Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. The Impossible Man and Other Stories, J. G. Ballard (1966)
From the back cover: “THE IMPOSSIBLE MAN is the eighth book by J. G. Ballard to be published in the United States. Since the publication of his famous first two novels in 1962, The Wind from Nowhere and The Drowned World, no writer in modern science fiction has received higher acclaim from the critics:
“…the freshest new talent in science fiction since Brian Aldiss.” — DAMON KNIGHT
“Ballard is one of the brightest new stars in post-war fiction… he may turn out to be one of the most imaginative of Wells’s successors.” — KINGSLEY AMIS
THE IMPOSSIBLE MAN gathers together nine of Ballard’s most recent stories. A few samples:
In “The Drowned Giant” an enigmatic visitor is subjected to the various kindnesses of man…”
In “The Impossible Man” the sinister world of “restorative surgery” is explored with frightening results…
In “The Screen Game” and “The Giaconda of Twilight Noon” Ballard revisits the strangely sinister land of Vermillion Sands…”
Contents: “The Drowned World” (1964), “The Reptile Enclosure” (1963), “The Delta at Sunset” (1964), “Storm-Bird, Storm-Dreamer” (1966), “The Screen Game” (1963), “The Day of Forever” (1966), “Time of Passage” (1964), “The Gioconda of the Twilight Noon” (1964), “The Impossible Man” (1966)
Initial Thoughts: I love (most) Ballard. I own his omnibus collection of short stories but I can never resist the original paperbacks. If you wish to learn more about the themes and inspirations of his fiction, make sure to check out D. Harlan Wilson’s wonderful monograph J. G. Ballard (2017) in the University of Illinois Modern Masters of Science Fiction series.
2. Consider Her Ways and Others, John Wyndham (1961)
From the back cover: “The future as an Amazonian ant’s-nest, a single-sex totalitarian nightmare… the curious consequences of an out-of-body experience… how Hollywood turned an Irish Rose into a plastic bloom… a scientific experiment that changes the course of history–or merely confirms it… the search for a love that is not just lost, but has never ever been… a Satanic salesman’s struggles with a quick-witted mortal…
The author of such classic chillers as THE DAY OF THE TRIFFIDS and THE MIDWICH CUCKOOS, John Wyndham was one of the most skillful and imaginative science-fiction writers of his time. His talent for the unexpected, unusual and unsettling is made thrillingly clear in this superb collection of his sharp, witty and strikingly original stories.”
Contents: “Consider Her Ways” (1956), “Odd” (1961), “Oh, Where, Now, Is Peggy MacRafferty?” (1961), “Stitch in Time” (1961), “Random Quest” (1961), “A Long Spoon” (1960).
Initial Thoughts: I spent a few extra dollars online THINKING I was going to receive the 1979 Penguin edition with its gorgeous Peter Lord cover… instead I received this miserable 2001 edition with pathetic throwaway art by Spencer Wilson. He apparently “designed” an entire series of covers for Wyndham’s novels and collections! They are all terrible. Vitriol aside, I should read more Wyndham… And one of the stories in this collection appears to fit my media landscapes of the future series.
3. Eye of Cat, Roger Zelazny (1982)
From the inside flap: “A retired hunter of alien zoo specimens, William Blackhorse Singer, the last Navajo on a future Earth, has come to what he sees as the end of his life. The World Government calls upon him for aid in protecting an alien diplomat from a powerful and hostile member of his own species. Knowing both the importance of the task and his inability to handle it on his own, Singer goes to confront his greatest conquest with a strange bargain. A shape-shifting alien, the last of his species, sits in a special cage at an institute dedicated to the study of extraterrestrial beings. most frequently he projects the aspect of a one-eyed catlike creature, but he can appear as almost anything.
One of Singer’s secrets, and his greatest guilt, is his suspicion that the creature is intelligent. He confronts him and offers his own life for Cat’s cooperation in saving the alien. Cat accepts, and later, their mission fulfilled, demands a refinement on the original bargain. Rather than a simple death he wants a return bout–a chase with Singer as the hunted rather than the hunter.
The gods, powers and monsters of Navajo legend provide the backdrop for the working out of Singer’s fate–for the chase is as much for his soul as for his body. As he uses matter transmitters to flit from Paris to London to the Middle East to the American Southwest, he must search back into his own early life as well as the root beliefs of his vanished people and come to terms with a world that has adopted him, made use of his skills, and left him feeling that he has no place to call his own.”
Initial Thoughts: This own has been languishing in my purchased but not cataloged pile for most of 2022. I purchased it right after reading To Die in Italbar (1973). I’ve long been a fan of Zelazny and have so many of his lesser known works still left to read….
