Short Book Reviews: Michael G. Coney’s Monitor Found in Orbit (1974) and Ron Goulart’s After Things Fell Apart (1970)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack before my memory and will fades. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.


1. Monitor Found in Orbit, Michael G. Coney (1974)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

I’ve long enjoyed Michael G. Coney’s science fiction–check out Friends Come in Boxes (1973), Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975), “Those Good Old Days of Liquid Fuel” (1977), and my recent rumination on “The Mind Prison” (1971) (which appears in this collection) for my Generation Ship Short Story Review series. Unfortunately, the majority of the stories in Monitor Found in Orbit (1974), his only published short story collection, are middling at best. I waited far too long to review this one! Despite the presences of some solid to good stories, I can only provide brief summaries at this point without a reread.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCIII (Theodore Sturgeon, Kevin O’Donnell, Jr., R. M. Meluch, Ian Macpherson)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Synthetic Man (variant title: The Dream Jewels), Theodore Sturgeon (1950)

From the back cover: “SUPERKIDDO! He ran away from home into the carny world. Noname “Kiddo,” disguised as a little girl in a freak show. What he didn’t know didn’t exist. What he couldn’t do was unimaginable. What he hadn’t asked was obvious: ‘Who am I and where did I come from?'”

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCXCII (Jack Vance, Craig Strete, Cherry Wilder, Giorgio De Maria)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Brave Free Men, Jack Vance (magazine 1972)

From the back cover: “The Faceless Man was a prisoner in his own palace and his power over the people of Durdane was in the hands of another–the hands of Gestel Etzwane, a youth whose thirst for vengeance against the dreaded Roguskhoi would slacken only in oceans of their blood.

But to destroy the Roguskhoi, Gastel would have to unite a world that survived by its separateness. To do this was more than dangerous, but Gestel had little choice. He would return to the people control of their lives–and send them to fight to their death…”

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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Pop Collage of Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann, Part II

In 2021, I posted Part I of my Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art series on the Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann. Between 1966 and 1971, they created a kaleidoscopic array of psychedelic visions for the German press Heyne Bücher. I described their art as follows: “Pop surrealism? Lowbrow art? The Andy Warhol effect? However you classify Atelier Heinrichs & Bachmann’s covers […] they’re gleeful and sarcastic.” And despite a few readers who disliked their exuberant/chaotic hilarity (someone described them as the “very nadir in SF cover art”), I stand by my positive assessment. And I bring you Part II of my series!

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCI (James White, Joan D. Vinge, D. G. Compton, Somtow Sucharitkul)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Escape Orbit (variant title: Open Prison), James White (1964)

From the back cover: “STRANDED ON A PLANET OF MONSTERS. When the survivors of the his starship were taken prisoner by the insec-creatures against whom Earth had fought a bitter war for nearly a century, Sector Marshal Warren expected to be impounded in a prison camp like those the Earthmen maintained. But the “Bugs” had a simpler method of dealing with prisoners–they dumped them on an uninhabited planet, without weapons or tools, and left them to fend for themselves against the planet’s environment and strange monsters. A “Bug” spaceship orbited above, guarding them.

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Book Review: Dreamsnake, Vonda N. McIntyre (1978)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Won the 1979 Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award for Best Novel.

I’ve now tackled the only pre-1990 Hugo Award-winning novel I had yet to read. And I was not disappointed. Fresh off Vonda N. McIntyre’s ingenious generation ship short story “The Mountains of Sunset, The Mountains of Dawn” (1974) with its winged-alien voyagers, I savored Dreamsnake‘s original blend of feminist science fiction and post-apocalyptic quest tale.

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Short Fiction Reviews: Eleanor Arnason’s “A Clear Day in the Motor City” (1973), “Ace 167” (1974), and “The Warlord of Saturn’s Moons” (1974)

In the past few months, I’ve put together an informal series on the first three published short fictions by female authors who are completely new to me or whose most famous SF novels fall mostly outside the post-WWII to mid-1980s focus of my reading adventures. So far I’ve featured Carol Emshwiller (1921-2019), Nancy Kress (1948-), Melisa Michaels (1946-2019), and Lee Killough (1942-). To be clear, I do not expect transformative or brilliant things from first stories. Rather, it’s a way to get a sense of subject matter and concerns that first motivated authors to put pen to paper.

Today I’ve selected an author I’ve never read–Eleanor Arnason (1942-). According to SF Encyclopedia, most of her best-known science fiction appeared from the mid-1980s onward with To the Resurrection Station (1986) (which I own), A Woman of the Iron People (1991), Changing Women (1992), and the Hwarhath sequence (1993-2012). Unfortunately, I did not encounter her work in my late teens and early 20s when I read science fiction more widely.

I’d rank Eleanor Arnason’s first three published short fictions as the most auspicious start of the those I’ve covered so far. Her stories–often self-consciously in dialogue with pulp worlds and plots–demonstrate a fascination with ritualized landscapes and behaviors and feature female narrators attempting to find their place in strange new worlds.

Let me know which Arnason fictions–perhaps from much later in her career–resonate with you.

3.5/5 (Good)

“A Clear Day in the Motor City” first appeared in New Worlds 6, ed. Michael Moorcock and Charles Platt (1973). This does not seem to be available online. If you find it, let me know.

Like a cryptic quilt, a strange ritualized landscape drapes across the polluted industrial expanse of Detroit and Windsor. On clear air holidays, when “the Seven Sisters” were visible from the roof of a nearby office building, CEOs adorn “wreaths of plastic oak leaves” and release pigeons to “whoever’s responsible for the weather, to bear our thanks to him, her, it or them” (187).

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXC (Robert Silverberg, Octavia E. Butler, Walter M. Miller, Jr., Gérard Klein)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Darfsteller and Other Stories, Walter M. Miller, Jr. (1982)

From the back cover: “Walter M. Miller, Jr., wrote A CANTICLE FOR LEIBOWITZ, and changed the nature of science fiction, forever. Now, collected together for the first time are some of his most gripping masterpieces, including the Hugo Award-winning ‘The Darfsteller’ and ‘Crucifixius Etiam.'”

Contents: “The Darfsteller” (1955), “The Will” (1954), “Vengeance for Nikolai” (variant title: “The Song of marya”) (1957), “Crucifixus Etiam” (1953), “I, Dreamer” (1953), “The Lineman” (1957), “Big Joe and the Nth generation” (variant title: “It Takes a Thief”) (1952), “You Triflin’ Skunk” (1955).

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Update: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXIX (Nevil Shute, Nancy Kress, Hilbert Schenck, and a themed-anthology on future sex)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Shape of Sex to Come, ed. Douglas Hill (1978)

From the back cover: “Eight stories from SF names as highly-respected as Aldiss, Moorcock and Silverberg explore the strange and bizarre possibilities for sexuality in the furthest reaches of tomorrow.”

Contents: Robert Silverberg’s “In the Group” (1973), Thomas M. Disch’s “Planet of the Rapes” (1977), A. K. Jorgensson’s “Coming-of-Age Day” (1965), Anne McCaffrey’s “The Thorns of Barevi” (1970), Brian W. Aldiss’ “A One-Man Expedition Through Life” (1974), Brian W. Aldiss’ “The Taste of Shrapnel” (1974), Brian W. Aldiss’ “Forty Million Miles from the Nearest Blonde” (1974), Hilary Bailey’s “Sisters” (1976), John Sladek’s “Machine Screw” (1975), and Michael Moorcock’s “Pale Roses” (1974).

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