Book Review: Orbit 1 (James Blish, Sonya Dorman, Kate Wilhelm, Thomas M. Disch, Richard McKenna, Poul Anderson, Allison Rice, Keith Roberts, Virginia Kidd), ed. Damon Knight (1966)


(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1966 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Good)

Damon Knight’s Orbit anthology series ran from 1966-1976.  A while back I reviewed Orbit 8 (1970)–which contained the brilliant Gardner Dozois “Horse of Air” (1970 and a selection of intriguing Wolfe and Lafferty short stories—and was impressed enough to snatch up a copy of Orbit 1 (1966).  And it is graced with a Richard Powers cover I had not seen…

Orbit 1 contains nine short works (with four by women authors) and maintains solid quality throughout.  None of the stories—other than Sonya Dorman’s dark and terrifying “Slice of Life”—are masterpieces but Keith Roberts, Kate Wilhelm, Richard McKenna, James Blish, and Thomas M. Disch Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXVIII (Roberts + Cherryh + Blish + Knight + Pangborn)

Finally, a famous (“Joachim Boaz you will adore it”) fix-up novel by Keith Roberts enters my collection….

Overpopulation SF never gets old—even if I have low expectations about this one.

More Pangborn and a singleton Cherryh novel I had never heard of….


1. A Torrent of Faces, James Blish & Norman L. Knight (1967)


(Diane and Leo Dillon’s cover for the 1968 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. XCVI (Varley + Wilhelm + Blish + Effinger)

With the sole novel of his I’ve read, What Entropy Means to Me (1972), George Alec Effinger has entered the pantheon of my favorite authors—the novel is that brilliant.  So, with a birthday gift card from my sister I procured a copy of Irrational Numbers (1975), a collection of short fiction.  Will read soon….

I know very little about John Varley’s work.  I have a copy of his collection The Persistence of Vision (1978)  but had no idea that his first novel, The Ophiuchi Hotline (1977) was as well known as the Goodreads ratings make it out to be (1,476 votes!).  I am positive that Boris Vallejo’s horrid cover prevented me from even considering the novel in the past.

More Wilhelm! (Juniper Time)

More Blish! (Midsummer Century)

All first edition hardbacks for a mere $1-2 each.


1. The Ophiuchi Hotline, John Varley (1977)

(Boris Vallejo’s cover for the 1977 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXXXV (Fowler + Bishop + Brunner + Blish)

Dallas Part V (and some older finds) (Part IV, Part III, Part II, Part I)!

Love Brunner, want his short stories, enough said….

Also, I have a love hate relationship with Blish (love his “hard” SF and dislike his juveniles of which he wrote a many and often in a “hard” SF series)—The Frozen Year (1957) supposedly is his attempt at a “realistic” SF novel.  I’ll just have to see…  I feel weirdly compelled to read it.

As for the Karen Joy Fowler collection—yes, she wrote in the 80s!—the book sorters at the Half Price Books failed to realized that it was a signed copy!  So for a mere dollar I now have only my second signed SF work after D. G. Compton’s Scudder’s Game (1988).  As people have probably realized, I completely eschew conventions and have little connection with fandom and thus do not go out of my way to procure signed editions…

Michael Bishp=one of my new favorite authors (after reading Beneath the Shattered Moons and A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire).  Hence, Catacomb Years (1979) is a welcome addition to my collection.


