the Little Red Reviewer

Posts Tagged ‘Vintage SciFi

The end of January brings the end of Vintage Science Fiction Month and the end of the Science Fiction Experience.  This is my third year hosting Vintage month, and I want to thank everyone who did a blog post on their site, did a guest post on my site, commented on a post, tweeted something, re-tweeted something, or lurked and is now interested in reading some older science fiction.  This is the best Vintage Month I’ve ever done, and I can’t wait to do it again! Of course, we’re all welcome to read older books whenever we feel like it, we don’t need to wait until the dead of winter. ;)

A huge shout out to everyone who participated in Vintage Month:

The Broken Bullhorn

this is how she fight start

Joseph Starzl

Over The Effing Rainbow

Paul Weimer

Lesley Connor

Two Dudes in an Attic

Jason Sizemore

Lynn’s Book Blog

Rinn Reads

Andrew Robins

Howling Frog Books

My Readers Block

Nashville Book Worm

Genre Bending

Tomtificate

In My Book

AQ’s Reviews

Read The Gamut

A Step To The Side

Books Without Any Pictures

Casual Debris

50 Year Project

Thanks for an amazing month everyone! Apologies that I haven’t been commenting, tweeting, retweeting as much as I planned. A frustrating work project and recent health issue have brought me to my knees.

Vintage Science Fiction months owes part of it’s existence to my friend Andy. We met a few years ago through the local bookstore, and became fast friends. Over lunch discussions and a few beers, we traded books back and forth, me trying to get Andy on the “new weird” band wagon, and him getting me into Andre Norton and making sure our local scifi book club read the classics (See Andy? This is what happens when you don’t send me a bio. I write one for you!).

Andy is also a typewriter collector, and although we live in the same city, we write letters to each other, him on his typewriter(s), and me by hand. Hand writing and typewriting a letter is a completely different experience than firing off a quick e-mail.  He even typed me this guest post. See? To keep the pages loading fast, I’ve only scanned in a few typewritten paragraphs.

AR first paragraph

Fortunately the trauma was short-lived and soon after I discovered the films of George Pal and Ray Harryhausen. Pal’s The Time Machine and Harryhausen’s First Men in the Moon are still great favorites in the DVD collection, much to my family’s despair. TV beckoned too and no science fictional kid growing up in the Sixties could miss Lost in Space or Star Trek as well as the proto-steampunkiness of The Wild, Wild West. Sad to say, all but the last haven’t aged well for me. The camp value of pasteboard sets, pedestrian scripts, a now-hilarious lack of actual science, and acting that is adequate at best only takes nostalgia so far. Many SF movies of the time suffer from the same defects yet command greater affection for reasons I can’t explain.

My introduction to written science fiction came more gradually. First there was the discovery of the paperback cache in the upper drawer of my parent’s bedroom dresser. My paternal grandfather, a diehard fan from SF’s “Golden Age” of the Thirties and Forties, sent them to his son but my father wanted nothing to do with the genre. Fortunately for me, the unwanted collection included such treasures as Mark S. Geston’s now-classic Lords of the Starship. The book isn’t really about a starship and its ideas were way beyond anything I would have understood then. No matter, I was arrested by the cover image of a golden armored vehicle with a skeleton hanging out of the turret swimming through a sandy desert toward the huge, bluish, winged vehicle of the title. Not long after, a friend turned me on to the author who really turned  me into a fan.

The Stars Are Ours-Star Born Read the rest of this entry »

Kalven of OtherwhenLord Kalvan of Otherwhen, by H. Beam Piper

published in 1965

where I got it: purchased used

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Calvin Morrison was minding his own business, just doing his job, when he saw a flash of light and a surprised stranger. Next thing Calvin knows is he’s not in Pennsylvania anymore. The landscape is right – the hills, the rivers, the mountains, but the cities and the roads and the houses, and all the people are gone! When Calvin does finally come across someone, they don’t speak any language he’s ever heard, although bits and pieces do sound familiar.

Calvin is of our time, as in, yours and mine.  Little does he know of all the parallel timelines that exist, the Earths where something is just a little different. He certainly has no knowledge of the Paratime Police who keep it all running smoothly, and keep the Paratime secret a secret!  Paratime Cop Verkan Vall is alerted to the situation, and a decision has got to be made: get Calvin out of there, or take a wait-and-see attitude. Calvin doesn’t know anything about anything, how could he possibly share the paratime secret?  Besides, they’ll have to find him first.

