Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXI (Phyllis Gotlieb, John D. MacDonald, Robert Onopa, and Peter George)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Sunburst, Phyllis Gotlieb (1964)

From the back cover: “In the hideous aftermath of the atomic sunburst. The people of Sorrel Park had been written off. Now they were nothing but a kind of human garbage, festering and hopeless.

In the center of town lived the worst of the human garbage–and by far the most dangerous. They were a breed of terrible children, possessed by terrifying supernormal powers. They were a new race of monster bred out of the sunburst, and if they ever broke loose they would destroy the world…”

Initial Thoughts: I have not read any of Gotlieb’s science fiction. Her first novel reminds me of Wilmar H. Shiras’ “In Hiding” (1948), “Opening Doors” (1949), and “New Foundations” (1950).

2. The Pleasure Tube, Robert Onopa (1979)

From the back cover: “SciCom’s reward for eight years on the Star Ranges was eight days in the Pleasure Tube–timeless days of total and perfect sex, endless orgasm bathed in luxury. For most crews, it was paradise. But for the ‘survivors’ of the Daedalus, the reward was part of the nightmare. For they had seen the horror through the Hole in the Universe, and how could they be sure they had really survived?”

Initial Thoughts: I know little to nothing about Robert Onopa’s work. SF Encyclopedia describes the novel as follows: “a tale in which an astronaut returns from space to a hallucinatory America and becomes entrapped, in the narrative present tense, in a Sex machine; Barry N. Malzberg’s influence seems clear. Onopa continues to publish sf short stories, the later ones told with sharp-tongued gonzo Equipoise.” As a fan of Malzberg, I am intrigued to read SF inspired by his unusual brand of comedic nihilism.

3. Other Times, Other Worlds, John D. MacDonald (1978)

From the back cover: “among these superb stories–

A CHILD IS CRYING–A frightening look at a seven-year-old boy whose intelligence far surpasses that of top military experts…

FLAW–An intensely dramatic story that challenges the reach for the stars…

BUT NOT TO DREAM–The startling tale of a scientist who prefers the strange and elusive world of insects to his own family….

RING AROUND THE REDHEAD–The story of a murder case that hinges on the testimony of a stranger from another planet…

These are just a few of the tantalizing tales from this extraordinary collection of science fiction.”

Contents: “The Mechanical Answer” (1948), “Dance of a New World” (1948), “Ring Around the Redhead” (1948), “A Child Is Crying” (1948), “Flaw” (1949), “But Not to Dream” (1949), “The Miniature” (1949), “Spectator Sport” (1950), “Half-Past Eternity” (1950), “The Big Contest” (1950), “Susceptibility” (1951), “Common Denominator” (1951), “Game for Blondes” (1952), “Labor Supply” (1953), “The Legend of Joe Lee” (1964), “The Annex” (1968)

Initial Thoughts: I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the two MacDonald’s science fiction stories I’ve read for my various series: “Flaw” (1949) and “Spectator Sport” (1950). I’m eager to read more of his work!

4. Red Alert (variant title: Two Hours to Doom), Peter George (1958)

From the back cover: “SAC ATTACK!

Every minute of every hour of every day, there are American bombers in the air, loaded with H-bombs, ready to fly into action at the mere spark of the right radio signal. These are the planes and men of the Strategic Air Command.

What happens once that signal flashes is described vividly in this tensely dramatic novel. The command came to the men of the 843rd Wing, high in the air near the Soviet boarder. Asking no questions, obeying their standing orders, they headed straight towards their assigned tarkets.

Had America already been attacked? Or was it the action of a single determined general, and the unauthorized by the Pentagon and the president?

RED ALERT is the story of the two tensest hours in human history.”

Initial Thoughts: I apologize for the blurry cover image above. It’s the best I could find online. I usually use my own scans but in this instance I thought I bought the 1959 Ace edition shown. Instead, I received a reprint with a small image of the cover. Alas!

This is the source material–much changed–for Stanley Kubrick’s satirical masterpiece Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964). George was apparently peeved that Kubrick transformed his story beyond recognition — although, he ended up writing the novelization of the film!

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14 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXI (Phyllis Gotlieb, John D. MacDonald, Robert Onopa, and Peter George)

  1. Gotlieb’s novel starts with an interesting premise but ultimately does little with it, though there’s plenty of waste motion along the way.

    In the MacDonald collection I recall “The Mechanical Answer” as being a surprisingly sophisticated cybernetics story for its time, and “Half Past Eternity” as being an unfortunately old-fashioned and overlong variation on the theme of Wells’s “The New Accelerator.”

  2. I read Red Alert under the title of Dr. Strangelove (OHISWALTLTB) and repackaged as a movie tie-in. Honestly, I don’t think the story was changed that much (by Hollywood standards) in the film.

  3. I picked up a copy of that same first edition of Sunburst (love the Powers cover!) during a visit to the US in 2018, but only got around to reading it about 2 years ago.
    I would agree with John Boston above that it starts better than it finishes; I guess my assessment isn’t quite as critical as his, but I do tend to agree that the focus on juvenile delinquency (with post-nuclear-disaster aspect as a plot device) and the questionable theories on its causes are rather offputting.

    The MacDonald book contains a solid collection of stories, but like I said in my comments to your review of “Spectator Sport,” the best option is probably just tracking them down in the original magazines over at the Internet Archive.

    • I’ve started Sunburst. Intriguing — 20 pages in — so far. But not more than intriguing….

      As for using Internet Archive vs. a paper copy — there’s only so much screen time I can tolerate. I use Archive everyday. I also like to have author collections and anthologies.

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