Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXV (John Brunner, Connie Willis, Cynthia Felice, Philip Wylie, and a themed anthology)

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

1. The Shockwave Rider, John Brunner (1975)

From the back cover: “Future shock!

In the obsessively technological, paranoidally secretive and brutally competitive society depicted by John Brunner, even personal identities are under threat. But one man has made it his mission to liberate the mental prisoners, to restore their freedom in a world run mad.

Nickie Haflinger, the only person to escape from Tarnover–where they raise hyper-intelligent children to maintain the political dominance of the USA in the 21st century–is on the run, dodging from loophole to crevise to crack in the computerised datanet that binds the continent like chains. After years of flight and constant changes of identity, at the strange small town called Precipice he discovers he is not alone in his quest. But can his new allies save him when he falls again into the sinister grasp of Tarnover…?”

Initial Thoughts: I read John Brunner’s The Shockwave Rider (1972) before I started my site–along with his other masterpieces Stand on Zanzibar (1968), The Sheep Look Up (1972), The Jagged Orbit (1969), The Whole Man (196), etc. Of his best known novels, I remember the least about The Shockwave Rider. However, I cannot find my copy for a rare reread! For all I know I gave it to a friend or lost it in a move. I sought out this UK edition due to the intriguing urban arcology background of the cover.

Continue reading

Book Review: The Alien Condition, ed. Stephen Goldin (1973)

3/5 (collated rating: Average)

Stephen Goldin gathers together twelve original short stories–including six by women authors and two co-written with women–on the theme of the alien condition [1]. Despite the “Average” overall rating, The Alien Condition gathers a fascinating range of science fiction with three spectacular visions by Vonda N. McIntyre, Kathleen Sky, and James Tiptree, Jr. I was also pleasantly surprised by Alan Dean Foster’s take on the theme considering my previous exposure to his fiction.

Continue reading

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–

BRION HAD MINUTES TO STOP THEM–IF HE COULD FIND OUT HOW!”

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

Book Review: Infinity One, ed. Robert Hoskins (1970) (Poul Anderson, Anne McCaffrey, Gene Wolfe, Robert Silverberg, Miriam Allen deFord, et al.)

This anthology contains the 4th post in a loose series on SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them. I decided to review the entire anthology!

Previously: William Tenn’s “Down Among the Dead Men” in Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold (June 1954). You can read it online here.

Up Next: Theodore Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea” in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, ed. Robert P. Mills (October 1959). You can read the story online here.

Jim Steranko’s cover for the 1st edition

3/5 (Collated rating: Average)

Robert Hoskins “resurrected” Infinity Science Fiction magazine (1955-1958) as a five volume anthologies series between 1970-1973. The first volume, Infinity One (1970), contains sixteen original stories and one reprint from the original magazine–Arthur C. Clarke’s “The Star” (1955). SF Encyclopedia describes the anthology series as “a competent but not outstanding series.”

Eight of the seventeen stories fall into the “good” category. While none are masterpieces, Robert Silverberg, Arthur C. Clarke, Barry N. Malzberg co-writing with Kris Neville, Katherine MacLean, Gene Wolfe, and Poul Anderson Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXV (Ballard + Strugatski + deFord + Baines)

1) Blunt statement: I need to read more of the Strugatski brothers. I devoured the The Ugly Swans (written 1966-1967, published 1979 in the US, published in 1987 in the USSR) but did not review it.

2) A fascinating speculative feminist novel from The Women’s Press–birth, myth, delusions, dreams, terror.  Few reviews exist online so I will go in without much knowledge of the work.

3) I placed Miriam Allen deFord’s collection (filled with numerous gems) Xenogenesis (1969) on a list of SF Gollancz’s Masterwork series should acquire. Her only other published collection for the longest time was priced far out of my reach. This is why you have Amazon lists… scan them frequently, find the deals!

4) A Ballard novel with “pervading auroral gloom, broken by inward shifts of light”? Count me in! As a fierce advocate of Ballard’s early fiction and novels, I cannot wait to read this one…

Related reviews: Billenium (1962), High-Rise (1975), The Voice of Time and Other Stories (1962). The Drowned World (1962) and The Drought (1964) clock in as my favorite of his novels—although both remain unreviewed… Stay tuned for my upcoming review of The Terminal Beach (1964).

Scans are from my personal collection. Click to enlarge.

Thoughts/comments are welcome (as always)!

