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swynn gets back to the DAWs in 2017 -- 2d thread

This is a continuation of the topic swynn gets back to the DAWs in 2017.

This topic was continued by swynn gets back to the DAWs in 2017 -- 3d thread.

75 Books Challenge for 2017

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Edited: Aug 7, 2017, 11:51am Top

Expect a mixture of the following, in decreasing density:

Science fiction and fantasy
Crime & mystery novels
Popular history (American, mostly)
Popular science
Library science/history of the book

Also, I tend to read impulsively so there will also be not necessarily categorizable things that happen capture my attention.

I didn't complete the 50-state challenge in 2015, and didn't wrap it up in 2016, and don't plan to make a special effort in 2017. Still, I'll keep track of state-specific reading here, in case you're looking for a Delaware read or something.

Regardless of plans, priority usually goes to things that must be returned to the library. This is a stack generated more by whim & hope than by plan, which I call "The Tower of Due." Here's what it looks like now:

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:51pm Top

(1) Dragon Coast / Greg van Eekhout
(2) Two for the Dough / Janet Evanovich
(3) All the Birds in the Sky / Charlie Jane Anders
(4) A Quest for Simibilis / Michael Shea
(5) Nightwise / R.S. Belcher
(6) History of the Civil War, 1861-1865 / James Ford Rhodes
(7) Still Life / Louise Penny
(8) Borderline / Mishell Baker
(9) Red Queen / Victoria Aveyard
(10) Midsummer Century / James Blish
(11) Creepers / David Morrell
(12) The Glass Universe / Dava Sobel
(13) Alanna / Tamora Pierce
(14) The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse / Vicente Blasco Ibañez
(15) Junky / William S. Burroughs
(16) Paper and Fire / Rachel Caine
(17) Mindship / Gerard F. Conway
(18) Hero of the Empire / Candice Millard
(19) Dark Matter / Blake Crouch
(20) Rendezvous with Rama / Arthur C. Clarke
(21) The Art of the English Murder / Lucy C. Worsley
(22) The Burrowers Beneath / Brian Lumley
(23) The Man Who Fell in Love With the Moon / Tom Spanbauer
(24) The Man of the Forest / Zane Grey
(25) Countdown City / Ben H. Winters
(26) Latin@ Rising / Matthew David Goodwin, ed.
(27) The Genius of Birds / Jennifer Ackerman
(28) Promised land / Brian Stableford
(29) The Evening Spider / Emily Arsenault
(30) The Diamond Deep / Brenda Cooper
(31) Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day / Seanan McGuire
(32) Death on Demand / Carolyn G. Hart
(33) Famous Modern Ghost Stories / Dorothy Scarborough, ed.
(34) Impulse / Dave Bara
(35) Die Trying / Lee Child
(36) Three to Get Deadly
(37) Lost Among the Stars / Paul Di Filippo
(38) Raiders of Gor / John Norman
(39) Infomocracy / Malka Older
(40) Main Street / Sinclair Lewis
(41) Still Midnight / Denise Mina
(42) The Overlords of War / Gerard Klein
(43) If Winter Comes / A.S.M. Hutchinson
(44) Half-Resurrection Blues / Daniel Jose Older
(45) Crosstalk / Connie Willis
(46) Phantom Pains / Mishell Baker
(47) The Tetris Effect / Dan Ackerman
(48) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet / Becky Chambers
(49) Matto Regiert / Friedrich Glauser
(50) Too Like the Lightning / Ada Palmer
(51) A Closed and Common Orbit / Becky Chambers
(52) Black Oxen / Gertrude Atherton
(53) Planet Big Zero / Franklin Hadley
(54) Twenty-Five Ghost Stories
(55) I Know I Am, But What Are You? / Samantha Bee
(56) How Are the Mighty Fallen / Thomas Burnett Swann
(57) The Devil in the White City / Erik Larson
(58) Captive of Gor / John Norman
(59) Identity Seven / Robert Lory
(60) Unternehmen Stardust / K.H. Scheer
(61) The Lady into Fox, and, A Man in the Zoo / David Garnett
(62) Hidden Figures / Margot Shetterly
(63) Die Dritte Macht / Clark Darlton
(64) Hunters of Gor / John Norman
(65) Die Strahlende Kuppel / K.H. Scheer
(66) Prince of Scorpio / Alan Burt Akers (i.e., Kenneth Bulmer)
(67) So Big / Edna Ferber
(68) Götterdämmerung / Clark Darlton
(69) As the Curtain Falls / Robert Chilson
(70) The Planet Savers, and, Sword of Aldones / Marion Zimmer Bradley
(71) The Dark Forest / Cixin Liu
(72) Atom-Alarm / Kurt Mahr
(73) Can You Feel Anything When I Do This? / Robert Sheckley
(74) Death's End / Cixin Liu
(75) Das Mutanten-Korps / W.W. Shols
(76) Hadon of Ancient Opar / Philip José Farmer
(77) Invasion aus dem All / Clark Darlton
(78) The 1974 Annual World's Best Science Fiction
(79) Die Venusbasis / Kurt Mahr
(80) Soundings / A. Hamilton Gibbs
(81) The Unsleeping Eye / D.G. Compton
(82) Hilfe für die Erde / W.W. Shols
(83) Amos Meakin's Ghost / Wilbur Morris Stine
(84) The Hawks of Arcturus / Cecil Snyder III
(85) Raumschlacht im Wega-Sektor / K.H. Scheer
(86) The Weathermonger / Peter Dickinson
(87) The Breath of Suspension / Alexander Jablokov
(88) Mutanten im Einsatz / Kurt Mahr
(89) The Dracula Tape / Fred Saberhagen
(90) Tooth and Talon / Alex Hernandez
(91) The Fall of Chronopolis / Barrington J. Bayley
(92) Das Geheimnis der Zeitgruft / Clark Darlton
(93) The Caped Crusade / Glen Weldon
(94) The Metallic Muse / Lloyd Biggle, Jr.

Edited: May 9, 2017, 2:18pm Top

Here's some poetry to celebrate the new thread
An Algorithm For Counting the Hair on Your Head
by Eli M. Barr

1) Choose a hair on your head.
2) Ask yourself, "Is this the only hair on my head?"
if yes, you have one hair on your head.
if no, remove the hair from your head.
3) Repeat step one.

(From The Journal of Humanistic Mathematics)

Personally, I'll wait for nature to perform the algorithm upon my own head.

Edited: May 9, 2017, 2:38pm Top

And a book to launch the new thread:

48) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet / Becky Chambers

This is one everybody was talking about last year, and its sequel is on this year's Hugo ballot. It's generated a huge amount of love so I almost feel I should apologize for saying that, while I liked it, it didn't thrill me.

The idea is pretty simple: the Wayfarer is a small, privately owned spaceship-for-hire. Its specialty is "punching" wormholes through space, which allows instantaneous movement between arbitrarily distant points. If I understand the exposition correctly, wormholes actually solve the paradoxes involved in faster-than-light travel. Because somehow the relativistic problems caused by traveling too fast disappear when you travel sufficiently faster. It is not clear to me how that works, but there you are.

In this case they're hired to punch a hole from somewhere far away, a frontier where a new civilization is being admitted into the galactic union. The book tells how they spend their time en route. It's very episodic, and feels like the mash-ups writers used to build out of their short stories. I think I'd have preferred a book of short stories; as a novel the narrative feels a bit aimless.

The episodic quality was one thing that bothered me. I think I'd have preferred a book of short stories; tacked together they make a fairly aimless and poorly-paced novel. My other complaint is that everybody is so tediously *nice* to each other. They spend lots of time having heartfelt conversations about how much they mean to each other. If there's ever a conflict, it's sure to be quickly smoothed over by some generous gesture.

On the other hand, I think I understand why it's been loved so much. The writing is pleasant enough that I enjoyed it despite my gripes. And I can see how a book featuring characters who reach agreements without violence is a change of pace that many would find refreshing. I'd sympathize more myself if only it weren't so episodic, with (almost) every episode resolved by niceness. An interesting exception is the last bit, where humans argue against admitting the new civilization into the galactic union. They worry that it's too violent, failing to acknowledge that humans were ourselves barely admitted for fear that we were too violent. I'm hoping that the sequel will explore this tension. Because this world needs more tension.

May 9, 2017, 3:17pm Top

Happy new thread, sir!

Wishing you an angry and full of conflict next read. ;)

May 9, 2017, 5:35pm Top

You say the nicest things, Micky :)

I do feel odd complaining about a lack of conflict and an excess of social skills, but there you go. For what it's worth, I would rather live in Becky Chambers's universe than in most others.

As for the rest, I'm currently reading a murder mystery, a nonfiction account of serial killing, and a ... well, Too Like the Lightning. So I'm good on the anger & conflict front.

May 9, 2017, 6:17pm Top

Happy new thread!
>3 swynn: LOL that would take days :-)

May 9, 2017, 9:00pm Top

Happy new thread Steve.

>3 swynn: I'll also leave the algorithms alone for the time being.

May 9, 2017, 10:09pm Top

Too Like the Lightning will take care of that for you! Enjoy!

May 10, 2017, 6:39am Top

>4 swynn: I appreciate hearing a different viewpoint on this one, Steve. You haven't discouraged me from reading it someday, but I will adjust my expectations accordingly, which is always helpful. I'm glad I didn't buy it during my recent bookstore romp.

May 10, 2017, 6:42am Top

Happy new thread, Steve!

May 10, 2017, 2:00pm Top

Happy new thread!

May 10, 2017, 4:05pm Top

>10 rosalita: I hope I don't scare you away from something you would like Julia. Others have loved it, and my reservations are probably affected by high expectations and a strong aversion to long conversations about Feelings.

When & if you get around to it, I hope you like it at least as well as I did.

>11 scaifea:, >12 drneutron: Thanks Amber & Jim!

May 11, 2017, 4:48pm Top

>3 swynn: Hah!

Happy new thread, Steve.

We should start talking about the meet up. What time of day works for you? No cool indie bookstore like Prairie Lights - we do have a Barnes and Noble, which is in a big mall. Or, we could meet at my house. Time and place up to you. Julia is interested, too.


May 12, 2017, 1:11am Top

I am pretty flexible. Morning would be great -- I will be staying either in Rochester or somewhere nearby -- but if afternoon works better for Julia's travel schedule, that's fine too.

As for location, I'm flexible with that too. Mostly I am in favor of someplace with coffee, especially if we meet in the morning.

Edited: May 12, 2017, 6:08pm Top

So Mrs. swynn was in a fender-bender this morning-- she was in an exit from the parking lot of a grocery store waiting for traffic to clear when a taxicab entering the lot swung too wide and scraped the car. Nobody was hurt and Mrs. swynn got a good story out of it -- especially what happened next.

After the police had taken their report and left, she sat a few minutes in the lot gathering her composure. The cab driver, on the other hand, went into the grocery store's liquor department (which has a separate entrance), and emerged with a case of beer, which he loaded into the trunk of his cab before driving off.

One wonders ...

May 12, 2017, 9:33pm Top

>13 swynn: No worries, you haven't scared me away from it. I would have read it by now, actually, except for some reason the ebook version on Overdrive can only be read on a computer, not downloaded to an e-reader. Which, no.

>14 BLBera: Beth, how long does it take to get to where you are? I'm not opposed to a morning meet-up as long as I don't have to leave home too early. :-)

Location-wise, I probably am not physically up to a mall or other location that would involve a lot of walking, but that's my only caveat.

>15 swynn: I'm glad mrs.swynn is OK. You do wonder, though, about that cabbie ...

May 12, 2017, 9:41pm Top

>16 swynn:

Wow. Talk about the chicken and the egg. :)

>17 rosalita:

the ebook version on Overdrive can only be read on a computer, not downloaded to an e-reader. Which, no.

Half the books I'm reading at the moment are only available online. I've accepted it as the lesser of two evils, in that it's either this or an expensive purchase, but my eyes are paying for it. :(

May 12, 2017, 10:03pm Top

>18 lyzard: I keep thinking I'll get a paper copy from the library someday. It doesn't seem like the kind of book that would be worth the eyestrain. But if it was my only option, like so many of yours are, I'd probably suck it up and give it a try.

May 12, 2017, 11:25pm Top

>16 swynn: Glad to hear Mrs Swynn is ok. Hope the rest of your weekend is significantly less drama filled.

May 13, 2017, 8:45am Top

>14 BLBera: >17 rosalita: Well, the drive is about four hours, but the B&N is on the south side of town right off the highway, so it might be a little less.

Julia, not much walking required to get to the B&N - it has an outside entrance.

It might be easiest to meet there, get coffee ,and then we can think about lunch and any other places we want to go - the library has a used bookshop...

If we meet at 11, would that be too early? Any time works for me.

May 13, 2017, 8:45am Top

Glad to hear Mrs. Swynn is OK. I hope there wasn't a lot of damage to the car.

May 13, 2017, 4:59pm Top

>21 BLBera: Four hours isn't bad at all — I don't know what made me think it was more like five or six but I'm glad I asked! I could even be there as early as 10:30 if that works better for Steve.

Good to hear about the B&N — that might be doable, then. I'll ask you for a street address once we settle on where we're meeting — I can plug that into the GPS and not worry about getting lost. :-)

May 13, 2017, 7:38pm Top


May 13, 2017, 10:26pm Top

Ooof, glad nobody got hurt in the accident!

May 15, 2017, 9:18am Top

10:30 and 11:00 are equally convenient for me. Since Julia has the longest drive I'm inclined to leave it up to her which time she feels most comfortable committing to.

May 15, 2017, 9:22am Top

Thanks everyone for the good wishes for Mrs. swynn. From talking to her on the phone last Friday I had imagined damage much worse than what it turned out to be -- in fact the scratches are barely noticeable, and the bumper is nudged ever so slightly out of place, literally a "fender bender."

May 15, 2017, 10:48am Top

So, Julia? I guess you get to choose the time.

Edited: May 16, 2017, 5:58pm Top

49) Matto regiert (= "Matto Rules") / Friedrich Glauser
Date: 1936

Well, I thought that this was the second of Glauser's novels featuring the Swiss police detective Jakob Studer. Turns out it's the third, so I'll have to now read Fieberkurve to see what I missed.

Studer is an older policeman, nearing retirement, salvaging his career from an earlier blow: once, he had risen to the position of commissioner in Bern; but a scandal -- in which he had failed to be sufficiently deferential to a dirty bank executive -- had him booted back to sergeant.

In this one, Studer is specifically requested for a case involving missing persons at a psychiatric institute: a patient, the child-murderer Pierre Pieterlen, has escaped. But also the institute's director has disappeared. The institute's lead doctor, Dr. Laduner, specifically requests Studer for the investigation. Laduner and Studer met years ago during Studer's police-commissioner days; Laduner had impressed Studer as an ambitious and unconventional psychiatrist, and Studer ... well he's not really sure what it is about him that impressed Laduner enough to ask for him. Shortly after Studer's arrival one of the missing persons is found: the director, in the boiler room, with a broken neck. Complications of course ensue, with multiple suspects and the reappearance of an old nemesis: the dirty banker's son turns out to be an inmate.

The mystery is interesting though it is not the book's strength: that is its atmosphere, which history makes only more haunting. Glauser himself had been a patient in a psychiatric institute, and his experience brings a strong dose of realism, both to the setting and to the psychological dialogue. The title comes from a fantasy of one of the patients, that the institute is secretly ruled by "Matto," a spirit of irrationality. The idea is picked up by Dr. Laduner, who finds the idea convenient and is the first to tell Studer about Matto. Studer ponders the idea at length, notes that many of the patients' complaints are shared by others uninstitutionalized, and wonders where Matto's realm begins and ends -- in particular as he listens to a radio broadcast of a warmongering speech by a rising politician in a nearby state.

Recommended. (An English translation exists, titled "In Matto's Realm.")

May 16, 2017, 6:04pm Top

Accidentally out of order--- Doesn't it grind your gears?? :)

I really don't need another series (to say the least), but those sound really interesting. Are the translations readily available?

May 16, 2017, 9:36pm Top

>30 lyzard: Probably, depending on what counts as "readily available." Despite Glauser's reputation in the German-speaking world -- the premier prize for German-language crime fiction is named for him -- the Wachtmeister Studer novels weren't translated into English until the mid-2000s, when they were issued by Bitter Lemon Press. The first (i.e., the translation of the first Studer novel "Wachtmeister Studer") appeared in 2004 as Thumbprint, and can be purchased on Amazon for about $10, paperback or ebook. I don't know what availability is like in Australia, though.

May 16, 2017, 10:38pm Top


Some of them seem to be available at our version of Amazon, although a glance would suggest we have more of them in German than English; typical!

May 17, 2017, 10:25am Top

>26 swynn: Let's shoot for 10:30, then.

May 18, 2017, 9:04am Top

I'll see you at the Rochester B&N at 10:30 on Saturday, May 27. Safe driving.

May 22, 2017, 1:22pm Top

>32 lyzard: Hope you like it if you can get your hands on it, Liz!

>33 rosalita:
>35 swynn: Looking forward to Saturday!

Edited: May 22, 2017, 1:48pm Top

50) Too Like the Lightning / Ada Palmer
Date: 2016

Oh. My. Goodness. I feel like I've been reading this forever, and indeed it's been at least a couple of weeks. It's enthralling and exhausting and I read it slowly because it refused to be read any faster.

It's big. It's set in an intricately imagined post-scarcity twenty-fifth century, where advances in transportation have all but erased geographical borders; where social and linguistic evolution has all but erased gender discrimination; and where the aftermath of violent religious wars has made theological disputes all but illegal. Sound like paradise? Well, it is, sort of. Except, you know .... humans. But it's not just the richly-textured world I admire. Literarily it's ambitious too, an attempt to write a novel about this twenty-fifth century world with the tastes and affectations of the 18th-century Enlightenment. Happily, Palmer is up to her ambition and gives us a rich text full of historical, literary, and self-references. Goodness it's delicious but goodness me you have to pay attention.

Complaints? Maybe the plot develops slowly -- there are so many characters to introduce, and details of the setting and politics to explicate, that the book sometimes seems like a long first act. Pacing isn't helped by the narrator's self-indulgent digressions ... but then the whole point is an imitation of 18th-century novels; how can one complain about an author doing what she sets out to do? There's a mystery to hang things on, but the book is less a mystery than an immersion in a terrifically-imagined world.

