Book Review: Seconds, David Ely (1962)

(Uncredited cover for the 1963 1st edition)

5/5 (Masterpiece)

You’ve got what almost every middle-aged man in American would like to have. Freedom. Real freedom. You can do any damned thing you want to. You’ve got financial security, you’ve got no responsibilities, and you’ve got no reason at all to feel guilty about what you’ve done. The company’s taken care of everything. Right?” (91)

David Ely’s Seconds (1962), a disquieting and sparse thriller, posits a near future where a shadow organization can grant the wealthy new identities via plastic surgery and staged deaths. Wielding deceptively simple prose, Ely ruminates on the existential dread of the male mid-life crisis–an undefined desire to escape, to redo, to break free from the expectations and constraints of the suburban existence. It is a careful novel. A well-crafted nightmare Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCVIII (Sargent + Kelley + Ely + Anthology ed. Harry Harrison)

1. Leo P. Kelley is an author whose work I’ve encountered in various used book stores but never acquired…. until now. Here’s the SF Encyclopedia entry on his work. Let me know if you’ve read any of them!

Note: The Kelley edition and cover are different than the one I own. I accidentally mutilated the cover by removing (by incorrect means) a large sticker. I own the 1971 Berkley Medallion first edition.

2. I adored David Ely’s Seconds (1962). I hope to have a review up soon! I went ahead and acquired his only other SF novel.

3. Although I’ve read and complained vehemently about Pamela Sargent’s Cloned Lives (1976), I’m  not a reader who gives up on an author after a single novel. Like Cloned LivesThe White Death (variant title: The Sudden Star) (1979), creates a tapestry of characters presented with a crisis. I’ll read this one sooner than later.

4. An original anthology on the year 2000. I couldn’t pass it up especially as it contains a SF short story by Naomi Mitchison. I remember Memoirs of a Spacewoman (1962) fondly….

As always, let me know your thoughts on the books/covers/or tangents.



1. The Coins of Murph, Leo P. Kelley (1971)

(Colin Hay’s cover for the 1974 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCIV (Ely + Abe + Coulson + Malec)

1. Overpopulation + an author I’ve not encountered before? Can there be a better combo? I’ve long been a fan of the subgenre–and I’ve gathered a substantial number of both read and unread overpopulation-themed SF into a list. And yes, I know Laser Books has a reputation for publishing low-quality crud…. I am not expecting a masterpiece!

2. I’ve been on a Kobo Abe kick as of late! Secret Rendezvous (1977, trans. 1979) is, as of now, my favorite read of the year–I hope to have a review up soon. Back cover blurb here.

I went ahead and purchased another “SFish” Abe novel… I’ve seen Abe’s 1966 film adaption of his own work (directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara) and it’s a brilliant cinematic experience. I’m hoping the novel has some of the same magic!

3. Another source material novel for one of my favorite SF films–Frankenheimer’s Seconds (1966)… I’m 50 odd pages through the novel and some of the scenes in the movie are identical. The book and movie diverge as the story unfolds…. I look forward to finishing Ely’s disconcerting SF thriller.

4. And finally, a complete and utter unknown quantity…. Scroll down to find out.

Note: the hi-res scans are of my personal collection. As I am not a “collector,” I tend to go with cheaper copies even if it means they have substantial imperfections.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome.



1. Unto the Last Generation, Juanita Coulson (1975)

(Kelly Freas’ cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading