Published a few months before the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Robert Hoskins’ anthology First Step Outward (1969) charts an imagined future history of humanity’s exploration of the galaxy. The stories, gathered from some of the big names of the day (Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, etc.), are grouped as if part of the same future with headings such as “To the Planets” and “To the Stars.” As with most anthologies, this contains a range of gems (such as Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea”) and duds (Ross Rocklynne’s “Jaywalker”).
I’ve previously reviewed five of the thirteen stories in their own posts–linked for easy consultation.
Brief Plot Summary/Analysis
“Cold War” (1949), Kris Neville, 3/5 (Average): Previously reviewed in its own post here.
“Third Stage” (1963), Poul Anderson, 3.5/5 (Good): Previously reviewed in its own post here.
“Gentlemen, Be Seated!” (1948), Robert A. Heinlein, 2.75/5 (Vaguely Average): My first return to Robert A. Heinlein in around a decade is exactly like I thought it would be–thoroughly disappointing. Yes, yes, yes, I know this is far from what he was capable of. The number of reprints this misfire of a story receives mystifies (it appeared in the regularly reprinted The Green Hills of Earth and The Past Through Tomorrow).
The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wolheim and Arthur S. Saha (1977) is a glorious anthology of SF published from the year before containing rousing works by the established masters (Isaac Asimov and Brian W. Aldiss), philosophical gems from New Wave icons (Barrington J. Bayley), and gritty and disturbing commentaries on masculinity by the newer voices (James Tiptree, Jr.). While Richard Cowper and Lester del Rey misfire, the overall quality is high for a large Continue reading →
1) Futuristic city? Yes! Is more needed? Okay, okay, I concede, more is needed. I hope Gotschalk’s novel with its fantastic Dean Ellis cover delivers. Among the least known of the Ace Science Fiction Special series…
2) Ballard blurbs Martin Bax’s novel as “…the most exciting, stimulating and brilliantly conceived book I have read since Burroughs’ novels.” Hyperbole aside, the two reviews (here and here) I’ve read of Bax’s sole novel puts this at the top of my “to read” pile.
I have cheated a bit by including the cover for the first New Directions edition rather than the later Picador edition I own due to the cover quality.
3) Three acquisitions posts ago (here) I mentioned that the premise of Marge Piercy’s Dance the Eagle to Sleep (1970) did not inspire me to read it anytime soon. Thankfully I found a copy of what many consider her masterpiece Woman at the Edge of Time (1976) cheap at the local used book store.
4) I am not sure why I picked this collection up—I’ve heard good things about Joe Haldeman’s introduction which draws on his experience in the Vietnam War. As Isaac Asimov, Mack Reynolds, etc are not normally authors who intrigue me, I might do something I rarely do and read and review Effinger’s story only (and maybe Poul Anderson’s as he’s better in short form)…
As always thoughts and comments are welcome.
1. Growing up in Tier 3000, Felix C. Gotschalk (1976)
(Cover for the 1967 edition of vol. 1 of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (1965), Robert A. Heinlein)
The Portuguese painter and illustrator Lima de Freitas (1927-1998) created a vast number of covers for the Portuguese press Livros do Brasil. For more on the range of art he produced in his career consult his wikipedia page [here].
A while back I reviewed Mordecai Roshwald’s Level 7 (1959) and discovered de Freitas’ amazing cover (below). More than any of the US editions, it evokes the claustrophobic tone of the novel (and even some of the surreal elements).
As the son of two architects, architecturally inclined SF covers always fascinate. Thus, as an introduction to his art (if you do not know it already) I have collected a handful of his cityscapes. They are surreal masterpieces. Lima de Freitas’ covers emphasize the city as a canvas, the textures of human Continue reading →
(Robert Foster’s stunning cover for the 1968 edition)
2.75/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Average)
Despite the presence of one of Robert Foster’s best covers (for more on his art: Part I, Part II),New Writings in SF 4, ed. John Carnell (1965) contains only a few glimmers of brilliance—concentrated in Keith Roberts’ short story “Sub-Lim” (1965), a dark tale of crooked people and subliminal stimuli. Isaac Asimov regurgitates something about a SF heist he scribbled on a napkin, Dan Morgan mumbles about alternate universes and tricycles, and Colin Kapp lectures on the “unusual methods of cementation of electrolysis” (54) instead of telling a Continue reading →
H. Lawrence Hoffman (b. 1911-1977) [wikipedia article] illustrated a vast range of covers for the major presses such as Popular Library—his mystery novel covers, including those by Dashiell Hammett, are particularly evocative [here is a substantial gallery displaying the range of his non-SF covers].
His use of coral and figures inspired by Central American Art (see his cover for The Gate of Worlds (1967), Robert Silverberg) demonstrate his more experimental moments. His coral covers are stunning— Last Door to Aiya (1968), ed. Mirra Ginsburg and A Century of Science Fiction (1962), ed. Damon Knight. And the 1973 edition of Alien Art by Gordon R. Dickson scratches a strange artistic itch…
A wonderful Richard Powers cover and another by Don Punchatz which grows on me ever day (hauntingly surreal in its illustration of the book’s plot)….
Bob Shaw is Mr. Perpetually Average–see my reviews of Ground Zero Man (1971) and One Million Tomorrow(1971)—but MPorcius claims Night Walk (1968) is worth the read [here]—I took a peek at the first few pages and it shows promise. But SF Potpourri’s lengthy rundown of his other work casts a shadow [here]!
Who can pass up Lafferty? I have to admit, the premise of this particular novel does not appeal to me in the slightest. But, I purchased the book for less than $2 and it’s a $25+ (with shipping) paperback online!
Another Ted Thomas and Kate Wilhelm collaboration—one of my Kate Wilhelm’s SF guest posts [here], by Mike White, argues convincingly that it is not one of her better novels…. alas.
Two themed anthologies—one in “honor” of the election [*cough* I mean, well, I won’t go all political] year cycle… Another on one of my favorite SF themes, television of the future!
That said, both Asimov edited collections (from the 80s but with stories from only earlier decades) have a serious fault: out of the combined 35 stories there is not a single story by a woman author. I’ve read a vast number of 60s/70s collections which do not fall into this trap…. Orbit 1 (1966) almost manages gender parity! I can think of numerous stories by women authors that fit both themes. For example, Kit Reed’s wonderful “At Central” (1967) fits the TV anthology!
A hard to find for cheap early M. John Harrison novel…. Unfortunately I only found a much uglier edition that the one I show below as the rest were out of my price range….
And, a complete shot in the dark—a SF novel by the mainstream French/Lithuanian novelist/screenwriter Romain Gary, the author of White Dog (1970)..
As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts + comments.
It has been so long since I have read Asimov… Currents of Space (1952)—or Bradbury’s 1953 masterpiece Fahrenheit 451)—was the very first SF novel I ever read. And I did not enjoy it. In my later teens I read quite a few of Asimov’s works including the average The Gods Themselves (1972) in a Hugo-winning novel marathon that really got me into SF. He has never blown me away. But, I have a soft spot for the robot stories!
Gotlieb’s novel has simply the worst back cover blurb ever. Suspicious.
I do like Philip José Farmer stories although I wish the inside blurb would not give away the entire plot of two of the seven stories. I have never read the original “Riverworld” (1966) short story—perhaps it’s much better than the later novel version.
1. Eight Stories from The Rest of the Robots, Isaac Asimov (1966)