This is one of the Hugo nominees, and rivals Ninefox Gambit for the top of my ballot.

The sequel is available, but I'll have to catch my breath first.

The gorgeous cover art is by Victor Mosquera.

May 22, 2017, 3:24pm Top

And just like that, another on my wishlist...

May 22, 2017, 5:18pm Top

>36 swynn: This sounds great, Steve. Maybe I'll have to look for a copy on Saturday.

Edited: May 23, 2017, 3:05pm Top

51) A Closed and Common Orbit / Becky Chambers

This is the sequel to Chambers's very successful debut A Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, and has received a lot of love on its own merit. So much that it's one of the Hugo nominees this year for best novel. Praise for these books has been nearly universal. And I regret to report that I don't get it. Like the first, the story seemed to wander aimlessly with long passages that didn't seem to advance the story; and like the first, everyone was so terribly nice to one another. Also like the first it's not bad, exactly: Chambers has imagined some interesting nonhuman races and settings, and the story always seems to be just about to start moving. For me, it just didn't move enough.

I've read so many raves that I have to believe there is something special about this series that just didn't work for me. That's okay, it happens, but what to say? If you haven't yet read the books then chances are you'll love them like everybody else. And why should I scare you away? I could say (like I did with the first) "I see why people like them ... " but really I don't, or I would share the love.

So I have a request: if you've read one or both of these books and loved it (them), please balance my tepid comments with some enthusiasm: what makes these books so great?

May 23, 2017, 4:01pm Top

I read the first, and I don't get it either. It was too cutesy, I thought. And it didn't feel like award winning writing.

May 24, 2017, 1:34am Top

>40 karspeak: Hi Karen! I expect you would not find the seconds book an improvement. A good share of it is told from the viewpoint of a ten-year-old child, whose voice occasionally struck me as too precious. But then I too seem to be immune to the books' charms. Too bad, but it's nice to have company.

May 24, 2017, 8:01am Top

>41 swynn: I definitely plan to skip the second book! I'm looking forward to reading some of the other Hugo nominees, though.

Edited: May 30, 2017, 1:18pm Top

The Rochester meeting was a success: Beth (BLBera), Julia (rosalita), Amie (Mrs. swynn) and I met this morning at the Rochester Barnes and Noble. Coffee was sipped, books were bought, stories were shared, and fun was had by all. After indulging our literary addictions we went to Chester's, where I strongly recommend the raspberry chicken salad. Here we are, stuffed and ready for a nap.

May 27, 2017, 8:17pm Top

Thanks for the pic Steve. Good luck with the marathon tomorrow.

May 27, 2017, 8:20pm Top

Thanks for sharing your hometown, Beth! We had a great time this morning, and I'm hoping for a fun run tomorrow.

May 27, 2017, 8:30pm Top

Nice! I love meet ups, always had fun with 'em.

May 27, 2017, 11:04pm Top

Great picture, and the usual wonderful meet-up experience, Steve!

May 28, 2017, 8:32am Top

>43 swynn: I know you won't see this until after you finish the marathon, Steve, but thanks for letting me tag along to your meet-up with Beth. And especially thanks for bringing mrs.swynn along. It was great to meet her and see you and Beth again!

And re Chester's, I can heartily recommend the fish 'n' chips. Delicious!

May 28, 2017, 10:13am Top

Oh, fabulous photo! I'm so sorry that I missed the meet-up, but glad, of course, that you all had such a great time.

May 29, 2017, 11:32am Top

Great meet-up photo!

May 30, 2017, 1:00am Top

>46 drneutron:
>47 ronincats:
>48 rosalita:
>49 scaifea:
>50 MickyFine:
Thanks! Turns out the Meetup was the highlight of the weekend: it went as planned, was thoroughly fun, and nobody hurt.

The marathon .... well ... I knew that I was underconditioned, and had adjusted my expectations accordingly, but apparently not enough. I did finish though (yay! T-shirt!) in about 5 hours, 15 minutes-- my worst time ever, not counting the time I didn't finish at all, but probably about what I should have expected. I'm calling it a win. Except ....

I was greeted at the finish line by a doctor who told me that Mrs. swynn had been taken to the emergency room of a local hospital. She had been brought to the medical tent near the finish line, complaining of chest pains. So I skipped the free beer (the sacrifices I make!) and spent the next couple of hours in the ER. Fortunately, Mrs swynn seems to be okay. Unfortunately the ER staff weren't able to identify the source of her pain; the tests they ran were negative. So now she's to follow up with her primary care doctor and hope it doesn't happen again.

We are home again now, and glad everybody seems intact for now. Beth & Julia: thanks for a wonderful meetup, the least thrilling and most satisfying event of our trip!

May 30, 2017, 6:34am Top

Oh, no! That must have been pretty scary for both of you. I'm glad it doesn't seem to be anything serious, but I know that it's frustrating when the docs can't figure out what *is* wrong.

May 30, 2017, 9:10am Top

>51 swynn: Oh gosh, Steve! That was not a good Sunday for the swynns. I can imagine it was a tense drive home to Missouri, wondering if you would have to stop along the way to find a hospital. I'm glad you made it home and hope that the doctors discover something completely innocuous to explain Amie's symptoms. Please let her know I'm thinking of her and sending lots of good thoughts your way.

May 30, 2017, 9:48am Top

Steve - Congrats on finishing. Five hours still seems like a pretty respectable time to me. I hope Amie is OK. What a terrible end to your weekend. Sending best wishes your way.

Thanks for the great meet up.

May 30, 2017, 11:46am Top

Sending well wishes for Mrs. swynn. Hopefully her regular doc can figure out what was up.

May 30, 2017, 10:34pm Top

>52 scaifea: it's frustrating when the docs can't figure out what *is* wrong. Agreed, though to be fair there is in this case a ... erm ... patient compliance issue. The doctor wanted to do a series of tests that would rule out a heart attack, but she would have to stay an additional 5 or 6 hours to complete the series. Mrs. swynn *hates* hospitals, and refused to stay despite the doctor's and my best efforts to persuade her otherwise. She says she feels normal now, but I'm trying to be especially aware of what's happening to her.

>53 rosalita: I hope so too; good thoughts passed on!

>54 BLBera: Thanks, Beth! All things considered, I'm content with my finish, especially considering the aftermath.

>55 MickyFine: Thanks Micky! I hope so too.

May 30, 2017, 11:15pm Top

52 Black Oxen / Gertrude Atherton


This was the bestselling novel in the U.S. in1923. It's a romantic drama with a science-fiction twist and a bent for social commentary. Its subject is the relationship between Lee Clavering, a thirty-something theater critic and aspiring playwright, and Mary Zattiany, a beautiful young woman with a curiously mature perspective. It turns out that Ms. Zattiany is not in fact a young woman at all, but a senior (a near-decrepit 58!) who has taken a revolutionary rejuvenation treatment in Europe. (The therapy involved bombarding her ovaries with X-rays, thereby stimulating her endocrine glands, which restored her youth. I swear I am not making this up.) Atherton uses the premise to criticize both young and old of New York society: there is an awkward subplot in which Clavering has to deflect the romantic interest of a barely-legal flapper.

I listened to this one as a Librivox audiobook, mostly out on walks with Buddy. It's my experience that audiobooks make talky books even talkier, which probably didn't help my enjoyment. Not recommended especially, but I do look forward to Liz's take on it.

May 31, 2017, 12:40am Top

Congrats on finishing the marathon, even if not at the time you wished. And best wishes for Mrs. swynn--hope your regular doctor can allay any fears.

May 31, 2017, 2:08pm Top

"Patient compliance issue".... :D
Sounds like something I'd do.

Edited: May 31, 2017, 5:56pm Top

The meet-up sounds fabulous, but I'm very sorry to hear about Amie's situation!

>57 swynn:

I'll save the rest for when I eventually get around to my review, but the X-ray treatments were a real thing. Not a real thing that worked, of course, but there was such a treatment. :)

Jun 1, 2017, 12:43pm Top

>59 drneutron: It's definitely a personality thing. The doctor had some concern about her state of mind, so asked me whether I thought her refusal was in character. I had to agree it was.

>60 lyzard: I've read enough stories about the history of medicine that I shouldn't be surprised, and yet I find that I am. I suppose they didn't know for certain until they'd tried ...

Jun 1, 2017, 1:14pm Top

By the way Liz, I found a bit in last night's reading that made me think of your adventures in bibliographic obscurity. The source is "The Printer's Devil," an anonymous story from 1836. It's a pastiche of Dante's Inferno, in which the author is led (by the literal "Printer's Devil") through a Hell designed for the punishment of books. After touring the seven layers of book-hell and seeing punishments for sensational romances and false theologies and German metaphysics, the author and his guide approach the end:

We next approached the verge of a gulf, which appeared to be bottomless; and there was dreadful noise, like the war of the elements, and forked flames shooting up from the abyss, which reminded me of the crater of Vesuvius. “You have now reached the ancient limits of hell,” said the demon, “and you behold beneath your feet the original chaos on which my domains are founded. But within a few years we have been obliged to build a yet deeper division beyond the gulf, to contain a class of books that were unknown in former times.” “Pray, what class can be found,” I asked, “worse than those which I have already seen, and for which it appears hell was not bad enough?” “They are American re-prints of English publications,” replied he, “and they are generally works of such a despicable character, that they would have found their way here without being republished; but even where the original work was good, it is so degenerated by the form under which it re-appears in America, that its merit is entirely lost, and it is only fit for the seventh and lowest division of hell.”

The story is collected in "Devil Stories," available through Project Gutenberg here.

Edited: Jun 1, 2017, 4:56pm Top

53) Planet Big Zero / Franklin Hadley
Tagline: A thrilling tale of war between two worlds
Date: 1964

Old-fashioned gee-whiz science fiction, about a daring space pilot who spoils a dastardly plot to conquer the universe. Some thirty years ago the Terran Empire defeated the Deotians and spanked them away from human-inhabited space. But it turns out that the Deotians were not in fact defeated, only sent into hiding. They've been biding their time and rebuilding their forces within the "Big Zero," a nebula at the edge of Terran space. Terran Defense agent Ted Narly stumbles across the big secret while on a mission to Paradise, a planet near the Big Zero. The Deotians take him captive, along with a Paradisian girl with whom Narly has fallen in spontaneous love. Somehow Narly must escape his confinement, save the galaxy, and rescue the girl from almost certain marriage. Gunplay, intrigue, and space battles ensue.

It's old fashioned in good and bad ways: there's plenty of action, there's adorable science (navigational computers are programmed by hand-punched tape feeds), there are clearly demarcated good guys and bad guys, and the good guys win. On the other hand, the emphasis in "good guys" is on the second syllable: there is one female character in the book and she is little more than a prize for the winner.

I cut my teeth on this sort of thing so it was a fast, fun comfort read for me.

The cover painting is by Ralph Brillhart.

Jun 1, 2017, 6:10pm Top

>62 swynn:

Ha! :D

Since he doesn't like sensational romances this might mean the era's silver-fork novels, but more likely this is referencing the "Newgate novels", which tended to have a criminal anti-hero (and sometimes not 'anti'). I can't think of any other British works of around this time you could really consider "of despicable character"; in 1836 the penny-dreadful was still a new thing in England, so I can't imagine it was already contaminating America. :)

Jun 2, 2017, 4:44pm Top

>63 swynn: I'm getting a lot of amusement out of a character being named Narly.

Jun 4, 2017, 2:43pm Top

>64 lyzard: I knew the date was too early to be referencing most of the mystery books whose publication histories most interest you; but I couldn't help mentioning it.

>65 MickyFine: Agreed. Like, toatally.

Edited: Jun 4, 2017, 2:58pm Top

54) Twenty-Five Ghost Stories
Date: 1904

Most of the stories are short: average length is 10 pages in a medium font; the longest story is Poe's "The Black Cat." Not all the stories have actual ghosts; several have Scooby-Doo-style explanations. In two cases, the ghost turns out to be a mouse. But for the most part they're old-fashioned fun, and the average length keeps the duds from dragging things down.

In my copy none of the stories is printed with attribution. The editor mentions in an introduction that "The Black Cat" is Poe's, and that two others are by Maupassant -- he doesn't say which ones. A 1941 edition did list attributions though many are given as "Anonymous." I've given the later edition's attribitions below. (Thanks, Google!)

The black cat by Edgar Allan Poe. The narrator descends into madness, beginning with abusing and murdering his pet cat and ending with murdering his wife. The cat -- perhaps its ghost or its reincarnation -- devises revenge. This is one of my favorites from Poe.

The flayed hand by Guy de Maupassant. A college student acquires the severed hand of a deceased sorceror; he goes mad.

The vengeance of a tree by Eleanor F. Lewis. After an innocent man is hanged, the tree where he was lynched finds vengeance in time.

The parlor-car ghost by A Lady. A traveling salesman makes an imprudent oath that he will sell a case of blue denims if it takes him forever. Consequently he is doomed to haunt a train until the case is sold.

Ghost of Buckstown Inn by Arnold M. Anderson. A visitor to a seedy rural inn meets a ghost who promises to show him treasure. The ghost turns out ot be the innkeeper's wife, who plays a ghost to drum up business.

The burglar's ghost [Anonymous]. A strange man enters the office of a young and ambitious police detective. The stranger has information to help arrest a nasty-tempered burglar who had turned on his partner.

A phantom toe [Anonymous]. A traveler staying in an inn awakens from disturbing dreams to see a human toe in the moonlight of his room.

Mrs. Davenport's ghost by Frederick P. Schrader. The fake medium Davenport, suspected of having caused the death of his wife by abuse and neglect, decides to summon Mrs. Davenport at his next seance to dispel the rumors. The evening does not go as planned.

The phantom woman [Anonymous] On his way to and from work, a man passes a house in which a woman sits in the window, to whom he nods as he passes. Over time he fancies he falls in love with her. Then one day she is not there.

The phantom hag [Anonymous]. A group of friends make a day trip to some druidical ruins in the south of France. They have an unpleasant ride home.

From the tomb by Guy de Maupassant. A man accidentally buries his catatonic daughter, mistakenly believing her dead. She is revived by a grave-robber.

Sandy's ghost by Elia W. Peattie. Sandy is a gold miner whose son has gone off to get "eddicated." Sandy sets aside part of his stake for his son, but he dies before his son returns. Still, he makes sure the gold passes on safely.

The ghosts of Red Creek by S.T. A hunting guide in Mississippi stumbles across a haunted house. The narrator is a black character, and the prose is in thick dialect. It's an uncomfortable read for reasons having nothing to do with ghosts.

The spectre bride [Anonymous]. A man walking along a lake near Sault St. Marie sees a ghostly ice-skater who leads him away from danger.

How he caught the ghost [Anonymous]. A family rents a house at a bargain price because of its reputation for being haunted. When their sleep is disturbed by ghostly clanking of chains, one of the sons decides to capture the ghost.

Grand-Dame's ghost story by C.D. An older woman is visited by the ghost of a childhood friend, whom she had always known as a kind and virtuous woman. The ghost reveals a secret that ruins her reputation but allows her to find rest.

A fight with a ghost by Q.E.D. A doctor visits a friend who has rented a home in the country. During his visit several of the family hear and see an apparition.

Colonel Halifax's ghost story by S. Baring-Gould. An English gentleman, recently returned from England, stays with a friend and meets the ghost of a tinker killed by his friend's father.

The ghost of the count by A Spinster. An American bookkepper in Mexico City encounters the ghost of a count who once owned the stone mansion where she works.

The old mansion by A Sportsman. A mansion on Long Beach, along the New Jersey coast, is haunted by passengers killed in a shipwreck.

A misfit ghost [Anonymous]. The US Coast Survey vessel Eagre is a restored sailing yacht that had sunk with all hands lost. Curiously, the ghost who haunts the port cabin resemlbes none of the dead crew.

An unbidden guest [Anonymous]. A newly married couple find their new home haunted by a ghost who makes off with wedding presents.

The dead woman's photograph by Elia W. Peattie. A photographer's assistant is called to photograph the recently-deceased matriarch of a wealthy family in St. Paul. The prints do not develop as expected.

The ghost of a live man [Anonymous]. A whaling captain repeatedly sees a strange man enter his cabin while he works on navigational charts. As time goes on the stranger appears increasingly wasted. Eventually the stranger indicates a certain position on one of the charts; when the captain sails to the indicated position he finds the survivor of a sunken ship.

The ghost of Washington [Anonymous]. John Reilly, biking through the countryside near Valley Forge, comes across the ruins of an old house. When he explores its interior he finds himself transported to 1777.

Jun 4, 2017, 3:32pm Top

Not into ghost stories as a rule, unless they are by Seanan McGuire (Sparrow Hill Road and Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day) or Nina Kiriki Hoffman (they infuse almost all of her novels--have you read her classic short story The Skeleton Key?).

Edited: Jun 4, 2017, 4:01pm Top

55) I Know I Am But What Are You? / Samantha Bee
Date: 2010

I picked this up because I'm loving Bee's show Full Frontal. In performance Bee is terrific; her book is okay. Generally, though, comics who I find funny in performance usually fall flat on the page for me, and that was mostly true in this case as well.

Edited: Jun 4, 2017, 4:00pm Top

>68 ronincats: I read Dusk or Dark or Dawn or Day with mixed feelings; I'm not sure I've every read anything at all by Hoffman. I'll try to hunt down The Skeleton Key.

Jun 4, 2017, 4:43pm Top

I found the complete story online here: http://www.docsford.com/document/151629

Jun 6, 2017, 6:05pm Top

I didn't know that Tarl Cabot had red hair when I posted my challenge, honest! :D

But of course I'm looking forward to your review...

Edited: Jun 6, 2017, 6:57pm Top

It's a good news/bad news story: I'll probably read two Gor novels this month; but then no more for a year or so.

Actually, the real surprise for that challenge is How Are the Mighty Fallen, a historical fantasy about the relationship between David and Jonathan. Who knew that David (as in the Biblical David, slayer of Goliath and future King of Israel) was a redhead?

