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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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCXCI (James White, Joan D. Vinge, D. G. Compton, Somtow Sucharitkul)

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

1. The Escape Orbit (variant title: Open Prison), James White (1964)

From the back cover: “STRANDED ON A PLANET OF MONSTERS. When the survivors of the his starship were taken prisoner by the insec-creatures against whom Earth had fought a bitter war for nearly a century, Sector Marshal Warren expected to be impounded in a prison camp like those the Earthmen maintained. But the “Bugs” had a simpler method of dealing with prisoners–they dumped them on an uninhabited planet, without weapons or tools, and left them to fend for themselves against the planet’s environment and strange monsters. A “Bug” spaceship orbited above, guarding them.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXV (Tiptree, Jr. + Lynn + Carey + Best of SF 1968 Anthology)

1. James Tiptree, Jr.’s first novel is not considered one of her better works. But, as my appreciation of her fiction grows, it was hard to pass up (especially at $1). Have you read it?

2. I recently read and reviewed World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (1967), ed. Terry Carr and Donald A. Wollheim and was thoroughly impressed. Enough to track down the following year’s anthology….  And, as an avowed D. G. Compton fan (for example, his underrated/underread 1966 novel Farewell, Earth’s Bliss), I was thrilled to see this volume contains one of his few short stories. It also contains the original novella version of one of my favorite SF novels–Robert Silverberg’s Hawksbill Station (1968).

Love the Jack Gaughan cover!

3. A novel by Elizabeth A. Lynn, an author I’ve never read — I approach it with trepidation… But, as I always say, I love exploring lesser known works.

4. Peter Carey, another author I’ve never read. His stories (the publisher attempts to distance them from SF) seem my cup of tea.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.


1. Up the Walls of the World, James Tiptree, Jr. (1978)

(Uncredited cover for the 1979 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Year in Review (Top Ten SF Novels + Top Ten Short Stories/Novelettes/Novellas + other categories)

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. Continue reading

Book Review: Chronocules (variant title: Hot Wireless Sets, Aspirin Tablets, the Sandpaper Sides of Used Matchboxes, and Something that Might have been Castor Oil), D. G. Compton (1970)

(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1970 edition)

3/5 (Average)

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 Continue reading

Updates: An Incomplete List of Worthwhile Classic Science Fiction Blogs/Resources

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 Continue reading

Book Review: Farewell, Earth’s Bliss, D. G. Compton (1966)

(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 Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Spacewomen of the Future (fixing spaceships + fighting aliens + charging across barren landscapes)

(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 Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions XXXV (Malzberg + Compton + Silverberg)

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 Continue reading