Book Review: A Pail of Air, Fritz Leiber (1964)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1964 edition)

4/5 (Collated rating: Good)

My only previous exposure to Fritz Leiber was his enjoyable and highly experimental Hugo-winning novel The Big Time (1958) — an unusual story (evoking a one-act play) whose characters are soldiers recruited from all eras of history relaxing in between missions during a vast temporal war.  The same sort of invention and incisive wit abounds in the collection A Pail of Air (1964).  Against a post-apocalyptical backdrop that runs throughout most of the stories, Leiber’s stories are chimeric (and satirical) parables on a vast spectrum of themes — the mechanization of the future, gender relations, endless war, media saturation…  The stories shift between whimsical delight and gut-wrenching despair.

This collection of eleven stories from the early 50s to the early 60s is highly recommended for all SF fans — especially the title story  “A Pail of Air” (1951),  “The Foxholes of Mars” (1952), Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Chess/Checkers (with people + planets)

(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1962 edition of Cosmic Checkmate (1962), Charles V. DeVet and Katherine MacLean)

Queue Ed Valigursky’s cover for the Cosmic Checkmate (1962): a chessboard arrayed against a background of stars, men stand on different colored squares, as much pawns of some distant player as the pieces nearby.  Spaceships flash across the vast expanse of space — remember, the game has galactic ramifications — with our characters arrayed, the game opens, and the battle (of wits and secret weapons) begins.  Although I have not (yet) read Charles V. DeVet and Katherine MacLean (whose later novel Missing Man (1975) I highly recommend) is explicitly about Chess, or more precisely, a similar alien game, and the ramifications are indeed, galactic in scope.  Other covers are more metaphoric Continue reading