Category Archives: SF Book Reviews

[Short] Book Reviews: Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (1960) and Syzygy, Michael G. Coney (1973)

Note: My “to review” pile is growing. Short reviews are a way to get through the stack. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

1. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (1960)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1960 edition)

4/5 (Good)

Over the almost decade of reading for my site, I’ve enjoyed Algis Budrys’ short stories and disliked his novels. After the moody and noir(ish) Rogue Moon (1960), I’ll continue exploring his oeuvre.

Rogue Moon, one of his best-known works, is an odd and oblique read. And odd in that reviewers seem to expect the science fiction al core should be given greater weight than the melodrama… Unlike the melodrama in Michael G. Coney’s Syzygy reviewed below, Budrys’ brand engages as each of his Continue reading [Short] Book Reviews: Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (1960) and Syzygy, Michael G. Coney (1973)

Book Review: Cage a Man, F. M. Busby (1973)

(Gary Viskupic’s cover for the 1st edition)

3/5 (Average)

F. M. Busby’s Cage a Man (1973) is an exercise in discomfort and disorientation. A case study of the scarring effects of dehumanizing brutality at the hands of very alien aliens and the slow path towards recovery, Cage a Man successfully conveys the former and stumbles with the latter. Despite its flaws, Busby tells his tale with a punchy blue-collar intensity that does not shirk from Continue reading Book Review: Cage a Man, F. M. Busby (1973)

Book Review: Port Eternity, C. J. Cherryh (1982)

(Gary LaSasso’s cover for the 1983 edition)

4/5 (Good)

In my late teens I encountered the space opera of C. J. Cherryh  through the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Downbelow Station (1981).* I was hooked. Her paranoia-drenched spacescapes, interstellar freighters, the awe-inspiring cumulative world-building effect of innumerable novel sequences from distinct perspectives, and narration that dwells on psychological impact of events were my bread and butter. See below for the list of the ten (I think?) novels I’ve previously read (although many details blend together). For whatever reason I hadn’t returned to her SF in more than a decade. I am glad I did!

C. J. Cherryh’s Port Eternity (1982), part of the Age of Exploration sequence within the larger Alliance-Union world, can be read alone.  It is a claustrophobic rumination on identity Continue reading Book Review: Port Eternity, C. J. Cherryh (1982)

Book Review: Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

Lewis Shiner’s Frontera (1984), a paranoid romp across post-democratic landscapes (both Earth and Mars) of decay and corporate takeover, contains a hypnotic premise and a not entirely convincing plot. Be prepared for a maelstrom of ideas and images: Subliminal messages. An abandoned Martian colony. Implanted Biological RAM. A dangerous voyage to Mars in old NASA shuttles. Corporate mercenaries. Hyper-violence. Mutant children. Transcendent mathematics.

Recommended for fans of gritty Continue reading Book Review: Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984)

Book Review: A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge), John Christopher (1965)

(Steve Crisp’s cover for the 1985 edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

John Christopher’s A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge) (1965) is the second in my informal reading series on 50s/60s post-apocalyptic visions.  Fresh off Alfred Coppel’s moody and reflective Dark December (1960), I chose one of Christopher’s works long overshadowed by his popular Tripods trilogy (1967-68)* and more famous earlier catastrophe novel The Death of Grass (1956).* Continue reading Book Review: A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge), John Christopher (1965)

Book Review: Future Without Future, Jacques Sternberg (1971, trans. 1973)

(Rus Anderson’s cover for the 1973 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Jacques Sternberg (1923-2006) was a Belgian author who occasionally published SF, especially early in his career. Future Without Future (1971, trans. by Frank Zero 1973) contains a nearly novel-length novella “Fin de siècle” and four other bleak satirical works published between 1958 and 1971.

A worthwhile acquisition for “Fin de siècle” (1971) alone. The other stories are still worth a read. If you’re interested in SF in translation, this collection is a must have. I plan on tracking down Sternberg’s only SF novel in translation, Sexualis ’95 (1956, trans. Lowell Blair 1965). It’s a shame La sortie est au fond de l’espace (“The Way Out is at the Bottom of Space”) (1956), “a black comedy set in space and featuring the last human survivors of a bacterial Holocaust” doesn’t exist (yet!) in translation…. (See SF Encyclopedia for a rundown of his works).

Like Stanislaw Lem, Sternberg creates planetary environments and otherworldly denizens that feel truly alien. In the more dystopic works, Sternberg’s bleak outlook on humanity’s increasing inability to connect with each other and our pasts Continue reading Book Review: Future Without Future, Jacques Sternberg (1971, trans. 1973)

Book Review: The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim (1977)

(Richard Corben’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wolheim and Arthur S. Saha (1977) is a glorious anthology of SF published from the year before containing rousing works by the established masters (Isaac Asimov and Brian W. Aldiss), philosophical gems from New Wave icons (Barrington J. Bayley), and gritty and disturbing commentaries on masculinity by the newer voices (James Tiptree, Jr.). While Richard Cowper and Lester del Rey misfire, the overall quality is high for a large Continue reading Book Review: The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim (1977)