Tag Archives: experimental

Book Review: City Come A-Walkin’, John Shirley (1980)

(Catherine Huerta’s cover for the 1st edition)

4/5 (Good)

“It’s the gestalt of the whole place, this whole fuckin’ city, rolled up in one man. Sometimes the world takes the shape of gods and those gods take the form of men. Sometimes. This time. That’s a whole city, that man” (18).

John Shirley’s City Come A-Walkin’ (1980), an early cyberpunk novel, succeeds as a surreal and earthy paean to  diverse urban community and punk rebellion. A club owner and angst rocker join forces with a physical manifestation of San Francisco to fight the forces of technological change. While a brilliant evocation of aesthetic and emotion with sympathetic main Continue reading Book Review: City Come A-Walkin’, John Shirley (1980)

Book Review: Termush, Sven Holm (1967, trans. 1969)

(Uncredited cover for the 1969 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

“[He] maintained that it was in fact essential to conceal what could be concealed; indeed, an inspired lie could be preferred to a malignant truth” (24).

Sven Holm’s Termush (1967, trans. 1969) depicts, with stark minimalism, the psychological state of wealthy survivors holed up in a hotel shelter after an apocalyptic nuclear event. This brief work, a mere 110 pages, is not an adventure story. It is not an exercise in nightmarish brutality like The Road (2006) or an account of humanity’s turn towards evil as the gauze of “civilization” falls away like The Death of Grass(1956).

Rather, Sven Holm (1940-2019) (SF Encyclopedia entry), a Danish author of mainstream literature, delves into the psyche of the survivors, their isolation and inability to grasp the immensity of the changes beyond their walls, and their Continue reading Book Review: Termush, Sven Holm (1967, trans. 1969)

Book Review: The Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)

(Detail from Bob Haberfield’s cover for the 1973 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

In the Star Trek: Voyager episode “One” (1998), Seven of Nine, unaffected by a nebula’s subatomic radiation, must care for the crew while they’re placed in stasis. Alone on the ship, Seven experiences the prolonged effects of isolation including disturbing dreams and hallucinations. Ever since I saw “One” as a child, I’ve become fascinated with the strategies that humans might use in space to cope with isolation and the rituals they might enact to preserve sanity. Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey’s The Black Corridor (1969) (see note below), explores Continue reading Book Review: The Black Corridor, Michael Moorcock and Hilary Bailey (1969)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVIII (Mary Gentle, Philip Wylie, Bruce Sterling, and a New Dimensions anthology)

1. More post-apocalyptic fictions…. I dunno about exclamation points in titles! More seriously, I’ve yet to read any of Philip Wylie’s novels—this one is at the top of the list.

2. Before I explore an author’s best known fictions, I enjoy nosing about the periphery first. Here’s Mary Gentle’s first collection of short fiction (I’m most interested in the SF stories).

3. I might have read Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net (1988) in my late teens. I know I had a copy that I gave away. I can’t remember anything about it other than the cover–if there’s a cover that screams 80s cyberpunk it’s that one!

I’ve previously reviewed Sterling’s Involution Ocean (1977).

A little research reveals the female figure was repurposed (sans the original spaceship background) from an earlier Luis Royo cover—Mike Resnick’s The Dark Lady: A Romance of the Far Future (1988) (cover link).

4. I adored Robert Silverberg’s original anthology New Dimensions 2 (1973) — I’m a bit closer to owning the entire series.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

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1. Tomorrow!, Philip Wylie (1954)

(Uncredited cover for the 1954 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVIII (Mary Gentle, Philip Wylie, Bruce Sterling, and a New Dimensions anthology)

Short Book Reviews: Samuel R. Delany’s The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965), Barry N. Malzberg’s The Last Transaction (1977), and Philip McCutchan’s A Time for Survival (1966)

My “to review” pile is growing and my memory of them is fading… hence short—far less analytical—reviews.

1. The Ballad of Beta-2, Samuel R. Delany (1965)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1982 edition)

3.25/5 (Vaguely Good)

As I’ve been on a generation ship kick as of late, I was excited to pull out my copy of Samuel R. Delany’s early novel The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965). Delany subverts the standard (and infuriating) trope of cultural stasis—for the sake of societal stability—that authors suggest will occur between the colony ship’s departure and arrival. Instead, Delany explores the intermediary generations by examining a series of ballads Continue reading Short Book Reviews: Samuel R. Delany’s The Ballad of Beta-2 (1965), Barry N. Malzberg’s The Last Transaction (1977), and Philip McCutchan’s A Time for Survival (1966)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVI (Michel Jeury, Sheila MacLeod, Vietnam War anthology, The Year 2000 anthology)

1. I’m a sucker for themed anthologies! Especially of original stories… This one is on the top of my list to read!

2. The lengths the cover blurb goes to proclaim Sheila MacLeod’s Circuit-Breaker (1978) not SF is humorous. The blurb writer ends up describing the aim of New Wave science fiction (interior vs. exterior space). So many of these arguments demonstrate a lack of knowledge of genre and depends on dismissive stereotypes. As it my practice, I try to avoid these exclusionary/gate-keeping arguments. I recently picked up a copy of her only other SF novel Xanthe and the Robots (1977).

