Category Archives: SF Book Reviews

Book Review: Electric Forest, Tanith Lee (1979)

(Don Maitz’s original canvas for the 1979 edition)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

“Two years,” Claudio said. “Wasted. I used to go hunting, searching. For someone like you, my Magdala. But you’re unusual, my dear. A freak. Hard to come by. And it had to be someone like you. A genetic mistake. An atrocity, crawling about its hopeless round. Devoid of normal self-preservative wariness. Mewing, inside its warped little soul, for rescue. Not quite human. Here we are (23).”

Tanith Lee spins a gauzy, sinister, and terrifying tale of manipulative resurrection. A brilliant inventor projects the mind of a grotesque social outcast into a new transcendent body—but this isn’t an altruistic act. There’s a plot afoot. Electric Forest (1979), a shimmery nightmare of psycho-sexual manipulation,  enters my pantheon of favorite 70s SF visions.

Electric Forest demonstrates marked improvement over Don’t Bite the Sun (1976). It’s more Continue reading Book Review: Electric Forest, Tanith Lee (1979)

Book Review: The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories, Craig Strete (1977)

(Karl Stuecklen’s cover for the 1st edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

In 2015, I read and reviewed Craig Strete’s collection If All Else Fails…. (1980) and found it to be a spectacular vision “filled with gorgeous lines, evocative images” and palpable “despair at the loss of Native-American culture.” Strete, one of the few Native-American SF authors I know of, picked up three Nebula Award nominations for short SF over the 70s and early 80s (“Time Deer” in 1976, “The Bleeding Man” in 1976, and “A Sunday Visit With Great-Grandfather” in 1981 although it was withdrawn). The latter two are in this collection. The former two can be found in If All Else Fails….

Recommended for fans of experimental 70s Continue reading Book Review: The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories, Craig Strete (1977)

Book Review: The Werewolf Principle, Clifford D. Simak (1967)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1st edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

“Have you ever thought that I was frozen and thrown off the ship because they didn’t want me aboard, because I’d done something or they were afraid of me or something of the sort?” (49)

Andrew Blake, with memories of an earlier Earth, is discovered by asteroid miners frozen in a capsule. Is he the crew of a lost vessel? Was he the victim of a catastrophic accident? Or, something far more sinister? A claustrophobic and violent mission unfolds has Andrew Blake seeks to establish his identity, and the reason for the two alien voices in his head, while Continue reading Book Review: The Werewolf Principle, Clifford D. Simak (1967)

Generation Ship Short Story Review: A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II” (1947)

Preliminary note: This is the sixth post in a series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. All of the stories I’ll review are available online (see links below). You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already.

Next up: A far lesser known author and story! David Rome’s “Bliss” (1962) in Science Fiction Adventures, No. 24, ed. John Carnell (story link)

Previously: J. G. Ballard’s “Thirteen to Centaurus” (1962) in the April 1962 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith

I’ve compiled a helpful list on the theme with links to all my reviews.

(Charles Schneeman’s cover for the June 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction, ed. John W. Campbell, Jr.)

4/5 (Good)

A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II” (1947)* (story link) first appeared in the June 1947 issue of Astounding Science Fiction edited by John W. Campbell, Jr. Together with two later stories—“Rogue Ship” Continue reading Generation Ship Short Story Review: A. E. van Vogt’s “Centaurus II” (1947)

Book Review: The Night of Kadar, Garry Kilworth (1978)

(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1980 edition)

4/5 (Good)

At first glance, Garry Kilworth’s The Night of Kadar (1978) tells the familiar tale of colonization on an alien planet filled with mysterious and hostile forces. Beneath the surface, Kilworth explores the evolution of a religious society separated from its sacred landscape  (the planet Earth) that gave birth to the first followers of the religion. This is an odd novel in the best sense of the word. I’ve discovered few 70s works that tackle Islamic religion and faith (yet alone any religion) in a non-judgmental manner. Continue reading Book Review: The Night of Kadar, Garry Kilworth (1978)

Short Book Reviews: Harry Harrison’s Captive Universe (1969), John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956), Nancy Kress’ An Alien Light (1987), and Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge (1976)

My “to review” pile is growing and my memory of them is fading… hence short—far less analytical—reviews.

1. Mindbridge, Joe Haldeman (1976)

(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Nominated for the 1977 Hugo Award

Joe Haldeman never struck me as an author who experimented with New Wave methods of telling. Mindbridge (1976) shatters my misconception. Imagine the basic plot of his masterpiece The Forever War (1975) combined with a fascinating experimental structure. The latter intrigued me far more than the former.

The Basic Plot: The Levant-Meyer Translation allows humans to instantaneously travel across the galaxy. The Tamer Agency sends its agents to investigate alien worlds. Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Harry Harrison’s Captive Universe (1969), John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956), Nancy Kress’ An Alien Light (1987), and Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge (1976)

Book Review: The Space-Born, E. C. Tubb (1955)

(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1956 edition)

2.5/5 (Bad)

Almost the surprise of the year! E. C. Tubb’s The Space-Born (variant title: Star Ship) (1955) first appeared as a serial in New Worlds (April, May, and June 1955 issues). For American audiences, Tubb’s novel was paired with Philip K. Dick’s The Man Who Japed (1956) as an Ace Double. My only previous exposure to the prolific British author’s SF was “The Seekers” (1965), a paranoid vision of spacemen possessed by delusions of grandeur after their captain’s death. The Space-Born is a fascinating generation ship novel with a catastrophic Continue reading Book Review: The Space-Born, E. C. Tubb (1955)