Tag Archives: book reviews

Short Book Reviews: Samuel R. Delany’s The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965), Barry N. Malzberg’s The Last Transaction (1977), and Philip McCutchan’s A Time for Survival (1966)

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

1. The Ballad of Beta-2, Samuel R. Delany (1965)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1982 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

As I’ve been on a generation ship kick as of late, I was excited to pull out my copy of Samuel R. Delany’s early novel The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965). Delany subverts the standard (and infuriating) trope of cultural stasis—for the sake of societal stability—that authors suggest will occur between the colony ship’s departure and arrival. Instead, Delany explores the intermediary generations by examining a series of ballads Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Samuel R. Delany’s The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965), Barry N. Malzberg’s The Last Transaction (1977), and Philip McCutchan’s A Time for Survival (1966)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVI (Michel Jeury, Sheila MacLeod, Vietnam War anthology, The Year 2000 anthology)

1. I’m a sucker for themed anthologies! Especially of original stories… This one is on the top of my list to read!

2. The lengths the cover blurb goes to proclaim Sheila MacLeod’s Circuit-Breaker (1978) not SF is humorous. The blurb writer ends up describing the aim of New Wave science fiction (interior vs. exterior space). So many of these arguments demonstrate a lack of knowledge of genre and depends on dismissive stereotypes. As it my practice, I try to avoid these exclusionary/gate-keeping arguments. I recently picked up a copy of her only other SF novel Xanthe and the Robots (1977).

Curious about this one — and all SF about potentially insane astronauts.

A handful of favorite stories of (possibly) insane astronauts

Barry N. Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo (1972), The Falling Astronauts(1971), and Revelations (1972)

Gene Wolfe’s “Silhouette” (1975)

3. Another themed anthology! The topic here is the Vietnam War. Huge fan of Vietnam War inspired SF — especially Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest (1972) and Kit Reed’s Armed Camps (1969).

What are your favorite Vietnam War-themed SF works? I’m thinking of putting together a resource on the topic.

4. French SF in translation. Here’s Michel Jeury’s bibliography. This appears to be the only one of his MANY SF novels to be translated into English. Alas.

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

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1. The Year 2000, ed. Harry Harrison (1970)

(Pat Steir’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVI (Michel Jeury, Sheila MacLeod, Vietnam War anthology, The Year 2000 anthology)

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)

Book Review: New Writings in SF 7, ed. John Carnell (1971)

(David McCall Johnston’s cover for the 1971 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Preliminary publication note: The UK and US editions of the New Writings in Science Fiction anthology series (1964-1977) varied in content—even volumes indicated by the same number. They are often treated as separate entries in the isfdb.org anthology listing. I read and reviewed the US edition.

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The back cover of New Writings in Science Fiction 7 (1971), ed. John Carnell promises a form of “future shock”—plunging us into a world derived from ours but foreign and alien. Is the collection successful? As with the three other volumes in this anthology series I’ve read—New Writings in SF 4 (1965), New Writings in SF 6 (1965), and New Writings in SF 9 (191972)–the answer is a mixed “somewhat.”

In the volumes I’ve explored so far, Vincent King is the biggest surprise—i.e. an author I had never read who produces regularly solid work. As with “Testament” (1968), King’s “Defence Mechanism” (1966) evokes “existential emptiness” Continue reading Book Review: New Writings in SF 7, ed. John Carnell (1971)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLII (C. J. Cherryh and T. A. Waters)

All the following books came from the Chicago, IL bookstore Bucket O’Blood. I bought them online to support one of my favorite bookstores negatively impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Check them out!  If able, support your favorite stores (buy online, buy gift cards for later purchases, etc.) in this trying time.

I hope all of you are well.

1. Book two of C. J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun trilogy. I bought the first one a few months ago.

While I’ve only reviewed two of Cherryh’s novels on my site—-Merchanter’s Luck (1982) and Port Eternity (1982)—she was one of my favorite pre-blog authors. I’ve previously read fifteen or so of her novels including Cyteen (1988) and Downbellow Station (1981). I have yet to read any of her pre-1980 novels so I look forward to diving into this trilogy.

2. An unknown author and novel (at least to me)…. with a flashy/fun cover. According to SF Encyclopedia, “A counter-cultural ethos also inspired the grimmer Centerforce (1974), in which motorcycle dropouts and commune dwellers combine in opposition to a Near-Future police-state America.”

3. One of C. J. Cherryh’s few standalone novels–Hestia (1979). Seems like a standard anthropological mystery on an alien world. Thoughts? As always, annoyed by the cat woman alien art….