[Edited to replace some snarky comments because it turns out I don't know anything about Jews and red hair.] According to Googlable documents, they really is a tradition that King David was a redhead, based on scriptural references calling him "ruddy". Huh.

Jun 6, 2017, 7:06pm Top

Oh, I see: get me hooked and then cut me off, is that it?? :D

Still suspect, if you ask me: references like that usually meant skin tone, not hair colour (e.g. until recently calling a girl "fair" meant that she had a pale complexion, not that she was blonde). But it's my challenge, so I'll allow it!

Edited: Jun 6, 2017, 9:25pm Top

>74 lyzard: Even the comments I do make may be disappointing. Captive of Gor lowers the bar to a whole new depth of awful that may not rate much more than, "Well, that's over."

I would certainly read "ruddy" as a reference to skin tone, but I guess others have read it differently. The novel makes several explicit references to David's red hair so I'm confident it fits the challenge whether it's historically accurate or not. More dubiously, Jonathan is a blonde. (Also he has wings, so hair color seems a small nit to pick.)

Edited: Jun 9, 2017, 9:20am Top

56) DAW #94: How Are the Mighty Fallen / Thomas Burnett Swann
Date: 1974

As mentioned above, this is a historical fantasy based on episodes from the books of Samuel, concerning the friendship between David and Jonathan. They are rather more than friends here -- a plot point which had its distributor the New American Library scared to touch it. Donald Wollheim pushed to get it on bookshelves and he prevailed over his distributor and thank goodness, because it's quite good.

Other than his red hair, David is easily recognizable: the young ambitious shepherd boy who becomes the King's armorer and eventually King himself. Jonathan is something else, though: King Saul's adopted son but not his biological one. Jonathan and his mother Ahinoam are Sirens, a race of winged, graceful, fair-haired people whose biology and social structure resembles bees. The Sirens once ruled Crete but were displaced by an invasion of Cyclopes when Jonathan was only an infant (hence George Barr's awful and point-missing cover). Shortly after fleeing her home Ahinoam met the young King Saul who could not resist her Siren charms; Ahinoam hid her wings and became Saul's first queen. She also hid Jonathan's wings and passed him off to Israel as Saul's own son. Years later the vibrant shepherd boy meets the graceful prince and the attraction is irresistible.

And here's the thing: in this world Israel is just one culture among many. Its army fights Philistines over living space, and has rivalries of recent memory with other tribes like the Amalekites, Hittites, and Assyrians. The Israelites are obsessed with Yahweh, but really he's just one god in a crowded pantheon. Even among the Israelites you'll find reverence for Ashtoreth and a healthy respect for other gods like Dagon and Sin. Those other cultures and those other gods have different ideas about what is normal: among the Sirens male-male coupling is normal; and the Philistines welcome a variety of preferences. It's the Israelites with their narrow ideas about masculinity and monogamy who are bucking tradition.

Of course, we know who won. So Swann's account becomes a sort of elegy for a golden age, when options were more varied and more tolerated. Swann has a lot more in mind than provoking religious sensitivities about sexuality -- he wants to undermine them altogether.

I've read only one other Swann, Green Phoenix (DAW #27), a sort of sequel to the Aeneid. I quite liked it too, especially its decorative, dreamlike language. The prose is mostly lovely here as well.

It's not perfect -- maybe blame my romance-impairment but David and Jonathan lacked chemistry for me -- but there's so much here to admire and it's aged quite well. Recommended.

The cover, for those who didn't care to wade through the comments, is by George Barr. It's not one of my favorites.

Edited: Jun 8, 2017, 8:52am Top

>70 swynn: I found it on Amazon cheap, bundled with "Bright Streets of Air." The second story felt a little plotless to me, but I agree that "Skeleton Key" is a powerful one.

Jun 9, 2017, 9:33am Top

57) The Devil in the White City / Erik Larson
Date: 2003

This tells the story of the planning and production of the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, together with that of H.H. Holmes, a serial killer who managed a hotel of sorts during the Fair. Larson has done something really remarkable here: he has made the story about event planning even more compelling than the true-crime story. I'm still not sure how he did that, but I'll recommend it.

Jun 9, 2017, 9:48am Top

>78 swynn: I agree! Every time he switched focus to talk about Holmes I was thinking, "No, go back to the logistics of planning the World's Fair!" I don't know how you make a serial killer less exciting than a World's Fair, but he did.

Edited: Jun 9, 2017, 10:05am Top

The Onion fact-checks James Comey's testimony.

"Lordy, I hope there are tapes."

FALSE: Though Comey wouldn't mind tapes, he prefers the lush soundscape that only vinyl can provide.

Jun 9, 2017, 10:05am Top

>79 rosalita: Agreed. And every time a chapter about the Fair came to an end I was thinking, "Oh here that crazy guy goes again." For me the Holmes story peaked after the Fair closed, with the Pinkerton agent tracking him down.

Jun 9, 2017, 10:14am Top

Jun 9, 2017, 11:54pm Top

>77 swynn: I guess you missed my post in >71 ronincats: where I directed you to a free copy online. Glad you enjoyed The Skeleton Key. I don't think I've read the other one--while I've read all her novels, I do miss a lot of short stories by not reading the magazines.

Jun 10, 2017, 8:47am Top

>78 swynn: >79 rosalita: Agreed. I think it was because so much of the Holmes part was speculation. When I read it, I thought he could have dispenses with that part completely because there wasn't really much to go on.

Jun 10, 2017, 2:23pm Top

>83 ronincats: I did see your post, but had already found & downloaded it from Amazon. Thank you for the rec!

Jun 10, 2017, 2:26pm Top

>84 BLBera: I had the same thought that the serial-killer thread was superfluous. On the other hand that's probably the part that drove sales.

Edited: Jun 12, 2017, 10:16am Top

58) Captive of Gor / John Norman
Date: 1972

Well, that's over and that's all I have to say.

No, not really. Who am I kidding? This seventh book in the Gor saga brings a brand-new level of awful to an already unpleasant series, and I can't just leave it there. This book takes a break from the adventures of hero Tarl Cabot, and instead relates the story of Elinor Brinton, a spoiled-brat rich girl who is kidnapped from Earth and taken to Gor where she is made a slave. (I should clarify: she is Norman's notion of a spoiled-brat rich girl which is more than a little ick.) And that's it: 370 pages of Elinor Brinton being humiliated and degraded. It is a bit repetitive, with Elinor Brinton having spoiled-brat rich girl thoughts and doing spoiled-brat rich girl things followed by Elinor Brinton learning her place. Even Norman must sense the monotony, because he breaks it by having her abducted: she's abducted by slavers, by tarnsmen, by other slavers, by wild panther women, by the original slavers, etc. She's the abductedest girl I've met since The U.P. Trail's Abbie Lee. And she hasn't a sliver of Abbie Lee's character. (For those not keeping notes: that was not a high bar.) After each abduction she learns the same lessons in humility and submission.

Really, that's all. Okay, there is a very minor subplot bringing Elinor in on an assassination attempt on Tarl Cabot. But that takes up maybe fifteen pages, tops.

The series has a reputation for beginning with a few pretty good adventures, but also for devolving at some point into plot-free BDSM kink and tedious monologues about the virtues of slavery. I've wondered where the inflection point is, because the first six books already had plenty of ew. But they also had plots, adventure, and a sense of humor. Not here. Here there's just a fantasy about that well-dressed rich girl who never noticed you in high school getting her comeuppance. Repeatedly. I won't say the series wasn't already off the rails by this point, but the derailment has certainly happened by now. If you're still wondering, "Why all the hate?" at the end of book 7 then good news, it's probably your kind of thing and you have almost thirty volumes more to enjoy.

Alas, it isn't mine. And I confess I don't get it: I'm not into BDSM but I understand that those who are place a high value on trust and consent. I don't see any of that here, but obviously I'm not the audience.

Curiously, we still get extended asides explaining trivia about the history and cultures of Gor. These bits of exposition are a signature of the series, but in this case the narrator is an illiterate slave from another planet, which begs the question of where she is supposed to have picked up all that goegraphical knowledge. On the other hand, in this book you can't complain that the infodumps interrupt the pace because, what pace?

This was the last Gor novel published by Ballantine. In 1974 the series was picked up by DAW where it thrived until 1988. Which means I have fifteen volumes to go.

The cover is by that beefcake Boticelli, Boris Vallejo.

Jun 12, 2017, 11:00am Top

>87 swynn: Ugh. That sounds like an awful slog.

Edited: Jun 12, 2017, 11:46am Top

>88 MickyFine: It was. And the next DAW (after one which I owe a review) is Gor #8, so more slog soon!

In much better news, this weekend I binge-watched Stranger Things because it was nominated for the Hugo. And oh my goodness, why didn't I watch this when it first hit Netflix? Why isn't Winona Ryder working everywhere, on everything? And will somebody please hire Millie Bobby Brown everywhere, for everything? And can Season Two come fast enough, please?

Seriously, if you have Netflix and haven't watched Stranger Things yet, get to it.

Jun 12, 2017, 1:46pm Top

Glad to hear good tv balanced out awful reading. I haven't watched Stranger Things because my tolerance for scary things is low.

Jun 12, 2017, 6:05pm Top

>90 MickyFine: I'm not sure whether to say, "Too bad" or "Good choice" because, really, both.

Jun 12, 2017, 7:20pm Top

>87 swynn:

Well, that's over and that's all I have to say.

You gave me a bad moment there!

She's the abductedest girl I've met since The U.P. Trail's Abbie Lee.


Jun 13, 2017, 11:06am Top

>91 swynn: I understand the sentiment precisely. :D

Jun 13, 2017, 11:43am Top

>87 swynn: Hello Swynn. Your GOR reviews are a kick. I've never read a single volume and that's ok. :-)

Jun 13, 2017, 9:35pm Top

>92 lyzard: Happy not to have disappointed!

>94 brodiew2: Better than ok, "never a single one" is the number I recommend.

Edited: Jun 13, 2017, 10:30pm Top

59) DAW #95: Identity Seven / Robert Lory
Date: 1974
Tagline: He was the same man on a dozen worlds -- and a dozen men on one world.


Seven is an agent of the Hunters, a sort of transplanetary finding agency. He has no identity of his own, but can assume any of some thirty identities on as many planets in order to carry out assignments. Hunters all resemble one another physically, in order to assume each other's identities to pick up where another leaves off. Case in point: Kalian Pendek, executive of Sub-Oceanic Transport on the planet Usulkan, assassinated by persons and for motives unknown. But Pendek is actually one of the Hunters' identities. The victim is a Hunter agent, identity Six. And when Six goes down you call in Seven.

Fortunately there were few witnesses to the assassination so Seven can step in and pretend the assassination failed. Clues are scarce, but Seven finds a folder hidden in his office with blueprints for an underwater lair suitable for supervillainry, labeled: "Tadjuk." With these scanty clues Seven solves the mystery, but not without assassination attempts, narrow escapes, fisticuffs, amorous encounters, giant octopus creatures -- but *not* amorous encounters with giant octopus creatures despite what the cover implies -- and (of course!) a finale in a supervillain's underwater lair.

The action is quite fun, the hero is kind of a jerk, the plot is tissue-thin, and the sexism is so seventies. The James Bond vibe is strong and no doubt intentional. I enjoyed it, but it won't be for everybody.

The softcore tentacle-porn cover is by (who else?) Kelly Freas.

Jun 14, 2017, 10:41am Top

>96 swynn: That sounds like something I'd enjoy making fun of if it were turned into a terrible movie. :P

Edited: Jun 15, 2017, 9:44am Top

>97 MickyFine: I think that's the only kind of movie that *could* be made from Identity Seven, ripe for the MST3K treatment.

So here's a challenge I've been thinking about for a *long* time, one which I'm even less likely to complete than the DAW challenge.

The Perry Rhodan franchise claims that it is "The largest space series in the world." Obviously that claim depends on your measure, but in canonical words, I can't think of any other franchise that comes close. It began with the novella-length, digest-format adventure "Unternehmen STARDUST" in 1961, and has seen a novella-length "Heftroman" adventure weekly ever since. The series is closing in on its 3,000th Heftroman (this week's number is 2,913) There have also been paperback novels, comic books, video games, at least one movie, spinoff series, and most recently a retcon series "Perry Rhodan NEO". I don't know how many languages it's been translated into, but English was briefly one the 1970s, when Ace issued the first hundred or so Heftromane in a series of paperback translations, typically two stories to a book.

I was introduced to the series as an exchange student back in 1986/1987, and collected the then-current Heftromane. Availability sharply decreased when I returned to the States, but I did manage to acquire the first few "Silberbände", which collect and consolidate the Heftromane. It's been ages since I cracked them though, and in the meantime the original stories have become available through online booksellers.

So I've been thinking about starting them, and finally have. No promises about frequency, but almost certainly less than one per week, which means I'll never catch up. Of course I'll also never catch up if I never start, so ...

60) Perry Rhodan #1: Unternehmen „Stardust” / K.H. Scheer
Date: September 8, 1961
Tagline: They came from the depths of the galaxy -- never had anyone expected them ...

It is a near-future 1971. Global political tensions are high, but military threats and potential responses are so evenly balanced that nuclear war has thus far been avoided. The United States is preparing its first manned expedition to the moon, but plans for an expedition by the Asiatic Federation are not far behind. The U.S. expedition is made up of four test pilots: the atomic scientist and expedition commander Perry Rhodan, electrical engineer Reginald Bull (who will also be a series regular), astronomer Clark Flipper, and physician Eric Manoli. Their ship is the STARDUST.

The first half of the adventure is taken up with details of the ship's features and atomic-powered engines, and a hard-sf reverie about the STARDUST's launch and its approach to the moon. The plan is to land somewhere near the moon's south pole, where Rhodan can establish radio communication bases but can also venture onto the dark side. But: as the STARDUST nears its landing site it also loses its radio connection with the Earth-based automatic landing signal. Rhodan lands the ship manually and with minimal damage in a crater near their intended landing spot, but all communication with Earth has been lost.

Flipper and Manoli remain behind in the STARDUST to effect repairs while Rhodan and Bull set out in an armored vehicle to find the source of the interfering signal and, if possible, to reestablish contact with Earth. They expect to discover an outpost of the Asiatic Federation; but when they discover the source it is a giant spherical spaceship that could not possibly have been built by the AF. Rhodan and Bull are invited on board, where they meet the ship's crew.

The extraterrestrial ship is occupied by Arkonides, of which there are many on board, but only two are active; all the others are absorbed in some sort of television-like entertainment. The active ones introduce themselves as Crest and Thora (also to be a series regular). The Arkonides were once an active and ambitious people, and led the peaceful creation of a galactic federation. Unfortunately over the millennia they have become decadent, so that now the majority of the population are lethargic consumers of popular entertainment. The Arkonides have been watching humanity, thinking that humans are an active and ambitious race that could revitalize the galactic federation -- but there is also some concern over whether humans are really ready to join. The Arkonide ship was en route to a planet light-years away, but passed near earth to check on humans' progress. Unfortunately, their ship crashed on the moon. Worse, they cannot expect any aid from the lethargic Arkonides back home. Worse still, Crest has fallen ill.

Perry Rhodan offers the assistance of his crew. Sure enough, when Eric Manoli reviews the Arkonide medical texts and examines Crest he is able to diagnose leukemia. Manoli believes that a recently-developed leukemia serum can cure Crest's illness. Problem is, they'll have to return to Earth to get it. They request an Arkonide shuttle boat for the trip to Earth, but Thora wants to minimize human exposure to the Arkonides and insists that they return in the STARDUST.

So the four humans and Crest return to Earth. But Rhodan has no intention of landing in the United States. Keenly aware of the world's political tensions, he knows the situation would destabilize quickly if any major power had access, or even potential access, to Arkonide technology. Instead, Rhodan lands the STARDUST in the Gobi desert, on the border between China and Mongolia, near the Juyan Lake Basin.

So tune in next time:

The STARDUST has thus fortunately returned to Earth -- but for Perry Rhodan the real problems and conflicts have just begun. With the help of Arkonide supertechnology Perry will build something that leads to the unification of humankind: THE THIRD POWER

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided four interior illustrations which unfortunately aren't included in the ebook. But they can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English as the first half of Enterprise Stardust..

Jun 14, 2017, 11:53pm Top

>98 swynn:

So you and I were separated at birth, or what?? :D

Jun 15, 2017, 12:36am Top

>99 lyzard: It's uncanny, isn't it?

Jun 15, 2017, 2:22am Top

I must admit, it does give me a little thrill when I see someone else weighing themselves down with reading challenges. And I was looking at Robin's lists the other day: that made me feel a bit better about myself too. :)

Jun 15, 2017, 6:34am Top

Woot for insane amounts of reading challenges! I'm all for it!

Edited: Jun 16, 2017, 3:06pm Top

>102 scaifea: More insanity coming up! But first a palate-cleanser:

61) Lady Into Fox and a Man in the Zoo / David Garnett
Date: 1928 (selections 1922 and 1924)

This volume collects two novellas by David Garnett, a British novelist and memoirist and member (with Virginia Woolf, Lytton Strachey, E.M. Forster, and others) of the Bloomsbury Group.

The first novella was suggested to me as an interesting early 20th-century fantasy novel. It's about the relationship between a man and his wife after she turns quite suddenly into a fox. At first they try to maintain the forms of their marriage, though she now needs additional assistance at her toilette and at playing cribbage. But as her foxish tastes and instincts become more prominent, she delights more and more in chasing ducks and running through the woods despite the danger of foxhounds. It's occasionally funny and occasionally poignant -- and though it's the sort of thing that I often accuse of being plotless, I found it a very affecting story about letting go of the thing you love. I only didn't like the ending, which seemed to give up some hard-won ground. Still: recommended.

The second novella was an interesting companion piece. John Cromartie's proposal of marriage to Josephine Lackett has been rejected. Lackett's family does not approve of Cromartie, and though Lackett loves him dearly she also loves her family and cannot accept his proposal. Cromartie objects that she does not truly love him for if she did then she would love him only, which Lackett thinks is a perfect beastly thing to say, why, Cromartie is being nothing but a beast. After the quarrel and in a spiteful mood, Cromartie decides that if he is such a beast then he might as well offer his services at the zoological gardens. Surprisingly his offer is accepted. We follow Cromartie's brief career as a zoo animal, and like the first novella it's occasionally funny and occasionally poignant, but with an even less satisfying ending. Verdict: go ahead and read it because you're going to read Lady Into Fox anyway.

