the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Vintage SciFi’ Category

2014-03-11 21.05.42The Door Into Summer, by Robert Heinlein

published in 1956

where I got it: paperback swap

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I’ve been in a reading slump lately.  Books seem to feel the same, not much has grabbed me lately, I seem to have burned myself out on epic fantasy for a while, and damnit, there is still two feet of snow on the ground. I need some nice weather, and  I need a book that reads like a sunny day, something that’s fun as hell and won’t demand anything of me in return.  I need a door into summer.

Does that cover art look familiar? if you’ve got this printing, do NOT read the blurb on the back. It spoils the surprise.

Dan’s cat Pete hates the snow.  In the winter, the cat still wants to do his business outside, and will insist that Dan open every door in the house. Because Pete’s pretty sure that one of these cold winter days, one of those doors will  be a door into summer.

The year is 1970, and Dan Davis is a brilliant engineer, but a horrible judge of character. Knowing he hasn’t got a head for business, Dan and his friend Miles go into business, with Miles doing all the accounting and paperwork, and Dan making all the inventions.  It was going swimmingly until the gorgeous Belle showed up. It was hysterical to me how Dan describes Belle in engineering-talk.  Belle plays both men for fools, gets Miles to do her dirty work, and in a sneaky round about way convinces Dan to go for Long Sleep. Dan is happy to leave this sorry, heartbroken world behind, so long as his beloved cat, Pete, can go in the coffin with him.  He even comes up with a foolproof plan to make sure the one human being he still cares about, a little girl named Ricki, will be taken care of financially.

The Long Sleep isn’t death, it’s a hypethermia of sorts. You pay an insurance company to put you in hypothermic hibernation, and you wake up 5 years later, ten years later, or whatever period of time you choose. Maybe the world won’t suck as bad, maybe a cure will have been found for whatever is killing you. Doesn’t matter the reasons, companies have found they can make a fortune offering the service, and consumers are drawn in by the idea that they can invest some money, take the long sleep, and be millionaires when they wake up. What could possibly go wrong?

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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 »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

outcasts of Heaven beltThe Outcasts of Heaven Belt, by Joan D. Vinge

published in 1978

where i got it: purchased used

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You know how sometimes a book looks really really good, and then you read it and it’s nothing special?  this book was the opposite. For not looking like anything special (and suffering from an ultra-cheesy tagline), The Outcasts of Heaven Belt was pretty damn good.

They came on a mission to paradise - blissfully unaware that heaven had become hell!" what an unfortunate tagline!

They came on a mission to paradise – blissfully unaware that heaven had become hell!” what an unfortunate tagline!

Think about some space operas that have come out in the last few years. How long are they? 400 pages? 600 pages? longer?   Vinge crams all the trappings of a great space opera in just two hundred pages. Everything from the not so pretty realities of space travel, to the effects of radiation, to complex planetary system politics, to how our cultural norms might change based on different environs. To add to the SFnal-ness of the whole thing, time is measured in seconds. No hours, days or weeks, character refer to kiloseconds, megaseconds and gigaseconds. There’s a great little graph in the front of the translating this into hours, days and weeks. It’s in logarithmic scale, making the metricality of measuring time in 10 to the nth seconds make perfect sense.

terrible photo of a really cool logarithmic scale of time.

terrible photo of a really cool logarithmic scale of time.

The story starts out with the crew of The Ranger. Traveling from Morningside, they’ve been enroute for four years, hoping to reach the Heaven system, and open up a new trade route. This isn’t like Star Trek, you can’t just get a message from someone instantaneously. Morningside hasn’t been in any communication with Heaven, but they’ve had no reason to believe the system isn’t doing just fine. The Heaven system had been colonized because of it’s resource rich icy and rocky asteroids and planetoids, and the moons orbiting its gas giants. Any system with that quantity of resources and trade goods would be rich within a few generations. (Vinge doesn’t even dream of Earth like planets.  None of the planets we colonize are Earths. They are what we can find, and what we can survive on)

Read the rest of this entry »


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.