Category Archives: SF Book Reviews

Book Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K. Le Guin (1972)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1976 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

Won the 1973 Hugo for Best Novella. Nominated for the 1973 Nebula for Best Novella.

In November 1969, word of the My Lai Massacre (March 16, 1968), where American soldiers killed (and raped and mutilated) between 347-504 unarmed South Vietnamese civilians, reached American newspapers. Ronald L. Haeberle’s iconic (and horrifying) photograph of massacred children and adults–superimposed with, “Q. And babies? A. and babies,” the chilling lines from NBC’s interview with massacre participant Paul Meadlo–was transformed into the “most successful poster” opposing the Vietnam War by the Art Workers Coalition. Ursula K.  Le Guin brilliantly channels this general anti-war anger, transposed to an alien local with colonizing humans as villains, in The Word for World is Forest (1972). Continue reading Book Review: The Word for World is Forest, Ursula K. Le Guin (1972)

Book Review: A Man of Double Deed, Leonard Daventry (1965)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1967 edition)

3/5 (Average)

Leonard Daventry’s A Man of Double Deed (1965) is an dark and grungy tale of polyamory, telepathy, and apocalyptical violence. Swinging between philosophical and emotional introspection and awkwardly explained action sequences based on the flimsiest of plots, Daventry’s novel succeeds as a noirish character study but fails as a compelling unity of parts. Continue reading Book Review: A Man of Double Deed, Leonard Daventry (1965)

Book Review: A City in the North, Marta Randall (1976)


(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1976 edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

Marta Randall’s A City in the North (1976), is a work of anthropological SF that focuses on “authentic” relationships between its human and alien characters (see note). A commentary on the societal effects and cultural disconnects between natives, explorers, and colonizers, A City in the North refuses to provide easy answers. Although retreating into an occasional stock evil character to jolt the plot forward, on the whole Randall’s novel intrigues and provokes due to the underlying mysteries of native culture and ritual.  Continue reading Book Review: A City in the North, Marta Randall (1976)

Book Review: Freezing Down, Anders Bodelsen (1969, trans. 1971)


(Cloud Studio’s cover for the 1971 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Anders Bodelsen’s Freezing Down (1969, trans. 1971) is a harrowing collision of SF tropes and the emotional landscape of Scandinavian noir. Bodelsen, “primarily associated with 1960s New-Realism in Danish literature,” might be best known to English-speaking audiences for writing the source material for the 1978 heist film The Silent Partner, starring Christopher Plummer and Elliott Gould.

Freezing Down, Bodelsen’s lone SF work, is an icy and complex (despite its brief length) speculation on the promise of immortality.  Continue reading Book Review: Freezing Down, Anders Bodelsen (1969, trans. 1971)

Book Review: New Dimensions 3, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973) (Le Guin + Tiptree, Jr. + Lafferty + Malzberg + Effinger + et al.)


(Dennis Anderson’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4/5 (Collated rating: Good)

For an anthology, bound to contain a filler story or two, this one is spectacular. Robert Silverberg’s New Dimensions 3 (1973) lives up to his claim to contain “stories that demonstrate vigorous and original ways [often experimental] of approaching the body of ideas, images, and concepts that is science fiction” yet do not sacrifice “emotional vitality, or clarity of insight.” Ursula K. Le Guin, with her rumination on utopias, and James T. Tipree, Jr.’s proto-cyberpunk tale of commercialism and performing gender, deliver some of their best work.

Continue reading Book Review: New Dimensions 3, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973) (Le Guin + Tiptree, Jr. + Lafferty + Malzberg + Effinger + et al.)

Book Review: Mindship, Gerard F. Conway (1974)

mindship conway(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1974 edition)

3/5 (Average)

“The only truth is what happens, in plain and simple reality. I’ve seen the inside of too many minds to think any man’s intentions can be good. We’re evil inside ourselves Kilgarin. We’re sick and foul and filthy. The only ones who come close to being pure are those too stupid to be anything else” (72).

Back in 2016 I read Universe 1, ed. Terry Carr (1971) and was pleasantly surprised by Gerard F. Conway’s short story “Mindship” (1971) about telepathic (“sensitive”) “corks” who calm the minds of the spaceship crews whose psychic powers run interstellar “engines.” This story forms the prologue of Conway’s novel continuation. In an odd way, the novel reinterprets the original short story and adds an additional level of mystery (it wasn’t an accidental death, it was a murder!) to its straightforward plot.

Continue reading Book Review: Mindship, Gerard F. Conway (1974)

Book Review: Emphyrio, Jack Vance (1969)


(Gino D’Achille’s cover for the 1979 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

Jack Vance’s Emphyrio (1969) is a story about how a story can create change and heighten our own yearning for escape. Although a pulp coming-of-age adventure at heart, Vance reigns in his baroque descriptive tendencies to spin a narrative that tries (successfully) to say something meaningful about the impact of storytelling.
Continue reading Book Review: Emphyrio, Jack Vance (1969)