Book Review: The Ship Who Sang, Anne McCaffrey (1969)

(The Brothers Hildebrandt’s cover for the 1976 edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

Cyborgs. Grand adventure. Space plagues. Theater performances for aliens. Trauma and recovery. Anne McCaffrey’s fix-up novel The Ship Who Sang (1969) is comprised of four previously published short fictions and one specially written for the volume (listed below). The fourth section, published in Analog Science Fiction/Science Fact (June 1969) ed. John Campbell, Jr.  as “Dramatic Mission” (1969), was nominated for both the Nebula and Hugo Award (1970) for best novella. The stories follow the space opera adventures and emotional development of the cyborg Continue reading Book Review: The Ship Who Sang, Anne McCaffrey (1969)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIV (John Shirley, Carol Emshwiller, Daniel Walther, and Jacques Sternberg)

1. Few themes make me as excited as dystopic urbanism: the city or suburbia as an arena of all the malignancies of societal decay. The progressive SF symbol of progress, a lake of uplifting spires, tossed into anarchy and chaos….

John Shirley’s City Come A-Walking (1980) takes this premise to its extremes—the city of San Francisco, the “pulsing heart of urbanized madness” gains sentience. Definitely the Shirley novel I’ll read first (recently nabbed Shirley’s 1985 novel Eclipse).

Tarbandu read it and didn’t care for it over at The PorPor Books Blog. I hope my experience is different!

2. Back in 2017, I read and reviewed Carol Emshwiller’s masterful short story “Animal” (1968). It’s about time I read more of her short fictions.

3. I recently read and enjoyed Jacques Sternberg’s collection Future Without Future (1971, trans. 1973). He was a Belgian author who wrote in French. Unfortunately, the only other one of his SF works available in English is Sexualis ’95 (1965, trans. 1967). I’m not sure this erotic SF novel has any merit. We shall see.

Too bad his first SF novel La sortie est au fond de l’espace (1956) remains untranslated. Its premise seems like SF I could get behind: “a black comedy set in space and featuring the last human survivors of a bacterial Holocaust” (SF Encyclopedia).

4. Daniel Walther, a French SF author, positions The Book of Shai (1982, trans. C. J. Cherryh, 1984) as a deliberate anti-Ayn Rand novel. Considering the one man saves everything nature of so many post-apocalyptical and sword-and-sorcery adventures, I’m intrigued how it plays out! I don’t have high hopes.

Translated by fellow author C. J. Cherryh, who appeared to translate a bunch of the DAW French editions….  lists of translations should be a feature of her  isfdb.org listing — alas.

I also find it humorous that Cherryh gives the sequel, which she also translated, 1 star on Goodreads! The third volume of the trilogy remains untranslated.

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1. City Come A-Walking, John Shirley (1980)

(Catherine Huerta’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIV (John Shirley, Carol Emshwiller, Daniel Walther, and Jacques Sternberg)

Book Review: New Writings in SF 7, ed. John Carnell (1971)

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

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Preliminary publication note: The UK and US editions of the New Writings in Science Fiction anthology series (1964-1977) varied in content—even volumes indicated by the same number. They are often treated as separate entries in the isfdb.org anthology listing. I read and reviewed the US edition.

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The back cover of New Writings in Science Fiction 7 (1971), ed. John Carnell promises a form of “future shock”—plunging us into a world derived from ours but foreign and alien. Is the collection successful? As with the three other volumes in this anthology series I’ve read—New Writings in SF 4 (1965), New Writings in SF 6 (1965), and New Writings in SF 9 (191972)–the answer is a mixed “somewhat.”

In the volumes I’ve explored so far, Vincent King is the biggest surprise—i.e. an author I had never read who produces regularly solid work. As with “Testament” (1968), King’s “Defence Mechanism” (1966) evokes “existential emptiness” Continue reading Book Review: New Writings in SF 7, ed. John Carnell (1971)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIII (Mary Gentle, Robert Reed, Mike Resnick, and Jayge Carr)

1. As a historian, I am particularly fascinated by future histories—stories or novels chronologically organized to convey the historical scope of a society’s evolution. Mike Resnick, a new author to me, presents a future history in the form of linked original short stories. The format reminds me of Michael Bishop’s Catacomb Years (1979), although the stories in the latter volume were previously published.

Barry N. Malzberg also tried his hand at a future history (albeit, a distinctly Malzbergian take) in the underrated Universe Day (1971).

2. I’ve read extensively about Mary Gentle but I haven’t picked up one of her novels–until now. I’d love to know your thoughts on this one.

3. Jayge Carr is best known for Leviathan’s Deep (1979) which I bought a few years back but haven’t read. Here’s a lesser known work—it only received one printing—in a trilogy.

4. And finally, another complete unknown…. SF Encyclopedia describes Robert Reed’s first novel, The Leeshore (1987), as “a tale which combines adventure-sf plotting (a pair of twins, the sole humans left on the eponymous water-covered colony planet, must guide a task force in pursuit of the Computer-worshiping zealots who have killed everyone else) with an almost mystical sense for the genius of place, the intricacies of self-hood.”

Count me intrigued! I’m all for unusual planets…..

As always, let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!

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1. Birthright: The Book of Man, Mike Resnick (1982)

(Uncredited cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIII (Mary Gentle, Robert Reed, Mike Resnick, and Jayge Carr)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Space Elephants!

(Tony Roberts’ (?) cover for the 1975 edition of Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home (1973), James Tiptree, Jr.)

Here’s a lighthearted themed science fiction art post on elephants, elephantine aliens, and prehistoric mammoths that I’ve cobbled together over the last few weeks. Elephants have always made me happy–especially baby elephants…. and yes, I have been known to watch Youtube videos of baby elephant antics. I digress.

The SF novel that first came to mind was Robert Silverberg’s masterful rumination on colonization on a decaying world Downward to the Earth (1970). Rather than Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Space Elephants!

Updates: A New Resource on Sports and Games in Science Fiction

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1972 edition of The Space Olympics (1967), A. M. Lightner)

Official Resource Page LINK (this will be updated based on your suggestions).

In the era of Covid-19, sports leagues and events around the world have been cancelled. ESPN runs replays of the glorious past…. partial sports fans like myself miss Major League Soccer and the conclusions to various European football leagues. I thought it would be fun to put together a new resource on Sports and Games in Science Fiction. And, these resources serve as a way to organize my reviews (links provided).

To quote from my review of William Harrison’s “Roller Ball Murder” (1973), “I am (generally) not a fan of sports. I am a fan of science fiction about sports. More specifically, I’m a proponent of sports as a SF vehicle for social commentary on commercialism, trauma, alienation, and violence.”

One last thing before I discuss the list I’ve compiled, let me know your favorites. I am open to tracking a bunch down for my reading pleasure in this sports-deprived Continue reading Updates: A New Resource on Sports and Games in Science Fiction

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Strange Visages of Burt Shonberg (1933-1977)

(Burt Shonberg, 1964 Ibiza Spain)

Burt Shonberg (1933-1977) produced only one SF cover for the Fantastic Science Fiction Stories (June 1960), ed. Cele Goldsmith. I adore the etched helmet, the lack of a distinct face, the looking backward at a similar form emerging…. I wish more magazines commissioned covers from him–he could have added a nice visual wrinkle to the fair of the day. Here’s the isfdb.org listing for the issue–do you know which story he’s illustrating?

(Fantastic Science Fiction Stories (June 1960), ed. Cele Goldsmith)

So who was he? His biography, which the following paragraph is based on, lays out an intriguing life. Born in Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Strange Visages of Burt Shonberg (1933-1977)