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.


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

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

Book Review: Future Without Future, Jacques Sternberg (1971, trans. 1973)

(Rus Anderson’s cover for the 1973 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Jacques Sternberg (1923-2006) was a Belgian author who occasionally published SF, especially early in his career. Future Without Future (1971, trans. by Frank Zero 1973) contains a nearly novel-length novella “Fin de siècle” and four other bleak satirical works published between 1958 and 1971.

A worthwhile acquisition for “Fin de siècle” (1971) alone. The other stories are still worth a read. If you’re interested in SF in translation, this collection is a must have. I plan on tracking down Sternberg’s only SF novel in translation, Sexualis ’95 (1956, trans. Lowell Blair 1965). It’s a shame La sortie est au fond de l’espace (“The Way Out is at the Bottom of Space”) (1956), “a black comedy set in space and featuring the last human survivors of a bacterial Holocaust” doesn’t exist (yet!) in translation…. (See SF Encyclopedia for a rundown of his works).

Like Stanislaw Lem, Sternberg creates planetary environments and otherworldly denizens that feel truly alien. In the more dystopic works, Sternberg’s bleak outlook on humanity’s increasing inability to connect with each other and our pasts Continue reading