Edited: Jun 17, 2017, 9:32pm Top

62) Hidden Figures / Margot Lee Shetterly

When Roni reviewed this recently she said she was glad she'd seen the movie first. I have to echo that sentiment: if I had read the book first I would have spent the film squirming over the historical liberties. So this way I got to enjoy the film, and enjoy the book too for its much broader context, for its more generous take on contributions of the other women computers, and for its acknowledgement of the existence and challenges of the Black male engineers as well. And obviously for the richer detail of the lives of the story's stars: the Black women mathematicians who supported the rapid post-war development of aviation and space technology at Langley. I'm hugely grateful to Margot Shetterly for realizing what a story this was and for tracking it all down. Recommended, especially if you've seen the movie already.

Jun 17, 2017, 10:38pm Top

>104 swynn: Glad to hear I'll be doing this in the right order. Hadn't planned on reading the book but after enjoying the film so much I placed a hold on it after all.

Jun 18, 2017, 9:41am Top

>103 swynn: OK, that's just weird, Steve.

>104 swynn: I have neither read the book nor seen the movie, so now I know in which order to pursue those. Nice review, Steve.

Jun 18, 2017, 10:08pm Top

>105 MickyFine: Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, Micky!

>106 rosalita: Mm, I'd call it surreal; for weird we need something like a moist formless horror from out the skyey void. Which frankly would have improved one of the endings.

Jun 18, 2017, 10:11pm Top

>104 swynn: Glad that you concur! Exactly!!

Edited: Jun 22, 2017, 12:49pm Top

>107 swynn: Ha! Duly noted.

Edited: Jun 20, 2017, 1:28pm Top

63) Perry Rhodan #2: Die Dritte Macht (=The Third Power) / Clark Darlton
Date: September 15, 1961
Tagline: The first lunar expedition returns -- with a knowledge that saves the world from atomic war ...

The story so far: Perry Rhodan and his crew are back on Earth with a sick alien and his supertechnology. Rhodan fears that giving this technology to any of the global powers would ignite a third world war, so he lands the STARDUST in the middle of the Gobi Desert near the Mongolia/China border, deliberately provoking the Eastern Bloc and the Asiatic Federation.


China promptly sends troops to recover the STARDUST and its crew, not realizing what new capabilities Rhodan has. And boy are they fun: Crest has provided Rhodan with an energy shield that will protect the STARDUST even against atomic warheads; a gravity neutralizer and a mind control ray (the "Psychostrahler" which I think is an awesome name). These are sufficient to keep the Chinese troops at bay, and to shrug off any ordinance directed at the ship. From this position of personal safety Rhodan plays a game of brinkmanship: he demands that the world powers recognize the STARDUST as a world power in its own right, the "Third Power." He also demands that no nuclear power resort to atomic weapons; the first power to ignore the injunction against nuclear weapons will be dealt with quickly and decisively.

China and Russia both demand Rhodan's surrender, while the Americans try to figure out what game he's playing. None of them recognize the Third Power, and none of them believe Rhodan's threat of retaliation. To demonstrate their abilities Crest suggests using a death ray they've left behind on the moon, which Thora can direct to lay waste to some uninhabited region. With the death ray they punch a new crater in the Sahara Desert, but this does not convince the global powers to stand down. Far from it, they issue ultimatums of their own, demanding Rhodan's surrender.

Meanwhile, Reginald Bull takes the mind control ray and gravity neutralizer on a little field trip to Australia, where he picks up some electronics to use as replacement parts for the Arkonide ship. Bull also visits Dr. Haggard, inventor of an antileukemia serum, who agrees enthusiastically to help Crest, but only if he can come along. Haggard and Bull return to the STARDUST with minor difficulties -- nothing that can't be handled by hypnotizing their enemies or making them float away weightless.

Also meanwhile, secret agents from the U.S., China, and Russia, each tasked with stopping Rhodan, happen to meet in the Gobi Desert. The U.S. agent Albrecht Klein contacts Rhodan, who explains his motives. Klein finds Rhodan's arguments persuasive, and shares them with the other agents, Peter Kosnow and Li Tschai-Tung. The three agents agree that Rhodan's approach really is the only way to prevent mutual annihilation, and they resolve to help him.

At the adventure's climax, the clock runs out on the ultimatums (ultimata?). China, Russia, and the United States all launch their nuclear arsenals. Very briefly it looks like the human race is over. But Rhodan and his friends are prepared: Thora activates an anti-neutron field with global effect, causing all the nuclear missiles to fall harmlessly to Earth. You might think that this would cause the global powers to finally recognize Rhodan's fiefdom, but you'd be wrong. Instead, the Western Block, the Eastern Block, and China decide to put aside their differences in order to face Rhodan together. As it happens, that was all along part of Rhodan's plan, to unite humanity against a common enemy, even if that enemy had to be himself.

Teaser for the next adventure:

Most people still see Perry Rhodan as a traitor, but a few sympathizers have already begun to understand that Rhodan has an eye only for the welfare of humankind. And these people will seek out THE RADIANT DOME, which defies the heaviest barrage.

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided four interior illustrations for the original edition which unfortunately aren't included in the ebook. But they can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English as the second half of Enterprise Stardust.

Edited: Jun 26, 2017, 5:22pm Top

64) DAW #96: Hunters of Gor / John Norman
Date: 1974

Eighth in John Norman's sword-and-slavery series set on Gor, a planet sharing Earth's orbit on the other side of the sun. Number eight is an improvement over number seven but let's face it, ranking these is like comparing the president's tweets. Less awful is still a long way from not awful.

Spoilers follow.

In this one we're back to Tarl Cabot. As you'll remember back in Book 1 when Cabot first arrived on Gor, he fell in instant lust with Talena, princess of Ar. He and Talena became free companions, which is the closest thing Gor has to a consensual relationship. But the Priest-Kings sent Cabot back to Earth, and when he returned Talena was gone. Cabot has been looking for her ever since. Well, sort of: his strategy seems to involve screwing whoever's handy then moping about Talena. He's a man of action, our Tarl Cabot. Anyway, his newest slave Elinor Brinton (heroine, if that's the word, of Book 7) brings Cabot news: during her adventure she saw Talena in the possession of Verna, leader of the Panther Girls, wild women who live in the forest pretending they're men. Cabot takes off to get Talena back.

It's pretty awful. More than half of it is about slavery: how to capture a slave, how to treat a slave, how to make a slave enjoy being a slave. It's sort of like Book 7, only from the slavemaster's perspective. Fortunately, the action picks up a little more than halfway through when the Panther Girls turn the tables on Cabot and his posse. But the PGs are themselves double-crossed by Talena's father Marlenus, who is then triple-crossed by a second band of Panther Girls. Eventually Tarl Cabot is left all alone in a forest full of hostile warriors, thieves, panther girls, erstwhile in-laws and other enemies, but I am sorry to report that he survives.

There's an odd coda at the end, in which all the Panther Girls have been taken captive; after all the talk through the whole book about what excellent slave they will make and about how much happier they'll be as slaves -- Marlenus and Cabot decide to set most of them free. Because this is Gor, several have fallen in love with their rapists and prefer slavery, but the offer of freedom runs rather contrary to everything that has gone before. Cabot justifies this with a rambling statement about the nuances of Gorean attitudes toward slaves and a bizarre and barely relevant hypothesis that natural selection favors beautiful women who desire slavery.

Recommendation? Go read the Whackadoodle's tweets instead. At least they're short.

The unremarkable cover art is by Gino d'Achille. There are a handful of interior illustrations by Jack Gaughan.

I am now caught up on the series relative to my DAW challenge. The next is DAW #141, a year away at the soonest. I expect I won't miss them.

Jun 26, 2017, 5:14pm Top

>111 swynn: natural selection favors beautiful women who desire slavery

Oh dear. I seem to have rolled my eyes so hard that they are stuck looking back into my brain. I'll have to try banging my head on the wall to see if I can get them unstuck. Coincidentally, it sounds like banging my head on the wall will be more enjoyable than actually reading this series!

Jun 26, 2017, 5:24pm Top

>112 rosalita: Sorry about your eyes, Julia. And yes, I recommend head-banging over Gor. If you try the series you'll find yourself banging your head against nearby solids anyway. So just cut out the intermediary.

Jun 26, 2017, 5:30pm Top

>113 swynn: Now that I've unstuck my eyes and have them facing outward again, I can see to add that I thoroughly enjoy your snarky reviews of these books. You have a gift for skewering the ridiculous.

Edited: Jun 26, 2017, 6:24pm Top

Something about equating beautiful women who prefer slavery with intelligent men who choose to read Gor novels tried to struggle into existence there for a moment, but it's too damn early and I'm only on my first coffee...

When I'm feeling a little more compos mentis, we could have a lively debate about which of us is the worse off: you with the Gor novels, or me with the Elsie novels; Julia could moderate. :D

Edited: Jun 26, 2017, 7:49pm Top

>111 swynn: Poor swynn. It doesn't sounds like you had as much fun with this one. You still ground out an amusing review. Keep it up...as long as your skull remains in one piece.

Jun 26, 2017, 7:36pm Top

>115 lyzard: I am at your service!

Jun 26, 2017, 11:15pm Top

>112 rosalita: LMAO, Julia.

I saw a "deal" for the first Gor book the other day...and didn't inflict it on anyone I knew! ;-)

Quite a toss-up, Liz: Gor or Elsie Dinsmore. Pretty much equally repellant.

Edited: Jun 28, 2017, 9:34am Top

>114 rosalita: Thanks Julia. It's difficult to summarize the plots without sounding snarky. Really, not all the jokes are jokes.

>115 lyzard: That might be a close one, Liz. I haven't yet come across creepy father-daughter innuendo. Yet. But #8 may contain a setup for that later in the series. (For clarity: that wasn't a joke.) I doubt that Gor will ever approach Elsie's level of arch-piety. So it has that going for it I guess.

>116 brodiew2: Thanks Brodie. Fortunately I have a long rest til the next one.

>117 rosalita: You sound very eager for a very unpleasant task, Julia! I guess it beats reading the books, though...

>118 ronincats: Your discretion is a kindness, Roni!

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 9:08am Top

65) Perry Rhodan #3: Die Strahlende Kuppel (=The Radiant Dome) / K.H. Scheer
Date: September 22, 1961
Tagline: The dome of pure energy withstands even the heaviest bombarment -- but the militaries will not give up ...

The story so far: Perry Rhodan, commander of the first crewed terrestrial moon rocket, has returned to Earth. He has landed in the Gobi Desert, where, using supertechnology from an Arkonide research ship discovered on the moon, he has established a base that has withstood all attacks by terrestrial superpowers.

Perry Rhodan has already prevented a third world war -- but he wants even more! He want to bring about the unification of humanity!

But humanity is not yet ready for Perry Rhodan's plans, and so the battle over THE RADIANT DOME continues ...

The "radiant dome" of the title is an energy shield, generated by Arkonide technology, that protects Perry Rhodan's makeshift base in the Gobi Desert. China and the Eastern Bloc, having failed in their attempt to nuke Rhodan, now plan to remove him by a relentless barrage of conventional ordinance. The strategy is effective in its way: the energy shield protects Rhodan and his crew, but the constant pounding wears on them psychologically. Worse, they discover that the Arkonide technology has its limits: the reactor that powers the shield is overburdened, and their communication link to Thora has been broken. Their Arkonide guest could probably fix the comm, but Crest is in a coma following his treatment for leukemia. Something will have to give, but what will it be?

Meanwhile, the Western and Eastern Blocs and China have figured out that Rhodan has extraterrestrial support. They conspire to send new missions to the moon, carrying a hydrogen bomb that will be immune to the Arkonide anti-neutron field ....

The cover, which depicts an Arkonide spaceship and robot, is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided five interior illustrations for the original edition, which can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English as the first half of The Radiant Dome.

Jun 28, 2017, 11:58am Top

>119 swynn: If you and Liz are going to torture yourselves by reading them, the least I can do is moderate the debate that ensues!

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 9:08am Top

66) DAW #97: Prince of Scorpio / Alan Burt Akers (i.e., Kenneth Bulmer)
Date: 1974
Series: Dray Prescot #5.

Fifth in Kenneth Bulmer's sword-and-planet series featuring Dray Prescot, an eighteenth-century adventurer transplanted to the planet Kregen somewhere in the Scorpio constellation. It's silly, plot-driven fun. It's also my favorite of the various S&P series, chiefly for sentimental reasons and not at all for literary ones. There are lots of fights and monsters and make-believe words and more fights.

And in contrast to *other* S&P series, when our hero is separated from the love of his life he tries to find her by the strategy of looking. Also in this series slavery is a bad thing. So yay!

Spoilers follow

In this one Prescot has to rescue his true love Delia from an arranged marriage to an unmanly fop. To achieve this he has to ... gosh the list is long ... lead a revolt against tyrannical slaving overlords, rescue nobles from an aircar crashed on a frigid mountainside, escape slavery, infiltrate an insurgent conspiracy, survive an assault in which he and friends are hopelessly outnumbered, and a few other breathlessly daring exploits. There are payoffs for loyal readers: some friends from earlier volumes make appearances (for fights!) and Dray and Delia are finally married.

For all the action I think this is one of the weaker volumes in the series. Bulmer tries to focus on court intrigue and he just doesn't do it very well. I do give him credit for realizing that he could only run so far with Dray's separation from Delia as a motivating theme. Bulmer referred to the first five books as "The Delian Cycle," a sort of series-within-a-series that established Dray's life on Kregen and introduced his inner circle. I hesitate to use the expression "development" in reference to the character, but the series does move on to other themes consistent with its aesthetic of over-the-top action.

Despite its weakness I found it fun and am looking forward to the next (DAW #113), which I remember as one of my favorites.

The cover is by Jack Gaughan. It's not his best work -- I wonder who at DAW whispered "more sex please" into his ear -- but does more or less accurately depict a pivotal scene in the book. I love it when a cover artist shows evidence of having actually read the book. Gaughan also provides a few interior illustrations.

Jun 30, 2017, 5:54pm Top

So he's a bit keen on her, then?? :D

It's disheartening how infrequently cover artists give any indication of having read more of a book than the first page or two, so yes, even a sexed-up relevant scene is encouraging.

Edited: Jul 3, 2017, 4:41pm Top

>123 lyzard: It's disheartening how infrequently cover artists give any indication of having read more of a book than the first page or two, ...

Or, in the case of Georgette Heyer covers, even of having asked somebody "So what's this book about then?" Or so I gather.

Science fiction has the problem in spades. There is one artist who is terrifically talented and influential but who famously hates to read the books his works adorn. His favorite commissions are the ones where a publisher calls and says, "Give me a green one."

Jul 4, 2017, 5:53am Top

>111 swynn: "... but I am sorry to report that he survives."

That made me smile.

I was going to ask why you persevered so far into the series, but then realised it was a book challenge. Maybe not a challenge I will take :)

Jul 5, 2017, 12:21am Top

>125 sirfurboy: I wouldn't recommend the DAW challenge to anyone else. But I'm certainly enjoying it, duds and cruds and all!

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 9:08am Top

67) So Big / Edna Ferber

This was the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1924, and Edna Ferber's first apearance on the list. It also won the Pulitzer in 1925. I knoew Edna Ferber only from movie adaptations, and this gave me pretty much what I expected from the movies: a family drama with strong characters in an iconic American setting.

In this case the setting is late nineteenth/early twentieth-century Chicago and environs. Selina DeJong is a young girl with an ambition to see everything there is to see, but gets diverted to a teaching position in a rural community south of Chicago and never leaves. Selina falls in love with a poor farmer -- "poor" in both senses of the word -- who dies young, leaving Selina to raise their son Dirk, nicknamed "So Big," and run the farm if she can. But oh, she can. What her husband lacked in vision and dedication Selina has in spades, and she makes the farm a success with a few good ideas, a lot of hard work, and one dramatically fortunate coincidence. Selina is determined to make the farm a success so that "So Big" will never have to make the compromises she has had to make. And for a while it looks like her plan is working out: Dirk seems to develop a passion for architecture and after school lands an entry-level position in a Chicago firm. But Dirk discourages more easily than his mother, and chooses another path which Selina cannot help thinking he will regret. Thematically it's about what makes a satisfying life. Ferber valorizes hard work and overcoming adversity, and pursuing a passion over the making of money -- but with hints that hard work and overcoming adversity will make the money arrive. It's a firmly middle-class message, which no doubt contributed to its popularity.

For me this was one of the gems of the bestseller project. I found Selina DeJong a terrific lead, the scenery was very nice, and Ferber's style has aged more gracefully than some of contemporaries'. I looked ahead to see whether we had any more Ferber on the schedule. We do: 1930's Cimarron. I hope it's better than the movie.

Jul 5, 2017, 6:41am Top

>127 swynn: I should check that one out. I found my mom's copy of Giant on our shelves when I was in junior high and devoured it.

Edited: Jul 5, 2017, 10:00am Top

>128 rosalita: I look forward to your thoughts if you get to it, Julia! As for Giant, I quite like the George Stevens movie, but hadn't been interested in reading the book. After reading So Big I'd like to check it out. I also want to read Show Boat and Cimarron now too. Reading: you're never done, eh?

Jul 5, 2017, 11:10am Top

>129 swynn: I've not seen the movie version of Giant but I can see that if you've done one (read or watched) you'd be less inclined to commit to the other. And so true about the TBR list never getting shorter!

Jul 5, 2017, 6:57pm Top

>127 swynn:

Nice, Steve! Yes, it isn't hard to imagine the Pulitzer committee preferring So Big to Main Street! :D

I read Ferber's American Beauty a few years back, but this was the first of her more famous works that I have encountered.

Which version(s) of Cimarron have you seen? Both of them have their issues. (The later one suffering from that strangely recurrent disease, Inappropriately Cast Glenn Ford Syndrome.)

Edited: Jul 5, 2017, 9:22pm Top

>131 lyzard: I have only seen the 1931 version, as part of a project to watch all of the "Best Picture" Academy Award winners. It was just a bit too much in almost every way.

