Vintage Science Fiction Review Digest #1

Happy New Year everyone!

 

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It’s January 2019, the Year of the Wild Boar, and it’s time for some vintage science fiction.  As mentioned earlier, I’m joining the Little Red Reviewer’s “not-a-challenge” of VintageSciFiMonth.

I’ve started reading Fritz Leiber’s 1958 Hugo Award-winner The Big Time.

“Have you ever worried about your memory, because it doesn’t seem to recall exactly the same past from one day to the next? Have you ever thought that the whole universe might be a crazy, mixed-up dream? If you have, then you’ve had hints of the Change War.”

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I only managed to read a couple of “vintage” SF stories in 2018 so I’m going to make an effort to read more this year.

I’ve been looking through my older reviews starting from 2016 and have found quite a few books that fall under this category. In fact I am amazed at just how many vintage books I read and reviewed in 2016. You can tell how enthusiastic I was back then at getting this blog off the ground. So, without further ado, here are the Vintage Science Fiction and Fantasy stories I read and reviewed in 2016:

[*NOTE: In 2016, I took part in a Philip K. Dick monthly buddy read so this year will obviously contain a lot of Dick;)]


Ubik (1969) by Philip K. Dick

220px-Ubik(1stEd)

I love this bonkers book. It comes very highly recommended! It is often described as not being an “entry-level PKD novel” – many reviewers point to ‘The Man in the High Castle’ or ‘Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?’ as being suitable for new readers – but I found this really entertaining.
(Click here to read my full review. *Warning* Some of these “reviews” are pretty poo(r))

 


Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? (1968) by Philip K. Dick

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This may not be considered a “five-star classic” but there is something about it that I just love. On the surface, it may seem like a rather simple detective story set in a speculative near-future with androids as the villains. But there is so much more going on in here. This slim volume addresses themes of loneliness, sentience, the value of life, empathy, reality, and the influence of a celebrity-worshipping media.
(Click here to read my full review.)

 


Radio Free Albemuth (1976) by Philip K. Dick

220px-Radio_free_albemuthI would only recommend this book to fans of PKD. The science fiction writer Michael Bishop called it “good enough to stand in the top ten or twelve PKD SF novels”. I think that quote gives you a good idea of the quality of this book when compared with Dick’s more famous works. I enjoyed it, but it probably isn’t for everyone.
(Click here to read my full review.)

 


Titus Groan (1946) by Mervyn Peake

220px-TglgPeake was a gifted wordsmith and created some very unique and memorable characters. These inhabitants of Gormenghast Castle are some of the oddest fictional people you are likely to meet, and they have been given such wonderful names: Rottcodd, Steerpike, Mr. Flay, Swelter the cook, Doctor Prunesquallor, Nannie Slagg, Sourdust, Barquentine and Bellgrove. (Click here for my full review.)

 


Starship Troopers (1959) by Robert A. Heinlein

Starship_Troopers_(novel)If you’re interested in the detailed life of a soldier set in a SF setting then you might enjoy Starship Troopers. If you’re a Heinlein fan then it’s worth reading. If you want to see what all the fuss is about, take a look. But please note that the book is very different to the movie version. The book is more about the author’s philosophy on the reasons why wars are fought, as well as the roles and responsibilities of “citizens” to the state.
(Click here to read my full review.)

 


Time for the Stars (1956) by Robert A. Heinlein

86266efb6d8aff4e478a9bd9fbc9daefI read this book straight after Starship Troopers and it felt like a breath of fresh air. This book is much lighter and funnier than Heinlein’s more famous work, but its didactic nature is still extant. It contains some laugh-out-loud lines along with the author’s token dismissive treatment of almost all female characters over the age of sixteen(!!).
(Click here for my full review.)

 


Woman on the Edge of Time (1976) by Marge Piercy

0449232085This book is a good addition to the time-travel genre. Connie is a well-realised character made more believable by her mistakes and faults. I enjoyed the author’s questioning of reality by using the setting of a psychiatric hospital. Also, the way she approached the unreliability of an individual’s experiences via Connie’s narration. How do we know what other people really perceive? Those individuals often lazily labelled as “mad” or “crazy”; who are we to judge them?
(Click here for my full review.)

