Book Review: Universe 12, ed. Terry Carr (1982) (Kim Stanley Robinson, Howard Waldrop, Nancy Kress, R. A. Lafferty, et al.)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

My fifth sojourn to Terry Carr’s Universe series of original anthologies (17 volumes published between 1971-1987) embodies the reasons I gravitate towards the medium: I discover new authors, I reassess old opinions, and deepen my understanding of my favorites. Recommended for Nancy Kress’ rumination on a childhood wrecked by insanity; Kim Stanley Robinson’s character piece on Mars transforming; Howard Waldrop’s account of obsession in an apocalyptic past; and Bruce McAllister’s tale of an astronaut returning home and the lies we tell.

Recommended for fans of more introspective early 80s SF.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“A Pursuit of Miracles” (1982), George Turner, 3/5 (Average): The Australian author and SF critic George Turner (1916-1997) published his first science fiction at 62! It’s never too late to start. A few years ago I read Turner’s first novel Beloved Son (1978) in the Ethical Culture trilogy. While the details have faded from memory as I never got around to writing a review, I remember how fascinated I was by the exploration of a post-Holocaust world by a returning expedition in the first half of the novel. The second half faded and grew increasingly ponderous and I’m not sure I finished….

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Update: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXIX (Nevil Shute, Nancy Kress, Hilbert Schenck, and a themed-anthology on future sex)

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

1. The Shape of Sex to Come, ed. Douglas Hill (1978)

From the back cover: “Eight stories from SF names as highly-respected as Aldiss, Moorcock and Silverberg explore the strange and bizarre possibilities for sexuality in the furthest reaches of tomorrow.”

Contents: Robert Silverberg’s “In the Group” (1973), Thomas M. Disch’s “Planet of the Rapes” (1977), A. K. Jorgensson’s “Coming-of-Age Day” (1965), Anne McCaffrey’s “The Thorns of Barevi” (1970), Brian W. Aldiss’ “A One-Man Expedition Through Life” (1974), Brian W. Aldiss’ “The Taste of Shrapnel” (1974), Brian W. Aldiss’ “Forty Million Miles from the Nearest Blonde” (1974), Hilary Bailey’s “Sisters” (1976), John Sladek’s “Machine Screw” (1975), and Michael Moorcock’s “Pale Roses” (1974).

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Short Story Reviews: Nancy Kress’ “The Earth Dwellers” (1976), “A Delicate Shade of Kipney” (1978), and “And Whether Pigs Have Wings” (1979)

Back in December 2019, I read An Alien Light (1987), my first science fiction work by Nancy Kress (1948-). I was so impressed with the novel, a “bleak and powerful rumination on violence” within a “new alien architecture,” that I placed it on my Best Reads of 2019 list. Like my recent rumination on Melisa Michaels’ first three published short stories, I thought I’d do the same with Kress. I relentlessly seek to map another feature in the fascinating territory of 50s-70s SF.

Let me know which Kress fictions–perhaps from much later in her career–resonate with you.


3.5/5 (Good)

“The Earth Dwellers” first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. James Baen (December 1976). You can read it online here.

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Updates: New Purchases No. CCLXVII (Joanna Russ, J. T. McIntosh, Jean d’Ormesson, and a Terry Carr anthology)

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

1. Worlds Apart (variant title: Born Leader), J. T. McIntosh (1954)

Richard Powers’ cover for the 1958 edition

From the back cover: “ROG FOLEY had never seen Earth—and he never would. For all that was left of Earth was an atomic funeral pyre in the sky.

ROG FOLEY was a leader of the new generation of humans who were born and raised on Mundis, the distant planet circling Brinsen’s Star and to which the last survivors of Earth had escaped in a 17-year journey through space.

ROG FOLEY and his disciples were strongly Continue reading

Short Book Reviews: Harry Harrison’s Captive Universe (1969), John Christopher’s The Death of Grass (1956), Nancy Kress’ An Alien Light (1987), and Joe Haldeman’s Mindbridge (1976)

My “to review” pile is growing and my memory of them is fading… hence short—far less analytical—reviews.

1. Mindbridge, Joe Haldeman (1976)

(Josh Kirby’s cover for the 1977 edition)

4.5/5 (Very Good)

Nominated for the 1977 Hugo Award

Joe Haldeman never struck me as an author who experimented with New Wave methods of telling. Mindbridge (1976) shatters my misconception. Imagine the basic plot of his masterpiece The Forever War (1975) combined with a fascinating experimental structure. The latter intrigued me far more than the former.

The Basic Plot: The Levant-Meyer Translation allows humans to instantaneously travel across the galaxy. The Tamer Agency sends its agents to investigate alien worlds. Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXI (Nancy Kress + Norman Spinrad + Charles Sheffield + Graham Dunstan Martin)

1. A lesser-known novel by Nancy Kress… She remains a complete unknown author to me. I’ve heard high praise for her best-known novel–the Hugo and Nebula-nominated Beggars in Space (1990).

2. In the mid-80s Bluejay Books released a series of illustrated editions of previously published novels and novellas from the likes of Vernor Vinge, Rosel George Brown, and Theodore Sturgeon. As I’ve long respected the work of Norman Spinrad, I tracked down a Bluejay Books edition of his Hugo-nominated novella “Riding the Torch” (1974) with illustrations by Tom Kidd. At first glance the illustrations are not my cup of tea…. but the Spinrad novella has a wonderful premise.

I’ve previously reviewed Spinrad’s meta-fictional masterpiece The Iron Dream (1972) and his worthwhile short story collection The Last Hurrah of the Golden Horde (1970).

3. I recent reviewed Charles Sheffield’s novel Sight of Proteus (1978) and was impressed enough to track down a short story collection. Unfortunately my copy is rather battered, obfuscating my absolute favorite Attila Hejja SPACE SCENE cover!

4. Post-apocalyptic nightmares where survivors are forced to live inside radiation suits? Yes! Raving preacher promising deliverance if survivors leave their radiation suits? Yes! Probability of novel being a “lost” masterpiece? Close to zero.

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

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1. An Alien Light, Nancy Kress (1988)

(Ron Walotsky’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading