Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCCXIII (John Wyndham, Keith Roberts, Fredric Brown, Naomi Mitchison)

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

1. The Day of the Triffids, John Wyndham (1951)

From the back cover: “WHAT WERE THEY–


Until a few short hours ago–before the sky exploded into a shower of flaming green hell–triffids had been regarded as merely a curious and profitable form of plant life. Now these shadowy vegetable creatures became crawling, killing nightmare of pain and horror.

Madness hung in the air, fear lurked in every side street, death hovered in every doorway. Stripped of civilized veneer by terror and desperation, the handful of surviving humans began to turn on each other.

And all the while the triffids watched and waited…”

Initial Thoughts: Yes, I don’t yet own a copy. I’ve only read The Chrysalids (variant title: Re-Birth) (1955) so far.

2. The Furies, Keith Roberts (1966)

From the back cover: “THE RULE OF THE WASPS

It all started with a nuclear test that went wrong. The test cracked the bed of the sea, raised a volcano the height of Vesuvius where before there had been a five-mile Deep…

Then the Furies struck–monstrous and deadly wasps nearly the size of man.

Their nests sprang up all over the world. They descended and slaughtered humanity at will. Breeding in their nests by the billions, they began enslaving the earth…

Not since H. G. Wells’ THE WAR OF THE WORLDS has there been such a chilling authentic story of an invasion from another world.

Initial Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed Keith Roberts’ SF so far. I’ve reviewed thirteen of his short fictions over the years. I’d rank my four favorites so far as follows: “Weihnachtsabend” (1972, “The White Boat” (1966), “Sub-Lim” (1965), and “Molly Zero” (1977). Note: I’ve read but never got around to reviewing the rest of the stories in the remarkable Pavane (1968).

3. Solution Three, Naomi Mitchison (1975)

From the back cover: “HE is perfect: brown, beautiful, bright, brace. SHE is perfect: blonde, beautiful, bright, brave.

All the HEs are just like one another.

All the SHEs are identical–to their fingertips.

ALL the HEs love HEs. All the SHEs love SHEs.

They are CLONES… asexually reproduced from cells from the most perfect mand and the most perfect woman who ever lived. In this society there is no need for man to love woman. There is no need to mate.

This is the future world designed by SOLUTION THREE

Peace is here. Perfection too. Maybe…”

Initial Thoughts: Back in 2014, I read and adored Mitchison’s novel Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962). I’d place it on my favorite SF reads of the 1960s. I’ve been meaning to get to her two other SF novels…. The premise of this one seems bland at best unfortunately.

4. Star Shine (variant title: Angels and Spaceships), Fredric Brown (1954)

From the inside flap: “WARNING! You are now entering the domain of Frederic Brown–the wonderful, weird world where the unreal is made real, the fantastic made possible, the unusual made commonplace. You will visit the only planet that can eclipse itself, meet the linotype machine to fall in love. You will be shocked, amused and amazed by this master of science fiction.”

Contents: “Pattern” (1954), “Placet Is a Crazy Place” (1946), “Answer” (1954), “Etaoin Shrdlu” (1942), “Preposterous” (1954), “Armageddon” (1941), “Politeness” (1954), “The Waveries” (1945), “Reconciliation” (1954), “The Hat Trick” (1943), “Search” (1954), “Letter to a Phoenix” (1949), “Daisies” (1954), “The Angelic Angleworm” (1943), “Sentence” (1954), “The Yehudi Principle” (1944), “Solipsist” (1954).

Initial Thoughts: I can’t remember exactly why this Brown collection was on my radar. I must have come across one of the stories in a monograph I’ve been reading. I’ve only read his solid novel The Light in the Sky Are Stars (1953).

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For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX

23 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCCXIII (John Wyndham, Keith Roberts, Fredric Brown, Naomi Mitchison)

  1. Dear Joachim,

    I’m not sure this is the right way of saying this, but I wanted to send you some words of gratitude.

    I hope you don’t mind that I send you this reply. Before I deleted my Twitter (the hellscape just become too much for me) I had send a similar message, so sorry if it gets boring for you.

    I just want to thank you for the Twitter account you have. It was one reason for me to stay a few months longer on Twitter untill i couldn’t anymore. Absolutely loved all the artworks, the posts, people talking about what they read etc.

    Now without Twitter, I get that same amount of joy via your newsletters. They feel as small treasures that get send to me, always a joy to open them, and see what you have written this time. You are doing mighty fine work and i really am gratefull for it.

    My collection of sci fi books grew this year from 1 or 2, to about 20, partly thanks to your Twitter and website. They gave air to the kindling that was my love and interest for (old) sci fi books and art.

    Besides this I want to wish you a great holiday season and all the best for 2023.

    Kind regards, Dennis

    Op di 20 dec. 2022 01:57 schreef Science Fiction and Other Suspect

    • Hello Dennis, thanks for stopping by and for the kind words. I’m glad that you’ve tracked down some SF because of my Twitter account! But yes, I find Twitter more and more miserable with each and every idiotic thing that Elon does, then undoes, or threatens to do, etc. I’ve never cared much for conversation on the platform and have used by site as my preferred locus great discussions.

      Have you read any SF in particular recently that has resonated with you?

      • I just finished reading a compilation from Charles Harness, Timefall (tijdval) The Rose (de roos) Was a story in it that really took me and hasn’t let go still.

        For me he isn’t a straightforward scifi author, and all the stories i read of him are filled with some sort of joy or playfullness, besides the almost poetry of writing style and his sense for what could be, it makes for some great readings.

