Tag Archives: avant-garde

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIII (Stanley G. Weinbaum, Monique Wittig, Wayland Drew, Anthology)

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

1. The Memoirs of Alcheringia, Wayland Drew (1984)

Darrell K. Sweet’s cover for the 1984 edition

From the back cover: “What began as just another Alcheringian raiding party—sanctioned by the chief and approved by the Gods—had gradually become a war to the death.

But noting was quite as it seemed to the primitives of Norriya, for forces they could hardly comprehend were influencing events from offstage. More than tribal honor Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLIII (Stanley G. Weinbaum, Monique Wittig, Wayland Drew, Anthology)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLI (J. G. Ballard, Marie C. Farca, John Shirley, Michael Blumlein)

Note: I’ve changed the post title “Acquisitions” to “Purchases” for the sake of clarity. Some readers (especially on twitter) assume I’ve read these books. I’ve just bought them! (or they are unread books from a pile I bought a while back but never processed). These posts provide my initial half-formed thoughts, links to related reviews, front cover scans of my personal copies (unless noted), and back-cover info. For full-formed thoughts on books check out my reviews. I’ve also changed the format. My “initial thoughts” can now be found after the back cover blurb. Let me know if the format changes are helpful.

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

1. The Wind From Nowhere, J. G. Ballard (serialized 1961)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1962 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLI (J. G. Ballard, Marie C. Farca, John Shirley, Michael Blumlein)

Book Review: City Come A-Walkin’, John Shirley (1980)

(Catherine Huerta’s cover for the 1st edition)

4/5 (Good)

“It’s the gestalt of the whole place, this whole fuckin’ city, rolled up in one man. Sometimes the world takes the shape of gods and those gods take the form of men. Sometimes. This time. That’s a whole city, that man” (18).

John Shirley’s City Come A-Walkin’ (1980), an early cyberpunk novel, succeeds as a surreal and earthy paean to  diverse urban community and punk rebellion. A club owner and angst rocker join forces with a physical manifestation of San Francisco to fight the forces of technological change. While a brilliant evocation of aesthetic and emotion with sympathetic main Continue reading Book Review: City Come A-Walkin’, John Shirley (1980)

Book Review: Termush, Sven Holm (1967, trans. 1969)

(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

“[He] maintained that it was in fact essential to conceal what could be concealed; indeed, an inspired lie could be preferred to a malignant truth” (24).

Sven Holm’s Termush (1967, trans. 1969) depicts, with stark minimalism, the psychological state of wealthy survivors holed up in a hotel shelter after an apocalyptic nuclear event. This brief work, a mere 110 pages, is not an adventure story. It is not an exercise in nightmarish brutality like The Road (2006) or an account of humanity’s turn towards evil as the gauze of “civilization” falls away like The Death of Grass(1956).

Rather, Sven Holm (1940-2019) (SF Encyclopedia entry), a Danish author of mainstream literature, delves into the psyche of the survivors, their isolation and inability to grasp the immensity of the changes beyond their walls, and their Continue reading Book Review: Termush, Sven Holm (1967, trans. 1969)

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 Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)

(Detail from Bob Haberfield’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “One” (1998), Seven of Nine, unaffected by a nebula’s subatomic radiation, must care for the crew while they’re placed in stasis. Alone on the ship, Seven experiences the prolonged effects of isolation including disturbing dreams and hallucinations. Ever since I saw “One” as a child, I’ve become fascinated with the strategies that humans might use in space to cope with isolation and the rituals they might enact to preserve sanity. Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey’s The Black Corridor (1969) (see note below), explores Continue reading Book Review: The Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVIII (Mary Gentle, Philip Wylie, Bruce Sterling, and a New Dimensions anthology)

1. More post-apocalyptic fictions…. I dunno about exclamation points in titles! More seriously, I’ve yet to read any of Philip Wylie’s novels—this one is at the top of the list.

2. Before I explore an author’s best known fictions, I enjoy nosing about the periphery first. Here’s Mary Gentle’s first collection of short fiction (I’m most interested in the SF stories).

3. I might have read Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net (1988) in my late teens. I know I had a copy that I gave away. I can’t remember anything about it other than the cover–if there’s a cover that screams 80s cyberpunk it’s that one!

I’ve previously reviewed Sterling’s Involution Ocean (1977).

A little research reveals the female figure was repurposed (sans the original spaceship background) from an earlier Luis Royo cover—Mike Resnick’s The Dark Lady: A Romance of the Far Future (1988) (cover link).

4. I adored Robert Silverberg’s original anthology New Dimensions 2 (1973) — I’m a bit closer to owning the entire series.

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

~

1. Tomorrow!, Philip Wylie (1954)

(Uncredited cover for the 1954 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVIII (Mary Gentle, Philip Wylie, Bruce Sterling, and a New Dimensions anthology)

Book Review: Dance The Eagle To Sleep, Marge Piercy (1970)

(Uncredited cover for the 1st edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

In the turbulent 1960s, the radical socialist Students for a Democratic Society (1960-1974) were one of the most influential organizations in the nascent New Left. SDS’s 1962 political manifesto, the Port Huron Statement, proclaimed in idealized terms the importance of egalitarianism, participatory democracy, labor rights, Civil Rights, and nuclear disarmament.  Marge Piercy (1935-) wrote her first SF novel Dance The Eagle to Sleep (1970) while working as an organizer with the SDS regional office in New York (biography). In the last years of the 60s, while she was writing the novel, she describes SDS devolving into “warring factions” and her own personal disillusionment as  the Vietnam War raged on.

In this context, Dance The Eagle To Sleep (1970) can be read as the rise and fall—intense, ecstatic, meaningful, tempestuous—of an SDS-esque student-driven movement (The Indians) in a near-future totalitarian America. Piercy follows a cast of characters whose paths, visions, and routes to revolutionary activity differ. As the movement is beset by external and internal Continue reading Book Review: Dance The Eagle To Sleep, Marge Piercy (1970)

Book Review: Candy Man, Vincent King (1971)

(Patrick Woodroffe’s cover art for the 1973 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

The Candy Man wanders from place to place in a crumbling mega-city with his sole companion, a mechanical dog named Wolf who comes with a handy handle. Candy Man instigates the lobotomized, with primal speeches and drugged sugar floss tinted with pulverized beetles, to revolution. His reward for turning in those he encouraged deviate from the will of the Deep Machine and their Teachers? Vials of drugs. Enter the hypnagogic world of Vincent King’s Candy Man (1971), an unsettled landscape inhabited by the degenerate remnants of humankind and the arcane workings of a computer program that cannot escape its original perimeters.

Fresh off Vincent King’s short story “Defense Mechanism” (1966), I tracked down a copy of his second novel. Occupying a similar space as “Defense Mechanism” (conceptual breakthrough in a decaying world city), King pushes the narrative Continue reading Book Review: Candy Man, Vincent King (1971)