Book Review: Of All Possible Worlds, William Tenn (1955)

This collection contains the third 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. After reading today’s installment, I decided to review the entire collection!

Today: William Tenn’s “Down Among the Dead Men” (1954), 5/5 (Masterpiece). First appeared in the June 1954 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction, ed. H. L. Gold. You can read it online here.

Previously: Edmond Hamilton’s “What’s It Like Out There?” (1952), 5/5 (Masterpiece). First appeared in the December 1952 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories, ed. Samuel Hines. You can read the story online here.

Up next: Katherine MacLean’s “Echo” (1970) in Infinity One, ed. Robert Hoskins.

Richard Powers’ cover for the 1955 edition

3.25/5 (collated rating: Vaguely Good)

In the early days of my website, I reviewed two volumes by William Tenn–his sole novel Of Men and Monsters (1968) and his collection The Human Angle (1956). Of All Possible Worlds (1955) is his first published collection. The presence of “Down Among the Dead Men” (1954), “The Liberation of Earth” (1953), and “The Custodian” (1953) make this a must purchase (despite the handful of duds that drag down the overall rating) for fans of polished 50s satires in wrecked future worlds. Tenn’s narrators Continue reading

Short Book Reviews: Robert Silverberg’s Dying Inside (1972), Universe 2, ed. Terry Carr (1972), and Avram Davidson’s The Enemy of My Enemy (1966)

Here are three short reviews.  Either I waited too long to review the work or in the case of the short story collection, the handful of poor stories (amongst the many gems) faded from memory and I couldn’t convince myself to reread them…

I apologize for the brevity and lack of analysis.  My longer reviews definitely try to get at the greater morass of things but hopefully these will still whet your palate if you haven’t read the works already.

1. Dying Inside, Richard Silverberg (1972)

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(Jerry Thorp’s cover for the 1972 ediiton)

5/5 (Masterpiece) Continue reading

Book Review: New Writings in SF 4, ed. John Carnell (1965) (Asimov + Roberts + Tenn + Kapp + Etchison + Morgan)

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(Robert Foster’s stunning cover for the 1968 edition)

2.75/5 (Collated rating: Vaguely Average)

Despite the presence of one of Robert Foster’s best covers (for more on his art: Part I, Part II), New Writings in SF 4, ed. John Carnell (1965) contains only a few glimmers of brilliance—concentrated in Keith Roberts’ short story “Sub-Lim” (1965), a dark tale of crooked people and subliminal stimuli.  Isaac Asimov regurgitates something about a SF heist he scribbled on a napkin, Dan Morgan mumbles about alternate universes and tricycles, and Colin Kapp lectures on the “unusual methods of cementation of electrolysis” (54) instead of telling a Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CLVI (Budrys + New Writings in SF Anthologies)

Another batch of volumes from the mysterious person with the initials KWG who ditched their entire collection at the local Half Price Books.

I have rarely seen the New Writings in SF series edited by John Carnell on used bookstore shelves.  But, as I am a fan of discovering new authors who might not have collected volumes of short stories, it pretty easy to justify snatching them up….  A while back I featured the covers of David Mccall Johnson, and now I have my first physical copy with his art!

More Algis Budrys…  Is it my need to read the major “classics” so I can “rewrite” the canon?  Certainly not out of any love for his SF (or criticism for that matter) —> see my review of The Falling Torch (1959) and my short review of Michaelmas (1976).  I will probably read his short story collection I recently acquired before another one of his novels.

As always, thoughts and comments are welcome/appreciated.

Enjoy!

1. Rogue Moon, Algis Budrys (1960)

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(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1960 edition) Continue reading

Updates: Recent Science Fiction Acquisitions No. CXXXVIII (Matheson + Tenn + Priest)

Adored An Infinite Summer (1979), had to procure more Priest…

I want to give Matheson another chance—although some of the stories in Third From the Sun (1955) were worth reading…

William Tenn, great short story author—needed more! I had previously read both Of Men and Monsters (1968) and his collection The Human Angle (1956).

Thoughts?

