Everyone likes lists! And I do too…. This is an opportunity to collate some of my favorite (and least favorite) novels and shorter SF works I read this year. Last year I discovered Barry N. Malzberg and this year I was seduced by…. Well, read and find out.
Top Ten Novels
1. We Who Are About To…, Joanna Russ (1976): A scathing, and underread, literary SF novel by one of the more important feminist SF writers of the 70s (of The Female Man fame).
2. A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975): A well-written anthropological clash of cultures novel. Slow, gorgeous, emotionally engaging….
3. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959): A strange satire of the bomb shelter… Everyday surrealism. Read More
(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1970 edition)
D. G. Compton has long been one of my favorite SF authors. Regrettably, his readership remains small and he has ceased publishing SF. Novels like The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973) and Synthajoy (1968) are first rate masterworks with Farewell, Earth’s Bliss (1966) and The Steel Crocodile (1970) close behind. All of his works have a distinctly English feel with solid, and occasionally beautiful, prose.
Chronocules (1970), with its outrageous variant title Hot Wireless Sets, Aspirin Tablets, the Sandpaper Sides of Used Matchboxes, and Something that Read More
I love the idea of a community of science fiction reviewers — so I’ve put together a list of a handful of book review blogs focused on classic/slightly more esoteric science fiction. Obviously there are plenty of great blogs I’ve omitted that have reviews of new releases or only occasional vintage science fiction…. Or, blogs that refrain from reviews of vintage science fiction unless participating in certain reading challenges….
Please visit them, comment on their reviews, and browse through their back catalogues.
1] Speculiction….: An under visited /commented on blog with quality book reviews of classic science fiction — however, the reviewer, Jesse, is limited by the lack of older science fiction available to him in Poland. I especially enjoyed his reviews of Ballard’s “beautifully strange enigma” that is The Crystal World (1966) and of course, my favorite science fiction novel of all time, John Brunner’s magisterial Stand on Zanzibar (1968). An index of his reviews can be found here. He also has a good mix of newer science fiction reviews as well.
2] The PorPor Books Blog: SF and Fantasy Books 1968-1988: I find this blog Read More
(Karel Thole’s cover for the 1971 edition)
4.5/5 (Very Good)
(*some spoilers due to the limited nature of the plot*)
Another D. G. Compton novel, another wonderful (and terrifying) experience… The only one of his novels so far that has failed to hold my interest was The Missionaries (1971), a lackluster satire on religion. The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973) is a masterpiece and Farewell, Earth’s Bliss (1966) and Synthajoy (1968) are close behind.
Farewell, Earth’s Bliss is best described as a character study of a group of convicts sent to Mars and their attempts to integrate into an incredibly repressive and conservative society (derived in part to to the extreme dangers of the Martian environment) — in short, a piece of race and religion themed social science fiction. Be warned, there is little to no action. As with most of Compton’s works, near future environments are the perfect vehicle for societal ruminations Read More
(Don Sibley’s cover for the November 1950 issue of Galaxy)
When we conjure the image of a 40s/50s science fiction pulp heroine we often imagine a character who has to be rescued by men from aliens, shrieks and clings to any man nearby, and is always in a state of undress. I’ve included one cover, for the sake of comparison, that I find to be an exemplar of this type of sexist (and racist) depiction below (Alex Schomburg’s cover for the January 1954 issue of Future Science Fiction): white woman wrapped in only a towel stalked by an evil alien obviously painted with African-American facial characteristics (heavy on the sexual predation vibe) — the reader is supposed to buy into the racial stereotypes and thus be titillated by the fear she must feel.
I’ve selected a wide range of mostly pulp magazine covers depicting spacewomen of the future (I’ve loosely decided that this means women in space, in spacesuits) that tend to buck the trend Read More
Books and short story collections from three of my favorite science fiction authors — Barry N. Malzberg, D. G. Compton, and Robert Silverberg… A review of Malzberg’s masterpiece Revelations (1972) — almost as good as Beyond Apollo (1972) — is forthcoming.
I’ve recently discovered Marx Books — an online bookstore run by a retired professor (at Texas Tech University) and avid science fiction collector. His collection is substantial and most importantly, he only bills you for the exact shipping (not sure if he ships internationally). So, no $3.99 a book as Amazon does! Instead, $3 shipping total for seven books! Because Malzberg novels, and his short story collections, are so hard to find in used book stores it’s always nice to know I can pick up a copy quite cheaply online.
Another Richard Powers cover for my collection….
1. Revelations, Barry N. Malzberg (1972) (MY REVIEW)
(Uncredited cover for the 1972 edition)
From the back cover of the 1977 edition: “REVELATIONS is Read More
(Leo and Diane Dillon’s cover for the 1969 edition)
4.25/5 (Very Good)
“He was out now looking for signs. He knew how to stay alive. He was a strangely violent man, to him the fall of the city was some sort of unholy celebration (89).”
The decaying/empty city as allegory: its few post-evacuation occupants (a tramp and his cat, the cathedral’s dean, a young suburban woman, a troubled architect’s son — all well-drawn characters) wander the deserted streets of Gloucester consumed with their own obsessions. The cement consuming fungus — a vague agent of destruction that severs us from our loci of civilization, our functionalist cityscapes, Read More
A few more Christmas gift card purchases…
Dying Inside (1972) is often considered one of Silverberg’s best works and I can’t wait to read it (I will after my soon to be hellish weekend grading ~60 undergrad history papers). Despite a painfully negative review on Amazon slamming Compton’s The Silent Multitude (1967) as a dull imitation of J. G. Ballard, it is high on my to read list — almost any experimental (allegorical) work exploring a crumbling city intrigues me. Malzberg’s Conversations (1975) was a shot in the dark — it might be the least read of any of his novels — hence, my interest.
Pohl Anderson is almost always worth reading — even his middling short stories are fun.
1. Dying Inside, Robert Silverberg (1972)
(Jerry Thorp’s cover for Read More
Here are my favorite films and science fiction novels I’ve reviewed this year (and some other interesting categories) with links to my reviews….
Watch them! Read them! Gaze at them! (the array below….)
Best Science Fiction Novel (tie: The World Inside, The Unsleeping Eye, Hawksbill Station)
The World Inside (1971), Robert Silverberg (REVIEW) 5/5 (Masterpiece)
Silverberg’s The World Inside is a fascinating take on the theme of overpopulation — what if society was organized towards a single goal, propagation? What would society look like? What position in society would women occupy? Men? What would cities look like? Hallways? Rooms? Institutions? What happens to those who don’t fit in? Or, can’t have children?
The Unsleeping Eye (variant title: Read More