Category Archives: SF Book Reviews

Book Review: The Two-Timers, Bob Shaw (1968)

(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1968 1st edition)

2.75/5 (Vaguely Average)

Various Bob Shaw fans told me to read Nightwalk (1967) or find a copy of Other Days, Other Eyes (1972)—especially as I adored one of the short stories that appeared in the later fix-up novel —“Light of Other Days” (1966). Instead, I cast wary eyes toward my shelves and read The Two-Timers. I wish I read Nightwalk. I tried, I must confess, but wasn’t in the mood and then something about The Two-Timers’ Diane and Leo Dillon cover—the doubling visages, contorted, anguished, and angular—pulled me in. For the full glory of the image, I’ve included a his-res scan below.

The Plot

John Breton’s relationship with his wife, Kate, is Continue reading Book Review: The Two-Timers, Bob Shaw (1968)

Book Review: The Bodyguard, Adrian Mitchell (1970)

(Roger Phillips’ cover for the 1972 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

“[Lens] Rossman’s narrative is both single-minded and rambling, a tangle of facts and fantasies, distorted sexuality, obscured dates, anti-feminism, glorified brutality and narcissism” (153).

Adrian Mitchell’s sole SF novel The Bodyguard (1970) is a perverse romp through a diseased England viewed through the eyes of an equally diseased narrator. Lens Rossman’s deathbed ramblings of his “adventures” and “training” as a B.G. (bodyguard) in his fight against “The Rot” spread by leftist subverts, is, as the “editor” of the narrative indicates in a hilarious afterword, “a tangle of facts and fantasies” and “glorified brutality” (153). Mitchell presents Rossman’s account as a ghastly artifact of a pre-revolutionary era while simultaneously suggesting that the excess Continue reading Book Review: The Bodyguard, Adrian Mitchell (1970)

Book Review: New Writings in S-F 6, ed. John Carnell (1965)

(David McCall Johnston’s art for the 1971 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Good)

New Writings in S-F 6 (1965) is the third I’ve read so far in John Carnell’s anthology series and by far the most satisfying. New Writings in S-F 4 (1965) was worthwhile only for Keith Roberts’ short story “Sub-Lim” (1965). New Writings in S-F 9 (1972) was marginally overall better with solid outings by Michael G. Coney and M. John Harrison.

The sixth in the sequence offers an intriguing Keith Roberts novella–that takes up almost half the volume–and a kaleidoscope of other moody (albeit lesser) visions from William Spencer, John Baxter, and E.C. Tubb.

Brief Analysis/Summary

“The Inner Wheel” (1965), Keith Roberts, 4/5 (Good): A few months ago I procured a copy of Keith Roberts’ linked series of short stories containing the titular “The Inner Wheel” and chose this particular New Writings in SF volume because of the story. I suspect I won’t be returning to the “novel” Continue reading Book Review: New Writings in S-F 6, ed. John Carnell (1965)

Book Review: Damnation Alley, Roger Zelazny (1969)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1969 edition)

3/5 (Average)

As I read Roger Zelazny’s post-apocalyptical adventure Damnation Alley (1969), the relentless throbbing of Hawkwind’s 1977 song inspired by the novel along with cringeworthy lines of dialogue from the 1977 film version kept interjecting themselves into my reading experience.

First, a snippet from the song….

I’ve got the serum and I’m going to take it
All the way to Boston, oh I’ve got to get through
The going won’t be easy, but I’m going to make it
It’s the only thing that I’m cut out to do
Ride the post-atomic radioactive trash
The sky’s on fire from the nuclear flash
Driving through the burning hoop of doom,
In an eight wheeled anti-radiation tomb
Thank you Dr. Strangelove for going doolally,
and leaving me the heritage of Damnation Alley […].

Absent from Hawkwind’s interpretation that Continue reading Book Review: Damnation Alley, Roger Zelazny (1969)

Book Review: The Hospital Ship, Martin Bax (1976)

(Uncredited cover for the 1976 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

The Lure. A nuclear powered hospital ship with a giant morgue. “THEY ARE CRUCIFYING US.” Love therapy. Will you move from your fetal position?

“1. Are you in love? [with Bax’s The Hospital Ship] (a) Yes (b) No.” (170)

Joachim Boaz scrawls…

First, musical equivalencies. Francis Dhomont, a French composer of electroacoustic / acousmatic music, stitched together the compositions of his students and friends to form the Frankenstein Symphony (1997). This act of creative compilation, compiling previously gathered and arranged found sounds, brought forth, in his words, “[a] little acousmatic monster which I hold particularly close to my heart.”

For the composer, each musical fragment indicates a personal connection, the weaving together creates a tapestry of his intellectual Continue reading Book Review: The Hospital Ship, Martin Bax (1976)

Book Review: Larger Than Life, Dino Buzzati (1960, trans. 1962)

(Lena Fong Lueg’s cover for the 1967 edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

Dino Buzzati (1906-1972), best known for his masterpiece of Italian literature The Tartar Steppe (1940), was a central figure of the Italian avant-garde. He was a journalist, author, unabashed utilizer of genre tropes (graphic novels, SF, children’s fiction), and artist. Buzzati’s Larger Than Life (1960) is considered by some scholars to be the “first serious novel of Italian science fiction” (see 335-336 in the Encyclopedia of Italian Literary Studies).

Translated by the British poet Henry Reed in 1962, Larger Than Life applies Buzzati’s technique of direct, almost journalistic clarity, to a Kafka-esque scenario that is laid out in the first few paragraphs. In the prologue to the collection Restless Nights – Selected Stories of Dino Buzzati (1983) he describes his technique: “It seems to me, fantasy should be as close as possible to Continue reading Book Review: Larger Than Life, Dino Buzzati (1960, trans. 1962)

Book Review: World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr (1967)

(Jack Gaughan’s cover for the 1970 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Philip K. Dick. Roger Zelazny. Bob Shaw. Michael Moorcock. R. A. Lafferty. Seldom do I say that a “best of” anthology includes a large number of the best stories of the year. From PKD’s artificial memories to Bob Shaw’s slow glass,  World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (1967) contains both fascinating technological marvels and serious character-centered storytelling. While not all the stories are successful, I highly recommend this collection for fans of 60s SF.

Note: I reviewed both Roger Zelazny stories elsewhere—I have linked and quoted my original reviews.

Brief Analysis/Plot Summary

“We Can Remember It for You Wholesale” (1966) Continue reading Book Review: World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr (1967)