Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXVIII (Tanith Lee, Michael Bishop, Ian Watson, Greg Bear, Ferenc Karinthy)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Strength of Stones, Greg Bear (1981)

From the back cover: “Ages ago this world was named God-Does-Battle. No one remembers wh. It was colonized in the most up-to-date way possible, supplied with the best Cities ever built by Robert Kahn. Huge laboratories labored for decades to produce the right combinations of plant, animal, and machine, and to fit them into the right design. The result was magnificent; living Cities, able to regenerate broken parts, to produce food on demand, and medicine, and clothing. so careful, so advanced was Robert Kahn that he even built into his Cities the ability to protect their inhabitants; to sense the presence of the occasional person whose potential for violence or cruelty made him a threat to society, to remove him from the City, and to erect walls of needle-sharp crystal to be sure he did not return.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXVII (Octavia E. Butler, Harlan Ellison, James White, Poul Anderson)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Dawn, Octavia E. Butler (1987)

From the back cover: “XENOGENESIS: The birth of something new—and foreign.

Lilith Iyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep—and found herself aboard the vast living spaceship of the Oankali. Alien creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased human strength and disease resistance, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth.

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Book Review: This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) (Zelazny, Silverberg, Aldiss, Lafferty, et al.)

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

Soldiers in mech armor plagued by existential crisis. Asexual insectoid aliens pretending to be human. Children wielding pet apes as weapons. This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) gathers eight kaleidoscopic visions from stalwarts (Roger Zelazny and Robert Silverberg) to lesser known authors (David Redd and George H. Smith). As a collated whole, this is a solid collection without a defining standout masterpiece but worth acquiring for the sheer variety and hallucinatory power of it all.

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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Ferruccio Alessandri’s Insectoid Visages and Other Nightmares

Italian artist, author, translator, and comic book critic Ferruccio Alessandri (1935-) created twenty-two covers for the Italian SF magazine Galassia (most of the issues between #109-132) in 1970. Galassia magazine was instrumental in introducing Italian audiences to the New Wave movement. Issues often contained both translations of popular English language authors and original Italian short stories and experimental visions.

As a unit, Alessandri’s covers convey a terrifying hellscape of insectoid visages (#122, #110, #128, #130), encounters with the surreal (#115), the oddly humanoid shapes (#119, #114, #116, #127), etc. Like searing flashes of a planet bathed under neon light, they are micro windows into the wonderscape of science fiction. While his Galassia covers are unconnected to the contents of the issues (to the best of my knowledge), I find their cumulative effect unsettling and alien.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXVI (Philip José Farmer, Barbara Paul, Knut Faldbakken, and Ward Moore)

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

1. Father to the Stars, Philip José Farmer (1981)

From the back cover: “John Carmody has no ethics, no morals and no conscience. Until he takes the Chance on Dante’s Joy, living through seven nights of wildest fantasies come true, he can’t even imagine why anyone would want a conscience. But Dante’s Joy is a truly strange place–and the phone calls from his murdered wife are only the beginning of his strange experiences.

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Book Review: Twilight Country, Knut Faldbakken (1974, trans. Joan Tate, 1993)

4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece)

In 1968, the moody Canadian psychedelic pop group The Poppy Family released “Of Cities and Escapes,” a haunting song of urban emptiness. The song’s narrator intones: “I live in a one-room apartment, with windows on one side / I stare through the glass ‘cross the water, to where the big, ugly city lies.” In the second verse, later sampled by Deltron 3030 on “Madness” (2000), the narrator cannot escape the death spiral: “I’m caught in the grip of the city, madness and smog.” Twilight City (1974, trans. Joan Tate, 1993), by Norwegian novelist Knut Faldbakken (1941-), delves into a similar dystopian urban gloom. The refugees of a decaying city dust off the entangling membranes of lost paths and the weight of melancholy souls and attempt to chart a new beginning in the city dump.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

In an unnamed country, the metropolis of Sweetwater–“an eruption of urban geography” (2) possessed by an “ever-growing urban sprawl” (23)–suffers under the effects of global warming, industrialization, and malignant societal decay.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXIV (Suzette Haden Elgin, Paul Cook, Herbert W. Franke, Charles Eric Maine)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Furthest, Suzette Haden Elgin (1971)

From the back cover: “Coyote Jones, agent for the Tri-Galactic Intelligence Service, had been sent to a planet so unimaginably distant from the rest of the Federation that it bore the descriptive name Furthest. His mission: to find out why the total body of data about Furthest showed the world’s inhabitants to be absolutely average down to the last decimal place. That data had to be false.

Jones was permitted to live on the planet, but the natives were so wary of him that he could uncover nothing—until he chanced into a personal crisis faced by his young Furthest assistant. The boy’s sister had been sentenced to Erasure, and he wanted Coyote Jones to take the fugitive girl in and hide her.

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Short Book Reviews: John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids (variant title: Re-Birth) (1955), John A. Williams’ Captain Blackman (1972), and Gina Berriault’s The Descent (1960)

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. The Chrysalids (variant title: Re-Birth), John Wyndham (1955)

3/5 (Average)

John Wyndham’s The Chrysalids (1955), my first exposure to his science fiction, transpires in a standard post-apocalyptic cozy catastrophe scenario with a deeply emotional core. The narrative follows David’s childhood in the backwater territories of Labrador, Canada hundreds of years after a nuclear war. The Church, inspired by Nicholson’s Repentances—which along with the Bible are only surviving books–imposes a draconian theology that “only God produces perfection” (51). Mutations, a visual sign of diabolical influence, must be destroyed. David, the son of the local strongman and preacher, discovers a young girl with a terrifying secret–she has six toes. David starts to accumulate secrets including his own mysterious telepathic abilities and recurrent dreams of a city in a world without cities. He shares them with his sympathetic Uncle Axel, who attempts to protect him from the forces narrowing in.

There are some nice touches throughout. Uncle Axel recounts his travels and knowledge of the world as a seaman and the effects is that of a medieval map, filled with pseudo-legendary beings, historical fragments, and “real” flora and fauna that, at first glance, seems too fantastic to exist (54-57).

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXII (James Tiptree, Jr., Allen F. Wold, Nova Anthology, and non-fiction on Drugs, Esoterica, and Visionary Experience in the Seventies)

As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Warm Worlds and Otherwise, James Tiptree, Jr. (1975)

From the back cover: “A DOZEN FABULOUS TALES OF INNER VISIONS AND OUTER SPACE…

LOVE IS THE PLAN, THE PLAN IS DEATH (Nebula-Award Winner—Best Short Story 1973)

Courtship rites can easily run amok, especially when that’s what’s supposed to happen… especially when the creatures are color-coded for passion as well as for death!

THE GIRL WHO WAS PLUGGED IN

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