A resourceful man, Calvin falls in with Prince Ptosphes and his beautiful daughter Rylla. Ptosphes is the ruler of Hostigos, and war is on the horizon. They can’t quite say his name, so call him Kalvan.  The highest technology to be found is gunpowder, and how it works in a controlled secret. Controlled in a pretty unique way, actually, for the region is subjugated by a gunpowder theocracy (Yes, I just said Gunpowder Theocracy. How cool does that sound!).  The religious order of Styphon’s House provides gunpowder to the cities and families who support them.  It’s pretty easy to see how the priests would be welcoming into the cities and villages, yet resented as well.   But Calvin knows the secret of gunpowder. He’s a history buff, and a soldier.  He teaches the people of Hostigos how to make it, with the promise that they will teach everyone in the neighboring cities, even the cities they are at war with. It’s not the other cities that are the enemy of Hostigos, it’s Styphon’s House.

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I met Rinn of Rinn Reads when she hosted Science Fiction Month back in November. What a great event!  Not only because science fiction is near and dear to my heart, but because Rinn did an amazing job of getting authors and publishers involved AND getting bloggers who weren’t so sure about science fiction to pick up a few titles.  People, this is what I love about the blogosphere. Someone says “hey, I’d like to do this, who wants to join me?” and suddenly a hundred people are raising their hands.

 

Why H.G. Well’s classic The War of the Worlds is still today, by Rinn

 

“No one would have believed, in the last years of the nineteenth century, that this world was being watched keenly and closely by intelligences greater  than man’s and yet as mortal as his own…” (page 1)

 

And so H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds begins, with these immortal and haunting words. To me, it is up there with those fantastic opening lines that include Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. But it’s not just the opening line that really has an impact – the entire book was, at the time, a brand new concept and something really quite shocking, and over one hundred years later it still grips and surprises: it is a timeless classic. It has been adapted time and time again, for the screen, stage and radio, and has influenced so many other authors and works, and even an entirely new genre of invasion fiction.

 

The War of the Worlds has been interpreted in many ways. Commentary on British imperialism, or perhaps Victorian fears, Mars was a very apt planet to use either way. Mars is the Roman god of war, equivalent to Greek Ares; where better for these alien soldiers and destroyers to come from? Wells was not the first to have this idea: it was used as early as 1880 in Percy Greg’s Across the Zodiac.

 

One of the scariest parts of the book is how the human race is completely and utterly powerless against the alien invasion – at least in in the tradition way. Weapons barely make a dent, and even taking down a tripod or two requires some sacrifices. The people watching the HMS Thunder Child fight a tripod believe that they are seeing progress, only to have the ship sink in front of their eyes.  Their weapons include the Heat Ray, which burns people up instantly, the Black Smoke, a poisonous gas which chokes people to death, and the Red Weed. Were those aliens to invade today, when we’ve made so many technological advances, would we fare any better? Some people may look upon our ancestors of the nineteenth century with scorn, and have no doubt that today’s modern warfare would annihilate the Martians – and perhaps we would stand more of a chance – but it doesn’t just come down to that. Another factor to come into it is how we would react.

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Sea DevilsDoctor Who and the Sea Devils by Malcolm Hulke

published in 1974

where I got it: purchased used

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Having recently watched the Utopia/Sound of Drums/Last of the Time Lords episodes without much context, I wanted to learn more about The Doctor’s relationship with The Master (Yes, I’m one of those annoying newb fans who discovered the show in the 2000s).  While thinking on that, I came across the novelization of The Sea Devils story arc. “The Master” was on the back cover, so of course the book had to come home with me!

It’s funny, being a “new” Doctor Who fan.  I don’t have any visual context for the classic story arcs. From the descriptions and illustrations in the book, I can figure out that this was during Jon Pertwee’s time, but having never watched or heard him, I don’t hear his voice or see his mannerisms while reading. But you know what? that was okay. Being able to regenerate, the Doctor is fluid, able to wear different faces and speak with different voices.  Also, reading this and not watching it, I was able to fill in the special effects with my imagination, and not worry about not-so-hot tv special effects!

anyway, onto the story!

After the events of Doctor Who and the Demons,  The Master has been imprisoned in an island chateau. A  beautiful prison built for one, he faces a sentence of life imprisonment, and of course his jailors have no idea that what a “lifetime” means for the Master.  Nearby is an oil rig and a small Naval base, and fishing boats have recently gone mysteriously missing.  The Doctor and Jo Grant arrive, to both investigate the missing boats, and to check up on the Master, to make sure he hasn’t tried to hypnotize anyone working at the chateau.  Which is pretty much exactly what’s happened. The Master has already convinced the governor of the luxurious prison, the weak willed  Colonel Trenchard  to help him make contact with the underwater creatures, to the point where Trenchard helps him steal parts from a nearby Naval Base.

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I’ve been friends with fellow blogger Lynn, of Lynn’s Book Blog for years. We started commenting on each other’s blog, and before we knew it we were doing read alongs together and plotting to take over the world!  Okay, not that last part.  Well, maybe a little.  In today’s guest post, Lynn talks Stainless Steel Rat, and how she got started reading more speculative fiction. Crime, con artists and capers in outerspace? sign me up!

The Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison

by Lynn Williams

This month I’m reading some Vintage Sci Fi for Little Red Reviewer’s Vintage Sci Fi month – which also dovetails quite nicely with Stainless Steel Droppings Sci Fi Experience.  Basically, it’s a bit like cheating – you read one book and it counts for both events.  Win.  We all love a cheat – don’t deny it!  It’s like finding a short cut or a bargain – it makes you happy!

I’ve read a few sci fi books already but the first that I can put towards my Vintage event is Stainless Steel Rat by Harry Harrison.  I did think about writing a little introduction about the author but, to be honest, I’m probably not the best person to do that.  This is my first reading experience of this author and so to start waxing lyrical would just be plain silly – there are plenty of people out there who could really do him justice rather than me just regurgitating facts from Wiki!  The reason I chose this book?  To be honest I don’t read much sci fi and that’s something I like to address.  To be even more honest the reason for this is because I find it a little bit daunting.  Basically sci fi scares the pants off me because I think I’m not going to understand it!  I mean, it’s not like I’m a raging dunce but I hold my hands up that maths and science are not my forte – and I don’t want to read a book that makes me feel ridiculously stupid (is that bad?).

When I started blogging, one of the first blogs that I came across was Stainless Steel Droppings (followed by Little Red Reviewer).  I’ve been following these blogs for quite some time now and in doing so I’ve read books that I frankly would never have picked up, I’ve read books that the cover alone would have had me walking out the shop!, I’ve read a few classics and I’ve taken part in readalongs that meant the subject of the book was dissected in a really fun way.  Carl, over at Stainless Steel Droppings named his blog so because he has loved this author since being a young boy first stepping into the sci fi realm.  I really like that sort of thing and so I thought I’d read this book to find out for myself just how good these books are.  After all, if these books encouraged one person’s love of sci fi then what not mine?? Also, reading a bit about the Stainless Steel Rat its clear that this series is fun with a cheeky rogue being the main protagonist.

That all being said, the pressing issue – did I like it and would I continue with the series – yes, and yes!

The Stainless Steel Rat was the first in the series (although I think there have been prequels written since).  The book sets off really well with Jim diGriz going from one crime caper to the next.  The reason why this is so unusual is that crime has virtually been eradicated in this future world.  Genetic tampering (presumably) has removed the trait and so there are very few master criminals working the stars, not to mention the crime enforcers are poorly placed to deal with such crime.  Jim has little respect for the law and his lofty attitude is in a sense his undoing.  He finds himself in a situation where he’s being chased and in attempting to escape capture is actually being manoeuvred into a trap – he’s used to being the one who’s always one step ahead.  This isn’t a spoiler by the way – basically Jim is caught by the Special Corps – their aim (to boldly go maybe) to recruit master criminals and use their cunning and wily ways to catch others!  A thief to catch a thief – not a bad plan.

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people have been posting Vintage SciFi reviews and discussions all over the place!   While I’m battling airport traffic today, you should enjoy these links to Vintage SciFi goodness all over the blogopshere!   it’s like a giftbox of chocolate truffles. where do I start?  with the caramel? with the white chocolate? with that sparkly one?

Found a link I missed?  Post it in the comments and I’ll update the list as soon as I can.

Howling Frog Books offers up a selection of reviews, including Rendezvous with Rama, by Arthur C. Clark, We, by Yevgeny Zamyatin, The Demolished Man, by Alfred Bester, and Flow My Tears, the Policeman Said, by Philip K. Dick.

Sheila Williams has a heartfelt editorial in Asimov’s about remembering Frederik Pohl

My Readers Block reviews Dangerous Visions #3, edited by Harlan Ellison and including short stories by Theodore Sturgeon, Roger Zelazny, Norman Spinrad, J. G. Ballard, and more, and Angels and Spaceships by Fredric Brown

Books Without Any Pictures reviews The Gods of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, with some great cover art!! Also a great review of Flatland by Edwin Abbot.

Lynn’s Book Blog reviews Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes

50 Year Project reviews The Time Machine by H.G. Wells

Genre-Bending discusses The Dying Earth by Jack Vance

Some timely posts on SFSignal recently, one on Reading More Older SFF, and another on LGBT Science Fiction and Fantasy in the 1970s

I can always count on Science Fiction and Other Suspect Ruminations for Vintage goodies. In the past week he’s posted an extensive cover art gallery, and a review of A Funeral for the Eyes of Fire  by Michael Bishop.

AQ’s Reviews discusses Marooned on Mars by Lester Del Rey

I Read Therefore I Am discusses The Day of The Triffids by John Wyndham

Remember I said Lesley Connor was someone to thank for the upcoming Book of Apex blog tour in February?  Jason Sizemore is the other person to thank.  Apex Magazine is quite literally his baby.  By the way, as you are reading this, Jason and I are hanging out at ConFusion.

