(Don Puchatz’s cover for the 1981 edition)
4.75/5 (collated rating: Very Good)
With Christopher Priest’s second short story collection, An Infinite Summer (1979), he enters the pantheon of my favorite SF authors. The thing is, I knew he would all along once I moved past the sour taste of his first novel Indoctrinaire (1970) and finally picked up one of his later endeavors.
Priest’s fiction appeals to my sensibilities: he is the consummate wordsmith; his worlds (especially the stories in the loose sequence of the Dream Archipelago) are evocative; the stories drip with a certain nostalgic longing and/or are populated with characters who cannot escape their memories; metafictional experimentation (a novel within a story, a novel that Priest himself would go on to write–perhaps with a different plot!) is rooted to the aims of each story (you cannot separate the two without Continue reading Book Review: An Infinite Summer, Christopher Priest (1979)
(Howard Winters’ cover for the 1969 edition)
“Inspecting a few she found that they were about what she had expected: the science-fiction books seemed to be full of nonsense about extraterrestrials or flights into space, the damnedest silliest stuff imaginable, and the sex part was sheer filth. There was no question about it; there was no other way to describe those books” (12).
Science fiction as delusion. More specifically, chapters replete with SF plots with evil aliens with interchangeable names and megalomaniacal claims to power culled straight from the pulps are delusions. Imagined (perhaps?) by an average American man with “metastases” (14) growing in his brain while a concerned, albeit cheating, normal American housewife waits at his bedside. The Empty People (1969) is considered Barry N. Malzberg’s (writing at K. M. O’Donnell) first SF novel. However in the vein of his more famous Herovit’s World (1973), the most convincing interpretation of the novel suggests that the SF elements (purposefully clichéd and vaguely explained) are mere manifestations and torments of a diseased mind.
Originally Malzberg had aspirations to become a playwright and was even awarded multiple university playwright fellowships but was unable to break into the literary market. Thus, he tried his hand at science fiction in the late 60s with some success (his most famous work would be published in the early 70s). I would suggest that Malzberg’s palpable frustration writing SF can be found throughout the novel. In The Empty People pulp science fiction plots, in their most general formulations, serve as instruments of repression Continue reading Book Review: The Empty People, Barry N. Malzberg (as K. M. O’Donnell) (1969)
(Paul Swenson’s cover for the 2012 edition)
The second installment of my guest post series on Michael Bishop’s SF is the critically acclaimed Brittle Innings (1994) (Nominated for the 1994 Hugo + Won the 1995 Locus Award for Best Fantasy Novel)—his last published genre novel. In the words of the wonderful James Harris—over at Auxiliary Memory—who wrote the following review, “Brittle Innings is Flannery O’Connor mashed up with Mary Shelley, and a dash of A League of Their Own.” Make sure to check out his site [here] where he discusses writing, science fiction, movies, and definitely track down his best SF novels of the each decade lists!
Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop: Literary v. Genre Fiction
Stories about minor league baseball always have to deal the ambition of making it big, of going to the show, and playing for the majors. Brittle Innings by Michael Bishop is a baseball novel by a science fiction writer, and I can’t help but wonder if this novel isn’t about writing in the minor leagues hoping to make it big in the literary majors Continue reading Guest Post: Brittle Innings, Michael Bishop (1994)
(Stanislaw Hernandez’s cover for the 1973 edition)
5/5 (Masterpiece) (*caveats below*)
Nominated for the 1973 Nebula Award (lost to Asimov’s disappointing The Gods Themselves)
“She was Our Mother, so she cried. She used to sit out there, under that micha tree, all day as we worked cursing in her fields. She sat there during the freezing nights, and we pretended that we could see her through the windows in the house, by the light of the moons and the hard, fast stars. She sat there before most of us were born; she sat there until she died. And all the time she shed her tears. She was Our Mother, so she cried” (11)
What Entropy Means to Me (1972) is one of the more satisfying products of the New Wave science fiction movement of the 60s and 70s that I’ve read. I place it in the pantheon of Malzberg’s Revelations (1972), Samuel Delany’s Nova (1968), and Brunner’s Stand on Zanzibar (1968). Effinger revels, and I mean gloriously revels, in metafictional Continue reading Book Review: What Entropy Means to Me, George Alec Effinger (1972)
3.25/5 (Good — collated rating)
James Blish, famous for his Hugo winning novel, A Case of Conscience, early Star Trek novelizations, and the Cities in Flight series also wrote some interesting short shorties. This volume includes a Continue reading Book Review: Galactic Cluster, James Blish (1959) — collected short stories from 1953-59
A SUSPECT RUMINATION
O the joys of wanna be Victorian Robinson Crusoes…
Douglas Frazar’s ‘Perseverance Island or the Robinson Crusoe of the Nineteenth Century’ (1885) is the American Victorian reinterpretation of Robinson Crusoe and it shares shelf space Continue reading Book Review: Perseverance Island Or The Robinson Crusoe Of The Nineteenth Century, Douglas Frazar (1885)