4. Book three of C. J. Cherryh’s Faded Sun trilogy.

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

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1. The Faded Sun: Shon’Jir, C. J. Cherryh (1978)

(Gino D’Achille’s cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLII (C. J. Cherryh and T. A. Waters)

Book Review: Electric Forest, Tanith Lee (1979)

(Don Maitz’s original canvas for the 1979 edition)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

“Two years,” Claudio said. “Wasted. I used to go hunting, searching. For someone like you, my Magdala. But you’re unusual, my dear. A freak. Hard to come by. And it had to be someone like you. A genetic mistake. An atrocity, crawling about its hopeless round. Devoid of normal self-preservative wariness. Mewing, inside its warped little soul, for rescue. Not quite human. Here we are (23).”

Tanith Lee spins a gauzy, sinister, and terrifying tale of manipulative resurrection. A brilliant inventor projects the mind of a grotesque social outcast into a new transcendent body—but this isn’t an altruistic act. There’s a plot afoot. Electric Forest (1979), a shimmery nightmare of psycho-sexual manipulation,  enters my pantheon of favorite 70s SF visions.

Electric Forest demonstrates marked improvement over Don’t Bite the Sun (1976). It’s more Continue reading Book Review: Electric Forest, Tanith Lee (1979)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXL (Melissa Scott, Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, Sheila MacLeod, and Albert J. Guerard)

1. I have yet to read anything by Melissa Scott — as is my habit, I start with a lesser known novel (in this case, her first one).

2. SF in translation from Brazil! Looks terrifying.

3. And I’m yet again the owner of another one of the worst SF covers. That said, Sheila MacLeod’s Xanthe and the Robots  (1977) seems to be an intriguing take on androids and the the nature of humanity.

4. A complete unknown author (wrote more mainstream lit than SF) and novel… According to SF encyclopedia, Albert Joseph Guerard’s only SF novel Night Journey (1950) “depicts an idealistic soldier against the background of a useless Near-Future European Future War. The loss of his illusions is rendered with psychological acuity, though the narrative itself is dithery.”

Count me intrigued.

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

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1. The Game Beyond, Melissa Scott (1984)

(Alan Gutierrez’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXL (Melissa Scott, Ignácio de Loyola Brandão, Sheila MacLeod, and Albert J. Guerard)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXIX (Jack Dann, Judith Merril, Anne McCaffrey, John Shirley)

1. I have yet to read any of Jack Dann’s SF — this surreal (?) post-apocalyptical novel looks promising! And a strange Jim Burns cover to boot…

2. I recently reviewed Judith Merril’s “Wish Upon a Star” (1958) for my generation ship short story read-through (i’ll have a new installment soon). I decided to track down another one of her short fiction collections….

I’ve reviewed the following collections so far:

3. The title of Anne McCaffrey’s collection Get Off the Unicorn (1977) was derived from a humorous misprint. According to the collection’s introduction: “The title was derived by accident: McCaffrey’s working title had been “Get of the Unicorn” but this was misprinted as “Get Off the Unicorn” in Ballantine’s roster of unfilled contracts. After McCaffrey’s editor, Judy-Lynn del Rey, was repeatedly asked what “Get Off the Unicorn” was, del Rey asked McCaffrey what she could do about that theme.”

The collection itself contains a wide-range of her short fictions—from the Pern sequence (a childhood favorite) to the earliest story in the Catteni Sequence. I DEVOURED Freedom’s Landing (1995), Freedom’s Choice (1997), Freedom’s Challenge (1998), and Freedom’s Randsom (2002) as a kid! How to survive and thrive on an alien planet was my “go-to” SF device.

4. I’ve only read a handful of John Shirley’s short stories. It’s time for a novel. Eclipse (1985), set in a future a cyberpunk dystopia, tells the tale of anti-fascist resistance. We shall see!

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

1. The Man Who Melted, Jack Dann (1984)

(Jim Burns’ cover for the 1986 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXIX (Jack Dann, Judith Merril, Anne McCaffrey, John Shirley)

Book Review: The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories, Craig Strete (1977)

(Karl Stuecklen’s cover for the 1st edition)

4/5 (collated rating: Good)

In 2015, I read and reviewed Craig Strete’s collection If All Else Fails…. (1980) and found it to be a spectacular vision “filled with gorgeous lines, evocative images” and palpable “despair at the loss of Native-American culture.” Strete, one of the few Native-American SF authors I know of, picked up three Nebula Award nominations for short SF over the 70s and early 80s (“Time Deer” in 1976, “The Bleeding Man” in 1976, and “A Sunday Visit With Great-Grandfather” in 1981 although it was withdrawn). The latter two are in this collection. The former two can be found in If All Else Fails….

Recommended for fans of experimental 70s Continue reading Book Review: The Bleeding Man and Other Science Fiction Stories, Craig Strete (1977)