Short Book Reviews: Michael G. Coney’s Monitor Found in Orbit (1974) and Ron Goulart’s After Things Fell Apart (1970)

Note: My read but “waiting to be reviewed pile” is growing. Short rumination/tangents are a way to get through the stack before my memory and will fades. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.


1. Monitor Found in Orbit, Michael G. Coney (1974)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

I’ve long enjoyed Michael G. Coney’s science fiction–check out Friends Come in Boxes (1973), Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975), “Those Good Old Days of Liquid Fuel” (1977), and my recent rumination on “The Mind Prison” (1971) (which appears in this collection) for my Generation Ship Short Story Review series. Unfortunately, the majority of the stories in Monitor Found in Orbit (1974), his only published short story collection, are middling at best. I waited far too long to review this one! Despite the presences of some solid to good stories, I can only provide brief summaries at this point without a reread.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVI (Vonda N. McIntyre, Thomas Burnett Swann, William Melvin Kelley, and a World’s Best Science Fiction Anthology)

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

1. Where is the Bird of Fire?, Thomas Burnett Swann (1970)

From the back cover: “Were the mythical monsters our ancestors spoke of so often more than fantasy? Is it not probable that these semi-human races existed–and that only human vanity has blurred their memory?

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Generation Ship Short Story Review: Michael G. Coney’s “The Mind Prison” (1971)

This is the 12th post in my newly resurrected series of vintage generation ship short fiction reviews. Today I have something a bit different — a 1970s commentary on the subgenre. While the story itself is not a generation ship tale as it takes place on Earth, it fits and critiques the theme from within a similar enclosed environment.

As a reminder for anyone stopping by, all of the stories I’ll review in the series are available online via the link below in the review.

You are welcome to read and discuss along with me as I explore humanity’s visions of generational voyage. And thanks go out to all who have joined already. I also have compiled an extensive index of generation ship SF if you wish to track down my earlier reviews on the topic and any that you might want to read on your own.

Previously: Arthur Sellings’ “A Start in Life” in Galaxy Science Fiction (September 1954), ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.

Next Up: Vonda N. McIntyre’s “The Mountains of Sunset, the Mountains of Dawn” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (February 1974), ed. Edward L. Ferman. You can read it online here.


Michael G. Coney’s “The Mind Prison” first appeared in New Writings in SF 19, ed. John Carnell (1971). 3.5/5 (Good). You can read it online here. I read it Coney’s collection Monitor Found in Orbit (1974).

Coney positions “The Mind Prison”, in the introduction to his collection Monitor Found in Orbit, as a commentary on generation ship stories–in particular Robert A. Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky (serialized 1941) and Brian W. Aldiss’ Non-Stop (variant title: Starship) (1959) which he read and reread over the years. He writes: “I cannot explain why I find the closed environment story so fascinating [..] Why should an adventure story be more exciting, merely because the people therein are not subject to external influences?” (114). Coney emphasizes the centrality of male heroism in many of these stories: “I would rather think that these stories emphasize identification, since the hero is invariably the only normal person around, surrounded by nonsensical religions, illogical facts, widely held misconception, which only he [emphasis Coney’s] can see the stupidity of” (114). “The Mind Prison” explores an enclosed environment remarkably similar to a generation ship, with a female heroine.

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[Short] Book Reviews: Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (1960) and Syzygy, Michael G. Coney (1973)

Note: My “to review” pile is growing. Short reviews are a way to get through the stack. Stay tuned for more detailed and analytical reviews.

1. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (1960)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1960 edition)

4/5 (Good)

Over the almost decade of reading for my site, I’ve enjoyed Algis Budrys’ short stories and disliked his novels. After the moody and noir(ish) Rogue Moon (1960), I’ll continue exploring his oeuvre.