(Not the worst "Best Picture" though: I feel asleep during Cavalcade.)

Jul 5, 2017, 9:30pm Top

It was a 'transition to sound' film and most of those are clunky for one reason or another.

We've always been of the opinion that the least best 'Best Picture' was Around The World In 80 Days. :)

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 9:09am Top

68) Perry Rhodan 4: Götterdämmerung (=Twilight of the Gods) / Clark Darlton
Date: September 29, 1961
Tagline: Mutants change the world picture -- the future has begun!

The story so far: How fortunate for humanity that Perry Rhodan, commander of the rocket STARDUST, discovered the giant starship of the Arkonides, emergency-landed on the moon! Rhodan helped the Arkonides, the degenerating rulers of a fallen empire of the stars, and in so doing actually helped humanity by using the powerful tools of Arkon to prevent a third world war. Many people have already begun to recognize Rhodan's work for a unified world, but it is still a long way to the TWILIGHT OF THE GODS, the renunciation of hitherto narrowminded thinking ...

Attacks continue on Perry Rhodan's base in the Gobi Desert. But Rhodan's defenses are stronger than ever, thanks to the addition of an Arkonide shuttle craft piloted by Thora. But it is not all good news for Rhodan & friends: the Arkonide mother ship on the moon has been destroyed along with all its crew save Crest and Thora.

There is no longer a question of repairing an Arkonide ship. If Crest and Thora want to see home again they will have to teach the humans to build a new one, build an infrastructure, and reach out to manufacturing partners. To get up to speed on Arkonide technology, Perry and Reginald Bull undergo hypnotic training. For the infrastructure, Arkonide robots have started developing the Gobi base. And to reach beyond the base, Rhodan slips outside the energy shield and travels to the United States, where he makes business contacts and picks up a powerful ally.

Meanwhile, the great powers have not given up on destroying the Third Power. They hatch a new plan to tunnel under Rhodan's energy shield in order to ignite a hydrogen bomb directly beneath the base.

Also in this adventure we are introduced to mutants, humans with unusual mental powers that are probably the result of increased radiation during mid-twentieth century atomic testing. The mutants play a large part in the next few adventures, and some become series regulars. In this one John Marshall, Australian telepath, is the powerful ally Rhodan meets in the U.S.; Tako Kakuta, Japanese teleporter, saves the day when he appears inside Rhodan's base with a warning about the tunnel; and Anne Sloan, American telekinetic, is briefed by the International Intelligence Agency for an upcoming mission to eliminate Rhodan.

Teaser for the next adventure: The Arkonide ship on the moon has been destroyed by a surprise attack of the Terran great powers, but Rhodans base remains under the energy bell in the Central Gobi, unchanged -- and that is what matters in the end! For a new crisis, whose source lies in the destruction of the Arkonide ship, can only be handled by the Third Power ...

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided three interior illustrations for the original edition, which can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English in 1969 as the second half of The Radiant Dome:

Jul 6, 2017, 2:21pm Top

>133 lyzard: "Around the World in Eighty Days" is certainly an overblown, undewhelming film that is nowhere as fun as it ought to be, but I don't find it as painful as Cimarron, or as boring as Cavalcade. I agree that Cimarron's faults probably lie in the industry's feeling its way toward how talking pictures should work, so I should probably cut it some slack.

Edited: Jul 7, 2017, 2:26pm Top

But what about the Pierce Brosnan 'Around the World' television miniseries? It is definitely more fun. ;-)

Jul 7, 2017, 2:30pm Top

I loved "Around the World in Eighty Days"! Of course, I was only 8 years old at the time...

Jul 7, 2017, 8:02pm Top

>136 brodiew2: I haven't seen the Brosnan miniseries. Surely it'll show up on Netflix sometime ...

>137 ronincats: Checking the comments at IMDb, I see that it does have a lot of fans, so you're not alone. I remember it as being not awful, but preoccupied with all-star cameos. I'd forgotten about Shirley MacLaine as an Indian Princess, though. Ouch.

Jul 7, 2017, 8:10pm Top

Less painfully embarrassing than Mickey Rooney playing Japanese, but bad enough.

It isn't that Around The World In Eighty Days isn't fun, but by no objective measure could you call it the "best" anything. (Most expensive, yes.)

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 9:09am Top

69) DAW #98: As the Curtain Falls / Robert Chilson
Date: 1974

On a far future world, after multiple civilizations have risen and fallen, resources are depleted. The former continents are just arid plateaus now that the oceans having given their water to the fusion-powered engines of space-traveling civilizations now gone. But in the lowlands humanity continues.

Trebor of Amballa is looking for allies. His father was a powerful clan leader, but has been assassinated. His father was obsessed with occult knowledge, but Trebor holds no truck with that stuff -- though he does still wear around his neck the medallion that got his father killed -- and he is looking for more tangible allies. That is why he traveled to Linllallal, to propose a partnership with Vion, Chancellor to the throne of Witstandia. But Vion too is dead.

Taking Vion's place in his faction is his daughter Viani who has a proposal of her own to unite her faction with Trebor's. Problem is, Viani's proposal involves marriage and Trebor is not the marrying type. Certainly not to a half-civilized Linllallallan. An enraged Viani storms off to look elsewhere for allies and winds up kidnapped. Now, to defend his honor and to salvage the potential alliance, Trebor must track Viani and rescue her.

The rest is a sort of dramatic travelogue where the landscape is the primary interest. There is a succession of exotic landscapes, quasi-allies and quasi-antagonists, sandships and airships, all with a tone of past glory. Introducing a setting Chilson routinely tells about the last three civilizations that occupied it, hinting that its former occupants are not likely to be surpassed. In many ways it echoes the Dying Earth series: set in the planet's waning years, with a blurry line between tech and magic, and with characters of flexible ethics. It lacks Vance's humor and frankly isn't as fun, but as an elegiac mood piece it's not half bad.

The cover is by Hans-Ulrich and Ute Osterwalder.

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 11:38am Top

70) The Planet Savers, and, Sword of Aldones / Marion Zimmer Bradley
Date: 1980 (original novels 1962)
Series: Darkover #1-2

Now that I'm caught up on Gor I looked ahead in the DAW catalog: are there other series I should catch up on before the next DAW volume? Well, yes. The next candidate is Marion Zimmer Bradley's Darkover series, whose 8th volume (in publication order) is DAW #119.

Oh, Darkover. I've read a couple of Darkover volumes and not had a great experience with them. I read The Forbidden Tower decades ago, I think as an undergraduate, and had a strong negative reaction -- I remember it being a long talky long slog, long ending long in long group long sex. I figured the series wasn't for me and didn't pick up another until the DAW challenge. Darkover Landfall -- book 7 by publication order but book 1 in the series' internal chronoogy -- was DAW #36. DL was much shorter and had less group sex than TFT but I nevertheless found it tedious and misogynistic. So still not a fan. On the other hand: I made it through seven volumes of Gor. How bad can Darkover be? Onward!

This volume is an omnibus published by Ace Books in 1980. It collects books 1 and 2 (by publication order: they're books 19 and 21 by chronology). It also includes the short story "Waterfall" and "A Darkover restrospective," an essay in which Bradley explains the series' development from a hoard of juvenalia into a fan-favorite series.

In The Planet Savers, a plague that ravages Darkover every 58 years is coming around again. The insular jungle-dwelling Trailsmen are immune to the plague so their genetics may hold the key to a cure. The only person likely to earn the Trailsmen's cooperation is the Darkovan physician Jay Allison -- and he doesn't want to go. But Jay has a repressed personality who'd be delighted. The split-personality angle is a bit gimmicky, but at the story's modest length it worked for me. I found it a good old-fashioned science fiction adventure, though short on the psychic powers and political drama that I associate with the series's reputation.

In The Sword of Aldones we get something much closer to that reputation. Lew Alton is a Darkovan with a Terran mother, has spent the last few years in exile from Darkover but is now returning in response to a political crisis. He carries "Sharra's matrix", a magical object whose details aren't clear but is a sort of demon-in-a-box. Alton has enemies who want the matrix for themselves and will cheerfully kill him and his allies to get it. Fortunately, he has some powerful allies and is no slouch himself, as the Altons are the most powerful telepaths on the planet. The story sprawls a bit: there are too many characters and too many gimmicks, but for me it galloped right along to a satisfying conclusion.

I enjoyed both of these books -- I finally get it! They're old fashioned sf adventures with a snappy plot in an exotic setting. And in contrast to Darkover Landfall's misogyny (or at least what I interpreted as such), both of these novels have more nuanced takes on the women of Darkover. I was surprised to read in Bradley's "Darkover retrospective" that she had pretty low regard for these two novels. It's true that the stories are flawed. But they're neither of them as bad as she says -- of course, she may have polished them for this edition. Anyway, I am looking forward to more.

The excellent cover is by Michael Whelan.

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 11:39am Top

The Hugo Ballot deadline looms this weekend and I still have to read the last novel, Cixin Liu's Death's End. It's the third of a trilogy, of which I'd only read the first so of course I had to read the second, and it's really really good:

71) The Dark Forest / Cixin Liu

After the events of The Three Body Problem, the world prepares for an invasion of Trisolarans. Physics being what it is, we have four hundred years to prepare for doomsday, but even with four centuries' warning our chances of survival are practically zero since events from the previous novel prevent advances in research. And even if we do make plans to prepare for the invasion, Trisolaran surveillance is so complete that they are instantly aware of any plot.

So how does the planet respond? Some want to pour resources into developing technology that will give us a fighting chance; some want to flee the Solar System for anywhere else; some want to make the best of the 400 years we have left. Liu is interested in large-scale social responses. perhaps to the cost of individual drama. I've seen reviews anyway that criticize his shallow characters and hard-science preoccupations. I think I recognize the target of these criticisms, but I do not agree with them. I rarely find his characters sympathetic but I do find them interesting, and I admire the way Liu occasionally deploys a brief scene or even just a sentence to render a relationship poignant. But yeah: characters here are secondary to the ideas. Fortunately the ideas are big enough to drive three big books. There are a few points where I'm pretty sure his physics is wrong but I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt for the sake of the drama; and the social-science ideas feel uncomfortably plausible.

I loved this book as much as I did the first, and (spoiler!) am now loving the third.

The breathtaking cover art is by Stephan Martiniere.

Jul 12, 2017, 5:57pm Top

>142 swynn: Thanks for reminding me that The Three Body Problem was part of a trilogy. I should read this one. I did like the first one even though a lot of the physics went over my head.

Jul 12, 2017, 6:25pm Top

>142 swynn: I really enjoyed all three, also. I loved the scope of the third.

Jul 12, 2017, 6:44pm Top

I have considered walking into a local used book store and looking for yellow-spined DAW classics. I have thought of reading one and posting my thought right here. I may yet, but haven't gotten it yet.

Jul 13, 2017, 8:30am Top

>142 swynn: Nice review. This one's on my stack by my reading chair, but I keep getting books from the library that have due dates. It's a sickness, I tell you! 😀

Jul 13, 2017, 12:13pm Top

>143 rosalita: Hope you like it even half as much as I did, Julia!

>144 karspeak: TBP love! I'm in the middle of Death's End: the scope is certainly ambitious, and I'm delighted that Liu has the chops to match his ambition.

>145 brodiew2: Good luck, Brodie! As you've probably gathered from my comments, the quality of the yellow-spine stuff has a very broad range.

>146 drneutron: I sympathize -- I'm in the same situation with City of Miracles. Hope you like it when you get to it!

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 11:39am Top

72) Perry Rhodan 5: Atom-Alarm (=Atomic Alarm) / Kurt Mahr
Date: October 6, 1961
Tagline: An alien ship arrives in the solar system -- is it the vanguard of a large fleet?

The story so far: What was once believed impossible has now begun. The moon-stranded ship of the Arkonides, a humanoid race that commands a great stellar empire, has been destroyed by a surprise attack of the terrestrial superpowers and only two Arkonides have survived the attack. These two survivors find themselves in safety with Perry Rhodan -- the man who discovered the ship and who with the help of superior Arkonide technology has built the so-called Third Power.

Perry Rhodan has already prevented a long-threatening world war, and now that a new danger appears from space to trigger the ATOMIC ALARM it is once again the Third Power who will effectively intervene ....

The superpowers' plan to undermine Perry Rhodan's base has been thwarted. While the world governments plan their next move, Rhodan works on his own plans to build a new Arkonide ship. He sends Tako Kakuta to the United States to establish manufacturing partnerships for the project.

Rhodan and Reginald Bull continue their hypno-training. The next phase of training is a sensitive one, and must not be interrupted. To minimize distractions they take the training in outer space aboard the Arkonide shuttle. As long as they're in space they decide to stop by the moon to see whether anything can be salvaged from the wreckage of the Arkonide ship. As they explore the ruins Crest discovers something alarming: upon its destruction the ship sent out a distress signal. If the signal is received at the Arkonide outpost on MYRA IV -- as it almost certainly will be -- then a fleet of Arkonide robots will be dispatched to destroy whatever force destroyed the Arkonide ship.

(It may be worth remembering that the Arkonide ship was stranded on the moon because there was no Arkonide base in reach capable of sending help. Now it turns out that there *is* an Arkonide base in reach capable of retaliation in the event of a catastrophic attack. It's like an insurance policy that covers no medical care but provides for funerals. *Ahem*)

Rhodan must warn Earth's superpowers of the looming danger of a robot invasion; he must also convince them that the only power currently capable of coordinating a response to such an attack is the Third Power, equipped as it is with Arkonide technology. When the invasion arrives it is fortunately not a robot fleet. Apparently the deteriorating Arkonide empire has already lost its base on MYRA IV. Nevertheless the destroyer that does arrive, crewed by Fantan-people, is easily an overwhelming threat to any terrestrial force.

Teaser for the next adventure: The first invasion is defeated, and the atomic alarm can be canceled. But the the probability remains that the Arkonide ship's automatic distress signal was also received by other potential invaders. That is clear to Perry Rhodan, and he is therefore determined to assemble a battle-ready force.

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided six interior illustrations for the original edition, which can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English in 1969 as the first half of Galactic Alarm ("Earth lay helpless before the attack of a stellar armada!"):

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 11:40am Top

73) DAW #99: Can You Feel Anything When I Do This? / Robert Sheckley
Date: 1974 (selections published 1961-1971)

Collection of 16 short stories by Robert Sheckley. There's some good stuff here: I liked Doctor Zombie, Mnemone, and Pas de Trois of the Chef and the Waiter and the Customer. There's also some uncomfortable stuff, where sixties-era attitudes haven't aged well. And there are surrealist expermients and a couple which are just puzzling: I'm not sure what to make of Game: First Schematic or Aspects of Langranak.

Can You Feel Anything When I Do This? A showroom-floor vacuum cleaner falls in love with a customer.

Cordle to Onion to Carrot. A meek man discovers the joy of being a bully, and overdoes it a bit.

The Petrified World. A man is concerned that his dream world is intruding on the real one.

Game: First Schematic. A player in an unfamiliar racket sport loses confidence, quits a major game on a flimsy pretext, then can't remember the game afterward. I didn't get it.

Doctor Zombie and His Furry Friends. Memoir of a mad scientist in Mexico who carries out cruel experiments in vivisection.

The Cruel Equations. A scientist isolated on an extrasolar planet can't return to his camp because he doesn't know the password to get past his own guard robot.

The Same to You Doubled. A man gets three wishes with one stipulation: whatever he wishes for, his worst enemy will receive the same thing doubled.

Starting from Scratch. A dreaming man hears a voice that claims to be from a race that has colonized his left hand.

The Mnemone. In a world where literature is suppressed, a stranger sells bits and snatches of scripture, poetry and fiction.

Tripout. An alien vacations on Earth disguised as a human.

Notes on the Perception of Imaginary Differences. Hans and Pierre escape from prison by exchanging accents, body types, and ethnicities.

Down the Digestive Tract and Into the Cosmos with Mantra, Tantra, and Specklebang. Cockroaches take drugs and dream of being human.

Pas de Trois of the Chef and the Waiter and the Customer. A regular customer at an Indonesian restaurant becomes obese, then stops coming. Told, Rashomon-style, in three chapters from three perspectives.

Aspects of Langranak. Memoir of a visitor to an extraterrestrial planet. Nothing happens.

Plague Circuit. A time traveler spreads plagues in the past in order to control human population.

Tailpipe to Disaster. A young fighter pilot about to be kicked out of the fleet proves his worth.

The cover art is by Hans Arnold.

Edited: Jul 19, 2017, 11:53am Top

>149 swynn: Wow, 1974 was awfully early to be writing dystopic fiction about the perils of forgetting one's password (The Cruel Equations)! It's almost like Sheckley knew what was coming. Hard to believe, though, that people back then weren't using defaulting to using 1234 for all their passwords. Then again, maybe reading horror stories of being held hostage by your own security robot is what prompted people to start using such simplistic passwords in the first place. :-)

Jul 19, 2017, 11:45am Top

>149 swynn: Some of those sound pretty entertaining. Old sci fi isn't really my jam but a couple of those are almost tempting. ;)

Jul 19, 2017, 7:25pm Top

>149 swynn: Whoa. I agree that some of these sounds original and interesting.

Pas de Trois of the Chef and the Waiter and the Customer. A regular customer at an Indonesian restaurant becomes obese, then stops coming. Told, Rashomon-style, in three chapters from three perspectives.

I have to wonder what the hook is on this one. On the face of it, it sounds pretty pedestrian. Does it have a King's Thinner element?

Edited: Jul 20, 2017, 1:24am Top

>150 rosalita: The story was originally published in 1971, which is even harder to connect to anxieties about forgetting the password to one's PC. But the setup more resembles a soldier returning from patrol who can't get past a camp guard because the password was changed without his knowledge. This would have been a familiar anxiety: Sheckley himself was in the Army from 1946-1948, sometimes serving as a guard.

>151 MickyFine: Sheckley's stories might be worth a try -- they aren't all wins, and some haven't aged well, but they all move quickly.

