Tag Archives: aliens

Short Story Reviews: Phyllis MacLennan’s “A Contract in Karasthan” (1963), “Thus Love Betrays Us” (1972), and “A Day in the Apotheosis of the Welfare State” (1975)

Between 1963 and 1980, American SFF author Phyllis MacLennan (1920-1912) published one novel and seven short stories (bibliography and obituary). She served as a translator and linguist in Military Intelligence during WWII.  As I can find little about her work online, I decided to review three of her SFF short fictions. Perhaps they’ll inspire me to pick up her sole novel Turned Loose on Idra (1970), which I bought in 2014.


Vincent Di Fate’s cover for The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, September 1972

“Thus Love Betrays Us” (1972), 4.5/5 (Very Good): First appeared in the September 1972 issue of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Edward L. Ferman. Read the story here.

Deirdre, a night-less and oppressive world filled with thick mists and layers of moss, had only just been Continue reading Short Story Reviews: Phyllis MacLennan’s “A Contract in Karasthan” (1963), “Thus Love Betrays Us” (1972), and “A Day in the Apotheosis of the Welfare State” (1975)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Surrealism of Carlos Ochagavia, Part I

Canvas for the 1977 edition of Universe 7, ed. Terry Carr (1978)

The covers for Pocket Books and Popular Library tend not to scream “visual zeitgeist of the 70s” like the catalogs of DAW, Ace, and Del Rey/Ballantine Books (note 1). But amongst the former’s primarily forgettable stable of artists who are often uncredited (2), a few gems emerge–notably the work of Carlos Ochagavia (1913-2006) (3).

I cannot find more than a few sentences of biographical material on Ochagavia online. He was born in Spain and moved at a young age to Argentina. He arrived in the United States Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Surrealism of Carlos Ochagavia, Part I

Book Review: Doctor to the Stars, Murray Leinster (1964)

John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1964 edition

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

I am fascinated by medical-themed science fiction. While my tendencies gravitate towards  the more meta-fictional/experimental takes of this theme, for example William Kotzwinkle’s Doctor Rat (1976) and Elizabeth Baines’ The Birth Machine (1983), I wanted expand my horizons by reading earlier incarnations of the subgenre.

Murray Leinster’s Doctor to the Stars (1964) gathers three stories published in the late 50s and early 60s in the Med Series sequence. As a whole, the stories are positivist, pro-peace, anti-big business, pro-science, and pro-service. Our hero Calhoun, Continue reading Book Review: Doctor to the Stars, Murray Leinster (1964)

Book Review: The Dead Astronaut, ed. uncredited (1971) (J. G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, et al.)

(Pompeo Posar’s cover for the 1st edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

“The dead astronaut: The phrase is filled with anxiety, the words themselves evoking the tension and anguish that gripped the whole world in that fateful month of April 1970, when a technical malfunction came close to costing the lives of astronauts Lovell, Swigert and Haise” (5).

The Dead Astronaut (1971) contains a range of 50s and 60s SF stories—from Ursula K. Le Guin to J. G. Ballard—on the broad theme of astronauts, that appeared in Playboy Magazine. For a  reader of genre for only the last decade (and a bit), it’s shocking to consider that Playboy, at one point, contained top-notch science fiction! That aside, The Dead Astronaut contains a range of soft and hard science fictional accounts of astronauts Continue reading Book Review: The Dead Astronaut, ed. uncredited (1971) (J. G. Ballard, Ursula K. Le Guin, Arthur C. Clarke, et al.)

Book Review: The Werewolf Principle, Clifford D. Simak (1967)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1st edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

“Have you ever thought that I was frozen and thrown off the ship because they didn’t want me aboard, because I’d done something or they were afraid of me or something of the sort?” (49)

Andrew Blake, with memories of an earlier Earth, is discovered by asteroid miners frozen in a capsule. Is he the crew of a lost vessel? Was he the victim of a catastrophic accident? Or, something far more sinister? A claustrophobic and violent mission unfolds has Andrew Blake seeks to establish his identity, and the reason for the two alien voices in his head, while Continue reading Book Review: The Werewolf Principle, Clifford D. Simak (1967)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXVI (Eric Frank Russell, Cherry Wilder, Tim Powers, and Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.)

