Book Review: Galaxies Like Grains of Sand, Brian Aldiss (1960)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1960 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

The concept behind Brian Aldiss’ short story collection Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960) is intriguing.  Take previously published stories (in this case from magazines in the late 50s), graft them together by means of mini-introductions, and arrange them so they fit into a future history framework à la Olaf Stapledon’s Last and First Men (1930) or Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy (1951-1953).

The quality of the stories makes the format less than successful.   Only three stories are worth reading — ‘Secret of a Mighty City’ (1958), ‘Out of Reach’ (1957), and ‘All Continue reading

Updates: Recent Acquisitions XXXVI (Malzberg + Gallun + Harrison + Silverberg)

More Marx Book purchases along with some random 99 cent thrift store finds (Raymond Z. Gallun + M. John Harrison)  that seemed intriguing enough.  I will eventually get to M. John Harrison’s magnum opus series of novels, Virconium– beginning with The Pastel City (1971) — but, as always, I approach an author’s masterpieces through an often circuitous manner.  I suspect my Malzberg find will be of a lesser quality than either Beyond Apollo (1972) or Revelations (1972).

I reviews I’ve found online of Gallun’s The Eden Cycle (1974) proclaim it an underrated masterpiece — with layers of virtual reality, etc.  I’ll read it soon…

As always, have you read any of these?  If so, what did you think?

1. The Day of the Burning, Barry N. Malzberg (1974)

(Don Ivan Punchatz’s cover Continue reading

Book Review: Dr. Futurity, Philip K. Dick (1960)

(Ed Valigursky’s cover for the 1960 edition)

2.75/5 (Average)

Over the years I’ve found Philip K. Dick’s early novels hit or miss.  Along with The World Jones Made (1956), Dr. Futurity (1960) (expanded from the 1954 short story “Time Pawn”) is the least satisfying of his novels I’ve read so far.  My total PKD consumption is extensive — around 20 novels and at least 60 short stories.

Time travel is by far my least favorite major science fiction trope.  However, in many of Philip K. Dick’s novels and short stories time travel is transformed into something surreal and often, downright fascinating.  But unlike his later novels, the trope in Dr. Futurity is an endlessly laborious plot device.  Our hero doctor, Jim Parsons, is constantly whisked back and forth in time with hardly a moment of rest or discussion. Continue reading

Book Review: The Long Winter, John Christopher (1962)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1968 edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

Although known for his famous young adult Tripod Trilogy (The White Mountains, The City of Gold and Lead, The Pool of Fire), John Christopher produced a substantial corpus of science fiction works for older readers — most notably, the post-apocalyptical tale No Blade of Grass (1956).  The Long Winter (1961), one of Christopher’s lesser known works, is on the surface another post-apocalyptical novel (or sorts).  However, the post-apocalyptical elements are subsumed by a bitting satire on colonial and post-colonial British attitudes towards their colonies.  The publication date of 1962 is of vital importance in understanding the work.  Nigeria gained its independence from the British in 1960, Ghana in 1957, and South  Africa in 1961.

A large percentage of the reviews I’ve read complain that they Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XXX (Christopher + Benford + Shaw + Frank + et al.)

My second batch of books from my youthful haunt (Austin, TX) is equally as varied and intriguing as the first.  I’m most interested in Pat Frank’s famous late 50s classic Alas, Babylon. Yes, a sci-fi fan like me should have read it a LONG time ago.  John Christopher’s The Long Winter (1962) should also prove a worthwhile read — an ice age hits Earth and the English main characters flee to Africa.  Shaw’s Orbitsville (1975) is the the vein of Larry Niven’s more famous Ringworld (1970) and Arthur C. Clarke’s classic Rendezvous with Rama (1972) — explorers encountering unusual alien worlds (in this case, a dyson sphere).

As always, a few stunning covers…  My favorite of the bunch is John Schoenherr’s cover for Mark Phillips’ Brain Twister (1962)…

Enjoy!  If you’ve read any of the novels few free to comment.  I’ve not read any of Benford, Frank, Mark Phillips (pseudonym for Laurence Janifer and Randall Garrett) or Platt’s works before.

1. In The Ocean of Night, Gregory Benford (1977)

(Larry Kresek’s cover for the 1977 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. XXIX (Dick + White + Harrison + et al.)

A return to old familial haunts yields a heart warming stash of gems and a few radiating a more dubious aura…

And more Richard Powers’ covers for my growing collection….

Most importantly, I picked up my fourteenth or fifteenth Philip K. Dick novel! I will acquire ALL of them eventually.

And another Ace double — little did I know (but I should have guessed considering the egregious art and interior images) that is was sci-fi of the more comic variety.  But, I wanted at least one of Lafferty’s novels after reading a few of his impressive short stories.


1. Star Surgeon, James White (1963)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1963 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XXVI (Malzberg + Wells + Gunn +Pohl)

A nice (varied) selection of finds….

I’ve continued to be on the lookout for Malzberg’s novels and, due to the proliferation of comments by my readers about what is his best, I’ve acquiesced and picked up a copy of his acknowledged masterpiece, Beyond Apollo (1972).  I suspect it will be as good as In The Enclosure (1973).

If there is any area (besides sci-fi from the 21st century) that I haven’t read a good portion of the classics, it’s works from around the turn of the century.  I have read a large swathe of Verne’s works and from beginning of the 20th century  all of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter series — but, only a few of H. G. Wells’ oeuvre (The War of the Worlds and The Time Machine).  So, when I came across a 60s edition of The First Men in the Moon (1901) with a nostalgic looking cover I snatched it up!

The two short story collections are unknown commodities: Frederick Pohl’s In The Problem Pit (1976) and James Gunn’s Station in Space (1958).  I’ve never heard of Gunn and sort of dislike what I’ve read of Pohl so far.  Regardless, both works have intriguing covers!


1. Beyond Apollo, Barry Malzberg (1972)

(Don Maitz’ cover for Continue reading

Book Review: The Falling Torch, Algis Budrys (1959)

(Bob Engle’s cover for the 1959 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

A smile, or tears, perhaps.  Tears are easier than laughter.  Tears need no gust of breath, as laughter must though breath is short — tears do not crack the muscles of the back or make the jaws ache when the jaws are sore-gummed from the artificial teeth — yes old men’s or old women’s gentle tears; these too are safe; not grown men’s sobs, but children’s tears;  not children’s tantrum-cries but children’s tears upon the moment when they learn that, in all justice, children, too, can fairly died–those are the tears that we regain when we are very old (pg 149).

Algis Budrys’ The Falling Torch (1959) is on the surface yet another simplistic brave oppressed mankind rebelling against the alien invaders who have conquered Earth novel à la Aldiss’ Bow Down to Nul (variant title: The Interpreter) (1960) and the ilk.  And I was deluded into thinking it was Continue reading