1. No Future in It, John Brunner (1962)

(Uncredited cover for the 1965 edition) Continue reading

Updates: A New Classic SF Review Blog to add to your list

MPorcius, a frequent and well-read commentator on my site, has started transferring his numerous amazon reviews and writing new reviews of classic SF (a substantial portion is pre-1980s) to his blog.  Please visit him and comment on his posts!

queue rant: I’ve noticed a surprising lack of frequently updated classic SF blogs online.  Yes, many bloggers occasionally dabble in the distant era of SF glory or publish yet another review of the obligatory masterpieces because they appear on a some “best of” list (Dune, The Left Hand of Darkness, etc).  However, few are devoted to the period and make it a point to write reviews of books that very few people will ever actually read due to their obscurity i.e. blogs that don’t sell out by churning out reviews of new Tor releases (I have declined their offer) or endless 4/5 or 5/5 starred let’s pat each other on the back reviews of self-published (and generally awful) ebooks Continue reading

Updates: An Incomplete List of Worthwhile Classic Science Fiction Blogs/Resources

I love the idea of a community of science fiction reviewers — so I’ve put together a list of a handful of book review blogs focused on classic/slightly more esoteric science fiction.  Obviously there are plenty of great blogs I’ve omitted that have reviews of new releases or only occasional vintage science fiction….  Or, blogs that refrain from reviews of vintage science fiction unless participating in certain reading challenges….

Please visit them, comment on their reviews, and browse through their back catalogues.

1] Speculiction….: An under visited /commented on blog with quality book reviews of classic science fiction — however, the reviewer, Jesse, is limited by the lack of older science fiction available to him in Poland.  I especially enjoyed his reviews of Ballard’s “beautifully strange enigma” that is The Crystal World (1966) and of course, my favorite science fiction novel of all time, John Brunner’s magisterial Stand on Zanzibar (1968).  An index of his reviews can be found here.  He also has a good mix of newer science fiction reviews as well.

2] The PorPor Books Blog: SF and Fantasy Books 1968-1988: I find this blog Continue reading

Book Review: Three for Tomorrow, novellas by Robert Silverberg, Roger Zelazny, and James Blish, (1969)

(Uncredited cover for the 1970 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

Three for Tomorrow (1969) contains three novellas written specially for the volume on the following theme selected by Arthur C. Clarke: “with increasing technology goes increasing vulnerability: the more man conquers Nature, the more prone he becomes to artificial catastrophe” (foreword, 8).  In my continuing quest for Robert Silverberg’s work from his Glory Period (proclaimed by me) 1967-1976, I was delighted to come across one of his shorter works paired with two other great authors, James Blish and Roger Zelazny.  If you want to read Silverberg’s novella but not the others, it appeared in many of his later collections — Earth’s Other Shadow (1973) for example.

As with most collections, Three for Tomorrow is uneven.  Silverberg’s installment is the best due to its intriguing social analysis of a city suddenly whose inhabitants are suddenly missing Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. XVIII (Disch + Silverberg + Pohl + Dickson + et. al.)

Half-Price Books in Dallas, Texas (its first location!) = bliss.

9 books = only 12 dollars. (curtesy of my girlfriend’s parents’ pre-Christmas gift)

What an amazing haul — and if I had known they were only going to be twelve dollars I would have picked up nine more.  Lots of Silverberg from his glory years…  Generation ships… City building machines… Weird psychic forcefields out beyond Pluto… Vietnam army camps experimenting with intelligence enhancing (and death inducing) syphilis strains…

1. Camp Concentration, Thomas M. Disch (1972)

(Uncredited cover for the 1971 edition) Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Doomed Cities (post-apocalyptical ruins, war-wrecked landscapes, burning winds)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1959 edition of The Rest Must Die (1959), Kendell Foster Crossen)

The electricity turns off in a futuristic city and people turn into animals and everyone slowly kills each other, mysterious winds sweep through cities killing everyone, large machine minds take over, nuclear bombs destroy everything, intelligent dogs take over, the sun expands drying all the oceans, the sun expands (but not as much) and water floods over all the cities, aliens come with large guns and blow everything up, aliens come with brain probes and make others blow everything up, aliens pretend to be humans and annoy the humans enough so they blow each other up with nuclear bombs, people from the past go back in time and see that humans have blown everything up and they try to prevent the aliens from making the humans blow everything up, a bacterial agent from an alien kills everyone, Continue reading