>152 brodiew2: There isn't a science-fiction hook on that one. It was originally published in Playboy, which presumably wouldn't necessarily require one. It's told in three parts, first from the chef's perspective, then from the waiter's, then the customer's, and those are really the only elements -- the customer, his weight gain, his departure -- that the three narratives have in common. (Spoilers!) The chef tells a story about fine-tuning the customer's favorite dish to make it irresistible, but then about having a crisis of conscience when he realizes that the diet is making the poor man obese -- the waiter's version is that the customer doesn't really care for the food, which is obviously destroying his health, but that the customer keeps coming back to experience the jazz music recordings which the waiter personally selects -- the customer's version is lukewarm on both food and music, but confesses an irresistible infatuation with the waiter himself. The conflicting perspectives make a bare-bones plot richly interesting, and I found it one of the standout pieces despite its being neither science fiction nor fantasy.

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 11:40am Top

74) Death's End / Cixin Liu

Third & last volume in the series that began with The Three-Body Problem and continued with The Dark Forest, which I mentioned in post #42 above. Spoilers to the first two probably follow. The third book opens with an uneasy truce between humans and Trisolarans. If the Trisolarans resume their invasion of Earth then the humans will send a signal into the "dark forest" of the universe, announcing the existence of both races: mutual assured destruction. The truce can't last indefinitely, nor can the civilizations stay hidden forever.

Once again the focus of the series is on the technological and sociological ideas while characters are interesting but secondary. As with the earlier volumes, some of the science is iffy -- in particular, there's some stuff about collapsing 3-space into 2-space that I can't quite reconcile with my understanding of topology, though Liu's efforts to make it plausible are fun. In fact, the science is so fun and the sociology so thought-provoking that it's easy to see why this volume earned enough love for a Hugo nomination. Enthusiastically recommended, but start at the beginning with The Three-Body Problem.

The terrific jacket art is by Stephan Martiniere.

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 11:41am Top

75) Perry Rhodan 6: Das Mutanten-Korps / W.W. Shols
Date: October 13, 1961
Tagline: He looked unimpressive -- and yet he plunged the world economy into chaos

The story so far: The Third Power, the creation of Arkonide technology and Perry Rhodan's initiative, has made itself in the lonelines of the Gobi Desert into a center strong enough to withstand the united attacks of Earth's superpowers. And when extraterrestrial intelligences came, eager for conquest and having learned of Earth's existence through the emergency signal of the destroyed Arkonide ship, the Third Power clinched the first battle in its and humanity's favor. But Perry Rhodan knows that to prepare for new attacks and to carry out his further plans he needs more people. And so he assembles THE MUTANT-CORPS.

After its successful campaign against the Fantan-People, Perry Rhodan's Third Power finally receives official recognition from the superpowers. But the task of establishing the Third Power as a political power has only begun. In particular, they have no cash. And the Asiatic Federation demands 7 billion dollars for the land in the Gobi Desert that the Third Power currently claims.

For financial management Rhodan recruits Homer G Adams, a half-mutant accountant with an extraordinary sense for financial markets. Adams happens to be in prison for some irregular accounting, but Rhodan secures his parole. Adams immediately launches a plan to acquire controlling interest in in several publicly-traded construction firms by trading access to Arkonide technology for shares. This is useful but is no way to get 7 billion quickly, so the team stages a fake alien invasion in order to provoke a global panic and stock market crash which they can leverage for financial gain.

I think that bears repeating: they deliberately provoke a global panic and stock market crash to make money. They justify this -- thereby acknowledging this isn't the sort of things goodguys do -- by arguing that (1) they really need the money; (2) even if their alien invasion was faked the next one probably won't be; (3) when the next invasion comes then the Third Power is uniquely able to stop it (and see #1); (4) having done this once they won't have an incentive to do it again; and (5) the world is really better off because this sort of correction is always followed by a few decades' worth of steady growth.

And what about the traders who killed themselves during the panic? Well, here's Homer G, humanitarian:

Und ich betone ausdrücklich, dass ich mich für den Selbstmord anderer Menschen nicht verantwortlich fühle. Wer den Verlust materielle Werte nicht verschmerzen kann, hat das mit sich selbst auszumachen. Außerdem ist es wohl wahrscheinlich, dass die Angst vor der Invasion in erster Linie für die Selbstmorde verantwortlich ist.

And I explicitly emphasize that I feel no responsibility for the suicide of other people. Anyone who cannot endure the loss of material worth has to work that out for himself. Anyway, it's likely that the fear of invasion is the primary cause of the suicides.

An "invasion" which Rhodan's team staged. Assholes.

But stick around.

While Homer G. Adams tinkers with the global economy, the next invasion begins. At the International Intelligence Agency's outpost in Greenland, a fighter pilot tries to assassinate the IIA chief Alan D. Mercant. After the pilot is neutralized, an investigation suggests that the his mind had been taken over by some alien being. When Crest is consulted he identifies the culprit as an "IV", for "Individualverformer" (="Individual deformer"), a powerful race of body-jumpers whom even the Arkonides fear. The IV who possessed the pilot is certainly dead, but IVs never travel alone. Rhodan and team are able to find the IV ship in orbit, but how can they neutralize it without presenting themselves as targets? Their solution is for Rhodan and Bully to offer themselves as decoys while Tako Kakuta teleports to the IV ship to plant a bomb.

Meanwhile, other members of the mutant corps engage in recruiting efforts. "Recruitment" involves identifying people with mutant abilities, then kidnapping them and transporting them to the Gobi Desert where Rhodan can hold them for a couple of weeks while he convinces them to join the team.

Yeah, assholes.

Teaser for the next adventure: Perry Rhodan has expanded his circle of comrades-in-arms to 18 people. And these 18 men and women, thanks to their special abilities, are worth more than a whole army. Perry Rhodan has found these people at exactly the right time, for there soon follows a renewed INVASION FROM SPACE.

The cover (presumably depicting the discovery of the IV-nest in Greenland) is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided five interior illustrations for the original edition, which can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English in 1969 as the second half of Galactic Alarm.

Jul 23, 2017, 7:27pm Top

I went ahead and bought The Dark Forest for $2.99 yesterday based on your review, even though the first book didn't motivate me to continue.

Jul 23, 2017, 10:03pm Top

I loved both books, Roni: I'm pleased to hear you're giving the series another chance, and a little nervous that it's on my recommendation. I hope you like it half as much as I did.

Edited: Jul 26, 2017, 9:20am Top

76) DAW #100: Hadon of Ancient Opar / Philip José Farmer
Date: 1974
Tagline: In Tarzan's Africa -- 12,000 years ago!

In Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan series Opar is a lost city in the central African jungle. Its inhabitants are beautiful women (white, of course, because for ERB there is no other sort of beautiful woman) and brutish ape-like men. In this book Farmer launches a series set when Opar was a new city recently established on the shore of an interior African sea.

Hadon is a young warrior from Opar eager to make a name for himself. So he participates in the games of Khokarsa, the winner of which is eligible to marry the high priestess, thereby becoming king. Hadon wins the competition but is disappointed in what follows. Rather than being made king Hadon is assigned a quest. An explorer has recently returned from an expedition to the edge of the world with news of having met the god Sahhindar has been spotted on the world's northern shores. Sahhindar charged the explorer with protecting a woman and child who were in his company, but the explorer became separated from them. Hadon is charged with returning to the Northern shores and finding the refugees.

But there is more going on than the quest: unbeknownst to Hadon the current king Minruth, father of the high priestess, has no intention of stepping down from the throne. With many of his potential rivals slain in the games and with Hadon safely tromping through the jungle, Minruth plans to stage a coup. He will defeat his daughters' priestesses and military with forces he has been carefully building in secret for years. By the time Hadon returns -- if he ever returns -- it will be to a different empire: one where men rule and Hadon's services will not required.

It's okay. It's the kind of plot-heavy action I'm inclined to enjoy, but it felt a little underbaked. Most of the games were standard track-and-field events, including races with distances given in standard imperial units, including the 100-yard dash and the "quarter-mile dash." A bit anachronistic. Worse, the empire is supposed to be a matriarchy but it never really feels like one, with most of the speaking parts going to male characters. Worst, though, is that it ends with a cliffhanger. Farmer finished just one more book in the series, Flight to Opar, and it's DAW #197 (published 1976).

Still, it's worth a look for fans of the Edgar Rice Burroughs style of adventure, especially if you happened to like Tarzan.

Cover art and numerous interior illustrations are by Roy Krenkel, who had illustrated Ace's editions of the Tarzan stories while Wollheim was at Ace.

Jul 25, 2017, 2:09am Top

the empire is supposed to be a matriarchy but it never really feels like one, with most of the speaking parts going to male characters

Oh, surprise!

Edited: Jul 25, 2017, 12:16pm Top

>159 lyzard:: Yeah. Wait til you see Wollheim's selections for "The world's best science fiction 1974." You can probably guess how many women authors appear -- the number of women characters in the 10 selections ain't much higher.

By contrast, Terry Carr's "best" anthology for 1974 (for Ballantine) included Ursula K. Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas' -- which should have been included in *every* "best" anthology for that year because what was the competition, really? -- along with stories by Vonda McIntyre and James Tiptree, Jr.

(On the other hand, in 1974 everyone still thought Tiptree was a guy.)

Edited: Jul 26, 2017, 1:34pm Top

So I'm tearing through these Perry Rhodan stories more quickly than expected. I've settled into a routine of reading the next chapter each evening as I walk the dog. One chapter per evening is just about what my attention and language skills can handle, and I weirdly find myself looking forward to it like a soap opera addict to the next episode of his "stories." Buddy doesn't mind because it means I don't rush him through his inventory of the neighborhood's rabbit-scent.

So get used to 'em. Or to ignoring 'em, as you please. Because they aren't stopping soon.

Here's the next.

77) Perry Rhodan #7: Invasion Aus dem All (="Invasion from Space") / Clark Darlton
Date: October 20, 1961
Tagline: They were called "individual-deformers" -- but behind this harmless name stood a horror.

The story so far: Human initiative and the supertechnology of the old Arkonides have come together in a force called the Third Power. And with good reason! For this Third Power under the leadership of Perry Rhodan has already protected the Earth from evil more than once. But now the IVs, ancient foes of the Arkonides, invade the solar system. And the Third Power finds itself face to face with a threat, against which even Arkonide scientists know no defense.

In the last adventure Perry's team blew up a ship with an invading force of body-snatching IVs. But wasn't the only IV ship in the solar system -- a second has responded to the Arkonide distress beacon. Invaders from the second ship launch a plan to infiltrate military bases with nuclear capabilities, with the ultimate goal of destroying life on Earth. One IV accidentally reveals itself when it chooses the wrong host and asks for classified papers its host is not cleared to see.

While Rhodan's team on Earth figures out the IVs' plan, Rhodan himself is scouting Venus, where he wants to establish a second base of operations for the Third Power. Venus, it turns out, is covered with jungle and occupied by dinosaurs. (Hooray!) As Rhodan returns to Earth he learns of the IVs' new attack.

The problem with the IVs is, as soon as they are discovered they return to their own bodies. Killing the host without warning would kill the IV, but would also kill an innocent. Rhodan needs to find the IVs' hideout, then scare them into returning to their own bodies. Or maybe the other way around ... The mutant-corps hypothesizes that a teleporter and a telepath working together could follow an IV's spirit as it left its host and returned to its own body.

The corps knows of two IV-possessed humans at a military field in Nevada. Rhodan arranges to fake a nuclear accident, scaring the IVs back to their hidey-hole. Teleporter Tako Kakuta follows the IVs and finds himself materializing in the Himalaya mountains. Rhodan soon follows in the Arkonide shuttle. They expose the IVs and kill them one at a time as they return to their bodies.

Unfortunately, a miscalculation nearly causes the staged nuclear accident to become a real one. The teletemporter Ernst Ellert saves the day, but loses his life ... sort of. His spirit becomes separated from his body and lost in time. (Actually, the authors were worried that Ellert's powers weren't appropriate for the series so they killed him off in such a way that they could bring him back if they changed their minds.)

Teaser for the next adventure: Perry Rhodan is determined to fly a second time to Venus, there to build a base for the Third Power. What surprises await him and his crew on Venus you will learn, dear reader, next week in THE VENUS BASE, the 8th volume of this new hit series from Moewig-Verlag.

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided six interior illustrations for the original edition, which can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman. The cover depicts Rhodan's team invading the IV-hideout in the Himalayas. I'm not sure why they're wearing bubble helmets; that equipment isn't mentioned in the text, and there's a similar interior illustration without the helmets. I wonder whether the helmets were added later to emphasize: SPACE!!!

This adventure was translated into English in 1970 as the first half of Invasion from Space.

Jul 26, 2017, 6:46am Top

Congrats on reaching 75, Steve!

Jul 26, 2017, 7:48am Top

Yay, you reached 75. Congratulations.

Jul 26, 2017, 8:54am Top

Congratulations on reaching 75, Steve!

Jul 26, 2017, 10:29am Top

Belated congratulations on reaching the magic number!

Jul 26, 2017, 1:03pm Top

Thanks Micky!

Jul 26, 2017, 1:20pm Top

Excellent job reaching 75, swynn! your thread has been a fun read.

Jul 26, 2017, 1:24pm Top

I also missed noting that you had blown past the 75 book mark, Steve. Congratulations!!

Jul 26, 2017, 2:37pm Top

>168 brodiew2:
>169 ronincats:

Thanks Brodie and Roni!

Jul 26, 2017, 6:21pm Top

Eep! I was so busy grouching I completely missed that you hit the big 7-5 - congratulations!

Jul 27, 2017, 9:36am Top

Oh, missed the numbering! Congrats!

Edited: Jul 27, 2017, 6:57pm Top

>171 lyzard:
>172 drneutron:

Thanks, Liz and Jim! (And Liz, your grouching is always welcome. As Ms. Parker said, If you've nothing nice to say come say it in this thread. Or something like that.)

Edited: Jul 27, 2017, 7:37pm Top

Hey swynn! Have you ever read Cyberiad by Stanilaw Lem?

Edited: Jul 27, 2017, 9:32pm Top

>174 brodiew2: I haven't. The only Lem I've read was Solaris, which I liked a lot.

Edited: Jul 28, 2017, 11:20pm Top

Another milestone: Hadon of Ancient Opar completes the first hundred DAWs. Only about 1,670 to catch up! Here goes the second century:

78) DAW #101: The 1974 Annual World's Best SF / Donald A. Wollheim, ed.

Wollheim established the "World's best science fiction" annual anthology in 1965 at Ace with Terry Carr. When Wollheim left Ace to found DAW he brought the anthology with him. This is Wollheim's third "World's Best" for DAW (my comments on the earlier volumes are here and here.) With reservations this one is quite good: most of the stories are solid and have aged gracefully. There's a severe shortage of human characters (not to mention authors) who aren't white guys, and 1974 is getting late to cut Wollheim slack for that. It's also odd that in a "world's best" anthology we have one British and one Russian author ... and nine Americans. So collectively it's hard to believe the contents are representative of the field, but taken one at a time most of them are pretty good, and a few are great. Standouts for me are "Doomship", "Weed of Time", and "The Deathbird."

Introduction by Donald Wollheim. The state of science fiction is good. Magazines are healthy, there's a trend of original anthologies, though their content is mostly not as good as the magazines. The worst thing facing the field is the crowd of rabble-rousers and critics trying to make science fiction something it isn't. They just need to accept the fact that science fiction is and always will be a literature of escapism and that highfalutin critical stuff will be absorbed or it will die out.

A Suppliant in Space by Robert Sheckley.
An exile from the planet Ferlang -- kicked out for such felonious behavior as sucking his teeth during the Meditation Frolic and reminiscing on his sexual exploits during Godmemory Meeting -- crashes on an uninhabited backwater planet. Just as he's becoming resigned to life in isolation another ship lands, carrying a survey team from Earth. Suckers.

Parthen by R.A. Lafferty.
The creakiest story in the bunch, it's an alien-invasion story in which the invaders impersonate beautiful women. The joke is that the aliens announce that they will make half of humanity obsolete. Nobody can figure out how they'll ever do that, even as the men all quit their jobs to worship at the goddess' feet.

Doomship by Frederick Pohl and Jack Williamson
A mysterious object is approaching the galaxy, and somebody needs to go to investigate. Problem is, the only craft with a chance of intercepting the object is itself out on the edge of the galaxy, and course corrections will generate so much radiation that everyone on board will die. Ben Pertin volunteers for the job -- after all, he won't actually be on the craft, it will be a duplicate of him beamed to the craft via tachyon transmission. But the Ben Pertin who arrives on the craft can't be so sanguine.

Weed of Time by Norman Spinrad
Memoir of a man who at twenty consumes an plant that unlocks his consciousness from the time-stream. Consequently, from his birth to his death he experiences every moment of his life simultaneously.

A Modest Genius by Vadim Sheffner
Story about a modest Russian inventor unlucky in love.

The Deathbird by Harlan Ellison
It's very hard to describe this new-wave subversion of the Genesis creation story, beginning "This is a test. Take notes." This one won the Hugo in 1974 and deserved it.

Evane by E.C. Tubb
Just why is Charles on board this space craft? He's been told that his duties are to keep all automatic systems functioning properly. But the systems are essentially self-maintaining, and as he nears the end of his career -- and his natural life -- Charles begins to wonder what his true purpose might be.

Moby, Too by Gordon Eklund
Memoir of a sentient whale, eventually the last whale on the planet.

Death and Designation Among the Asadi by Michael Bishop
Field report from an extraterrestrial planet on a species that may or may not be sentient. Either way they have a deeply puzzling social structure. The reporting anthropologist becomes increasingly enthralled by the mystery, and increasingly entangled in his subjects' lives.

Construction Shack by Clifford Simak
The first expedition to Pluto discovers that its surface is surprisingly smooth and surprisingly durable. In fact, it's steel.

Jul 28, 2017, 11:15pm Top

>176 swynn:

Congratulations! You're really racking up the milestones! :)

I read Deathbird Stories last year, a weird but effective collection.

Edited: Jul 28, 2017, 11:35pm Top

>176 swynn:

Thanks Liz! I was a huge fan of Ellison in college, reading every word I could get my hands on; and yes, Deathbird Stories is terrific.

Or at least I remember it so. Recently I've reread some of Ellison's stuff and sometimes felt he could have dialed things back a notch or twelve. So I was pleased that "The Deathbird" still carries the punch I remember.

