Updates: Recent SF Purchases No. CCXCVI (Harry Harrison, Carole Nelson Douglas, Terry Bisson, Star Anthology)

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

1. Planet of the Damned, Harry Harrison (serialized 1961)

From the back cover: “Brion Brandd of the Galactic CRF had a problem. It was the planet Dis. Brion’s assignment was to salvage it.

Dis was a harsh, inhospitable, dangerous place and the Disans made it worse. They might have been a human once–but they were something else now.

The Disans had only one desire–kill! Kill everything, themselves, their planet, the universe if they could–

BRION HAD MINUTES TO STOP THEM–IF HE COULD FIND OUT HOW!”

Initial Thoughts: Smells like a variation of Harrison’s Deathworld (1960), which I never managed to review, from a year earlier. Which isn’t a good sign… Planet of the Damned was a finalist for the 1962 Hugo for Best Novel. It lost to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).

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Book Review: Universe 12, ed. Terry Carr (1982) (Kim Stanley Robinson, Howard Waldrop, Nancy Kress, R. A. Lafferty, et al.)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

My fifth sojourn to Terry Carr’s Universe series of original anthologies (17 volumes published between 1971-1987) embodies the reasons I gravitate towards the medium: I discover new authors, I reassess old opinions, and deepen my understanding of my favorites. Recommended for Nancy Kress’ rumination on a childhood wrecked by insanity; Kim Stanley Robinson’s character piece on Mars transforming; Howard Waldrop’s account of obsession in an apocalyptic past; and Bruce McAllister’s tale of an astronaut returning home and the lies we tell.

Recommended for fans of more introspective early 80s SF.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“A Pursuit of Miracles” (1982), George Turner, 3/5 (Average): The Australian author and SF critic George Turner (1916-1997) published his first science fiction at 62! It’s never too late to start. A few years ago I read Turner’s first novel Beloved Son (1978) in the Ethical Culture trilogy. While the details have faded from memory as I never got around to writing a review, I remember how fascinated I was by the exploration of a post-Holocaust world by a returning expedition in the first half of the novel. The second half faded and grew increasingly ponderous and I’m not sure I finished….

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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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Future Media Short Story Review: Pat Cadigan’s “Rock On” (1984)

Today I’ve reviewed the twelfth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future–and the first from the early 1980s. Pat Cadigan howls a ghastly punk scream into the vastness of the night.

Previously: Ann Warren Griffith’s “Captive Audience” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (August 1953). You can read it online here.

Up Next: TBD

3.75/5 (Good)

Pat Cadigan’s “Rock On” first appeared in Light Years and Dark: Science Fiction and Fantasy of and for Our Time, ed. Michael Bishop (1984). You can read it online here.

Whenever I delve into the nihilistic streets of cyberpunk, I enter the mental soundscape and acute estrangement imbued by the seminal 80s goth/post punk band The Cure: “scarred, your back was turned / Curled like an embryo” (“Cold” from Pornography, 1982). Robert Smith’s incantation of “a shallow grave / A monument to the ruined age” almost personifies cyberpunk’s fleeting but terrible power and apocalyptic conceptions of dark streets and conglomerates stamping out the last individuals finding their way across the net.

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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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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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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVI (Vonda N. McIntyre, Thomas Burnett Swann, William Melvin Kelley, and a World’s Best Science Fiction Anthology)

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

1. Where is the Bird of Fire?, Thomas Burnett Swann (1970)

From the back cover: “Were the mythical monsters our ancestors spoke of so often more than fantasy? Is it not probable that these semi-human races existed–and that only human vanity has blurred their memory?

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Short Book Reviews: Octavia E. Butler’s Dawn (1987), Robert Holdstock’s Where Time Winds Blow (1981), and Philippe Curval’s Brave Old World (1976, trans. 1981)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack before the new year and my memory/will fades. Unfortunately, I left two of my favorite reads of the year for last. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

1. Where Time Winds Blow, Robert Holdstock (1981)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

I cannot properly review Where Time Winds Blow (1981). Sometimes, while perambulating the interwebs, I encounter a singular encapsulation of a text’s brilliance that defeats all my own attempts to write constructively about a book. I blame Andrew Darlington’s brilliant review/article on Robert Holdstock contextualizing the novel within his early oeuvre. The short paragraph below–an attempt to convince you to procure a copy–is indebted to his review. Please read his review! There are fan writers and then there are fan writers. Darlington should receive a Hugo nod.

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