Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXVIII (Tanith Lee, Michael Bishop, Ian Watson, Greg Bear, Ferenc Karinthy)

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

1. Strength of Stones, Greg Bear (1981)

From the back cover: “Ages ago this world was named God-Does-Battle. No one remembers wh. It was colonized in the most up-to-date way possible, supplied with the best Cities ever built by Robert Kahn. Huge laboratories labored for decades to produce the right combinations of plant, animal, and machine, and to fit them into the right design. The result was magnificent; living Cities, able to regenerate broken parts, to produce food on demand, and medicine, and clothing. so careful, so advanced was Robert Kahn that he even built into his Cities the ability to protect their inhabitants; to sense the presence of the occasional person whose potential for violence or cruelty made him a threat to society, to remove him from the City, and to erect walls of needle-sharp crystal to be sure he did not return.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXVII (Octavia E. Butler, Harlan Ellison, James White, Poul Anderson)

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

1. Dawn, Octavia E. Butler (1987)

From the back cover: “XENOGENESIS: The birth of something new—and foreign.

Lilith Iyapo awoke from a centuries-long sleep—and found herself aboard the vast living spaceship of the Oankali. Alien creatures covered in writhing tentacles, the Oankali had saved every surviving human from a dying, ruined Earth. They healed the planet, cured cancer, increased human strength and disease resistance, and were now ready to help Lilith lead her people back to Earth.

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Book Review: This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) (Zelazny, Silverberg, Aldiss, Lafferty, et al.)

3.25/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Good)

Soldiers in mech armor plagued by existential crisis. Asexual insectoid aliens pretending to be human. Children wielding pet apes as weapons. This Side of Infinity, ed. Terry Carr (1972) gathers eight kaleidoscopic visions from stalwarts (Roger Zelazny and Robert Silverberg) to lesser known authors (David Redd and George H. Smith). As a collated whole, this is a solid collection without a defining standout masterpiece but worth acquiring for the sheer variety and hallucinatory power of it all.

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Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Johann Peter Reuter’s Surreal Forms Arrayed Across the Plains

German painter and graphic designer Johann Peter Reuter (1949-) created fourteen credited covers for German SF presses between 1977-1984.  I have identified a potential fifteenth cover included below–the 1977 edition of Isaac Asimov’s Second Foundation (1953)–that I believe fits his style and date range. From the information gleaned from his homepage, Reuter’s SF output occurred in the first few years as a freelance artist after studying art in Dortmund. He started as a figurative painter before evolving to non-figurative forms (brief artist blurb).

If you’re interested in his non-SF art, check out his fascinating series of paintings from 2004 on the visualization of the mass.

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Book Review: Survival Ship and Other Stories, Judith Merril (1974)

Derek Carter’s cover for the 1st edition

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

Ever since I read Judith Merril’s “Daughters of Earth” (1952), I’ve been fascinating with her subversive takes 1950s-60s gender roles and classic SF tropes. Survival Ship and Other Stories (1974) contains twelve short stories and a never-before-published poem selected by the author.

In addition to the merits of the tales within, I found Merril’s brief reflections on her early work fascinating. For example, she ruminates on the failure of her planned novel based on the generation ship launched by The Matriarchy in “Survival Ship” (1951), “Wish Upon a Star” (1958), and “The Lonely” (1963). She also describes a magazine “cover story” commission. The author would be provided with the cover art and asked to write a story containing its elements! The following three in this Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Interior Art: Monday Maps and Diagrams 2/22/21: Cordwainer Smith’s Instrumentality of Mankind Timeline

Detail from Darrel K. Sweet’s cover for the 1st paperback edition of The Best from Cordwainer Smith (1975)

Today’s installment of my occasional Monday Maps and Diagrams series is a self-reminder that I must get over the poor taste left in my mouth by two forgettable Cordwainer Smith short stories and dive into the meat of his Instrumentality of Mankind sequence. Which should I have read?

I’m a sucker for future history timelines (Olaf Stapledon, Robert A. Heinlein, and Isaac Asimov come to mind). They add a sense of time and scope to what, at first glance, might seem like disparate pieces. I often wonder how much an author plans out a timeline. This one, scanned from The Best of Cordwainer Smith (1975), places each of the Instrumentality of Mankind stories into a functional timeline. I’m assuming it adds to the series’ sense of historical development and societal evolution?

Let me know what you think of the series and the timeline in the comments!

John J. Pierce’s timeline (he wrote the intro article) in the 1975 Ballantine Paperback edition

Isfdb.org note on the timeline’s publication history: “There are (at least) 2 variants of this timeline. A table version titled The Instrumentality of Mankind appears in the original July 1975 Nelson Doubleday hardcover. A reformatted graphical version titled Timeline from THE INSTRUMENTALITY OF MANKIND appears in Continue reading

Recent Science Fiction and Fantasy Purchases No. CCLXVII (Daniel F. Galouye, Gordon Eklund, Lisa Tuttle, George R. R. Martin, and Andrew Sinclair)

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

1. Windhaven, George R. R. Martin and Lisa Tuttle (1981)

Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “The planet Windhaven was settled by humans after the crash of a colony starship. Survivors discovered that people could actually fly on this world, aided by the light gravity and dense atmosphere, and using wings made from a virtually indestructible metal fabric that had once been part of the starship. On this planet of small islands, monster-infected seas Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXVII (Ben Bova, Margaret O’Donnell, Dennis Schmidt, and a themed anthology on gentle invaders)

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

1. Millennium: A Novel About People and Politics in the Year 1999, Ben Bova (1976)

Fred Marcellino’s cover for the 1st edition

From the inside flap: “We are thrust into the terrifying world of the future in this chilling novel about people and politics in the year 1999. The Earth’s population has soared to eight billion. The two major powers are on the brink of nuclear war as they vie for control of the planet’s dwindling supply of natural resources.

Meanwhile, a few hundred kilometers above the Earth’s surface, on their respective Moon colonies, the United States 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!

Today: Katherine MacLean’s “Echo” (1970), 3.75/5 (Good). The entire anthology is available online here

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

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