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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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Johann Peter Reuter’s Surreal Forms Arrayed Across the Plains

German painter and graphic designer Johann Peter Reuter (1949-) created fourteen credited covers for German SF presses between 1977-1984.  I have identified a potential fifteenth cover included below–the 1977 edition of Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953)–that I believe fits his style and date range. From the information gleaned from his homepage, Reuter’s SF output occurred in the first few years as a freelance artist after studying art in Dortmund. He started as a figurative painter before evolving to non-figurative forms (brief artist blurb).

If you’re interested in his non-SF art, check out his fascinating series of paintings from 2004 on the visualization of the mass.

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Adventures in Science Fiction Interior Art: Monday Maps and Diagrams 2/22/21: Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality of Mankind Timeline

Detail from Darrel K. Sweet’s cover for the 1st paperback edition of The Best from Cordwainer Smith (1975)

Today’s installment of my occasional Monday Maps and Diagrams series is a self-reminder that I must get over the poor taste left in my mouth by two forgettable Cordwainer Smith short stories and dive into the meat of his Instrumentality of Mankind sequence. Which should I have read?

I’m a sucker for future history timelines (Olaf Stapledon, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov come to mind). They add a sense of time and scope to what, at first glance, might seem like disparate pieces. I often wonder how much an author plans out a timeline. This one, scanned from The Best of Cordwainer Smith (1975), places each of the Instrumentality of Mankind stories into a functional timeline. I’m assuming it adds to the series’ sense of historical development and societal evolution?

Let me know what you think of the series and the timeline in the comments!

John J. Pierce’s timeline (he wrote the intro article) in the 1975 Ballantine Paperback edition

Isfdb.org note on the timeline’s publication history: “There are (at least) 2 variants of this timeline. A table version titled The Instrumentality of Mankind appears in the original July 1975 Nelson Doubleday hardcover. A reformatted graphical version titled Timeline from THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF MANKIND appears in Continue reading

Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCLXVII (Daniel F. Galouye, Gordon Eklund, Lisa Tuttle, George R. R. Martin, and Andrew Sinclair)

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

1. Windhaven, George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle (1981)

Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “The planet Windhaven was settled by humans after the crash of a colony starship. Survivors discovered that people could actually fly on this world, aided by the light gravity and dense atmosphere, and using wings made from a virtually indestructible metal fabric that had once been part of the starship. On this planet of small islands, monster-infected seas Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXVII (Ben Bova, Margaret O’Donnell, Dennis Schmidt, and a themed anthology on gentle invaders)

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

1. Millennium: A Novel About People and Politics in the Year 1999, Ben Bova (1976)

Fred Marcellino’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “We are thrust into the terrifying world of the future in this chilling novel about people and politics in the year 1999. The Earth’s population has soared to eight billion. The two major powers are on the brink of nuclear war as they vie for control of the planet’s dwindling supply of natural resources.

Meanwhile, a few hundred kilometers above the Earth’s surface, on their respective Moon colonies, the United States Continue reading

Book Review: Infinity One, ed. Robert Hoskins (1970) (Poul Anderson, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, Miriam Allen deFord, et al.)

This anthology contains the 4th post in a loose series on SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them. I decided to review the entire anthology!

Today: Katherine MacLean’s “Echo” (1970), 3.75/5 (Good). The entire anthology is available online here

Previously: William Tenn’s “Down Among the Dead Men” (1954)in the June 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.

Up Next: Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” (1959) in the October 1959 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills. You can read the story online here.

Jim Steranko’s cover for the 1st edition

3/5 (Collated rating: Average)

Robert Hoskins “resurrected” Infinity Science Fiction magazine (1955-1958) as a five volume anthologies series between 1970-1973. The first volume, Infinity One (1970), contains sixteen original stories and one reprint from the original magazine–Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star” (1955). SF Encyclopedia describes the anthology series as “a competent but not outstanding series.”

Eight of the seventeen stories fall into the “good” category. While none are masterpieces, Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke, Barry N. Malzberg co-writing with Kris Neville, Katherine MacLean, Gene Wolfe, and Poul Anderson Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXVI (Pamela Sargent, Warren Miller, Robert Thurston, and a Themed Anthology on Deep Space)

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

Preliminary Note: I’ve made two big changes to the site. My revamped review index now contains every single short story and novel I’ve reviewed on the site listed by author. In the past, you had to sift through the anthologies to find short stories. Hopefully this is easier to navigate [you better say yes — it took me more than eight hours — hah]. Let me know if it is a useful change.

I’ve also updated the site template to make it easier to navigate on a mobile device. I still like my old template but this seems functionally identical and visually similar.

Now to the science fiction!


1. Deep Space, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973)

John Berkey’s cover for the 1976 edition

From the back cover: “Beyond the rim of the solar system, past the orbit of Pluto, far into uncharted space, a man in a life hutch is held prisoner by a deranged robot. A galactic agent learns that there is a cosmic reason for his distasteful, dangerous job. A man discovers he is the only human being not controlled by an analogue—an invisible guardian. And the planet Centaurus holds Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Italian Tanith Lee Covers by Allison (aka Mariella Anderlini)

Allison’s cover for the 1978 Italian edition of Tanith Lee’s Volkhavaar (1977)

Mariella Anderlini (aka Allison) (d. 1992) was a behemoth of Italian SF art (note 1). Her covers graced entire years of science fiction editions for various Italian presses—for example, she illustrated the complete Slan. Il Meglio della Fantascienza series for Libra Editrice. Her work was ubiquitous and fantastic.

Over the years, loose cover art post sequences emerge from the back catalog of my site (both conscious and unconscious)–and one topic I return to regularly are SF covers by Italian women. Female Italian cover artists in the decades I am most interested in (50s-mid-80s), made up a far larger percentage Continue reading