Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Heroes & Villains, Angela Carter (1969)
From the back cover: “The Barbarians had attacked the village, looting and burning. And when they left, Marianne, a daughter of the scientists, went with them. Now she followed Jewel, leader of the barbarians, and lived with him as his captured bride…”
Initial Thoughts: A few years ago I read, and was blown away, by Angela Carter’s The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman (1972). I placed it on my best reads of 2016 list but never managed to write a review. Inspired by the novel, I wrote an article derived from a fascinating 1979 interview on Angela Carter’s views on science fiction–including her inspirations and the state of the British SF scene, Michael Moorcock’s prodigious production and New Worlds editorship, and the unescapable influence of J. G. Ballard.
Pringle placed Heroes & Villains (1969) on his 100 Best Science Fiction Novels (1949-1984) list.
2. Molly Zero, Keith Roberts (1980)
From the back cover: “Raised, tested, trained and indoctrinated in the Blocks, Molly Zero is being groomed for the governing Elite.
Rebelling against her fate, she flees. An innocent searching for truth, Molly finds the world outside the Blocks alien and frightening. Her flight plunges her first into the heart of a small community. Next, attracted by their eccentric gaiety, she joins the travelling gypsies, roaming the country in Commercial Air Cushion Vehicles. And then Molly gets caught up in urban terrorism…”
Initial Thoughts: I’m annoyed that a large CHUNK of the cover is missing from my copy (see above scan)! Was not described as such in the online listing….
In 2015, I reviewed the 1977 novella that Keith Roberts later expanded into the novel. I wrote the following: “4.25/5 (Good): ‘Molly Zero’ is an evocative and well-written vision of a totalitarian future where the army has taken over the UK. The plot is nothing new but the delivery elevates the experience. Molly Zero, a resilient and intelligent young woman, is an immensely appealing character—subjected along with her crèche mates to systematic brainwashing—whose small pleasures as she grows up and terrible pains truly moved me. Roberts paints childhood in convincing strokes—only a child in a totalitarian future where movement is controlled, knowledge regulated, would be desperate to know “if there are Scandinavians” (18).
Molly Zero and her crèche are groomed for an unknown reason. Machines watch constantly: “She’s asleep. Something hears you though; a little machine that stores the whisper, magically, a silly little wheel. The wheel spins, trembles, settles down again to its steady, unseen rhythm” (21). She falls in love with a fellow young woman named Liz. But they are being guided from a distance: “I’ve told you before. You must try not to identify. After all they’re not people yet” (35). Sadness and despair abound. And perhaps the brainwashing succeeded.
In 1980 Keith Roberts published a novelization of this novella under the same name. I am intrigued but knowing the outcome of the open-ended conclusion might diminish the power of the work.”
3. The Black Roads, J. L. Hensley (1976)
From the back cover: “Sam Church is a trained killer, a member of the infamous Red Roadmen organization. In the bizarre world of this future America, the Roadmen’s word is law; to incur their displeasure is death. But Sam Church refuses to kill and is imprisoned and tortured by his peers for his nonconformity. H escapes and, in a terrifying race across the continent, clashes with the Roadmen in a running duel that can only end in death–his own or that of the system of tyranny that reigns on The Black Roads.”
Initial Thoughts: An unknown author and book… I’ve long known about the generally low quality of Roger Elwood’s Laser Books imprint and sketchy editorial practices. See the SF Encyclopedia entry on the imprint. Regardless, K. W. Jeter’s Laser Books volume Seeklight (1975) was an okay first novel.
4. Three Times Infinity, Leo Margulies (1958)
From the back cover: IN THE FAR REACHES OF INFINITY, on the exotic planets of the galazy, man explores the perils of the unknown, the TERRORS OF OUTER SPACE!
I. He was pitted against the intrigue and beauty of a woman from another planet, a woman with strange powers and even stranger ways.
LORELEI OF THE RED MIST
by Ray Bradbury and Leigh Brackett
II. They were a small band of colonizers on a strange and eerie planet–helpless before the machine that turned time back.
THE GOLDEN HELIX
by Theodore Sturgeon
III. They left Earth without authorization and flew farther than any man had before. Then the ship began to flounder and one by one they realized they might never return.
by Robert A. Heinlein”
Initial Thoughts: Classic authors that are known to most and a classic assortment of stories (none of which I’ve read). I did not realize that Leigh Brackett co-wrote anything with Ray Bradbury…
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