Rogue Moon, one of his best-known works, is an odd and oblique read. And odd in that reviewers seem to expect the science fiction al core should be given greater weight than the melodrama… Unlike the melodrama in Michael G. Coney’s Syzygy reviewed below, Budrys’ brand engages as each of his Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXVII (Alan Dean Foster, F. M. Busby, Michael G. Coney, John Christopher)

1. Michael G. Coney is a firm blog favorite–from his deeply lyrical paean Hello Summer, Goodbye (variant title: Rax) (1975) to his off-the-wall bizarre short fictions in Friends Come in Boxes (1973). I eagerly snatched up a copy of his “ecological puzzle story” with  alien shapeshifters–Syzygy (1973) (Coney’s entry in SF Encyclopedia).

2. Always love a SF water world! hah. This one via Alan Dean Foster….

3. MPorcius over at MPorcius Fiction Log speaks highly of F. M. Busby’s Cage a Man (1973). I’ve only previously read Busby’s terrible shock story “Tell Me All About Yourself” (1973).

4. More British apocalypse tales join the ranks—this one a lesser known work by John Christopher. Pendulum (1968) is a tale of apocalypse from within rather than his normal external causes of societal devastation–see my recent review of A Wrinkle in the Skin (variant title: The Ragged Edge) (1966).. The inside flap reads as alarmist drivel—we shall see.

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

~

1. Syzygy, Michael G. Coney (1973)

(David Bergen’s cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: The 1977 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Arthur W. Saha and Donald A. Wollheim (1977)

(Richard Corben’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.25/5 (collated rating: Very Good)

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

Book Review: The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972) doesn’t feel like a “best of” collection. The majority of the contents are unspectacular space operas and hard SF in the Analog vein. Amongst the chaff, a few more inventive visions shined through—in particular, Joanna Russ’ mysteriously gauzy and stylized experiment replete with twins and dream machines; Michael G. Coney’s evocative overpopulation story about tourist robots; Christopher Priest’s “factual” recounting of human experimental subjects that isn’t factual at all; and Barry Malzberg’s brief almost flash piece about differing perspectives all tied together by the New York metro.

On the whole, I give it a solid recommendation although the best can be found in single-author collections.

Brief Analysis/Summary

“The Fourth Profession” (1971), novelette by Larry Niven, 3/5 (Average): Nominated for the 1972 Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXII (The Anthology Edition) (Best SF Stories from New Worlds 5, Orbit 6, Alpha 3, Best SF 1972)

Little pleases me more than reading the fascinating cross-section of the genre presented by anthologies from my favorite era of SF (1960s/70s). After the success that was World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series) (1967), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, I decided to browse my “to post” pile of recent acquisitions and share a handful with you all. As is often the case, the collections are peppered with stories I’ve already read—I’ve linked the relevant reviews.

Filled with authors I haven’t read yet—Stephen Tall, Robin Scott, Roderick Thorp, Jean Cox, Christopher Finch, etc.

…and of course, many of my favorites including Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Barry N. Malzberg, and Kate Wilhelm (among many many others).

Scans are from my collection.

1. The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1972 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: New Writings in SF 9, ed. John Carnell (1972) (Harrison + Coney + Sellings + King + et al.)

nwwrsnsf651972

(Gene Szafran’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

An imaginary question I received: “Why do you read anthologies cover to cover?” I love discovering new authors and those I was aware existed but haven’t read—with New Writings in SF 9 (1972) the following fall into this bipartite category: Joseph Green, Paul Corey, Arthur Sellings, Vincent King, R. W. Mackelworth, and Eddy C. Bertin.

Of the bunch, I will probably only remember Vincent King’s vision of the angst as the exploration of the entire galaxy nears completion… Both authors whom I know far better produce the best of the collection.  Michael G. Coney’s haunting tale of evolutionary dependency and M. John Harrison account of paranoia and guilt over the massacre of mysterious aliens are worth the read. Too bad the three above were never anthologized outside of John Carnell’s New Writings series!

Overall New Writings in SF 9 is superior to New Writings in SF 4 (1965) but probably only satisfying for Coney and Harrison completists….

Note: this title refers to the 1972 US publication which was a best of earlier volumes. Another volume by the same name was published in 1966 in the Continue reading