The Demolished Man and The Stars My Destination, by Jason Sizemore

Jason Sizemore is the two time Hugo Award-nominated owner and editor of Apex Publications. You can find more information about him and Apex at http://www.apexbookcompany.com

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The-Demolished-Man-cover

I had a late matriculation into science fiction. It wasn’t until my college years did I begin to read hard genre fiction. But what I did read had a profound effect on my future reading tastes and choices.

The first science fiction novel I remember reading is Alfred Bester’s The Demolished Man (our first Hugo Award-winner back in 1953). Its plot features a powerful telepath (Powell) waging a battle against a damaged and powerful businessman (Reich). The book reads as a futuristic sort of police procedural. It’s an insightful examination of human nature, showing us that things haven’t changed all that much from the 50s.

The Demolished Man is my go to book when readers ask me for a good science fiction book to ease them into the genre. The hard SF aspects of the novel are core to the plot and the world Bester creates feels sufficiently futuristic even 60 years later.

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Judge a book by it’s cover?  don’t mind if I do.  We’re all guilty of buying a book because it has gorgeous cover art, or shying away from a book because the cover art is boring or off-putting.  While I’m out of town this weekend, enjoy this gallery of Frank Frazetta cover art!  It’s sure to be alluring to some of you, and off-putting to others.  I have high expectations for discussions in the comments!

Not familiar with Frank Frazetta? Ultra-Famous fantasy artist who got started in comics and then went to painting. Many of his paintings were purchased for fantasy and adventure novel cover art during the 1960s and 1970s. His style involves lots of skin. lots of skin.  probably NSFW.

Big pics and slow loading times ahead!

warlord of mars frazetta

conan frazetta Read the rest of this entry »

I told my guest posters they could write about anything they wanted for Vintage Science Fiction month, so long as it was speculative fiction related and happened before 1979. I didn’t give anyone any specific direction, on anything.  Ladies and gentlemen, today you are in for a treat. Brittain didn’t just write about one book, or one author. He went all out and read through the nominated and winning novels of the Hugo, Nebula and Locus awards of 1977.

1977: The Award Winners

by Brittain Barber

Brittain Barber is the o-owner of and main writer for the blog Two Dudes in an Attic, where we read Gary Gygax novels so you don’t have to. Scribblings on Two Dudes emanate from the Pacific Northwest and sit at the nexus of science fiction, fantasy, political science, Japan, music, and soccer. (This makes for a killer Venn diagram.)

When the invitation came to do a guest post during Vintage SF Month, I tried to come up with
something more entertaining than a simple book review of some cobwebby relic. Many of my posts tend towards aimless, politico-economic rambling,  I quickly shot that down as requiring far too much research. Finally, I settled on the idea of looking at the award winners and nominees from a particular year; in this case, my birth year of 1977. (Does this make me vintage as well? I prefer to think otherwise.) (Also, I realize that the books here were all published in 1976, but we’ll just talk about them in terms of 1977, for simplicity’s sake.) The topic thus decided, I set about to read as many of the major books from the year as I could, in hopes of providing capsule reviews here. It is fortunate that 1977 was still a year of thin, concise volumes. I wouldn’t have been able to pull this off in an age when the average page count ticks up over four or five hundred.

My focus for this piece is what I consider to be the three big prizes of Western SF: The Hugo, Nebula, and Locus Awards. I read the winner of each and as many of the nominees as I could get my hands on. I skipped World Fantasy, Campbell, and a couple of others, but there may be time for a follow up later on. I also passed on short fiction in a bid to prevent this project from spiraling out of control. Fortunately, the nominee listings (and awards!) had considerable overlap. Starting with the winning books, below is a selection of the best and brightest of 1977. I may still ramble.

Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang by Kate Wilhelm – Wilhelm took home the Hugo and Locus with this book, a mix of elegy, apocalypse, and clones. The writing is lyrical and hypnotic, as Wilhelm manages to make her clones both sympathetic and wholly alien. I was disappointed in the end with the conflict she decided to make unavoidable and the results she made inevitable, but that is a matter of opinion rather than technique. I’m a little surprised that this book has faded from the SF consciousness a bit, as it appeared to make a splash at the time. It has also aged well, with little inside to date it. In fact, it may be even more relevant now, with cloning back in the public eye. Recommended reading and a worthy winner, I think. At the very least, I haven’t read anything else from 1977 that is clearly better.

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About this redhead, etc.

Redhead is a snarky, non-politically correct 30-something who reviews mostly science fiction and fantasy and talks about all sorts of other fun scifi and fantasy geekery. She once wrote a haiku that included the word triskaidekaphobia.

This blog contains adult language and strong opinions. The best way to contact her outside of this blog is twitter, where she is @redhead5318 .

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.