4. Chronicle, Joel Zoss (1980)
From the back cover: “A SURPRISING HERO…
Born of a barren mother, Elmandif sprang forth to great village celebration. The village of Loess had never seen a child like him–he was conversant with animals, he carried snakes in his har and the movements of his hands and loins were developed far beyond his years.
A STRANGE QUEST…
And when the time came, he embarked on a curious journey where his confrontations–with a barefoot walker whose gold was hidden across the wide earth, a dead dog who barked at the sea, and a man with a gem-encrusted elephant’s head–led him back to the place where he had begun–and the most amazing conclusion to an astonishing trip.”
Initial Thoughts: I don’t know why I bought this one. As I tweet SFF-related birthdays ever morning, I suspect I came across Joel Zoss’ small output and was intrigued… He also published three short stories in New Worlds between 1968-1979.
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20 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCCXII (J. G. Ballard, Roger Zelazny, John Wyndham, and Joel Zoss)”
The movements of his hands and loins…? Zess sounds like Doctor Pervaholic. Ew!
Haha. You might know Thomas Wagner on twitter (he has the SF180 youtube series but also wrote reviews for the site with the same name) — he wrote a hilarious review of the novel. And gave it 1 star….
In my opinion Eye Of Cat suffers from too much experimental prose–I remember the last third or so reading like the hellride sections of the Amber novels, more a list of odd images than a story.
One of those lesser known Zelazny works that I’ve read very little about… I am still intrigued!
The cover for the Wyndham collection: that shit looks like I drew it.
Yeah, it’s truly awful. I looked up more of his art and I can’t say it’s much better. I thought I was purchasing the Lord cover that I linked. It stated that it was a store image on Abebooks. Lo and behold ’twas all a lie! Alas.
Oh the agony of sellers that don’t use pictures of their actual books…
That’s why I stopped buying from all the big warehouse sellers. World of books etc. They slap any old image on their listing and you never know what you’ll get. (Also they’ve started putting stickers on top of stickers? Like a sticker that says “there’s a pesky sticker under here” on top of another sticker. Bizarre.)
Don’t get me started on stickers. hah.
I recognised Richard Powers cover from the start, he really captured the essence of Ballard. I’ve said before, I’ve read all of Ballard’s short fiction. I remember “The Drowned Giant”, which I thought was excellent, and “The Reptile Enclosure”, which as I remember, is a disturbing lens into humanity’s atavistic connection with the sea.
I always love a good Powers cover! And yes, it matches Ballard’s vibe.
Good, I’m glad you agree.
He is my single favorite SF artist!
I know. Illustration and book covers wouldn’t have been the same without him.
JB: I always love a good Powers cover!
In this case, you’ve loved parts of it before, because Powers’s cover for Ballard’s THE IMPOSSIBLE MAN in 1966 directly recycles — to the point, perhaps, of even cutting out one segment to use collage-style — Power’s cover for Budrys’s ROGUE MOON from 1960.
See the two panels on the left hand side of the cover for Ballard’s book: in the lower panel, the spacesuited figure there recapitulates the design and posture of the spacesuited figure on the Budrys’s book cover, though with a different color background; while the ‘triangulated geodesic space’ in the upper left panel could even be cut out from the Budrys book’s cover with some additional imagery painted in/over it.
Check it out. Here’s the Budrys cover —
in my mind, Zelazny will always be associated with the Amber series. I wish that someone had taken it a little further after the author’s death.
For me, I associate him with Lord of Light, The Dream Master (Reviewed on my site), and his powerful short fiction. This Immortal was solid — at least what I remember from when I read it as an older teen — as well.
I remember the immortal.,..I think….wasn’t it about some weapon smith who accidentally acquired some immortality?… Lord of the Light doesn’t ring a bell, but I’m not all-knowledgeable.
Lord of Light won a Hugo for best novel. As did This Immortal (tied with Dune). I don’t know if you’re thinking of the right book — This Immortal follows a human tour guide with mold on his face who takes aliens on a tour of Earth. He eventually has to protect the alien and eventually gets wrapped up in some plot to save Earth from demolition. It’s not clear why or how he’s immortal. Perhaps due to a nuclear war or the fact that he might be a demi-god or god… it’s never entirely clear.
There was the rather slight posthumous Seven Tales of Amber (2019) but John Betancourt also wrote 4 authorised ‘Dawn of Amber’ novels in the early 2000s. but, iirc, they didn’t sell particularly well. https://www.fantasticfiction.com/b/john-gregory-betancourt/