956), “The Last Trump” (1955), “The Fun They Had” (1951), “Jokester” (1956), “The Immortal Bard” (1954), “Someday” (1956), “The Author’s Ordeal” (1957), “Dreaming Is a Private Thing” (1955)
Initial Thoughts: At one point I read Asimov–before I started my site. Asimov’s The Currents of Space (1952) was the first SF novel I remember reading—pilfered from a dusty shelf of my dad’s old books at my grandfather’s house—although it would be years before I put aside the high fantasy that hooked me on books. And no, I’m not planning on rereading the Foundation series anytime soon due to a show I’ll probably never see. Of the stories in the collection, “Dreaming Is a Private Thing” (1955) seems to address themes I adore–future media, dreams commodified, etc.
2. The Colony, Mary Vigliante (1979)
From the back cover: “AFTER THE NUCLEAR AGE CAME THE STONE AGE.
In the little band that survived the nuclear War, humanity had reverted to barbarism, and all the evils of the old society had grown worse. Sunny, a lone woman survivor, had been seized by four men who informed her that they were all her husbands, and had quickly realized that she was in the hands of a colony of male chauvinist pigs. when the survivors had organized, the men had far outnumbered the women. They had created a family structure that supported male dominance without limit. By their decree women existed only to serve. Sunny was forced to conform to this murderous doctrine. She struggled—and was beaten into passivity; ran away—and was brought ack; then she found a gun—and what she did then is a story in itself.”
Initial Thoughts: In retrospect, I’m not sure why I purchased this novel. The hilariously corny low-budget cover? The dream of discovering a lost feminist SF classic despite knowing it isn’t? SF Encyclopedia describes Mary Vigliante Szydlowski’s SF as follows: “Unlike most Feminist work, her novels seemed to express a sense that the oppression of women could be exhilarating.” Not a ringing endorsement!
3. Moscow 2042, Vladimir Voinovich (1986, trans. 1987)
From the inside flap: “This comic masterpiece by Russia’s greatest living satirist gives us a breathtaking parody of Orwell’s 1984.
It begins in 1982 over a few beers with a friend in the little German town of Stockdork. Vitaly Kartsev, a Soviet writer in exile, picks up the intriguing information that a Munich travel agency can book flight guaranteed to pass through a time warp. At first he laughs the whole notion off as the product of a sozzled imagination. Yet he makes his way to Munich the very next morning, stung by a desire to see what will have become of Moscow fifty years into the future. The travel agent regrets, but it cannot be done–at least not on a fifty-year flight. But to Karstev’s amazement the agent has an opening in a few weeks on a flight landing in Moscow in sixty years—that is, in 2042.
Karstev books himself a seat.
What follows is bawdy, outrageous, ingenious comedy as profoundly penetrating and timely as anything Orwell or Swift or Huxley ever conceived. Wielding a cast of characters that includes terrorists, sheiks, CIA and KGB agents, an American news correspondent, and another writer in exile—the towering, moralizing, authoritarian Sim Simych Karnavalov—Voinovich does what no Russian author has ever done before. He launches his adventure in the West and takes the reader into the Soviet Union with him. And the sights are as alien and bizarre to him as they are to us.
In the Moscow of 2042, Marx’s vision has reached absurd proportions, and communism has become a parody of itself. There is a Bureau of natural Functions, a palace of Love, Paplit–literature written on paper for posterity, all of it propaganda–and Paplesslit–literature typed onto typewriters with no paper in them (Resolving the whole headache of censorship).
Kartsev’s escapades are hilarious, from encounters in Moscow’s seedier quarters to confrontations with the keepers of the Kremlin to the revolution he sees unfold. Here is no mere weaving of plot and counterplot but a novel within a novel and an unprecedented merging of reality and the imagination. Moscow 2042 is surely one of the most memorable works of comic literature–a dazzling display of wit and wisdom.”
Initial Thoughts: I’m always on the lookout for SF in translation. I know little about the author or novel.
4. The Unexpected Dimension, Algis Budrys (1960)
From the back cover: “ALGIS BUDRYS… This first collection of three novelettes and four short stories from the work of Algis Budrys demonstrates the variety of interest and skill in handling which have made this young author a star in the science fiction firmament.
The diversity of his approach will be seen in stories covering every area of science fiction and fantasy, from robotics to psi to time travel, in every variety of mood from wry humor to grim reality. Yet the astute reader will perceive a theme of universal concern that is common to all these stories–the theme of death–and life. And this is what brings each of these tales from unexpected dimensions close to home.
Contents: “The End of Summer” (1954), “The Distant Sound of Engines” (1959), “Never Meet Again” (1958), “The Burning World” (1957), “First to Serve” (1954), “Go And Behold Them” (variant title: “The End of Winter”) (1958), “The Executioner” (1956)
Initial Thoughts: I’ve reviewed a substantial quantity of Budrys’ SF in the history of the site–from Rogue Moon (1960) to Budrys’ Inferno (variant title: The Furious Future) (1963), a collection of his short stories. So far I’ve enjoyed his 50s/early 60s SF if it delves into our darker interiors. For a full list of the Budrys’ I’ve reviewed (including three novels that I’ve not enjoyed), check out his listing in my index.
And I adore Blanchard’s cover art!
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