        The book has a cover by Paul Lehr, wich sold me on buying the book in the shop, and i am very happy i did.

        Kind regards,

        • I have the Harness collection with that story somewhere. I have not read it yet. It’s often put forward as a lesser known masterpiece. I tried to read one of his novels The Ring of Ritornel at one point and was not impressed. But short fiction is often an entirely different world.

          • I highly recommend his short stories, I think his writing style and the stories and subjects he takes on are best suited for short stories. The Rose, Timefall and The New Reality are all great reads, real gems i’d say.

            • I’ve only read a couple of stories by Harness but I was very impressed by “The New Reality”. What I like about the story is the author cleverly distorts the history of science in such a subtle way that he creates the suspension of belief needed to be pulled into accepting this viewpoint. It’s only after you have let Harness carefully build a clever, but eventually unsupported, historical framework that draws you into the story with it’s surprise ending that you realize, sometime after you have finished the story, that it was really a nonsensical argument from the start. This was a very early example of using the premise of a noumenal world loosely based on Plato’s allegory of the cave and Kantian philosophy as the basis of a SF story and I felt Harness did it very well

  2. Interesting selection.

    Day of the Triffids is always worth reading.

    I loathed Furies when I read it. I also think it is orientalist in a lot of ways, but I got yelled at for that suggesting that so your mileage may vary.

    Not read that Mitchison yet but I agree on Spacewoman.

    I don’t think I have read that specific Brown collection but I have read most of the stories in it. A mixed bag.

    • Someone yelled at you because of a view of Keith Roberts? Oh wait, a SF editor cum-reviewer did that to me too… because I suggested that Pavane has an anti-Catholic streak. Who now no longer talks to me… So yeah!

      • Oh yes, I have found a lot of people get very irritated if you dare suggest Pavane has an anti-catholicism in them. I can’t imagine where we are getting it from at all…

        • Yeah, I don’t really understand. A streak of anti-Catholicism was incredibly common among SF authors of Roberts’ day — from Amis’ The Alteration to Richard Cowper. I’m charting a territory and its definitely a feature I’ve noticed. Even if there is not specific evidence in any of Roberts’ letters or autobiography of such views stated….

          As for the Fredric Brown, do you have some favorite stories of his? I can’t remember why I bought the collection. I’ve been reading a lot of SF scholarship and I assume that the story came up as an example of something — somewhere. But I don’t seem to have written one of his stories down for any of the various lists I’ve been compiling. I do love the Powers cover!

          • Indeed. I mean it is a pretty standard thing in Britain during this period, part of the macro-culture that is likely to seep into a lot of writers work.

            On Brown…Let me see….from this collection I recall liking The Yehudi Principle (which is fun and kind of metafictional) and The Waveries (an interesting invasion tale). I find he works best when he is an odd and fun.

    • Hello Kris, I posted a few days ago my short review of The Furies. I waited too long to review it so I could only write a few paragraphs as I, too, was quite annoyed with it. Not his best work by far!

  3. Well, I’ve loved The Day of the Triffids for decades now and have read it several times although I don’t recall if I actually own a copy at the moment. Think I must. I also like the 1980s BBC mini-series they did.
    The Furies is one of my favourite books by Roberts; I disposed of it at one point but really wanted to re-read it years later and got hold of the same Pan p/b edition. Liked it just as much even after a 20+ year (?) gap.
    Naomi Mitchison never appealed to me and I’m not that keen on Fredric Brown either. I know I have a collection (Nightmares and Geezenstacks), but it’s a long time since I read it.

    • I’m assuming you’re basing your view on Mitchison on Memoirs of a Spacewoman? I dunno how someone can dislike that book… haha. It’s so positive and insightful! The Betty Chambers of the day (but far more interesting as it was written in the 60s).

      If you get to The Furies before me, let me know what you think! As you know, I’m a big fan of his short fiction.

  4. Day of the Triffids is actually quite an understated book, certainly in comparison to the back cover blurb you quoted. I know that bad science fiction covers are often the butt of various websites (Good Show Sir comes to mind). Is there a similar opening for the over the top descriptions of science fiction novels to be showcased?

    • I don’t think there’s a site that specializes in cover blurbs. While I put them in the posts, I ignore them as a rule and never look at them again! The number of comparisons to 1984, Brave New World, etc. make them absolutely meaningless. And, of course, the SF field was so small half the time that the positive blurbs given by other authors can’t mean much of anything as well as they are praising the work of their friends…

  5. The Richard Powers cover for ‘Star Shine ‘ is great. I have vague memories of ‘Placet Is a Crazy Place’, and generally have a lot of time for Frederick Brown. For instance, I enjoyed his ‘What Mad Universe’ once upon a time.
    ‘Day of the Triffids’ takes me back to about the age of 11 or 12 when I read and reread this novel obsessively. As a 12 year old somewhat overwhelmed by the apparent boredom of the adult world that surrounded me, I really wanted to live in a (comfy) disaster like that portrayed by Wyndham. And this even though I recall also having terrible recurring nightmares of imminent nuclear destruction (this would have been c. 1980).
    What a world…

    • I guess fears of nuclear was has been replaced by global warming…. although they slow inexorable sense of global warming must be quite distinct from the cataclysmic immediacy of nuclear terror. I have an endless amount of time of existential dread — as shown by the Blish collection of recently reviewed. It’s easily one of my favorite topics for SF from the era!

      I adore the Richard Powers cover as well. One of my favorites of his from the composition to the figures and details. Love it!

      I look forward to exploring some of Brown’s short fiction. I’m not sure for which series or perhaps the entire collection. We shall see!

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