Curious about this one — and all SF about potentially insane astronauts.

A handful of favorite stories of (possibly) insane astronauts

Barry N. Malzberg’s Beyond Apollo (1972), The Falling Astronauts(1971), and Revelations (1972)

Gene Wolfe’s “Silhouette” (1975)

3. Another themed anthology! The topic here is the Vietnam War. Huge fan of Vietnam War inspired SF — especially Ursula Le Guin’s The Word for World is Forest (1972) and Kit Reed’s Armed Camps (1969).

What are your favorite Vietnam War-themed SF works? I’m thinking of putting together a resource on the topic.

4. French SF in translation. Here’s Michel Jeury’s bibliography. This appears to be the only one of his MANY SF novels to be translated into English. Alas.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

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1. The Year 2000, ed. Harry Harrison (1970)

(Pat Steir’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVI (Michel Jeury, Sheila MacLeod, Vietnam War anthology, The Year 2000 anthology)

Book Review: Candy Man, Vincent King (1971)

(Patrick Woodroffe’s cover art for the 1973 edition)

3.5/5 (Good)

The Candy Man wanders from place to place in a crumbling mega-city with his sole companion, a mechanical dog named Wolf who comes with a handy handle. Candy Man instigates the lobotomized, with primal speeches and drugged sugar floss tinted with pulverized beetles, to revolution. His reward for turning in those he encouraged deviate from the will of the Deep Machine and their Teachers? Vials of drugs. Enter the hypnagogic world of Vincent King’s Candy Man (1971), an unsettled landscape inhabited by the degenerate remnants of humankind and the arcane workings of a computer program that cannot escape its original perimeters.

Fresh off Vincent King’s short story “Defense Mechanism” (1966), I tracked down a copy of his second novel. Occupying a similar space as “Defense Mechanism” (conceptual breakthrough in a decaying world city), King pushes the narrative Continue reading Book Review: Candy Man, Vincent King (1971)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIV (John Shirley, Carol Emshwiller, Daniel Walther, and Jacques Sternberg)

1. Few themes make me as excited as dystopic urbanism: the city or suburbia as an arena of all the malignancies of societal decay. The progressive SF symbol of progress, a lake of uplifting spires, tossed into anarchy and chaos….

John Shirley’s City Come A-Walking (1980) takes this premise to its extremes—the city of San Francisco, the “pulsing heart of urbanized madness” gains sentience. Definitely the Shirley novel I’ll read first (recently nabbed Shirley’s 1985 novel Eclipse).

Tarbandu read it and didn’t care for it over at The PorPor Books Blog. I hope my experience is different!

2. Back in 2017, I read and reviewed Carol Emshwiller’s masterful short story “Animal” (1968). It’s about time I read more of her short fictions.

3. I recently read and enjoyed Jacques Sternberg’s collection Future Without Future (1971, trans. 1973). He was a Belgian author who wrote in French. Unfortunately, the only other one of his SF works available in English is Sexualis ’95 (1965, trans. 1967). I’m not sure this erotic SF novel has any merit. We shall see.

Too bad his first SF novel La sortie est au fond de l’espace (1956) remains untranslated. Its premise seems like SF I could get behind: “a black comedy set in space and featuring the last human survivors of a bacterial Holocaust” (SF Encyclopedia).

4. Daniel Walther, a French SF author, positions The Book of Shai (1982, trans. C. J. Cherryh, 1984) as a deliberate anti-Ayn Rand novel. Considering the one man saves everything nature of so many post-apocalyptical and sword-and-sorcery adventures, I’m intrigued how it plays out! I don’t have high hopes.

Translated by fellow author C. J. Cherryh, who appeared to translate a bunch of the DAW French editions….  lists of translations should be a feature of her  isfdb.org listing — alas.

I also find it humorous that Cherryh gives the sequel, which she also translated, 1 star on Goodreads! The third volume of the trilogy remains untranslated.

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1. City Come A-Walking, John Shirley (1980) (MY REVIEW)

(Catherine Huerta’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLIV (John Shirley, Carol Emshwiller, Daniel Walther, and Jacques Sternberg)

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Strange Visages of Burt Shonberg (1933-1977)

(Burt Shonberg, 1964 Ibiza Spain)

Burt Shonberg (1933-1977) produced only one SF cover for the Fantastic Science Fiction Stories (June 1960), ed. Cele Goldsmith. I adore the etched helmet, the lack of a distinct face, the looking backward at a similar form emerging…. I wish more magazines commissioned covers from him–he could have added a nice visual wrinkle to the fair of the day. Here’s the isfdb.org listing for the issue–do you know which story he’s illustrating?

(Fantastic Science Fiction Stories (June 1960), ed. Cele Goldsmith)

So who was he? His biography, which the following paragraph is based on, lays out an intriguing life. Born in Continue reading Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Strange Visages of Burt Shonberg (1933-1977)