2022 was the single best year in the history of my site for visits and unique viewers!
As I mention year after year, I find reading and writing for the site—and participating in all the SF discussions generated over the year—a necessary and greatly appreciated salve. Whether you are a lurker, occasional visitor, or a regular commenter, thank you for your continued support.
Continuing a trend from 2021, I read only a handful of novels this year. Instead, I devoted my obsessive attention to various science short story review initiatives (listed below), anthologies, and histories of the science fiction genre. Without further ado, here are my favorite novels and short stories I read in 2022 with bonus categories. Descriptions are derived from my linked reviews.
My Top 5 Science Fiction Novels of 2022 (click titles for my full review)
1. Vonda N. McIntyre’s Dreamsnake(1978), 4.75/5 (Near Masterpiece): Won the 1979 Hugo, Locus, and Nebula Award for Best Novel. Snake journeys across the post-apocalyptic wastes of a future Earth with three serpents healing the sick and caring for the dying. She is a member of the healers, who adopt orphans and rescue the oppressed and train them how to use the serpents. Mist and Sand are genetically modified vipers of terrestrial origin. But Grass comes from another alien world. Snake uses Mist and Sand’s venom to create vaccines, treat diseases, and cure tumors. Grass, the rare dreamsnake, with its alien DNA is the most important of them all–it provides therapeutic pleasure and dreams that facilitate conquering one’s fear and healing in the ill. In Snake’s voyages, she encounters prejudice and violence. A joyous sense of sexual freedom permeates the proceedings. A powerful and different take on a post-apocalyptic worldscape in every possible way.
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….
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).
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.
“The Earth Dwellers” first appeared in Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. James Baen (December 1976). You can read it online here.
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.
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 →
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.
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?