2022 was the single best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers!
As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Whether you are a lurker, occasional visitor, or a regular commenter, thank you for your continued support.
Continuing a trend from 2021, I read only a handful of novels this year. Instead, I devoted my obsessive attention to various science short story review initiatives (listed below), anthologies, and histories of the science fiction genre. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2022 with bonus categories. Descriptions are derived from my linked reviews.
My Top 5 Science Fiction Novels of 2022 (click titles for my full review)
1. Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake(1978), 4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece): Won the 1979 Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award for Best Novel. Snake journeys across the post-apocalyptic wastes of a future Earth with three serpents healing the sick and caring for the dying. She is a member of the healers, who adopt orphans and rescue the oppressed and train them how to use the serpents. Mist and Sand are genetically modified vipers of terrestrial origin. But Grass comes from another alien world. Snake uses Mist and Sand’s venom to create vaccines, treat diseases, and cure tumors. Grass, the rare dreamsnake, with its alien DNA is the most important of them all–it provides therapeutic pleasure and dreams that facilitate conquering one’s fear and healing in the ill. In Snake’s voyages, she encounters prejudice and violence. A joyous sense of sexual freedom permeates the proceedings. A powerful and different take on a post-apocalyptic worldscape in every possible way.
Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Ahead of Time, Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore (1953)
From the inside page: “A brain in a box fights a criminal plot
A visitor from the future turns out to be peculiar even for his society
An eternal hillbilly family survives the centuries and gets into political trouble
A sick electronic calculator catches a psychosis from its operator
…these are some of the highly original and vividly written stories you will find in this selection of a master’s work.
Science fiction and fantasy grow constantly in popularity. Writing of this quality and imagination is the reason. Henry Kuttner demonstrates again in his book why more and more readers are becoming devotees of that intriguing fiction which is not content to stay in the world as we see it and know it, which takes us to the farthest reaches of space and time, to the farthest reaches of the human mind.”
The seventh, eighth, ninth, and tenth stories in my series on the science fictional media landscape of the future appear in the anthology Tomorrow’s TV, ed. Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg, and Charles Waugh (1982).
Up Next: Ann Warren Griffith’s “Captive Audience” (1953) in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Anthony Boucher and J. Francis McComas (August 1953). You can read it online here.
3.25/5 (collated rating: Above Average)
Tomorrow’s TV (1982) gathers together five short stories published between 1951 and 1979 on future speculations and disturbing manifestations of the tube of the future. The extensive number of TV-related science fiction from these decades (especially the 50s and early 60s) should not come as a surprise. According to Gary R. Edgerton’s magisterial monograph The Columbia History of American Television (2007), no “technology before TV every integrated faster into American life” (xi). Isaac Asimov speculates on the nature of education and the role of the “teacher” if every kid goes to school on their TV. Ray Bradbury imagines a frosty world where everyone turns inward towards the hypnotic glow of their TV sets. Robert Bloch explores the intersection of programming as escape and its collision with the real world. Ray Nelson narrates a hyperviolent expose of the alien entities behind subliminal messaging. And Jack Haldeman II imagines what will happen when the human mind reaches a moment of information overload.
Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?
1. Earth Is Room Enough, Isaac Asimov (1957)
From the back cover: “ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN and probably will RIGHT HERE ON EARTH.
You don’t have to rent a spaceship or sign up for a singles cruise to Saturn or spend your weekends star-hopping along the Milky Way because EARTH IS ROOM ENOUGH.
Earth is where the action is and each tomorrow unleashes new discoveries.
Here are brilliant, witty, frightening, and fascinating stories of the future by the greatest science fiction master of them all. Just hitch your mind to these weird and wonderful tales for a spin around the world of tomorrow that will take you right to the center of your wildest dreams.”
Contents: “The Dead Past” (1956), “Franchise” (1955), “Gimmicks Three” (1956), “Kid Stuff” (1953), “The Watery Place” (1956), “Living Space” (1956), “The Message” (1956), “Satisfaction Guaranteed” (1951), “Hell-Fire” (1956), “The Last Trump” (1955), “The Fun They Had” (1951), “Jokester” (1956), “The Immortal Bard” (1954), “Someday” (1956), “The Author’s Ordeal” (1957), “Dreaming Is a Private Thing” (1955)
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 →