Tag Archives: paperbacks

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)

Book Review: Dark December, Alfred Coppel (1960)

(Uncredited cover for the 1971 edition)

4.25/5 (Very Good)

“In my holster I carried a pistol that had never been fired. Yet I was master of ten thousand graves” (72).

Occasionally my childhood love of survival tales—whether post-apocalyptic nightmares or sailors stranded on Pacific islands—rears its head and I am forced to track down a book, languishing in some forgotten corner, that satiates the craving. Alfred Coppel’s Dark December (1960), an unknown gem, successfully distills in ultra-realistic strokes the basic post-nuclear war survival formula: man traverses a bombed landscape, pockmarked with the vestiges of human habitation, on a quest to find his family. Dark December is a careful study of trauma and survival in the face of forces willing to plunge the world back into Continue reading Book Review: Dark December, Alfred Coppel (1960)

Updates: Recent Science Fiction/Fantasy Acquisitions No. CCXVIII (Wolfe + Saxton + Tilley + New Worlds Anthology)

1. This looks like a splendid New Worlds Quarterly anthology replete with book reviews, articles, and interior art by John Clute and James Cawthorn. When I review it (hopefully soon), I’ll include a few examples of the art. The quantity of authors I’ve not read in this anthology is high—for example, A.A. Attanasio, Harvey Jacobs, Rachel Pollack, among many others. See content lists below.

For more fantastic Mati Klarwein covers check out my recent art post.

2. Gene Wolfe’s novels are a major hole in my SFF knowledge. Here is an early fantasy work that I might in the near future. I tend to take perambulatory paths before tackling an author’s great works. Thoughts on this lesser known one?

I’ve read quite a few of his 60s and 70s short stories. For example, the spectacular “Silhouette” (1975) and “The Changeling” (1968).

3. It’s been a while since I raved about Josephine Saxton’s delightful The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969). An author I must return to….

4. Silly early 80s post-apocalyptical adventure anyone? Sometimes you need a break from Christopher Priest and J. G. Ballard! hah.

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

~

1. New Worlds #6 (variant title: New Worlds #7), ed. Charles Platt and Hilary Bailey (1974)

(Mati Klarwein’s cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading Updates: Recent Science Fiction/Fantasy Acquisitions No. CCXVIII (Wolfe + Saxton + Tilley + New Worlds Anthology)