Updates: Recent SF Purchases No. CCXCVI (Harry Harrison, Carole Nelson Douglas, Terry Bisson, Star Anthology)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Planet of the Damned, Harry Harrison (serialized 1961)

From the back cover: “Brion Brandd of the Galactic CRF had a problem. It was the planet Dis. Brion’s assignment was to salvage it.

Dis was a harsh, inhospitable, dangerous place and the Disans made it worse. They might have been a human once–but they were something else now.

The Disans had only one desire–kill! Kill everything, themselves, their planet, the universe if they could–


Initial Thoughts: Smells like a variation of Harrison’s Deathworld (1960), which I never managed to review, from a year earlier. Which isn’t a good sign… Planet of the Damned was a finalist for the 1962 Hugo for Best Novel. It lost to Robert A. Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land (1961).

Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXV (Brian W. Aldiss, James E. Gunn, Sharon Webb, and a Themed Anthology)

My first purchases of 2021! As always, which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Helliconia Spring, Brian W. Aldiss (1982)

Kinuko Y. Craft’s cover for the 1983 edition

From the back cover: “Imagine a world in a system of twin suns, where Winter is 6000 ice-locked years and every Spring is the first remembered. Imagine a People finding ruined cities beneath the melting snows. Never dreaming they had built them. And would again… Imagine Helliconia. And begin the most magnificent peice since DUNE…”

Initial Thoughts: I love Brian W. Aldiss’ SF–from his iconic generation ship novel Non-Stop (variant title: Starship) (1958) to bizarre experimental works short stories like “Judas Danced” (1958) [which I need to reread!]. I have yet to explore any of of his early 80s SF. I’ve reviewed the following Aldiss works: Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLVI (Joan Slonczewski, Barrington J. Bayley, James E. Gunn, Per Wahlöö)

As always which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. The Mind Master (variant title: The Dreamers), James E. Gunn (1981)

Lisa Falkenstern’s cover for the 1982 edition

From the back cover: “IT IS THE 22ND CENTURY… IT IS THE AGE OF ECSTASY… Man has perfected the chemical transfer of information. Pop a pill and experience the Garden of Eden, the knowledge of centuries, or the vicarious thrill of someone else’s life. And in this world, one man—The Mnemonist—holds the task of keeping society Continue reading

Book Review: Triax, ed. Robert Silverberg (1977)

(Justin Todd’s cover for the 1979 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Triax (1977) contains three original novellas written specifically for the volume.  I concur with Robert Silverberg’s defense of the novella form in the introduction, “it allows the leisurely development of an idea, the careful and elaborate exploration of the consequences of the fictional situation, while at the same time not requiring the intricate plot-and-counterplot scaffolding of a true novel” (vii).  Keith Roberts’ “Molly Zero” and James Gunn’s “If I Forget Thee” have not appeared in subsequent English-language collections. Unsurprisingly, the Jack Vance novella, “Freitzke’s Turn,” appeared in Galactic Effectuator (1980) Continue reading

Updates: Year in Review (Top Ten SF Novels + Top Ten Short Stories/Novelettes/Novellas + other categories)

Everyone likes lists!  And I do too….  This is an opportunity to collate some of my favorite (and least favorite) novels and shorter SF works I read this year.  Last year I discovered Barry N. Malzberg and this year I was seduced by…. Well, read and find out.


Top Ten Novels

1. We Who Are About To…, Joanna Russ (1976): A scathing, and underread, literary SF novel by one of the more important feminist SF writers of the 70s (of The Female Man fame).

2. A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975): A well-written anthropological clash of cultures novel.  Slow, gorgeous, emotionally engaging….

3. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959): A strange satire of the bomb shelter…  Everyday surrealism. Continue reading

Book Review: The Burning, James E. Gunn (1972)


(Robert Foster’s evocative cover for the 1972 edition)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Above Average)

James E. Gunn’s The Burning (1972) is a fix-up novel containing three previously published but linked novelettes: ‘Witches Must Burn’ (1956), ‘Trial By Fire’ (1969), and ‘Witch Hunt’ (1969).  The first two are contiguous while the third section is more loosely related.  I will rate each separately as I did with the superior The Immortals (1962).

As someone who has lived in areas of the United States plagued by virulent strains of anti-intellectualism, massive higher education funding cuts (especially in the liberal arts), and an increasing emphasis on “practical” fields of study, James E. Gunn’s The Burning (1972) is a profoundly unsettling read.  Of course Gunn’s dystopic future is much more one of doom and gloom: The universities lie in smoldering ruins, the professors (“eggheads”) Continue reading

Book Review: The Immortals, James E. Gunn (1962)

THMMRTLSNS1962(Mitchell Hooks’ cover for the 1962 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Good)

James E. Gunn’s The Immortals (1962) is less about the lives and mental state of the eponymous humans “blessed” with immortality (a fascinating topic in itself) and more about the ramifications of their existence on the rest of society not “blessed” with such genetic structures.  Their presence exacerbates the problems of an already dystopically tinged world where medical care is increasingly the domain of the ultra wealthy.  With the knowledge that a random genetic mutation has created a bloodline whose members are immortal, society is all too eager to root them out and (literally) bleed them dry.  Living longer — achieved by whatever means — becomes the single-minded desire of all.  Most of humanity is oblivious to the festering (and carcinogenic) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Acquisitions No. LXI (James E. Gunn x 5)

I loved James E. Gunn’s The Joy Makers (1961) and found the collection Station in Space (1958) quite solid…  Thus, I snatched up a lot of Gunn’s fix-up novels and short story collections from ebay…. It is often difficult to distinguish Gunn’s short story collections from his novels due to the fact that his favorite form tended to be the novella and novelette — after their original magazine publications they were combined into “proper novels” or existing novellas, for example ‘The Listeners’ (1968), were expanded to novel length.

Regardless, I cannot wait to read these.  Which ones to do you recommend?

And some intriguing covers….

1. The Burning, James Gunn (1972) (MY REVIEW)


(Robert Foster’s cover for the 1972 edition)

From the inside flap: “Death to the scientists!  The cry for blood vengeance went up all over the Continue reading