 


Brontomek! (1976) by Michael G. Coney

6533016This slim book is a quick and easy read. There are some good ideas in here, particularly touching on identity and human desires. It looks at how fragile colonial life could be on an alien world. There are also some sobering observations on humanity’s treatment of what we regard as the other or alien. But it is a light and breezy take on these themes that doesn’t dig too deeply.
(Click here to read my full review.)

 


Kindred (1979) by Octavia Butler

kindredIn my opinion, Kindred is a book that should be read by everyone. It’s a very important book, not only because of its subject matter but also because it is a terrific story. It is a wonderful experience when you get so caught up in a book that you don’t want to put it down, and you can’t wait until you pick it up again. It’s the kind of book that could be read in one sitting, time-permitting. (Click here for my full review.)

 


The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch (1965) by Philip K. Dick

TheThreeStigmataOfPalmerEldritch(1stEd)This is a typically weird Dickian tale involving the fragile nature of reality, drug use, the plight of the “little man,” planetary colonization, and malign alien invasion. Presciently, Dick envisages 21st Century Earth as an overpopulated planet with a dangerously high daytime temperature, as well as a populace addicted to consumerism.
(Click here to read my full review.)

 


Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang (1976) by Kate Wilhelm

968827This is a very human story with any science remaining firmly in the background. If you are looking for a thought-provoking take on the survival of the human race, rich in atmosphere and emotion, which asks questions about the collective versus the individual, then Where Late the Sweet Birds Sang comes highly recommended.
(Click here for my full review.)

 


The Man in the High Castle (1963) by Philip K. Dick

man-in-the-high-castle-2Often considered to be Dick’s best work, as well as his most mainstream, The Man in the High Castle imagines a future in which Germany, Italy and Japan won the Second World War. America is occupied by both the Germans and the Japanese. The story concentrates on events occurring in California, now part of the ‘Pacific States of America’ controlled by the Japanese. As is common in a lot of Dick’s writing, ordinary people dealing with unusual or extraordinary events are the focal point of the story.
(Click here for my full review.)

 


Dr. Bloodmoney (1965) by Philip K. Dick

200px-DrBloodmoney(1stEd)Written at the height of the Cold War, Philip K. Dick’s 1965 novel Dr. Bloodmoney imagines what might happen if America experienced a nuclear attack. Dick sets it in a (then) future 1981 in which there is a draft for the Cuban War, Russia’s Lunar Colony has failed, and for the first time, a married couple is about to be sent on a colonization mission to Mars. As people watch the televised launch of the Mars-bound rocket, the TV screens suddenly go blank and the signal is lost…  (Click here to read my full review.)

 


A Scanner Darkly (1977) by Philip K. Dick

220px-AScannerDarkly(1stEd)I’ve read complaints that A Scanner Darkly is boring or dull. In that it charts the daily lives of drug addicts, their actions and conversations, their constant search for the next hit, then maybe so. It’s certainly different to a lot of Dick’s other, more sci-fi fare. But underneath the nonsense there is a dosage of realism that, in my opinion, is worth the discomfort.
(Click here for my full review.)

 


A Maze of Death (1970) by Philip K. Dick

pkd-maze-of-deathA Maze of Death is yet another short PKD book that is absolutely bursting with ideas. It’s also a dark story by Dick’s “normal” standards. The opening chapters are fairly pulpy, late-60s sci-fi, but it gradually gets weirder and more bizarre as the story progresses. As usual, the author has the reader questioning what is real, if anything.
(Click here for my full review.)

 


Ten Thousand Light-Years from Home (1973) by James Tiptree, Jr.

220px-TenThousandLightYearsFromHomeThis is a fascinating collection of science fiction short stories full of big ideas, beautiful prose, a witty, knowing sense of humour as well as a palpable sexuality. Many of these tales deserve a second or third reading, not just for clarification but also for pure enjoyment. Recommended for anyone seeking passage to the stars and beyond;)
(Click here to read my full review.)

 


Counter-Clock World (1967) by Philip K. Dick

29910Counter-Clock World contains some typically strange Dickian moments as well as a couple of truly thrilling scenes. One such scene near the end of the book has Sebastian attempting to rescue his wife. His “rescue kit” contains, among other things, a “LSD hand grenade”. To say any more would be to spoil the fun of reading this scene, something that surely only PKD could have brought to life in 1967. (Click here for my full review.)

 


Thanks for reading!

Graham

 

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