Tag Archives: paperbacks

Book Review: Port Eternity, C. J. Cherryh (1982)

(Gary LaSasso’s cover for the 1983 edition)

4/5 (Good)

In my late teens I encountered the space opera of C. J. Cherryh  through the Hugo and Nebula Award-winning Downbelow Station (1981).* I was hooked. Her paranoia-drenched spacescapes, interstellar freighters, the awe-inspiring cumulative world-building effect of innumerable novel sequences from distinct perspectives, and narration that dwells on psychological impact of events were my bread and butter. See below for the list of the ten (I think?) novels I’ve previously read (although many details blend together). For whatever reason I hadn’t returned to her SF in more than a decade. I am glad I did!

C. J. Cherryh’s Port Eternity (1982), part of the Age of Exploration sequence within the larger Alliance-Union world, can be read alone.  It is a claustrophobic rumination on identity Continue reading Book Review: Port Eternity, C. J. Cherryh (1982)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXVI (Philip K. Dick, Tanith Lee, Paul Park, Gordon Eklund, and Poul Anderson)

1. As I read the vast majority of Philip K. Dick’s novels pre-blog (i.e. pre-2010), many of the details have faded into a general morass of surreal fragments and paranoiac dreams. I know for certain Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said (1974) remains one of only a handful of unread works in his vast oeuvre.

This UK edition has a bizarre cover….

2. I thoroughly enjoyed Tanith Lee’s Don’t Bite the Sun (1976) and snatched another one of her early SF works—Day by Night (1980)…. the premise intrigues! A storyteller spins tales on a popular TV network that might not be stories at all…. but true accounts of the denizens from the other side of the planet.

3. A candidate for the worst cover of all time? The book by Gordon Eklund and Poul Anderson might not be much better. Certainly the risk purchase of the batch!

4. And finally, a riff on Brian Aldiss’ Helliconia formula? I can’t wait to read this one.

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

~

1. Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, Philip K. Dick (1974)

(Richard Clifton-Dey’s cover for the 1976 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXVI (Philip K. Dick, Tanith Lee, Paul Park, Gordon Eklund, and Poul Anderson)

Book Review: Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition)

3.75/5 (Good)

Lewis Shiner’s Frontera (1984), a paranoid romp across post-democratic landscapes (both Earth and Mars) of decay and corporate takeover, contains a hypnotic premise and a not entirely convincing plot. Be prepared for a maelstrom of ideas and images: Subliminal messages. An abandoned Martian colony. Implanted Biological RAM. A dangerous voyage to Mars in old NASA shuttles. Corporate mercenaries. Hyper-violence. Mutant children. Transcendent mathematics.

Recommended for fans of gritty Continue reading Book Review: Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

On a recent trip to Chicago I spent far too much on vintage SF at Bucket O’ Blood Books and Records (twitter).If you’re in the city and love old SF paperbacks, stop by! I’ll certainly be back. Here are the first four books from that haul.

1. Jack Vance is an author I always tend to buy but never enjoy as much as I think I should–see my recent review of Emphyrio (1969). Thoughts on this one?

2. I have yet to read anything by Alexei Panshin—at least I now have a copy of his masterpiece, Rite of Passage (1968) (nominated for the 1969 Hugo + won that year’s Nebula).

3. A lesser-known 70s comedic novel from Brian W. Aldiss…

4. And finally, the one I’m most excited about. Evolved humans are thrust into conflict on a terraformed, but dying, Mars. With a fun Powers cover to boot! The rest of Frederick Turner’s SF output appears to be the epic poem variety according to SF Encyclopedia.

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

1. The Anome, Jack Vance (magazine, 1971)

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the  1973 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXIII (Jack Vance, Alexei Panshin, Brian Aldiss, Frederick Turner)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)

(Detail from Chris Foss’ cover for the 1977 edition of The Grain Kings (1976), Keith Roberts—full cover below)

1. Always thrilled to have a new Keith Roberts collection! And this one with one of the few Foss covers that appeals to me….

2. As a teen Vernor Vinge was a must read author. I devoured The Peace War (1984), Marooned in Realtime (1986), A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), and A Deepness in the Sky (1999). I haven’t returned to him since. I am curious about his earliest published novel—Grimm’s World (1969)—gorgeously decked out with a Paul Lehr masterpiece of a cover.

3. My knowledge of cyberpunk is mostly limited to the early works of Bruce Sterling and William Gibson. Here is a lesser known work that certainly wasn’t “talked about for years to come” (book jacket advertisement). Clones, sentient handheld computers, etc. Looks like a fun brew.

4. Another “let’s explore early cyberpunk” purchase—in this case a near future work about information overload (and dolphin + human sexual relationships) marketed as mainstream literature. SF Encyclopedia describes Ted Mooney’s Easy Travel to Other Planets  (1981) as follows: “Set on a Near-Future Earth against a backdrop of global information sickness, war in the Antarctic and a new emotion nobody has ever felt before, it tells a love story – with visionary ramifications – concerning a woman marine biologist and the dolphin on whom she conducts experiments in Linguistics. It has been seen as a proto-Cyberpunk work, but its cool, pellucid, dissecting style – perhaps influenced by J G Ballard – is far removed from the hectic insistence that has characterized much of that school” (full article on Mooney).

Let me know what books/covers intrigue you. Which have you read? Enjoyed? Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXII (Vernor Vinge + Keith Roberts + Ted Mooney + Michael D. Weaver)

Book Review: Future Without Future, Jacques Sternberg (1971, trans. 1973)

(Rus Anderson’s cover for the 1973 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

Jacques Sternberg (1923-2006) was a Belgian author who occasionally published SF, especially early in his career. Future Without Future (1971, trans. by Frank Zero 1973) contains a nearly novel-length novella “Fin de siècle” and four other bleak satirical works published between 1958 and 1971.

A worthwhile acquisition for “Fin de siècle” (1971) alone. The other stories are still worth a read. If you’re interested in SF in translation, this collection is a must have. I plan on tracking down Sternberg’s only SF novel in translation, Sexualis ’95 (1956, trans. Lowell Blair 1965). It’s a shame La sortie est au fond de l’espace (“The Way Out is at the Bottom of Space”) (1956), “a black comedy set in space and featuring the last human survivors of a bacterial Holocaust” doesn’t exist (yet!) in translation…. (See SF Encyclopedia for a rundown of his works).

Like Stanislaw Lem, Sternberg creates planetary environments and otherworldly denizens that feel truly alien. In the more dystopic works, Sternberg’s bleak outlook on humanity’s increasing inability to connect with each other and our pasts Continue reading Book Review: Future Without Future, Jacques Sternberg (1971, trans. 1973)

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