Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
I planned to have a review up today. Unfortunately, August is always my least productive month writing as it marks the return to work after a much needed summer break. It’s been a rough few weeks! Stay tuned.
1. The Squares of the City, John Brunner (1965)
From the back cover: CHECHMATE IN PARADISE. Ciudad de Vados was a Latin-American showplace, a paradise…a flourishing supercity designed and run nearly to perfection.
But not quite. They had a traffic problem.
Boyd Hakluyt didn’t understand why, but he had been brought into analyze the situation and to straighten it out–or so he thought. But when he attempted to get anything done, nothing worked right, and everyone suddenly became evasive.
That’s when he realized the city’s traffic problems were the least of his worries. Somehow his every move was being dictated by somebody else. He was being controlled as if he were merely a piece in a chess game–an expendable piece, at that. Then suddenly Boyd concluded he had become part of a fiendish living game, playing for his life on The Squares of the City.”
Initial Thoughts: The first of multiple Brunner novels that missed my obsessive net. I was inspired the track them done as I recently read Jad Smith’s wonderful monograph John Brunner (2012). As longtime readers of the site know, Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968) is my favorite SF novel. Check out my recent review of his early SF short story “Fair” (1956) if you missed it.
2. Master of Paxwax, Phillip Mann (1986)
From the back cover: “Galactic genocide. It is the far distant future. Humanity has spread across the galaxy, systematically wiping out, imprisoning and enslaving every alien species, hostile or not. Now the galaxy is ruled by the Eleven Families, each supreme in its own, vast realm.
But beneath the surface of one dead and obscure planet lie the seeds of rebellion. For here, the survivors of the ravaged alien races have taken refuge, to plot their revenge of their barbaric conquerors–and the downfall of the human empire.
One man is chosen to be the instrument of their vengeance–but he doesn’t know it. His name is Pawl Paxwax. He is the second son of the Fifth Family, and this is his story–a magnificent epic of far future intrigued, passion and tragedy.”
Initial Thoughts: Years ago I read Mann’s tale of a failed ship captain Wulfsyarn (1990)–which I never managed to review despite my generally positive assessment. I know little about this one.
3. The Big Ball of Wax, Shepherd Mead (1954)
From the back cover: “Evangelist with a Gimmick!
Her revival meetings outdrew the World Series, the Miss America contests and the TV give-away shows, and were making a serious dent in the National Economy. True, she was built like a burlesque queen (which she was, once), but there had to be something more to it than that.
Lanny Martin, dynamic Madison Avenue-type account executive, set forth to find out what it was, for Lanny was greatly concerned with the state of the world, as every sincere young future giant of industry should be.
Besides, he was worried about his job, Molly Blood’s gimmick was making the buying public immune to high-pressure advertising, and without high-pressure advertising, where was Lanny Martin?
After carefully plotting his campaign, Lanny dropped a blockbuster and waited for the explosion. Nothing was ever the same after that–certainly not Lanny–for Molly Blood’s gimmick was something out of this world–quite literally, out of this world!”
Initial Thoughts: Satirical 1950s SF takes on the media landscape? Count me in! I don’t have high hopes but, as always, my fascination with the theme will trump any lack of quality in the work.
4. Nightmare Age, ed. Frederik Pohl (1970)
From the back cover: “SCIENCE FICTION writers have long warned, in an astonishing variety of stories and interpretations, of the ecological crisis that confronts mankind.
Frederik Pohl, a master of future prognostication himself, has selected superb representative stories from the thousands that exists. The writers of these dry, witty, funny and (hopefully) inaccurate forecasts include: [See below]”
Contents: Paul R. Ehrlich’s “Eco-Catastrophe!” (1969), Christopher Anvil’s “Uncalculated Risk” (1962), Frederik Pohl’s “The Census Takers” (1956), C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Marching Morons” (1951), Fritz Leiber’s “A Bad Day for Sales” (1953), Kenneth Bulmer’s “Station HR972” (1967), Fritz Leiber’s “X Marks the Pedwalk” (1963), Clifford D. Simak’s “Day of Truce” (1963), Mack Reynolds’ “Among the Bad Baboons” (1968), C. M. Kornbluth’s “The Luckiest Man in Denv” (1952), Frederik Pohl’s “The Midas Plague” (1954), Kris Neville’s “New Apples in the Garden” (1963), Robert A. Heinlein’s “The Year of the Jackpot” (1952)
Initial Thoughts: I recently read Michael R. Page’s wonderful Frederik Pohl (2015) in the Modern Masters of Science Fiction series for Illinois University Press. Page includes Pohl’s comments on the anthology Nightmare Age (1970): “[it] was an eco-freak book. It sold out in its one printing and was seen no more, but it still remains an anthology of which I am proud. It seems to me that the world ecology movement really began in the science fiction stories–in the 1950s, but actually going back as far as science fiction itself does.”
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