Tag Archives: book reviews

Book Review: Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

Lewis Shiner’s Frontera (1984), a paranoid romp across post-democratic landscapes (both Earth and Mars) of decay and corporate takeover, contains a hypnotic premise and a not entirely convincing plot. Be prepared for a maelstrom of ideas and images: Subliminal messages. An abandoned Martian colony. Implanted Biological RAM. A dangerous voyage to Mars in old NASA shuttles. Corporate mercenaries. Hyper-violence. Mutant children. Transcendent mathematics.

Recommended for fans of gritty Continue reading Book Review: Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

On a recent trip to Chicago I spent far too much on vintage SF at Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records (twitter).If you’re in the city and love old SF paperbacks, stop by! I’ll certainly be back. Here are the first four books from that haul.

1. Jack Vance is an author I always tend to buy but never enjoy as much as I think I should–see my recent review of Emphyrio (1969). Thoughts on this one?

2. I have yet to read anything by Alexei Panshin—at least I now have a copy of his masterpiece, Rite of Passage (1968) (nominated for the 1969 Hugo + won that year’s Nebula).

3. A lesser-known 70s comedic novel from Brian W. Aldiss…

4. And finally, the one I’m most excited about. Evolved humans are thrust into conflict on a terraformed, but dying, Mars. With a fun Powers cover to boot! The rest of Frederick Turner’s SF output appears to be the epic poem variety according to SF Encyclopedia.

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

1. The Anome, Jack Vance (magazine, 1971)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the  1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

Book Review: A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge), John Christopher (1965)

(Steve Crisp’s cover for the 1985 edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

John Christopher’s A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge) (1965) is the second in my informal reading series on 50s/60s post-apocalyptic visions.  Fresh off Alfred Coppel’s moody and reflective Dark December (1960), I chose one of Christopher’s works long overshadowed by his popular Tripods trilogy (1967-68)* and more famous earlier catastrophe novel The Death of Grass (1956).* Continue reading Book Review: A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge), John Christopher (1965)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)

(Detail from Chris Foss’ cover for the 1977 edition of The Grain Kings (1976), Keith Roberts—full cover below)

1. Always thrilled to have a new Keith Roberts collection! And this one with one of the few Foss covers that appeals to me….

2. As a teen Vernor Vinge was a must read author. I devoured The Peace War (1984), Marooned in Realtime (1986), A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), and A Deepness in the Sky (1999). I haven’t returned to him since. I am curious about his earliest published novel—Grimm’s World (1969)—gorgeously decked out with a Paul Lehr masterpiece of a cover.

3. My knowledge of cyberpunk is mostly limited to the early works of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. Here is a lesser known work that certainly wasn’t “talked about for years to come” (book jacket advertisement). Clones, sentient handheld computers, etc. Looks like a fun brew.

4. Another “let’s explore early cyberpunk” purchase—in this case a near future work about information overload (and dolphin + human sexual relationships) marketed as mainstream literature. SF Encyclopedia describes Ted Mooney’s Easy Travel to Other Planets  (1981) as follows: “Set on a Near-Future Earth against a backdrop of global information sickness, war in the Antarctic and a new emotion nobody has ever felt before, it tells a love story – with visionary ramifications – concerning a woman marine biologist and the dolphin on whom she conducts experiments in Linguistics. It has been seen as a proto-Cyberpunk work, but its cool, pellucid, dissecting style – perhaps influenced by J G Ballard – is far removed from the hectic insistence that has characterized much of that school” (full article on Mooney).

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)

Book Review: The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim (1977)

(Richard Corben’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wolheim and Arthur S. Saha (1977) is a glorious anthology of SF published from the year before containing rousing works by the established masters (Isaac Asimov and Brian W. Aldiss), philosophical gems from New Wave icons (Barrington J. Bayley), and gritty and disturbing commentaries on masculinity by the newer voices (James Tiptree, Jr.). While Richard Cowper and Lester del Rey misfire, the overall quality is high for a large Continue reading Book Review: The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim (1977)

Book Review: Dark December, Alfred Coppel (1960)

(Uncredited cover for the 1971 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

“In my holster I carried a pistol that had never been fired. Yet I was master of ten thousand graves” (72).

Occasionally my childhood love of survival tales—whether post-apocalyptic nightmares or sailors stranded on Pacific islands—rears its head and I am forced to track down a book, languishing in some forgotten corner, that satiates the craving. Alfred Coppel’s Dark December (1960), an unknown gem, successfully distills in ultra-realistic strokes the basic post-nuclear war survival formula: man traverses a bombed landscape, pockmarked with the vestiges of human habitation, on a quest to find his family. Dark December is a careful study of trauma and survival in the face of forces willing to plunge the world back into Continue reading Book Review: Dark December, Alfred Coppel (1960)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXVI (Le Guin + Leiber + Laumer + Martin)

1. Keith Laumer is an author I’ve only dabbled in—a few short stories in an anthology here and there. Another (one of twenty?) Laumer volume joins my collection. With a solid Richard Powers’ cover!

2. I finally picked up a copy of Ursula Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven (1971)—one of her few early works lacking from my collection. I recently read and enjoyed The Word for World is Forest (1972).

3. According to a goodreads review, Justin Leiber’s novel “a hard sci-fi take on gender dysphoria.” SF Encyclopedia emphasizes how Justin Leiber, Fritz Leiber’s son, “used sf as a medium  for speculation in his field of interest, the philosophy of the mind.” Call me intrigued about Beyond Rejection (1980)….. and suspicious.

4. The unknown quantity of this post. Have you read any of his work? Or heard of his most “famous” novel Time-Slip (1986)? Joachim Boaz, taking risks since the birth of this abomination (website).

1. Nine by Laumer, Keith Laumer (1967)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1969 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXVI (Le Guin + Leiber + Laumer + Martin)