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: First Step Outward, ed. Robert Hoskins (1969) (Asimov, Silverberg, Sturgeon, Heinlein, et al.)

3.25/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Good)

Published a few months before the Apollo 11 mission to the moon, Robert Hoskins’ anthology First Step Outward (1969) charts an imagined future history of humanity’s exploration of the galaxy. The stories, gathered from some of the big names of the day (Robert Heinlein, Robert Silverberg, Theodore Sturgeon, Isaac Asimov, Poul Anderson, etc.), are grouped as if part of the same future with headings such as “To the Planets” and “To the Stars.” As with most anthologies, this contains a range of gems (such as Sturgeon’s “The Man Who Lost the Sea”) and duds (Ross Rocklynne’s “Jaywalker”).

I’ve previously reviewed five of the thirteen stories in their own posts–linked for easy consultation.

Brief Plot Summary/Analysis

“Cold War” (1949), Kris Neville, 3/5 (Average): Previously reviewed in its own post here.

“Third Stage” (1963), Poul Anderson, 3.5/5 (Good): Previously reviewed in its own post here.

“Gentlemen, Be Seated!” (1948), Robert A. Heinlein, 2.75/5 (Vaguely Average): My first return to Robert A. Heinlein in around a decade is exactly like I thought it would be–thoroughly disappointing. Yes, yes, yes, I know this is far from what he was capable of. The number of reprints this misfire of a story receives mystifies (it appeared in the regularly reprinted The Green Hills of Earth and The Past Through Tomorrow).

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Short Story Review: Poul Anderson’s “Third Stage” (1962)

The following review is the 14th installment of my series searching for “SF short stories that are critical in some capacity of space agencies, astronauts, and the culture which produced them.” Some stories I’ll review in this series might not fit. And that is okay. I relish the act of literary archaeology.

As always, feel free to join the conversation.

Today: Poul Anderson’s “Third Stage” (1962) in the February 1962 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith. You can read it online here.

Previously: Anthony Boucher’s “Star Bride” (1951) in the December 1951 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Samuel Mines. You can read it online here.

Up Next: TBD

3.5/5 (Good)

Poul Anderson’s “Third Stage” first appeared in the February 1962 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith. You can read it online here.

At first glance Poul Anderson’s “Third Stage” (1962) reads as an archetypal disaster-in-space tale of intrepid spacemen making courageous decisions under great duress. Around that central core, Anderson delves into far more sinister reaches–the media’s role in televising and manipulating grief. Anderson’s astronauts maintain their heroism despite the machinations of nefarious media men in pursuit of ratings.

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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

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Space Elephants!

(Tony Roberts’ (?) cover for the 1975 edition of Ten Thousand Light-Years From Home (1973), James Tiptree, Jr.)

Here’s a lighthearted themed science fiction art post on elephants, elephantine aliens, and prehistoric mammoths that I’ve cobbled together over the last few weeks. Elephants have always made me happy–especially baby elephants…. and yes, I have been known to watch Youtube videos of baby elephant antics. I digress.

The SF novel that first came to mind was Robert Silverberg’s masterful rumination on colonization on a decaying world Downward to the Earth (1970). Rather than Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXXVIII (Poul Anderson, Kathleen M. Sidney, Barry B. Longyear, Philippe Curval)

1. I have yet to read anything by Barry B. Longyear, best known Enemy Mine (with David Gerrold) (1985) and Sea of Glass (1986). Circus World (1981) seems like a fun series of linked short stories published in 1978 and 1979 about the descendants of a crashed circus ship.

2. My Poul Anderson collections grows and grows. Sometimes I’m not sure why I bother procuring them… I mean, it was only $1. See the index for my extensive (and apparently contentious) reviews of his work i.e. Tau Zero (1971). And eww, a gauzy cover by Gene Szafran….

3. A complete unknown—and Kathleen M. Sidney’s only SF novel (she wrote three additional short stories according to isfdb.org).

4. Vintage French SF in translation! With a fantastic cover by Max Ernst. In addition to writing SF, Philippe Curval produced fascinating photo collage SF cover art. I’ve featured his art previously on the site: Part I and Part II.

Let me know what you think of the books and covers in the comments!

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1. Circus World, Barry B. Longyear (1981)

(John Rush’s cover for the 1981 edition) Continue reading

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?

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

(Richard Clifton-Dey’s cover for the 1976 edition) Continue reading

Book Review: The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3.5/5 (collated rating: Good)

The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972) doesn’t feel like a “best of” collection. The majority of the contents are unspectacular space operas and hard SF in the Analog vein. Amongst the chaff, a few more inventive visions shined through—in particular, Joanna Russ’ mysteriously gauzy and stylized experiment replete with twins and dream machines; Michael G. Coney’s evocative overpopulation story about tourist robots; Christopher Priest’s “factual” recounting of human experimental subjects that isn’t factual at all; and Barry Malzberg’s brief almost flash piece about differing perspectives all tied together by the New York metro.

On the whole, I give it a solid recommendation although the best can be found in single-author collections.

Brief Analysis/Summary

“The Fourth Profession” (1971), novelette by Larry Niven, 3/5 (Average): Nominated for the 1972 Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLXXXII (The Anthology Edition) (Best SF Stories from New Worlds 5, Orbit 6, Alpha 3, Best SF 1972)

Little pleases me more than reading the fascinating cross-section of the genre presented by anthologies from my favorite era of SF (1960s/70s). After the success that was World’s Best Science Fiction: 1967 (variant title: World’s Best Science Fiction: Third Series) (1967), ed. Donald A. Wollheim and Terry Carr, I decided to browse my “to post” pile of recent acquisitions and share a handful with you all. As is often the case, the collections are peppered with stories I’ve already read—I’ve linked the relevant reviews.

Filled with authors I haven’t read yet—Stephen Tall, Robin Scott, Roderick Thorp, Jean Cox, Christopher Finch, etc.

…and of course, many of my favorites including Gene Wolfe, Ursula Le Guin, Barry N. Malzberg, and Kate Wilhelm (among many many others).

Scans are from my collection.

1. The 1972 Annual World’s Best SF, ed. Donald A. Wollheim (1972)

(John Schoenherr’s cover for the 1972 edition) Continue reading