Edited: Jul 28, 2017, 11:38pm Top

It's a powerful collection, but there are always those moments where either, as you say, he goes over the top, or alternatively you can just feel him being a bit too pleased with himself.

Edited: Jul 30, 2017, 1:19pm Top

>179 lyzard: For me, the pieces that fared the worst were personal essays. He played some pranks (or claims to have done) which once seemed to me terrifically funny and now just show him up for an ass. Of course it's possible that I'm just getting old.

Here's something to feed my inner juvenile:

79) Perry Rhodan #8: Die Venusbasis (="The Venus Base") / Kurt Mahr
Date: October 27, 1961
Tagline: They reached Venus and stumbled across a mystery older than humanity.

The story so far: Now, at the beginning of the year 1972, Perry Rhodan's Third Power has been recognized by the nations of Earth as a legitimate state -- thereby bringing to a standstill the battle over the energy dome erected in the Central Gobi. But the secret battle continues, for the earthly powers remain as skeptical as ever toward the Third Power. They simply cannot accept that Perry Rhodan, since his mission to the Moon with Stardust and the discovery of the Arkonide research ship, holds in his hands all threads of world events. But Perry Rhodan follows his own path unperturbed, and the THE VENUS BASE is the next step on the path to transforming Earth into an interstellar power.

Having saved the world from an IV invasion, Perry Rhodan is more determined than ever to establish an extraterrestrial base. He assembles a team to return to Venus in the Arkonide shuttle, now rechristened the GOOD HOPE.

First, though, they stop by the moon to scavenge resources from the remains of the Arkonide ship. They pick up more than resources though, for they are met by a team of three American astronauts on a mission to retrieve something, anything to undermine the Third Power's monopoly on Arkonide technology. Unfortunately for them their landing fails, stranding on the moon with very limited resources. Fortunately for them, Rhodan is looking for good crew and offers them a ride to Venus.

After loading the cargo bays, the GOOD HOPE flies to Venus. Barely has it entered atmosphere when it is caught in a gravitation beam pulling it northward. The beam is accompanied by a transmission in an Arkonide dialect so ancient that GOOD HOPE's language banks barely recognizes it, demanding an access code. Fighting the beam, Perry manages to land in thick jungle but now their mission is changed: find the source of the beam and determine whether they are friend or foe.

Adventure and peril follow as the team trek through jungle and into the mountainous polar region, where they discover a huge base carved inside a mountain. After some initial misunderstanding the team meets the base's commander. It turns out that the base is the last remnant of an ancient Arkonide colony who settled the solar system at the dawn of recorded history -- their colony on Earth in fact was the source of the Atlantis legend. Most of that colony was wiped out in a terrestrial cataclysm; survivors left shortly afterward but their fate is unknown. (You think we'll find out eventually? Yeah, me too.)

Though the Arkonides are gone and all their ships with them, the base is still functional. Its staff are all robots who have maintained the base suberbly; its commander is a positronic brain who wants only to turn over command to someone with the proper mental qualities to use it wisely. Guess whom? (Hint: it ain't Crest.)

Teaser for the next adventure: The ancient mystery of Venus is thus unraveled, and Perry Rhodan has gained a base of great importance for the further development of his Third Power. But Rhodan should not rest easy, for a distress call from Earth demands his immediate return ... HELP FOR THE EARTH is the prompt for Rhodan and his Mutant Corps to start a new mission.

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided six interior illustrations for the original edition, which can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman. (Check it out: there's a terrific one of Anne Sloane being abducted by a giant earthworm.)

This adventure was translated into English in 1970 as the second half of Invasion from Space.

Edited: Aug 1, 2017, 1:41pm Top

80) Soundings / A. Hamilton Gibbs

This was the bestselling novel in the U.S. in 1925. I am looking forward to Liz's comments even more than usual because this book's appeal is a mystery to me.

Spoilers follow.

It's the story of Nancy, an English girl who goes to Paris, falls in love with Bob, an Oxford student on vacation. Then she has to return to England to care for her father, leaving Bob behind. She pines and pines after Bob until she goes to visit him at Oxford where she finds him indifferent to her affection and in company of a floozy. She pines for most of the rest of the book.

Granted, I'm probably not the best reader for appreciating the book's subtleties. After all, my preferred genre is one in which interpersonal drama is frequently resolved by the arrival of killer space robots or mind-snatching wasp monsters or interdimensional zombie ninjas. So I may not have a good sense of where this fits into early twentieth century melodrama, but my sense is that Nancy's agency is ahead of its time: from early in the book she makes her own choices about whom to love and what to do with her life and her body. Towards the end she even contemplates having a child out of wedlock because she'd like to be a mother but can't bring herself to marry any available candidates. Later, when Bob returns to her, it's Nancy who proposes to him and frankly tells him she wants him for his sperm. I can't imagine this sort of independent damn-the-conventions behavior from any other heroine we've encountered in the bestseller project, or even imagine them hearing that sort of talk without risking the fantods. So hooray for Nancy -- but would this have boosted sales?

And here's the really puzzling thing, and I'm half convinced I'm reading this wrong, so correct me please Liz. Did Bob really dump Nancy because he was horrified to find her sexually appealing? And would contemporary readers have said, "Yeah that makes sense poor guy"? Because my reaction was bewildered laughter. I get that there was an ideal against premarital sex. But surely sexual attraction was understood and expected to exist for couples planning marriage?

Worst for me of course were the extended interior monologues on various subjects relating to Feelings. It's probably unfair to complain about these because for this sort of book I think they're the whole point. It's probably not just the book but the whole genre that is not to my taste. But dear sweet powers of narrative if ever a book needed a giant ninja robot fleet, it's Soundings.

In case of doubt: it's not recommended by me.

Edited: Aug 5, 2017, 12:59am Top

81) DAW #103: The Unsleeping Eye / D.G. Compton
Date: 1974

In a near-future Britain disease has been all but eradicated, guaranteeing almost everybody a long healthy life. Not that that makes for a utopian paradise: social classes are still strongly stratified. Katherine Mortenhoe is one of the fortunates, a successful computer-book novelist -- that is, she turns numbers and algorithms into commercially successful fiction. She's also dying. Her doctor has diagnosed her with "Gordon's disease", a degenerative neurologic disorder caused by a combination of information overload and outrage. She has four weeks to live.

Mortenhoe is soon contacted by the producer of a popular television show. It's what we'd now call a "reality show," documenting the last days of persons with fatal diseases -- a pornographically fascinating subject in a world where diseases are rare. Mortenhoe has no interest in performing her own death for the masses and brushes off the studio's advances. Except that she realizes her husband could use the money ... and then news leaks to the press to reporters are hounding her anyway ... she hatches a plan to accept the studio's offer and then bail: go into hiding among the lower classes where the cameras will never find her. Let the studio bosses eat that.

Well, the studio boss eats just fine, and he didn't get that way by letting novelists outsmart him. He has in his employ an ambitious reporter, Roddie, who has agreed to certain surgical alterations: replacing his eyes with television cameras. As long as Roddie can stay near Mortenhoe the studio gets its footage. Then Roddie starts to fall in love.

Roddie of course is the "Unsleeping Eye" of the title. So is it about him? Sort of, though it's interesting that the book was republished last year as "The Continuous Katherine Mortenhoe". Actually, it's about both Roddie and Katherine, and the book alternates between (mostly) their viewpoints.

This is an uncomfortable book, and not just for its premise. The premise is of course enough: Compton invites the reader to watch a woman die, while simultaneously criticizing the audience for such a spectacle. But the setting too is uncomfortably cynical: Compton's contempt covers not only corporations and profiteers, but also the welfare state's lower classes who allow themselves to be dominated, and even the middle classes jockeying in between. The humans here are ugly and there are no sympathetic characters, except arguably Roddie's wife -- and even her appeal may depend on the brevity of her cameos. Despite all that, it's compelling and thought-provoking. And did I mention uncomfortable?


The photorealist eyeball-plus-Bond-villainess cover is by Karel Thole.

Aug 4, 2017, 11:46pm Top

>181 swynn:


It's more that (i) he found himself planning on floozy-fying her, and (ii) he decided that his tom-catting had "contaminated" him to the point where he was unworthy.

You're on the right track with your interpretation but I will indeed have a few additional points to make...

Aug 5, 2017, 12:59am Top

>184 swynn: I find it very difficult to wrap my head around that motive. Those Edwardian sexual codes are really something.

Edited: Aug 5, 2017, 4:29am Top

My favourite bit is the scene when Bob shamefully confesses that he just can't stop fooling around with with floozies, and Lloyd says "Poor devil!" and means it! :D

(Though it is interesting that Gibbs made the American the good guy and the Britisher the cad.)

Edited: Aug 5, 2017, 3:24pm Top

>186 swynn: And you get the feeling that if only Bob had had that conversation with Nancy she'd have said, "Can I play too?" Which I guess would have ruined it for him because he wants a Madonna-whore complex and suffers from a normal sex drive instead.

Aug 5, 2017, 10:45pm Top

>182 swynn: Thanks for the fascinating review of a book I admit to not having come across before but will now look for.

Have a great weekend.

Aug 5, 2017, 10:53pm Top

>182 swynn:

Yes, I meant to say---that's the basis for the French film, Death Watch, right?

Aug 6, 2017, 10:23am Top

>182 swynn: Well, that one sounds like a real doozy, Steve! One of the lines in your excellent review that caught my eye was the notion that Katherine's longevity is so short, and so clearly known. It got me thinking how a reality show like that would be altered if the person who was supposed to die in four weeks instead just lingered on for months, as terminally ill people are known to do now. On the one hand, extra footage! On the other hand, not having a known end date would make the TV execs pretty uneasy, I would think. And would the audience lose interest if the dying didn't happen on schedule?

Maybe it's time for a sequel.

Edited: Aug 6, 2017, 12:20pm Top

>187 PaulCranswick: I hope you find it as interesting as I did, Paul.

>188 lyzard: Yes! The film was news to me, so now I have to track it down.

>189 rosalita: Actually ... the producers have that all under control. They've carefully picked a suggestible star who is prone to hyperchondria, and paid her doctor to give her a fake diagnosis, with a list of symptoms she can produce psychosomatically. The plan is to have the show wrap up with a miracle cure. So when Katherine and Roddie go off-script there's a risk she actually will die -- worse, that the production won't go as planned. The book's cynicism is quite thorough.

And there actually is a sequel. I can't imagine where Compton took it, but I'm curious.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:41pm Top

82) Perry Rhodan 9: Hilfe für die Erde (="Help for Earth") / W.W. Shols
Date: November 3, 1961
Tagline: Alarm on the Venus-base! The IVs have ambushed the Earth -- they begin their reign of terror.

The story so far: With the GOOD HOPE, the shuttle from the Arkonide spaceship destroyed on the moon, Perry Rhodan flew to Venus. where he planned to build a military base and training center for his Third Power. Instead he discovered a secret older than human history -- so old that even the Arkonides Crest and Thora know nothing about it. By that we mean the existence of a powerful Arkonide center managed by robots that has lasted millennia and remains as functional as day one. For the Third Power this discovery naturally means an enormous gain in power -- and that is bitterly needed, for a radio transmision received by Perry Rhodan on Venus calls for HELP FOR EARTH

Rhodan and his team on Venus are settling into their new digs. Among other things they discover six Arkonide fighter craft-- still not enough to get Crest and Thora back home, but a big boost to their defensive resources. They soon put the fighters to use when Rhodan receives a call for help: the IVs have returned to Earth and in greater numbers than ever before.

With the new ships Rhodan's team make quick work of the IV ships but already there are hundreds of the IVs on-planet, and the mind-snatching wasp monsters already have chosen hosts. As bad as the invaders though is human psychology: when the news gets out that Earth has been invaded by mind-snatchers everybody suspects their neighbors and especially their enemies of being an extraterrestrial threat. Chaos is rampant. With more IVs to identify than his team has resources to find them, Perry Rhodan has to figure out how to stop them once and for all.

Teaser for the next adventure: The Third Power has forced the IVs to retreat, thereby thwarting an attack from the deeps of space, against which the rest of humanity was completely defenseless. Perry Rhodan and his men are proud of their accomplishments but they are also concerned for they know that now the galactic age begins for the Third Power and also for all of humanity.

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided six interior illustrations for the original edition, which can be seen at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was omitted from the main sequence of the Ace series, but was published as the first half of an Ace double in 1977, bound with Ace's first Atlan adventure. Atlan is the hero of a Perry Rhodan spinoff series, published 1969-1988. We'll meet Atlan sometime next year: more about him then. Ace's English translation of Hilfe für die Erde has the even cheesier title, The Wasp Men Attack.

Aug 6, 2017, 7:17pm Top

>190 swynn: Well, of course they thought of everything! And of course there's a sequel. Nothing new under the sun and all that ...

Aug 6, 2017, 7:21pm Top

>191 swynn:

Shameful confession time: I would *so* pick up a book called The Wasp Men Attack...

Edited: Aug 7, 2017, 12:15am Top

>192 rosalita: I'll report on where the sequel takes things, of course! Might not be soon, though.

>193 lyzard: No shame allowed on this thread! Last week I *did* pick up a book titled, "Island of the Zombie Dinosaurs." Yes, the story will probably disappoint, but I will always have a book titled, "Island of the Zombie Dinosaurs." Soooo worth it. I have no shame.

Aug 7, 2017, 12:44am Top

Brother! :D

Aug 7, 2017, 1:09pm Top

>194 swynn: And, this is why I keep coming back! ;-P

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:42pm Top

>196 brodiew2: Always glad to have you, Brodie!

83) Amos Meakin's Ghost / Wilbur Morris Stine
Date: 1924

Spoilers follow!

Amos Meakin is a wealthy and pious factory owner in Pennsylvania. Late in life he becomes interested in spiritualism and New Thought and their unorthodox theories about the soul. He and his Quaker friend Eli agree to attempt communication after death, and Amos establishes a generous fund for the project in case he passes first. And indeed, several years later Amos dies and Eli begins the search for an honest medium. But honest mediums are difficult to find. The most likely candidate is a reclusive American who lives in an all-but-inaccessible hideaway in the South Seas. Ah well, anything for a friend ...

It's an odd book, starting with a setup like an old-fashioned ghost story, followed by about two hundred pages of South Pacific travelogue, and rounding off like a muckraking novel à la Upton Sinclair. It's of course the ghost story which appeals to me, so I'm sorry to report that as such it's a disappointment. Eli does eventually meet the reclusive medium, and there is a séance, but ... well. It takes place in an atmospheric locale, at the foot of rock face worn unnaturally smooth. The séance begins with smoke and shadowy figures but quickly moves its action to the rock face, where moving pictures appear to dramatize Amos Meakin's final days, showing Eli who was really responsible for his death. (Super-spoiler: it's those feemongering surgeons!) It feels more like a documentary film festival than communion with the departed. Whether Eli truly makes contact with Amos is uncertain. Eli thinks he has, but the narrator argues that the event was an elaborate fraud, and addresses what most readers must have been thinking, i.e., has Eli never seen a movie? (No, he hasn't. Quaker, remember?)

Stylistically, it's a mixed bag. Stine was a poet and not a bad one (although you've missed nothing by not having heard of him) so there is a close attention to vocabulary and narrative flow. On the other hand, Stine's vocabulary is large and he neglects none of it: it's been a very long time since a book sent me to the dictionary more than once. With Amos Meakin's Ghost it was once every two or three chapters. I'd rather have had a smaller vocabulary and a thicker atmosphere.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:43pm Top

84) DAW #103: The Hawks of Arcturus / Cecil Snyder III

I usually wait til the end to talk about the cover, but in this case: Yes, that really is the cover. It's by Kelly Freas (of course), and I really am not certain whether that pose is anatomically impossible or just extremely unlikely. I'm sorry to report that the contents resemble the pose: a bunch of parts that really ought to be appealing, awkwardly stuck together with aluminum foil and leaving you to wonder whether it was planned that way.

It's set in a distant future where humanity has spread to nearby stars, with most colonized planets forming a sort of loose confederation united more by cultural influence than political or military power. Now an upstart politician named Darlan has plots to unite the galaxy under Arcturus. He may even have the will and resources to do it. Darlan sends agents to the settled worlds to recruit allies. Into this intrigue stumbles Chen, a space prospector whose run of good luck comes to an end when he is framed for the murder of an Arcturan agent.

See? This story could go somewhere. Problem is, it goes everywhere. It ricochets among spy novel, action-adventure, mystery, survival story, space opera, family drama, ... And it's not in a "My goodness this book has it all" way. It's more in a disarticulated, "Wow it hurts just to look at it, you should see somebody about that" way. Sort of like the cover model's spine. The structural mess ruins everything, so it's even hard to read whether some other faults are genuine failures or just missed opportunities. For instance, the villain is an over-the-top megalomaniac who speaks in exclamation points and cackles about conquering the universe. In most stories he'd be too much but in the right one I could love that guy; I just can't tell what story he's in.

This is Cecil Snyder III's only novel ... which is partly a relief, and partly a disappointment: with a little experience and development I think he might have written something fun.

Not recommended, obviously.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:43pm Top

85) Perry Rhodan 10: Raumschlacht im Wega-Sektor (="Space Battle in the Vega Sector") / K.H. Scheer
Date: November 10, 1961
Tagline: Structure-sensors report the appearance of a great fleet -- that is the beginning of an interstellar war ...

The story so far: Some time has passed since Perry Rhodan thwarted the IV invasion with the help of Arkonide technology and the powers of his Mutant Corps. The Third Power is now well established and despite its small territorial extent has become the strongest power on Earth. The most impressive representation of this power is GALACTO-CITY, a supermodern city with a gigantic spaceport and big industrial plants almost completely run by robots. But then the Götterdämmerung Case suddenly begins, setting GALACTO-CITY in a state of emergency, and Perry Rhodan sets out in the GOOD HOPE for the Vega System ...

Three years have passed since the IV invasion. Perry Rhodan has consolidated his power politically and militarily. Crest and Thora are still stuck in the solar system, and increasingly impatient with Rhodan's lack of progress on a strategy to get them home to Arkon. They also have not forgotten their original mission: seek out the rumored planet of immortality, where they hope to find a treatment of cellular preservation that might restore the depleted Arkonide race to its original vigor.

