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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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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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

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXVI (Pamela Sargent, Warren Miller, Robert Thurston, and a Themed Anthology on Deep Space)

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

Preliminary Note: I’ve made two big changes to the site. My revamped review index now contains every single short story and novel I’ve reviewed on the site listed by author. In the past, you had to sift through the anthologies to find short stories. Hopefully this is easier to navigate [you better say yes — it took me more than eight hours — hah]. Let me know if it is a useful change.

I’ve also updated the site template to make it easier to navigate on a mobile device. I still like my old template but this seems functionally identical and visually similar.

Now to the science fiction!


1. Deep Space, ed. Robert Silverberg (1973)

John Berkey’s cover for the 1976 edition

From the back cover: “Beyond the rim of the solar system, past the orbit of Pluto, far into uncharted space, a man in a life hutch is held prisoner by a deranged robot. A galactic agent learns that there is a cosmic reason for his distasteful, dangerous job. A man discovers he is the only human being not controlled by an analogue—an invisible guardian. And the planet Centaurus holds Continue reading

Book Review: Universe 4, ed. Terry Carr (1974) (Robert Silverberg, Pamela Sargent, Jack Vance, R. A. Lafferty, Alexei Panshin, Ron Goulart, et al.)

Jack Faragasso’s cover for the 1975 edition

3.25/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Good)

Terry Carr’s original anthology Universe 4 (1974) contains a cross-section of early 70s science fiction–from oblique New Wave allegories to “hard SF” first contact stories with unusual aliens.

Despite clocking in last in the installments I’ve read so far– behind Universe 2 (1972), Universe 1 (1971), and Universe 10 (1980)—the best stories, R. A. Lafferty’s rumination on memory and nostalgia, Pamela Sargent’s bleak account of urban Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXLVIII (Mary Gentle, Philip Wylie, Bruce Sterling, and a New Dimensions anthology)

1. More post-apocalyptic fictions…. I dunno about exclamation points in titles! More seriously, I’ve yet to read any of Philip Wylie’s novels—this one is at the top of the list.

2. Before I explore an author’s best known fictions, I enjoy nosing about the periphery first. Here’s Mary Gentle’s first collection of short fiction (I’m most interested in the SF stories).

3. I might have read Bruce Sterling’s Islands in the Net (1988) in my late teens. I know I had a copy that I gave away. I can’t remember anything about it other than the cover–if there’s a cover that screams 80s cyberpunk it’s that one!

I’ve previously reviewed Sterling’s Involution Ocean (1977).

A little research reveals the female figure was repurposed (sans the original spaceship background) from an earlier Luis Royo cover—Mike Resnick’s The Dark Lady: A Romance of the Far Future (1988) (cover link).

4. I adored Robert Silverberg’s original anthology New Dimensions 2 (1973) — I’m a bit closer to owning the entire series.

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

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1. Tomorrow!, Philip Wylie (1954)

(Uncredited cover for the 1954 edition) 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. CCIX (de Camp + Farren + Effinger + Silverberg Anthology)

1. Mick Farren, of the “protopunk” and rock band The Deviants fame, wrote SF: drug-addled SF about the cult of musicians in a post-apocalyptical England. At least it’ll be a crazy romp! And probably not very good….

2. I’ve been slowly posting all the New Dimensions anthologies edited by Robert Silverberg that I purchased a few months ago. Inspired by my enjoyment of New Dimensions 3 (1973).

3. A gift from a family friend… Definitely not a book I’d look for but, who knows, sometimes I get a hankering for pre-WW II science fiction of the pulp sort.

It comes with a solid Paul Lehr cover.

4. Huge fan of Geo. Alec Effinger (that should go without saying if you following this site). I want ALL his short story collections.

I’ve reviewed the following Effinger novels/collections:

As always, I look forward to your comments/tangents!

Note: Scans are of my personal copies. Click to enlarge.

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1. The Texts of Festival, Mick Farren (1973)

(Peter Jones’ cover for the 1975 edition) Continue reading

Updates: My 2018 in Review (Best SF Novels, Best SF Short Fiction, and Bonus Catagories)

Post-academia depression hits hard…. While completing my PhD (defended in the summer of 2017), reading SF and writing about SF was the way I kept sane. After multiple mostly unsuccessful years on the academic market, I have changed gears career-wise (although I’m still affiliated with a university and teaching college-level history courses but without the research component) and it has been a liberating experience. My history obsessions remain, even stronger in many ways, and academic monographs on all the topics that I wanted to read about but never could—Hellenistic successor states to Alexander, Early Islam, Late Antique and Medieval Persia, etc.–have dominated my time and pocketbook 2018 (don’t ask how much I’ve spent). I have included a “Best Academic History Reads of 2018” section for the curious.

At the beginning of November, I was moments from announcing that I was on hiatus for the foreseeable future. However, I have fallen back in love with SF and writing about SF and the new year beckons!

All of this is to say, I read little SF this year–until last month. However, there were a handful of stand-out SF novels and short stories that I managed to squeeze in.

And please list your favorite vintage (or non-vintage) SF reads of the year. I look forward to reading your comments.

Enjoy!

…and read lots of good books in 2019. I will.

Best SF Novels Continue reading