Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXX (Michael Moorcock, Dean Ing, Vonda N. McIntyre, John Hersey)

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

1. Pulling Through, Dean Ing (1983)

From the back cover: “DOOMSDAY. ARE YOU READY?

HARE RACKHAM, bounty hunter, race-car driver. His best friend is a hunting cheetah. Harve has turned his California home into a survival shelter. He intends to pull through.

SHAR MCKAY, Harve’s little sister. Shar’s latest fad is nuclear survival. She intends for her husband and kids to all pull through.

ERNEST MCKAY, engineer. He has the knowledge and skills to save his family. With his help they’ll all pull through.

KATE GALLOW, runaway, forger, a tough street survival. She’s trouble–but when real troubles come down, Kate will always pull through.

Dean Ing has thought a lot about survival, and he wants as many of you as possible to pull through inevitable disaster of nuclear war. That’s why he’s written this more-than-a-novel. Dean Ing lays all the cards on the table in this one. The story tells why. The articles and blue-prints tell how. PULLING THROUGH won’t save your hide all by itself, but it sure will give you a head start on pulling through by yourself.”

Initial Thoughts: Do I expect Dean Ing’s novel to be an amazing piece of fiction? Absolutely not! Instead, I procured this novel as an artifact of the last major “Civil Defense Gap” scare in the early 80s (Carter laid the groundwork and Reagan went full tilt). If I ever get around to reviewing this one, I’ll lay out more of the historical context. If you want to know more about the revitalized nuclear terror stoked by Reagan in the early 80s, check out Dee Garrison’s wonderful Bracing for Armageddon: Why Civil Defense Failed (2006). I’ve tweeted quotes from the monograph for the last few weeks.

2. The Twilight Man, Michael Moorcock (serialized 1964, novel 1966)

From the back cover: “STOP THE WORLD. The raiders came from space on their way to suicide at the edge of the Universe. In passing, they casually halted Earth’s rotation–and the few survivors found themselves in a world without days or seasons, half in perpetual daylight, half in eternal night, bordered by the eerie twilight zones.

Now, centuries later, extinction faced mankind. One man held the key to survival–if men dared use it!”

Initial Thoughts: I need to read more of Michael Moorcock’s novels. The best I’ve read so far is The Black Corridor (1969) (with Hilary Bailey). That is all. I look like the normally brilliant Richard Powers dialed in a bit on this lackluster cover….

3.Barbary, Vonda N. McIntyre (1986)

From the back cover: “Even before the space transport Outrigger docked on research station Einstein, Barbary had heard about an alien ship that was moving into the solar system.

Some believed the vessel was drifting aimlessly; others were sure it was under conscious control. Either way, the team of scientists aboard Outrigger were prepared to investigate.

Their mission did not involve a passenger named Barbary. Yet she–and more importantly, the pet cat she had smuggled on board–were about to play key roles in man’s fist contact with aliens…”

Initial Thoughts: I’m currently on a Vonda N. McIntyre kick! Check out my previous reviews, if you haven’t already, of Fireflood and Other Stories (1979) and Dreamsnake (1978). This looks like her attempt to write YA science fiction. I’m more likely to pick up Superluminal (1983), a novelization of “Aztecs” (1977), before this one.

4. The Child Buyer, John Hersey (1960)

From the back cover: “In Wissey Jones, the child buyer, John Hersey created one of the most subtly terrifying characters in literature since Dostoevsky’s Gran Inquisitor.

Mr. Jones had a plan for improving the nation. It involved purchasing gifted children and reducing them through drugs and surgery to brilliantly efficient thinking machines. Je was not a monster, and his plan was not a nightmare. Mr. Jones was a humanitarian, and he acted in the name of progress and reason. His plan was so chillingly logical that almost no one could find a way to resist him or refute him.”

Initial Thoughts: A long while ago I read, and thoroughly enjoyed, John Hersey’s harrowing dystopia of an overpopulated future, My Petition for More Space (1974). He’s best known for his book Hiroshima (1946), which tells the stories of the survivors, one of the earliest examples of New Journalism.

From what I know of The Child Buyer, Hersey satirizes — in dystopic projection — the military-industrial project and the Cold War-era sense that the US was falling behind the Soviet Union in technological advancement. Extrapolating from the National Defense Education Act (1958), that authorized massive amounts of federal money for improving science curricula (if all beneficiaries swear that they don’t support Communism), The Child Buyer imagines a future where the brilliant young are transformed into thinking machines for private companies working on secret government projects.

