Book Review: Hothouse (variant title: The Long Afternoon of Earth), Brian W. Aldiss (1962)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Brian W. Aldiss’ Hugo-winning Hothouse (1962) imagines an oppressive, violent, and alien Earth transformed by “the long age of the vegetable” (187). The surviving humans live–“more by instinct than intelligence” (54)– in a continent-encompassing banyan tree in constant fear of killer flora and fauna. Aldiss succeeds in constructing a profoundly unsettling worldscape encyclopedic in its details with unusual rituals of survival. There’s the existential sense throughout that the humans, detached from any memory of their past, who attempt to survive are but frantic movements of an apocalyptic paroxysm. Inventive, relentless, hallucinogenic.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCVIII (Brian W. Aldiss, D. G. Compton, and Shirley Jackson)

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

1. The Sundial, Shirley Jackson (1958)

From the back cover: “THE SUNDIAL is a chilling, suspenseful, bloodcurdlingly macabre novel of twelve strange people awaiting the end of the world in a fantastical house like no other on earth.” SF Encyclopedia describes The Sundial as “the closet to SF she came.”

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Future Media Short Story Review: Brian W. Aldiss’ “Panel Game” (1955)

The fourth story in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future. Aldiss spins a wild satire of a television screen that views you!

Previously: Avram Davidson and Sidney Klein’s “The Teeth of Despair” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills (May 1961). You can read it online here.

Next up: Two Fritz Leiber stories!

“The Girl with the Hungry Eyes” (1949) first appeared in The Girl with the Hungry Eyes, and Other Stories (1949). You can read it online here.

and

“A Bad Day for Sales” (1953) first appeared in the Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold (July 1953). You can read it online here.

3.75/5 (Good)

Brian W. Aldiss’ “Panel Game” first appeared in New Worlds Science Fiction, ed. John Carnell (December 1955). You can read it online here.

At 8:12 pm on September 22nd, 1955 the UK’s first TV advertisement–for Unilever’s Gibb’s S. R. [Sodium ricinoleate] toothpaste–aired on ITV (source). You can watch the commercial here with its toothpaste tube suspended in ice, a model excitedly brushing, and a hilarious graph that does not even pretend to convey data. Just a year earlier, the Television Act of 1954 allowed the formation–to great debate–of ITV, the first commercial television network in the UK.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXI (Brian W. Aldiss, Michael Swanwick, Anita Mason, Robert C. O’Brien)

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

1. In the Drift, Michael Swanwick (1985)

From the back cover: “The meltdown at Three Mile Island created the death zone known as the Drift, where the sky burned dark blue and pink and where boneseekers destroyed bodies within.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXX (Brian W. Aldiss, Judith Merril, Brian M. Stableford, and Chad Oliver)

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

1. Barefoot In the Head, Brian W. Adliss (1969)

From the back cover: “AFTER THE ACID WAR…. Rising from the dust and ashes of a Europe still reeling from the effects of the great Acid War comes Colin Charteris, a futuristic Don Quixote riding the mechanized brontosaurus of the times.

Charteris tries desperately to make sense of the drugged, chaotic world he lives in, and finds himself hailed as the new Messiah. Stranger still, Charteris himself comes to believe this.

His adventures as he tries to save the world from its insanity are brilliantly told, a satiric science fiction comment on the future of mankind.”

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Book Review: This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) (Zelazny, Silverberg, Aldiss, Lafferty, et al.)

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

Soldiers in mech armor plagued by existential crisis. Asexual insectoid aliens pretending to be human. Children wielding pet apes as weapons. This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) gathers eight kaleidoscopic visions from stalwarts (Roger Zelazny and Robert Silverberg) to lesser known authors (David Redd and George H. Smith). As a collated whole, this is a solid collection without a defining standout masterpiece but worth acquiring for the sheer variety and hallucinatory power of it all.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXI (Jack McDevitt, Clifford D. Simak, New Worlds Quarterly, and New Voices)

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

1. Worlds Without End, Clifford D. Simak (1964)

From the back cover: “A link between yesterday and the tomorrow that was here already…. Dreams constructed and maintained by society…. A world-to-world search for an elusive secret…. The bizarre, weird, strange creations of things and worlds only Clifford D. Simak could have written… and make believable.”

Contents: “Worlds Without End” (1956), “The Spaceman’s Van Gogh” (1956), “Full Cycle” (1955)

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXX (Brian W. Aldiss, H. Beam Piper, Ann Maxwell, and Bo Carpelan)

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

1. Empire, H. Beam Piper (1981)

From the back cover: “”H. BEAM PIPER beloved author of LITTLE FUZZY, SPACE VIKING, and other classics, has left behind a veritable treasure trove of short fiction in his passing. Collected here for the first time anywhere are four of the best stories by one of the Grand Old Masters of science fiction.”

Contents: “The Edge of the Knife” (1957), “A Slave is a Slave” (1962), “Ministry of Disturbance” (1958), “The Return” (1954) with John J. McGuire, “The Keeper” (1957).

Initial Thoughts: Years back I read, but never reviewed, H. Beam Piper’s pulp extravagance Space Viking (1963) and detested it. I get the sense Space Viking might not be representative of his work? Piper has a devoted following and I want to know why.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXV (Brian W. Aldiss, James E. Gunn, Sharon Webb, and a Themed Anthology)

My first purchases of 2021! As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Helliconia Spring, Brian W. Aldiss (1982)

Kinuko Y. Craft’s cover for the 1983 edition

From the back cover: “Imagine a world in a system of twin suns, where Winter is 6000 ice-locked years and every Spring is the first remembered. Imagine a People finding ruined cities beneath the melting snows. Never dreaming they had built them. And would again… Imagine Helliconia. And begin the most magnificent peice since DUNE…”

Initial Thoughts: I love Brian W. Aldiss’ SF–from his iconic generation ship novel Non-Stop (variant title: Starship) (1958) to bizarre experimental works short stories like “Judas Danced” (1958) [which I need to reread!]. I have yet to explore any of of his early 80s SF. I’ve reviewed the following Aldiss works: Continue reading