1. The Final Circle of Paradise, Arkadi and Boris Strugatski (1965, trans. 1976)

(Laurence Kresek’s cover for the 1976 edition) Continue reading

A question for my fellow SF fans: Which SF writer without a single author collection published within the last 10 years should receive a reprint?

THDPFNCY401962 FRFLDNDTHB1981

On twitter [my account here — please follow!  I post interesting things!] I posed the following question:

Which SF author—for the purposes of this site’s focus, an author starting pre-1980—deserves a new (or reprint) single author collection?

GUIDELINES (please read): Said author cannot have a single author collection published within the last 10 years (you can fudge this a bit).   It also should be noted that many eBooks aren’t available in the United States (SF Gateway for example).  If the recent eBook edition isn’t available in the US, I guess the author fits the bill (*cough* — John Sladek).

XNGNSS4D1969Note: If you are thinking about doing some checking before you make your choice (see guidelines) I recommend using isfdb.org as it has mostly up to date publication histories for all but self-published authors.

My vote: Miriam Allen deFord (active from — SF Encyclopedia LINK

Published collections: Xenogenesis (1969) and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (1971)

Reason: Miriam Allen deFord (1888-1975) was one of the major voices in SF magazines from 1946 – 1978.   She never made the transition to novels and thus might have lost some readership as a result.  The stories in Xenogenesis (1969) shows an often radical voice right from her first story in 1946.  Although they might not be as polished as some of her more Continue reading

Updates: My Top 10 SF works (pre-1980) for inclusion in the Gollancz Masterwork series

Long-Tomorrow dune

The Gollancz Masterwork series [list] ranges from famous novels such as Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) to lesser known short story collections such as The Caltraps of Time (1968) by David I. Masson.  The Masterwork series has the power to introduce readers to the canonical “best of SF” and works that should be considered classics.  Many of the second group have not seen print for decades.  Although I have some qualms about certain inclusions, I was genuinely blown away that they recently chose one of my favorite novels The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe (variant title: The Unsleeping Eye) (1973) by D. G. Compton—an underread and unjustly forgotten author.

Over the course of the next week or so a handful of my fellow SF bloggers (most of whom have a focus on earlier SF) will release lists on their sites of SF they would like to see featured by Gollancz.  I have not given them any guidelines so the lists should be varied and hopefully will generate some discussion.  I highly recommend you head over to their sites (I will post the links as they come in) and comment.

Thoughts + comments are always welcome (as well as your own lists!).

More “What to Include in the Gollancz Masterwork Series” Lists (blog friends)

Chris over at Battered, Tattered, Yellowed, and Creased 

Megan over at From Couch to Moon

2theD over at Potpourri of Science Fiction Literature

Ian Sales over at It Doesn’t Have to be Right…

Jesse over at Speculiction…

2theD over at Tongues of Speculation (his votes regarding translated SF)

Martin over at Martin’s Booklog

My guidelines for inclusion

1. My frequent readers know that I prefer (passionately) SF from the 50s-70s Continue reading

Book Review: Xenogenesis, Miriam Allen deFord (1969)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1969 edition — there is some speculation that it might be a collaboration with Leo and Diane Dillon)

3.5/5 (Collated rating: Good)

Miriam Allen deFord—one of the more prolific SF short story authors of the 50s-70s whose works appeared in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, If, Fantastic Universe, Galaxy, Worlds of Tomorrow, etc—deserves a Gollancz Masterworks volume.  But, as Ian Sales has pointed out so forcefully in his recent article (here), despite the number of prolific women SF authors in the 50s-70s they were rarely republished and are perhaps the least read group of SF authors for modern audiences.  There are some exceptions but few readers can name a women author pre-Ursula Le Guin.  deFord’s shorts were collected in only two volumes, Xenogenesis (1969) and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (1971) and both print runs were limited to the first year of publication.

Informed by her feminist activism (she was an important campaigner for birth control) and her earlier career in the newspapers, deFord’s stories tackle themes such as overpopulation, racism, colonialism, gender issues, sexism, and alienation.  Her works range from deceptively simple allegories to future histories vast in scope and complexity (for short stories).  Her female characters are almost all individualistic, resourceful, and highly educated–they often struggle against increasingly regimented/mechanized/homogenized societies in order to raise families in addition to their careers.  In short, deFord advocates forcefully the right to self-determination Continue reading