I look forward to this one!

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23 thoughts on “Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXX (Michael Moorcock, Dean Ing, Vonda N. McIntyre, John Hersey)

  1. I read PULLING THROUGH back when it came out, and while I thought Ing went rather overboard with the preaching, there was a well-told adventure story hidden there. Ing was a legitmately enjoyable writer when writing stories and not tracts.

    I honestly have never heard of that Michael Moorcock novel! I have a copy of THE BLACK CORRIDOR and mean to get to it soon.

    I think I have a copy of BARBARY but somehow I never read it. Looks like it could be good YA fun. I never read THE CHILD BUYER but I did read and rather enjoyed MY PETITION FOR MORE SPACE.

    • Whare are your favorite Dean Ing works?

      I have zero hopes for Pulling Through as a novel — I’m all on board reading it through my historian lenses as an artifact of the last “Civil Defense Gap” scare in the early 80s stoked by Reagan.

      Unfortunately for my possibility of actually reviewing The Twilight Man, Andrew Darlington wrote extensively about it on his site. Moorcock even stopped by in the comments. http://andrewdarlington.blogspot.com/2017/06/michael-moorcock-twilight-man.html

      Darlignton’s writings often serve to demoralize my attempts to review the same novel… He did that with Holdstock’s brilliant Where Time Winds Blow.

      My Petition for More Space was great. This one is told entirely as the minutes of a Senate committee. We shall see if the structure works.

  2. I’ve read and reviewed Pulling Through and a fair amount of other Ing titles. You never know when you might need to build an emergency air filter out of toilet paper, cardboard, duct tape, and plastic sheeting. There’s a bit of trivia attached to the target of the nuke in the novel. It’s Charles Brown’s house, then the publisher of Locus.

      • I believe it was just a joke. There was no antipathy as far as I know. There is some dark humor in Ing. For instance, in his Ted Quantrill series, he makes Alice, Texas the center of an alternate American government. As I recently learned, Alice was instrumental (via election fraud) in launching LBJ’s political career.

        • BTW, if your doing a series on sf dealing with civil defense in the Reagan era, you probably should take a look at Ing’s Systemic Shock. As quoted in my review of it, it is quite specifically, in parts, a polemic on America’s lack of civil defense.

          • I’ll put it on the list. But yes, it does seem that Ing fell for the rhetoric hook line and sinker.

            If you have access to the Dee Garrison book I referenced in the post (maybe through ILL as it’s not the cheapest), I highly recommend it. Essentially Reagan put everyone who was in one of the right-wing nuclear war think tanks in positions of power in his administration. When I get home I can give more specifics if you’re interested.

    • I’m not sure, I haven’t read it yet. It does look like there’s a racecar on the cover… alas… hah. As I point out in the post, I’m really only interested in it as an artifact of the last gasp of Cold War “Civil Defense Gap” terror during Reagan’s administration.

  3. I’ve actually just reviewed The Child Buyer for my blog lol. I imagine it’s what the parents of gifted children used to have to go through, do you send them off where you know they will get the best education and have a good start in life, or do you let them be children longer.

  4. I’ve read what was called “The Twilight Man” under the altered title of “The Shores of Death”, which I’d say hovered somewhere between above average and fairly good in quality. To be honest and fair, I think it’s just another novel in Michael Moorcock’s rather prolific list of published novels, although it was written early in his writing career. I’ve read a small but fair number of his novels and one collection, “The Time Dweller”. I’ve felt dubious about touching his stuff because of his output and a consistently fairly low quality, although I have liked a few of his books, such as the three volume novel “The Dancers at the End of Time”.

    • I can’t remember why I picked up this particular title. I must have read about it somewhere…. But yes, I too find his work a bit on the low end other than a few wonderful visions like The Black Corridor.

      • To be honest, it does contain some excellent ideas and concepts, and has an intense, brooding and dreamy atmosphere, but the actual craftsmanship of it as I remember, is flawed and not that strong, probably because he tried to be too literary. I haven’t read “The Black Corridor. The novel I want to read by him, is “The Final Programme”, that is supposed to be among his best. I really want to read his short SF, including the novella version of “Behold the Man”.

          • I read the novel version of “Behold the Man” during my early SF reading days, which I thought was excellent then. I think the novella is probably better though

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