Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXXVI (Vonda N. McIntyre, Thomas Burnett Swann, William Melvin Kelley, and a World’s Best Science Fiction Anthology)

Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Where is the Bird of Fire?, Thomas Burnett Swann (1970)

From the back cover: “Were the mythical monsters our ancestors spoke of so often more than fantasy? Is it not probable that these semi-human races existed–and that only human vanity has blurred their memory?

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Book Review: Furthest, Suzette Haden Elgin (1971)

3/5 (Average)

Coyote Jones arrives on the planet Furthest, a world of water with “spangled life” that danced and pulsed with “red and green and gold and deep soft blue” (7), to learn more about the descendants of a puritanical religious group that fled persecution. The reason for his mission? Little is known about Furthest as it only joined the Federation three years earlier. The psychological readings of the colonists in the central computer seems askew. And, due to the charms of bureaucracy, the delegate from Furthest will soon be appointed the President of the Tri-Galactic Federation! So off goes the bumbling Coyote Jones, folk musician/telepath/relentless lover, to uncover the mysteries of the world. Mostly frustrated by the prudish nature of the women he encounters, Coyote also discovers that the city domes do not contain cities. And the one he is allowed to explore seems a bit too planned and the people a bit too controlled.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCLXXIV (Suzette Haden Elgin, Paul Cook, Herbert W. Franke, Charles Eric Maine)

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

1. Furthest, Suzette Haden Elgin (1971) (MY REVIEW)

From the back cover: “Coyote Jones, agent for the Tri-Galactic Intelligence Service, had been sent to a planet so unimaginably distant from the rest of the Federation that it bore the descriptive name Furthest. His mission: to find out why the total body of data about Furthest showed the world’s inhabitants to be absolutely average down to the last decimal place. That data had to be false.

Jones was permitted to live on the planet, but the natives were so wary of him that he could uncover nothing—until he chanced into a personal crisis faced by his young Furthest assistant. The boy’s sister had been sentenced to Erasure, and he wanted Coyote Jones to take the fugitive girl in and hide her.

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Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXXX (Ben Bova, Suzette Haden Elgin, Louis Trimble, Josephine Saxton, Orbit Anthology)

1. Ben Bova is not a site favorite…. But I’m willing to give a handful of his better known novels a shot. Here is the first (in the internal chronology) of the Kinsman sequence. Low hopes.

If you want to know why I have low hopes check out these three reviews:

2. Side 1 of an Ace Double. Suzette Haden Elgin’s The Communipaths is the first in her Coyote Jones sequence. I had mixed views on the third volume: At the Seventh Level (1972).

3. Side 2 of an Ace Double. Back in 2012 I reviewed Louis Trimble’s intriguing SF allegorical city tale The City Machine (1972). It was a competent work that, in the hands of a more polished writer, could have been so much more. Not sure what to expect from this one…. the zany nature of the blurb is off-putting.

4. Josephine Saxton’s The Hieros Gamos of Sam and An Smith (1969) still haunts me. I need to read more of her short fiction.

5. And finally, my Orbit anthology series collection grows!

Previous reviews:

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


1. Kinsman, Ben Bova (1979)

(Uncredited cover for the 1981 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXIX (Elgin + Oliver + Shiner + Worlds of Tomorrow Magazine)

1. My exploration of the early 80s continues with an intriguing Mars mystery. I had not heard of the author—Lewis Shiner—until browsing SF Encyclopedia recently. It’s also graced with a stirring, if rather simple, Di Fate spaceship.

2. Giants in the Dust  (1976) might be Chad Oliver’s least known SF novel. Clute describes it thus: “Giants in the Dust (1976) argues the thesis that mankind’s fundamental nature is that of a hunting animal, and that our progress from that condition has fundamentally deracinated us.” I reviewed another one of Oliver’s 70s visions—The Shores of Another Sea (1973)—a few years ago.

I’m positive that this is Di Fate’s cover as well although it’s uncredited. One of his clunkier works…. His figures are always slightly off.

3. I picked up one of the later volumes of Suzette Haden Elgin’s Coyote Jones sequence. Did not care for At the Seventh Level (1972).

4. And finally, I bought a large pile (20?) magazines for less than a dollar each. People might be obsessed with the aesthetic of old SF but the magazines and paperbacks are cheap as dust at some of the stores I frequent…. I’ll post them slowly over the coming months.

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


1. Frontera, Lewis Shiner (1984) (MY REVIEW)

(Vincent Di Fate’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CCXVII (Bear + Elgin + Lee + Clingerman)

1. Years ago I read and reviewed Suzette Haden Elgin’s provocative At the Seventh Level (1972)–I praised the use of linguistics, the formulation of societal ideologies, and critiqued the ramshackle plot and Orientalism. Native Tongue (1984) is supposedly her strongest work. I look forward to reading it.

2. I have yet to ready any of Greg Bear’s work. This late 70s novel was signed so I snatched it up. I don’t track down signed copies–all the ones I owned were accidentally mislabeled or inexpensive volumes I wanted anyway. Bear’s signature joins the ranks of Christopher Priest, D. G. Compton, Karen Joy Fowler, and Norman Spinrad.

Hegira itself draws inspiration from the Ringworld and Riverworld-style SF novel.

3. My Tanith Lee collection grows and grows. This one more fantasy than SF (although SF elements crop up at the end). In case you missed it, I reviewed Don’t Bite the Sun (1976) recently and procured a copy of Electric Forest (1979).

4. Mildred Clingerman was regularly featured in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in the 50s and early 60s. I have finally found an inexpensive copy of her only collection published during her life (an omnibus edition with never before seen stories was recently self-published by her descendants). As it’s a Ballantine Books volume, it has a wonderful Powers cover.

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

1. Native Tongue, Suzette Haden Elgin (1984)

(Jill Bauman’s cover for the 1st edition) Continue reading

Book Review: At the Seventh Level, Suzette Haden Elgin (1972)

(George Barr’s cover for the 1972 edition)

3/5 (Average)

At the Seventh Level (1972) is part of a loose sequence of novels that feature Trigalactic Intelligence Service agent Coyote Jones and his voyages to various worlds. Although this sequence ostensibly has the trappings of SF space opera, Suzette Haden Elgin subverts the genre conventions so that the premise functions as a polemical feminist text with satirical underpinnings.  At the Seventh Level is an important installment in a long line of “women as slaves trapped in vast repressive patriarchy propped up by appeals to tradition and brute force” type novels which, some might argue, culminated in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale (1985).  It is important to note that there were many novels on similar themes before Atwood’s acknowledged masterpiece hit Continue reading