1. The Shores of Space, Richard Matheson (1957)

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(Uncredited cover for the 1957 edition)

From the back cover: “Shocking— Startling — Incredible.  13 strange and unusual stories set against the background of new worlds and fantastic futures— Continue reading

A question for my fellow SF fans: Which SF writer without a single author collection published within the last 10 years should receive a reprint?

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On twitter [my account here — please follow!  I post interesting things!] I posed the following question:

Which SF author—for the purposes of this site’s focus, an author starting pre-1980—deserves a new (or reprint) single author collection?

GUIDELINES (please read): Said author cannot have a single author collection published within the last 10 years (you can fudge this a bit).   It also should be noted that many eBooks aren’t available in the United States (SF Gateway for example).  If the recent eBook edition isn’t available in the US, I guess the author fits the bill (*cough* — John Sladek).

XNGNSS4D1969Note: If you are thinking about doing some checking before you make your choice (see guidelines) I recommend using isfdb.org as it has mostly up to date publication histories for all but self-published authors.

My vote: Miriam Allen deFord (active from — SF Encyclopedia LINK

Published collections: Xenogenesis (1969) and Elsewhere, Elsewhen, Elsehow (1971)

Reason: Miriam Allen deFord (1888-1975) was one of the major voices in SF magazines from 1946 – 1978.   She never made the transition to novels and thus might have lost some readership as a result.  The stories in Xenogenesis (1969) shows an often radical voice right from her first story in 1946.  Although they might not be as polished as some of her more Continue reading

Updates: Year in Review (Top Ten SF Novels + Top Ten Short Stories/Novelettes/Novellas + other categories)

Everyone likes lists!  And I do too….  This is an opportunity to collate some of my favorite (and least favorite) novels and shorter SF works I read this year.  Last year I discovered Barry N. Malzberg and this year I was seduced by…. Well, read and find out.

  

Top Ten Novels

1. We Who Are About To…, Joanna Russ (1976): A scathing, and underread, literary SF novel by one of the more important feminist SF writers of the 70s (of The Female Man fame).

2. A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire, Michael Bishop (1975): A well-written anthropological clash of cultures novel.  Slow, gorgeous, emotionally engaging….

3. Level 7, Mordecai Roshwald (1959): A strange satire of the bomb shelter…  Everyday surrealism. Continue reading

Book Review: The Human Angle, William Tenn (1956)

(Richard Powers’ cover for the 1964 edition)

3.75/5 (collated rating: Good)

I’ve been in a 50s SF short story craze of late, devouring collections by Robert Silverberg (Godling, Go Home!), Walter M. Miller, Jr. (The View From the Stars), Fritz Leiber (A Pail of Air), Lester Del Rey (Mortals and Monsters), and a few Robert Sheckley volumes a few months before. Fresh off of William Tenn’s solid novel Of Men and Monsters (1968) I went into The Human Angle (1956) (containing three novelettes and five short stories predominately from the 50s) with high expectations.  Despite the handful of duds — “The Human Angle” (1948), “Project Hush” (1954) and “The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway” (1955) —  that tend to creep into most collections of shorts, the majority were characterized by sardonic brilliance.

Although not as biting as his august contemporaries Robert Sheckley and C. M. Kornbluth, Tenn’s visions are delightfully humorous and ironic.  It’s worth getting your Continue reading

Book Review: Of Men and Monsters, William Tenn (1968)

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(Stephen Miller’s cover for the 1968 edition)

4/5 (Good)

There’s a small pile of novels on my shelf that wait ever so patiently to be reviewed months and months after I’ve read them — J.G. Ballard’s The Drowned World (1962), Robert Silverberg’s The Masks of Time (1968) and Dying Inside (1972), David R. Bunch’s Moderan (1972) (among others), and, until now, William Tenn’s Of Men and Monsters (1968).  Perhaps I was put off by the three mysterious pages filled with small chicken scratch composed by some earlier reader– “224 PKNY, 248 MINCED, 219 M in OKST” — that hinted at some arcane undercurrents or masonic messages that had alluded me.  Perhaps it was my confusion over Tenn’s Heinlein-esque female character, who, in a work of satire, could indicate something so much more progressive than Continue reading