1. I adore the SF Rediscovery series published by Avon (full listing with covers here): the large size, the font and formatting, the framing of the art, and the general feel of the volume in my hand. If there’s a downside it’s the so-so quality of the art itself. I own and have reviewed two in the series previously: Barry N. Malzberg’s brilliant Revelations (1972) and E. C. Tubb’s generation ship novel The Space-Born (1955).

I have yet to read any of Eric Frank Russell’s SF—The Great Explosion (1962) seems to fit the satirical anti-Imperialism mode… we shall see!

2. A book an author whom I know little about…. Tony Roberts’ cover and the back-cover blurb intrigue!

3. Tim Powers’ first two novels were science fiction for the Laser Books imprint. I do not have high hopes (the imprint was notoriously low quality) but always enjoy exploring the early visions of authors. Miserable cover aside, it has a fun (if silly) premise!

4. A generation ship novel! (with a few unusual twists?)

Let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!

1. The Great Explosion, Eric Frank Russell (1962) (MY REVIEW)

(Chris Foss’ cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXVI (Eric Frank Russell, Cherry Wilder, Tim Powers, and Kevin O’Donnell, Jr.)

Book Review: The Night of Kadar, Garry Kilworth (1978)

(Paul Alexander’s cover for the 1980 edition)

4/5 (Good)

At first glance, Garry Kilworth’s The Night of Kadar (1978) tells the familiar tale of colonization on an alien planet filled with mysterious and hostile forces. Beneath the surface, Kilworth explores the evolution of a religious society separated from its sacred landscape  (the planet Earth) that gave birth to the first followers of the religion. This is an odd novel in the best sense of the word. I’ve discovered few 70s works that tackle Islamic religion and faith (yet alone any religion) in a non-judgmental manner. Continue reading Book Review: The Night of Kadar, Garry Kilworth (1978)

Short Book Reviews: Harry Harrison’s Captive Universe (1969), John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956), Nancy Kress’ An Alien Light (1987), and Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge (1976)

My “to review” pile is growing and my memory of them is fading… hence short—far less analytical—reviews.

1. Mindbridge, Joe Haldeman (1976)

(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Nominated for the 1977 Hugo Award

Joe Haldeman never struck me as an author who experimented with New Wave methods of telling. Mindbridge (1976) shatters my misconception. Imagine the basic plot of his masterpiece The Forever War (1975) combined with a fascinating experimental structure. The latter intrigued me far more than the former.

The Basic Plot: The Levant-Meyer Translation allows humans to instantaneously travel across the galaxy. The Tamer Agency sends its agents to investigate alien worlds. Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Harry Harrison’s Captive Universe (1969), John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956), Nancy Kress’ An Alien Light (1987), and Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge (1976)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXII (George R.R. Martin + Sheri S. Tepper + Charles Logan + Anthology of European SF)

1. I’ve scoured my online sources and finally found an affordable copy of George R. R. Martin’s Songs of Stars and Shadows (1977). It includes the first Martin short story I’ve read—“This Tower of Ashes” (1976) (I haven’t reviewed it).

2. More SF in translation! As it’s an 80s anthology it hadn’t been on my radar until recently… Terra SF (1981), the first in the series, remains prohibitively expensive. Rarely do I encounter an anthology where ALL the authors are unknown to me.

3. Another early Sheri S. Tepper novel…

4. And finally, what appears to be a radical departure from the standard Robinson Crusoe survival on an alien world novel (I’ve read a few reviews and fans of SF where man’s ingenuity wins the day might not be pleased). I adore Bergen’s cover art.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

~

1. Songs of Stars and Shadow, George R.R. Martin (1977)

(Uncredited cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXII (George R.R. Martin + Sheri S. Tepper + Charles Logan + Anthology of European SF)