Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Car Sinister, ed. Robert Silverberg, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Joseph D. Olander (1979)
From the back cover: “MAN AND HIS MACHINE. The car is man’s most personalized machine; for teenagers it is a rite of passage and a statement of freedom; for adults it is a reflection of success, taste, and hopes; and for an entire culture it is a great and industrious mode of transportation–driving, perhaps, on the road of destruction. And the automobile–thrilling, honking, speeding, nerve-shattering–haunts us with the dark possibility that when our age of motoring innocence is over, we may no longer be the masters… CAR SINISTER–a splendid, imaginative vision of what lies down the road for all of us.”
Contents: Roger Zelazny’s “Devil Car” (1965), Josef Nesvadba’s “Vampires Ltd.” (1962, trans. 1964), Leonard Tushnet’s “A Plague of Cars” (1971), Roger Zelazny’s “Auto-da-Fé” (1967), Bill Earls’ “Traffic Problem” (1970), Kenneth Bulmer’s “Station HR972” (1967), H. Chandler Elliott’s “A Day on Death Highway” (1963), Harry Harrison’s “The Greatest Car in the World” (1966), Avram Davidson’s “The Roads, the Roads, the Beautiful Roads” (1969), George R. R. Martin’s “The Exit to San Breta” (1972), Gene Wolfe’s “Car Sinister” (1970), R. A. Lafferty’s “Interurban Queen” (1970), Leonard Tushnet’s “Waves of Entropy” (1974), Frank Herbert’s “The Mary Celeste Move” (1964), Fritz Leiber’s “X Marks the Pedwalk” (1963), Robert Thurston’s “Wheels” (1971), Barry N. Malzberg’s “Sedan Deville” (1974), Robert F. Young’s “Romance in a twenty-First Century Used-Car Lot” (1960), Frank M. Robinson’s “‘East Wind, West Wind'” (1972), Harlan Ellison’s “Along the Scenic Route” (1969)
Initial Thoughts: I’ve never cared for the act of driving or the car as desirable object (as long as it works I’m good!). Similar to my views on sports and science fiction, the automobile as an American obsession with all its symbolic connotations of youth and freedom yet simultaneously an instrument of destruction (pollution, destruction of neighborhoods for highway systems, etc.) fascinates. I’ve waited for at least three years for the price of this collection to drop below $20. I plan on reading it soon!
2. Swastika Night, Murray Constantine (Katharine Burdekin) (1937)
From the back cover: “Seven hundred years after Nazism achieved power, Hitler is worshipped as god. The fascist Germans and Japanese struggle to maintain their populations. An Englishman named Alfred is on a German pilgrimage. According to official history, Hitler is a tall, blond god who personally won the war. Alfred is astounded when when shown a photograph of Hitler before a crowd. He is shocked that Hitler was a small man with dark hair and a paunch. And Alfred’s discovery may mean his death…”
Initial Thoughts: I struggle to read SF written before WWII. But Katharine Burdekin’s dystopia (written in the early stages of the Nazi rise to power) is described as the “first Hitler wins tale of any significance” by SF Encyclopedia with prevalent feminist arguments. Count me intrigued! Check out the SF Encyclopedia entry for more details about the novel — I don’t want to spoil the plot here.
3. Phoenix Without Ashes, Edward Bryant and Harlan Ellison (1975)
From the back cover: “THE STARLOST 2785 A.D. They had banished Devon from the world of Cypress Corners because he dared to challenge the Elders. And when he defied them again, they hunted him like an animal.
Then Devon stumbled on a secret passage in the hills. His whole life changed in that moment. For Devon had accidentally discovered the giant ark that was ferrying not only Cypress Corners but the other Earth cultures to another planet.
What Devon did not know was that there ad been a terrible accident aboard the spaceship. The gear had been damaged, the crew dead. And the ark and all its worlds were now headed straight for destruction…”
Initial Thoughts: This generation ship story is a novelization of the script–published later in Jack Dann and George Zebrowski’s anthology Faster Than Light (1976) (which I also own)–for the pilot episode of the failed (for good reason) TV series The Starlost (1973-1974). If you don’t know about the drama surrounding Harlan Ellison’s show, check out Wikipedia and the introduction to the novelization.
4. Virus: The Day of Resurrection, Sakyo Komatsu (小松左京) (1964, trans. by Daniel Huddleston 2012)
From the inside flap: “In this classic of Japanese SF from 1964, American astronauts on a space mission discover a strange virus and bring it to Earth, where rogue scientists transform it into a fatal version of the flu. At first, life continues as normal. A celebrity dies in a car accident, nuclear disarmament talks proceed apace, and then a disease hits poultry stocks worldwide, leading to an egg shortage just as demand for a new influenza vaccine–which requires eggs for its production–spikes.
Soon, even vaccinated individuals simply begin to die of heart attacks. Governments the world over hoard their information about the flu, so by the time the secret within the secret is understood, it is too late. Infrastructure collapses, a US general goes rogue, and nearly all human life on Earth is wiped out over the course of a few months.
Soon, there are fewer than ten thousand men and handful of women living in international research stations in Antarctica. For years they struggle to recreate society with their limited resources. Then one of the researchers realizes that an imminent major earthquake in the now-depopulated United States may lead to nuclear Armageddon…”
Initial Thoughts: I recently acquired Sakyo Komatsu’s Japan Sinks! (1973, trans. by Michael Gallagher, 1976) and thought I’d procure the only other one of his novels that exists in English translation. I know little about his work.
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