“I sat on the harbour wall with a girl one night: in the confusion and collapse of the ordered sub-colony existence there were many such chance relationships until people found their niches again. She said, ‘They’ve known for fifty years that this was going to happen, and yet there were no preparations.’”
Winner of the 1976 BSFA Best Novel award, Michael G. Coney’s Brontomek! is a story about the effects of a huge corporation on a small community of colonists living on a planet called ‘Arcadia’. It’s also about love, sailing, small-town community life, farming and giant mek machines. There isn’t much to be found about Brontomek! on the net. I’d only heard of Coney’s 1973 novel Friends Come in Boxes before this, and that was thanks to Science Fiction Ruminations’ excellent review of it over here.
After a bizarre natural disaster hits the planet, the “Hetherington Organisation” offers the remaining colonists a “five-year-plan” that they promise will rejuvenate Arcadia. This offer includes the deployment of the titular “brontomeks”, huge, mechanised, farming machines armed with lasers, as well as an army of shapeshifting worker-aliens called “amorphs”. What could possibly go wrong?
“She was sitting against the wall on the porch, tears trickling from her eyes. Had pain broken the hallucination? She did not care. She hated them, the bland bottleborn monsters of the future, born without pain, multicolored like a litter of puppies without the stigmata of race and sex.” (page 98)
Woman on the Edge of Time is a 1976 science fiction novel by the American poet and writer Marge Piercy. I discovered it via David Pringle’s book Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels, An English-Language Selection, 1949-1984. I was surprised to find only seven books by women on that list. Marge Piercy’s novel is listed at number 81. It’s my first experience of her work.
According to wikipedia this novel is ‘considered a classic of utopian “speculative” fiction as well as a feminist classic.’ It tells the story of Consuelo (Connie) Ramos, a thirty-seven-year-old Mexican-American woman with a troubled past involving drugs, abuse and time spent in a psychiatric hospital. We are introduced to her in a violent opening scene involving Connie’s niece and her niece’s pimp.
“This isn’t a war,” said the artilleryman. “It never was a war, any more than there’s war between man and ants.”
This is one of the original and most famous alien invasion stories. It is set in Victorian England just before the start of the twentieth century when Great Britain was at the height of its colonialist ambitions. The unnamed narrator tells his tale in the first person in prose which is crisp and eloquent.
His step-by-step chronicle of the invasion is fascinating and the scenes involving the invading Martians really stand out. These initial accounts of the emerging Martians are thrilling. I felt a sense of wonder at what the author was describing and got completely caught up in the story, turning page after page to discover what happened next. Continue reading
“14. The universe is information and we are stationary in it, not three-dimensional and not in space or time. The information fed to us we hypostatize into the phenomenal world.” -from the Tractate, VALIS
VALIS (Vast Active Living Intelligence System) was published in 1981. It follows Dick’s A Scanner Darkly and precedes The Divine Invasion. It’s difficult to write a spoiler-free synopsis of this novel but here goes:
Horselover Fat, a *friend* of the author Philip K. Dick, has a nervous breakdown. His friends help him attempt to deal with it. They talk a lot about theology, reality and extra-terrestrials. Towards the end of the book they watch a movie called ‘Valis’, then meet the movie’s makers.
I read this as the third book in Book Punks mind-warping “Exegesis with a side of fiction: the 2016 PKD read along”. It was interesting to read VALIS after reading Radio Free Albemuth, as VALIS is considered to be a rewrite or reworking of Albemuth. Both books include Philip K. Dick as a major character in the stories. They also contain a lot of autobiographical details that touch on Dick’s experiences leading up to and after February & March 1974, (mystical experience or onset of schizophrenia??).