Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXLII (The Soviet SF special: Strugatsky + Shefner + Bilenkin +Savchenko)

In the late 70s and early 80s a wide range of Soviet SF—from the famous Strugatsky brothers to lesser known authors—was translated and introduced to the American market.  As I have decided to start collecting the Best of Soviet Science Fiction Collier Books series of paperbacks (hardbacks were published by Macmillan), my dad gave me three for my birthday.  My first collecting experiment!  I want to read more SF from outside of the USA and the UK…  This batch is in addition to the only other one I have acquired so far: Half a Life, Kirill Bulychev (USSR 1975, USA 1977).  Unfortunately, the vast majority of the series fetch hefty prices (especially those by the two Strugatsky brothers) online.  And, other than The Ugly Swans (below), I have never encountered them in used book stores… and The Ugly Swans was not cheap (I have my wife to thank!).

The back cover of The Unman/Kovrigin’s Chronicles provides a blurb about the series that I thought I would reproduce: “In the Soviet Union, as in the U.S.A., the fascination with the possibilities of science and technology has led to a rich and long tradition of science fiction.  Macmillan’s BEST OF SOVIET SCIENCE FICTION is now presenting the major works in lively, readable translations, allowing the American reader to explore—for the first time—the wide range of visions of space, time and man’s future in the other major SF tradition.”

As always, thoughts?

1. The Ugly Swans, Arkady and Boris Strugatsky (USSR 1972, USA 1979)

The Ugly Swans

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: Brain Wave, Poul Anderson (magazine publication 1953)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1954 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

I have long been a fan of Poul Anderson’s functionalist yet engaging SF adventures.  He is one of the masters at integrating social commentary (often on the impact of future technology) into the framework of the early Cold War influenced SF story without unduly weighing it down.  Brain Wave (1954) is  a good example of both his virtues and faults.

Brain Wave in a nutshell: a fascinating premise,  a somewhat frustrating ending, dubious social commentary, while the incredibly brief length (even for the 50s)  and uneven pacing suggest heavy cuts by editor…  That said, I suspect other famous works — such as the Daniel Keyes’ Flowers of Algernon (novelette: 1959, novel: 1966) and perhaps even Continue reading

Book Review: The Quality of Mercy, D. G. Compton (1965)

4/5 (Good)

D. G. Compton’s first science fiction novel, The Quality of Mercy (1965), is a forgotten work which deserves to be read along with the rest of his canon.  I’ve found Compton’s lesser known works to be on the whole quite solid — with the dismal The Missionaries (1972) the lone exception so far.  Both Synthajoy (1968) and The Steel Crocodile (1970) are among my top reads of this year.  I’m keeping his acknowledged masterpiece Continue reading

Book Review: The Steel Crocodile, D. G. Compton (1970)

https://i1.wp.com/people.uncw.edu/smithms/Ace%20singles/s5N-series/78575.jpg

1971 Nebula Award Nominee for Best Novel

3.75/5 (Good)

D. G. Compton’s novel The Steel Crocodile (1971) is a thoughtful yet ultimately unspectacular exploration of the intersection of religion and science.  Although the work is nowhere near the level of Compton’s masterpieces (Synthajoy, The Unsleeping Eye), it infinitely surpasses the later The Missionaries (1972) which attempted to explore similar themes.  I find his strong female characters Continue reading

A Film (documentary) Rumination: The Atomic Cafe, Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty (1982)

8/10 (Very Good)

Atomic Cafe (1982) is a scathing documentary on the atomic age created from archival film from the 40s-early 60s.  The scope of the material is extensive: military training films (often the most morbidly hilarious and poorly acted of the bunch), television news, various other government-produced propaganda films Continue reading