Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. LXIII (Simak + Tenn + Clement + Frayn)

A new bookstore in my hometown!  Great results! Dirt cheap (between 1-2 $ a book)!  Happy me!

I finally have a copy of Hal Clement’s hard science fiction masterpiece, Mission of Gravity (1953)…  And a collection of William Tenn’s short stories with a downright gorgeous Powers cover — Tenn is supposedly up there with Sheckley in the satirical pantheon of the 50s… Among others…

Has anyone read Michael Frayn’s A Very Private Live (1968)?  I’ve never heard of it before but the Lehr cover was too amazing to pass up…

1. The Human Angle, William Tenn (1956) (MY REVIEW)


(Robert Powers’ cover for the 1956 edition)

From the inside flap: “WIT: an extra-terrestrial sells pornographic literature Continue reading

Updates: An Incomplete List of Worthwhile Classic Science Fiction Blogs/Resources

I love the idea of a community of science fiction reviewers — so I’ve put together a list of a handful of book review blogs focused on classic/slightly more esoteric science fiction.  Obviously there are plenty of great blogs I’ve omitted that have reviews of new releases or only occasional vintage science fiction….  Or, blogs that refrain from reviews of vintage science fiction unless participating in certain reading challenges….

Please visit them, comment on their reviews, and browse through their back catalogues.

1] Speculiction….: An under visited /commented on blog with quality book reviews of classic science fiction — however, the reviewer, Jesse, is limited by the lack of older science fiction available to him in Poland.  I especially enjoyed his reviews of Ballard’s “beautifully strange enigma” that is The Crystal World (1966) and of course, my favorite science fiction novel of all time, John Brunner’s magisterial Stand on Zanzibar (1968).  An index of his reviews can be found here.  He also has a good mix of newer science fiction reviews as well.

2] The PorPor Books Blog: SF and Fantasy Books 1968-1988: I find this blog Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Composite Cover (illustrating a multiplicity of scenes, stories, thematic elements)

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(Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1954 edition of Murder in Space (1944), David V. Reed)

Ed Emshwiller’s cover for the 1954 edition of Murder in Space (1944) perfectly embodies the composite cover comprised of sequences from the narrative.  Our hero (or villain) plots the murder in the foreground (guns, books, furrowed brow), commits the murder in the background, his love interest looks over his left shoulder (she’s constantly on his mind), and some random astroids/planets (let’s call them space rocks), a spaceship, and a strange piece of technology alert us to the science fiction aspect of the narrative…  The uncredited cover for the 1955 edition of The Altered Continue reading

Book Review: Seed of Light, Edmund Cooper (1959)

(Uncredited cover for the 1959 edition — I suspect it might be David Davies)

3.25/5 (Average)

Edmund Cooper’s Seed of Light (1959) is less of a traditional narrative of the voyage of a generation ship as are its fellow generation ship novels of the 40s/50s. The best examples are Brian Aldiss’ Non-Stop (1958) and Robert Heinlein’s Orphans of the Sky (1941).  Seed of Light is more like a piece of pseudo-history interlaced with fragments of narrative of varying effectiveness.  The work is best described as a thematically-linked series of novellas tracking the future development of man in broad strokes à la Brian Aldiss’ Galaxies Like Grains of Sand (1960).  Unfortunately, Cooper’s original splicing of the generation ship theme onto a Future History template (made popular but Olaf Stapleton and Isaac Asimov among others) is extremely uneven.  Some portions are involving while others are plagued by laborious epoch-spanning pseudo-historical lectures.

Because each part is a separate novella (the last two are more closely Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: Underwater Expeditions (futuristic submarines, unusual sea life, underwater cities) Part I

(Paul Lehr’s cover for the 1968 edition of Conquerors from the Darkness (1965), Robert Silverberg)

A cornucopia of underwater sci-fi cover art images!  As always, Paul Lehr’s covers are among my favorite for he masterfully renders the green-blue depths and textures of water inundated worlds (especially above, Conquerers from the Darkness).  Watery worlds evoke unusual underwater life, a place fraught with danger where humans and aliens meet, unusual cityscapes (domes, water impervious shields, a plethora of transport craft) and of course, the vehicles for transportation (for example below, the futuristic submarine in Treasure of the Black Flacon and 21st Century Submarine, etc)  evoke the same giddy sense of adventure as when first reading Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea (1870) or watching Richard Fleischer’s surprisingly good 1954 film adaptation of the novel.

There are countless films, sci-fi TV shows, novels, short stories Continue reading

Adventures in Science Fiction Cover Art: The Space Age Family

(Malcolm Smith’s cover for the 1951 edition of Space on My Hands (1951), Frederic Brown)

I’ve scrounged through my collection of cover images over and over again trying to find families — and not alien families being slaughtered by intrepid earthmen à la The Red Planet (below).  Simply put, sci-fi generally revolves around characters who set off on their own, occasionally (at the end) finding a spouse (alien or not) and starting a family.  Heinlein’s juveniles are a great example — boy from broken family (dead mother, abandoned orphan…) learns all the math necessary for navigating in space from a book, sets off (or stows away) in the nearest possible spaceship and goes on grand adventures — perhaps killing some alien families along the way…..

I’ve still managed to find a few.  The best Continue reading

Book Review: The Lifeship, Harry Harrison and Gordon R. Dickson (1976)

3.5/5 (Good)

Harry Harrison and Gordon R. Dickson’s The Lifeship (1976) is two parts tense and exciting adventure in the expanse of space and one part half-hearted “key differences between individuals are overcome in the end” attempts at social commentary.  I found the first two-thirds of the work riveting.  Sadly, the final third devolves into a ramshackle and unpleasant mixture of save the world formulae and endless exposition at gunpoint about all the nefarious nooks and crannies of each and every plan, counter-plan, potential plan, half-realized plan, and unrealized plan soon to be fomented in the liminal realm of coalescing Continue reading

Update: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions N. V

I promised not to buy any more books over the summer unless I ran out — alas, Memorial Day Sale at one of the best Half Price Books in the country (Austin) is a “bad” combination.  I had to reduce my gigantic pile by half before I dared approach the buy counter….

I’m proud of this haul!

1. Hawksbill Station (1968), Robert Silverberg (MY REVIEW)

I’ve wanted to procure Hawksbill Station for quite a while — the premise is fantastic, five dangerous prisoners are held at Hawksbill Station located in the Cambrian era… One bizarre use of time travel!  I hope Silverberg is at his best à la The World Inside and Downward to the Earth.

2. Master of Life and Death, Robert Continue reading