These guys don't think small, do they?

Anyway, the Third Power has set up structure-sensors on Pluto. The structure-sensors detect disruptions in five-dimensional space, useful for sensing movements of faster-than-light craft. The story begins when the sensors detect the arrival of an entire FTL fleet in the Vega System, twenty-seven light years away. There is a brief argument about how to respond: the Third Power is nowhere near ready to take up a fight against a force of that size; on the other hand, a force that can strike Vega can also strike the solar system and forewarned is somewhat forearmed. Also, Crest and Thora are convinced that the fleet must be Arkonides looking for the immortal planet which is supposed to be in the neighborhood. Rhodan agrees to take the GOOD HOPE and Arkonide fighters for a look. Just for a look.

You know how that's going to turn out.

The title promises a space battle, so of course the invaders aren't Arkonides and of course they aren't friendly and of course the Terrans get drawn in. Promise kept. The invaders are the saurian Topsiders; the invadees are Ferrons, blue-skinned humanoids from the system's eighth planet Ferrol. Nobody is sure why the Topsiders are invading, but Rhodan guesses that like the IVs they received the Arkonide distress signal but missed their guess about its source by twenty-seven light years.

The Good Hope's arrival turns the tide of battle temporarily in the Ferrons' favor. But just when it looks like the good guys might win, an undefeatable reinforcement arrives: an full-size Arkonide battleship, apparently hijacked by Topsiders. The adventure concludes with the Ferronian forces defeated, the planet Ferrol overrun by Topsiders, and the Good Hope severely damaged, hiding on the system's ninth planet. Tune in next time.

Teaser for the next adventure: The GOOD HOPE is nothing but a wreck, unable to return to the solar system. Perry Rhodan knows that. But he also knows that the Topsiders possess a spaceship ideally suited to his own goals. And so Rhodan hatches an unbelievably clever plan and with the Mutant Corps immediately gets to it ...

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided three interior illustrations for the original edition, including a double-page spread of the titular space battle. You can see all of them at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English in 1970 as the first half of The Vega Sector. Tagline: They battled in a strange star-system for the safety of Earth!

Aug 11, 2017, 4:16pm Top

Good afternoon, swynn! I hope all is well with you.

>1 swynn: The Black Hand looks pretty interesting.

Random Q: Have you ever read The Man Who Folded Himself? If so, what did you think?

Edited: Aug 11, 2017, 7:44pm Top

>200 brodiew2: Hi Brodie! I should get to The Black Hand sometime this month. Of course, I'll post thoughts here!

I haven't read that one. My experience with Gerrold's fiction is limited to a handful of short stories and the Star Wolf series. I have enjoyed what I've read, though.

Aug 11, 2017, 8:04pm Top

Hugo Awards are out! My comments here: http://www.librarything.com/topic/265555#6143033

Edited: Aug 11, 2017, 10:00pm Top

>202 ronincats: I'm very happy with the fiction winners. None of them were my top choice, but all are solid. As for the other awards, I want very interested this year. I didn't get through all (well, any) of the related works, and for series I never settled on a way to vote that felt right to me so I left that blank. I've only read one Vorkosigan novel but liked it well, so that seems an auspicious way to launch that category. The Expanse wins dramatic work, which is fine though I couldn't get into the two or three episodes I watched.

Best of all: minimum drama this year. Looking forward to next, when maybe I'll be more thorough.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:46pm Top

87) The Breath of Suspension / Alexander Jablokov
Date: 1994 (Selections originally published 1985-1992)

Back in the 1980s and early 1990s, Alexander Jablokov was a regular contributor to Asimov's Science Fiction Magazine. That's about the time I started reading the magazine, though not regularly, and remember Jablokov's stories as being standouts. This collection includes ten stories from Asimov's: I remember "Above Ancient Seas" especially, and was pleased to find it as good as I remember it. Others I surely read but didn't remember as well -- which is fine, because these are good stories. Besides "Above Ancient Seas" my favorites on this visit were the title story and "Many Mansions", but really there are no duds here. Recommended.

The Breath of Suspension
After civilization falls and is rebuilding as a theocracy, a young man at a monastery meets two women: one of whom he falls in love with; the other has a vision of going into space, and draws him into her plan.

Living Will
A computer scientist in the early stages of dementia builds an AI modeled on his own personality -- so that when it comes time for an end-of-life decision, there will still be a version of himself around to make it.

Many Mansions
An agent for an interdimensional law enforcement agency is assigned to track a dimension-hopper who is addicted to religious revelation. Instead of the small-fry target, the agent stumbles across underground traffick in black market religions.

The Death Artist
Elam is a death artist: he transfers his consciousness into artificial bodies in order to die for audiences. Lately, though, it seems somebody has been trying to kill him for real.

At the Cross-Time Jaunters' Ball
Jacob Landstatter is an art critic, specializing in alternate universes. Like most art critics he's universally disliked ... but who is trying to kill him?

Above Ancient Seas
Tessa Wolholme is the daughter of colonists on the planet Koola. She thought she had escaped her family's hardscrabble ranch to attend school in what passes for a city in Koola. But now she returns to the ranch to bury her mother. As she realizes she's probably there to stay, she also comes to share her mother's interest in fossil-hunting.

An atheist physician finds his calling in dealing with ghosts.

The Ring of Memory
Two time-travelers begin as friends and end as bitter enemies. Paradoxes abound.

Beneath the Shadow of Her Smile
A soldier traumatized in WWI appears to be stuck in a world where war never ceases.

A Deeper Sea
During the Cold War, the Soviets discovered technology that allowed them to communicate with cetaceans. This led to a very different ending to the cold war; one of the pioneering scientists now seeks redemption as he accompanies the first whale astronaut to Jupiter.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:47pm Top

88) Perry Rhodan 11: Mutanten im Einsatz (= Mutants on a Mission) / Kurt Mahr
Date: November 17, 1961
Tagline: The GOOD HOPE is nothing but a wreck. How will they ever return to Earth?

The story so far: Twenty-seven light years from Earth, the Vega System has become the theater for a giant interstellar war. Perry Rhodan flew to this system as soon as the structural sensors on Pluto reported tremors in hyperspace caused by the transition of many space ships; now he is entangled in the battles. His GOOD HOPE, the shuttle craft of the destroyed Arkonide ship, is far superior to the ships of the invaders, the saurian intelligences from Topsid -- until a Topsider-captured Arkonide battleship appears and severely damages the GOOD HOPE. There is only one way for Perry Rhodan to extract himself from this desperate situation and reach Earth again: MUTANTS ON A MISSION ...

So the last adventure left Rhodan and his crew stranded on Rofus, the 9th planet of the Vega System, chased there in a crippled spaceship by the invading Topsiders. There he meets up with some Ferrons, whose home planet Ferrol, the 8th in the system, is overrun by invaders.

Here's a funny thing about the Ferrons, which turns out to be even more important later: they have no faster-than-light ships because they would need to understand five-dimensional physics to build them but their Ferron brains can't handle five-dimensional physics. However: they do have five-dimensional transporters, by which Rhodan & team can beam to Ferrol.

Leaving mystery of the transporters' origin for another day, the team goes to Ferrol where they meet up with the local underground. Following an unlikely plan involving Arkonide technology and mutant powers they take over the Topsiders' captured Arkonide battleship. They also meet up with Conrad Deringhouse, a pilot for one of the Arkonide fighters that was shot down in combat. They had assumed he was dead or captured but haha: Deringhouse found an underground of his own and just barely beats Rhodan to the heavily-guarded ship.

Rhodan's plan succeeds, though he doesn't really have enough crew to lead the ship into battle, even if you count robots (which he does). So he sticks around Vega just long enough to eliminate a couple of immediate threats, thus turning the tide of battle. Then he plans a detour to Earth, where he plans to pick up some hypno-trained helpers. But before leaving for Earth, Rhodan sweet-talks the Ferron leader Thort into giving him blueprints for the five-dimensional transporters, which he plans to start mass-producing in Galakto-City.

Teaser for the next adventure: Perry Rhodan dares the hyperspace jump to Earth even though he has too few people to crew the new giant space ship he captured from the Topsiders. He takes a great risk, but he knows what he is doing. Only on Earth can he find the personnel he needs to defeat the Topsiders. And that is what he promised Thort .... The next weekly adventure of Perry Rhodan reports on the return to Vega and THE SECRET OF THE TIME VAULT.

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided six interior illustrations for the original edition. You can see all of them at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

This adventure was translated into English in 1970 as the second half of The Vega Sector, where it was given the title "Mutants in Action."

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:47pm Top

89) The Dracula Tape / Fred Saberhagen
Date: 1974

Here's an interesting exercise: retell Bram Stoker's Dracula from Big D's perspective, only making him a Byronic hero rather than a villain. The key constraint in this exercise is that you must remain faithful to the source text: you are allowed to contradict details only when the source contradicts itself. For bonus points, make the story interesting in its own right and not just as Dracula fan faction.

Saberhagen passes the exercise well enough. The framing story is that a tape has been found, on which Dracula has recorded his side of the story. ("A tape" as in one tape. Never mind that the transcript runs to 260 pages.) The voice on the tape doesn't exactly make Dracula sympathetic, mind, but it certainly makes Van Helsing & Co. less than noble. Dracula himself isn't much better: he's a self-centered cad, and it's hard to believe he's honest but the assignment did say, "Byronic hero," and part of the fun is speculating just how much he's stretching the truth. Besides, the guy makes some good points. (Remember when Van Helsing was "saving" Lucy from the vampire by giving her direct blood transfusions? Remember thinking, "Jeez, if the vampire doesn't kill her the cure sure as hell will." Turns out you were right.)

Saberhagen doesn't score the bonus points, though: The Dracula Tape doesn't have any momentum or interest of its own. The fun -- and it *is* fun -- comes from making you reflect critically on Stoker's book, which pretty much tells you which one is better. He doesn't even do anything with the framing story after introducing the book.

Recommended for those who've enjoyed Dracula.

The cover art above is from the 1999 Baen edition, and is by Stephen Hickman.

Edited: Aug 15, 2017, 6:13pm Top

>89 swynn: Nice review, swynn. Not much for Stoker, so I'll pass. But you get bonus points for making it interesting!

Aug 15, 2017, 6:53pm Top


I hope The Big D. is man enough to admit that it was Mina who beat him, and not any of the men?? :)

Aug 16, 2017, 12:00am Top

>210 Thanks Brodie!

>211 Sort of. In this version, the chase to Transylvania and the climax at the castle are an elaborate ruse orchestrated by Dracula and Mina to convince the vampire hunters they've killed Dracula so that they'll finally leave him alone. The plan is Mina's, and she plays the men like a fiddle to accomplish it. "There is one almost infallible way by which a poor simple girl like me may turn away strong men from almost any course of action," she tells Dracula: "Suggest it to them as my own idea, and keep on reminding them that it is mine." He does his part, but gives her due credit.

Aug 16, 2017, 8:45am Top

That'll do! :D

Aug 16, 2017, 11:05am Top

>209 swynn: Dracula holding that tape recorder on the cover is hysterical. I enjoyed the Stoker but I don't think I'll be picking up this one.

Edited: Aug 16, 2017, 1:11pm Top

>214 Isn't it ... awkward quaint silly something? If it looks like some sort of ham-handed product placement, well, that may be exactly what it is: you can't tell from the image, but the detail on the book very clearly says "Sony".

I notice that I neglected to mention the cover artist: it's Stephen Hickman, who really shouldn't be judged by the awkward composition of this piece. I've updated my comments to include the credit.

Edited: Aug 16, 2017, 2:11pm Top

In other news, I know I'm about the billionth person to say this, and I know this is probably not a space that needs to hear it. But.

Nazis and Nazi-fighters are not morally equivalent.

Memorials to a nation's founders are not threatened by removal of memorials to its traitors.

It is not normal to have a president who fails to understand this. Or at least pretend to.

Thanks for listening.

Aug 16, 2017, 2:23pm Top

Amen, brother.

Aug 17, 2017, 9:13am Top

>216 Agreed. This Is Not Normal.

Edited: Aug 17, 2017, 10:41am Top


Thanks for commiserating. From the amount of criticism he's taking across the spectrum, I'm taking some hope that our country is better than this -- even those with whom I strongly disagree. (Is it weird that I'm bothered that I find myself admiring the ethical stance of Merck? And Wal-Mart? !@#$ing Wal-Mart?!? What's next, sympathy for Elsevier?)

Anyway, I'm not going to turn this into a Facebook thread. But I won't promise to drop it either. And I'm no longer calling him Whackadoodle, which is just a little too harmless-whimsical. He's FDT now.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:48pm Top


90) Tooth and Talon / Alex Hernandez

I picked this up because I enjoyed Hernandez's "Caridad," his contribution to Latin@ Rising. At the time of my comments I didn't call "Caridad" one of the standouts in that anthology, but have found that it stuck with me. The premise there is that a technology exists that will allow families to be psychically bonded in a way that benefits everyone in the family ... except for the person who acts as focus, whose personality is essentially erased. The horrific premise, with the themes of family and sacrifice, turned out to be haunting.

This novel is very different, and doesn't pack "Caridad's" punch, though it's still quite good. This one is set in a distant future, where most humans have been enhanced by nanomachines that maintain health and support longevity. Since everybody takes so long to die, Lebensraum is a major problem so colonies expand into space.

Problem is, some targets for colonization are already occupied. In particular, the colony ship Hurricane arrives at the planet Quetzalcoatl, which is home to a thriving population of raptors (or "harpies" if you happen to be human), genetically-altered human/dinosaur hybrids with an unpleasant history relative to humans. Well, "unpleasant" is an understatement: humans all but exterminated the raptors long ago and drove the few survivors into hiding. Let's say the raptors aren't happy to see the humans; on the other hand the humans aren't inclined to leave.

There's a lot to work with here, a large backstory, and some nicely imagined biology. It's not always told chronologically, and I found some of the choices for narrative order bewildering, but it's a good story. Family and sacrifice are still major themes, but so is obligation to communities beyond family. It wraps up nicely with room, but no urgent need for, a sequel.


Aug 17, 2017, 11:34am Top

Good morning, swynn. I hope all is well with you.

Random Q: aside from the pulp you've been sharing with us this year, what are some of your favorite sf novels?

Aug 17, 2017, 1:06pm Top

>219 MickyFine: What's next, sympathy for Elsevier?

Heaven forbid!

Edited: Aug 17, 2017, 7:14pm Top


Hi, Brodie! Favorite sf novels, oh boy! Oh wait .... wow there are a lot of them, and a lot that change over time. In high school I loved Piers Anthony, which ... well, not so much anymore. I was also enthusiastic about Isaac Asimov's Foundation, but recently sampling of some of his other stuff suggests that I might not find it so appealing today. I ought to revisit it.

Here are some choices I've sampled within the last ten years that I know still do that thing they did for me:

The High Crusade by Poul Anderson. If rereads are a measure, then this is my favorite. It's a story about an alien invasion during the Middle Ages, in which the aliens lose. On the surface it's a straightforward pulpy swords-versus-rayguns adventure story, but more deeply it's a meditation on our assumptions about technology and what the "advanced" means in "advanced technology." I've read it six or seven times, every time beginning with the thought that it won't be as good as the last time, and ending with the thought that no, really, it's darn near perfect. In fact, it's probably time for a reread.

Dune by Frank Herbert. This was the first sf novel that blew me away, in the sense of imagining a rich and utterly foreign culture. It was the recommendation of my 7th-grade English teacher (Mrs. Jacob -- one of the few jr-high teachers whose name I remember.) I was already addicted to sf adventures, and she thought I might be interested in something more challenging. She was right: I raved about Dune for months the way I obsessed about Star Wars a few years earlier. That one hasn't held up so well on rereads, though I've read it three times and still think it's very very good. The sequels never grabbed my attention the same way.

Pride of Chanur by C.J. Cherryh. This did for me what Dune did, but with a more gripping adventure narrative. I first encountered it years ago as a standalone... it took me a long time to get around to the sequels but when I did (thanks to a nudge from Roni) oh my gosh. Cherryh followed it up with a trilogy that was even better for its suspense and its political drama. I really need to read more Cherryh.

The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers. No contest, my favorite time-travel novel. It's about an academic who jumps at an opportunity to meet the obscure Victorian poet he's building a career on. Arguably it's more fantasy than science fiction, with its sorcerers, werewolves, and Egyptian gods but time travel so .... whatever it is, it's good. I've reread it once and found it just as terrific.

Perdido Street Station by China Miéville. This is one I read recently, only a few years ago. I'm not sure whether it's science fiction or fantasy, but it easily *could* be science fiction, and with a deeply weird aesthetic.

What would your picks be, Brodie? (And other visitors?)

Aug 17, 2017, 5:35pm Top

What a fantastic response, swynn. I appreciate you commenting on each one. you must be a whiz at the keyboard.

I'm glad you mentioned Foundation, because the original trilogy held up on second reading many years ago. Like you, some fancies of out youth (A-Team) don't hold up over time where other can stand the test of time (M*A*S*H). I think I, too will take another look soon. I remember loving the idea of psycho history, predictive science mass populations or some such. Take the psychohistory and then apply to specific crises which come off as short stories in their own right. Good stuff.

Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke remains a favorite of mine today. I was enamored of the idea of a giant deserted spacecraft roaming the galaxy. I was even more engrossed in the exploration of the craft by the crew sent to meet. Adventure, reasoning on the origin and purpose of the craft, and diversity of characters make it a favorite.

I'm not sure if I would call it a favorite, but Alfred Bester's The Demolished Man made quite and impact on me. It is the story of man planning a murder in a world where telepathy is common place, and as a result, crime is virtually non existent. The story features a Psi-cop who investigates the murder. Themes and story elements used by JMS in the creation of Babylon 5's Psi-Corps and Walter Koenig's character Bester.

Finally, I am unapologetic in my love of Peter David's Q-Squared which a Star Trek:TNG novel that explores a battle between two Q, on the character of Trelaine from The Original Series. The story starts with three separate timelines, each explored during TNG. As the battle rages between the two powerful beings, the walls between the timelines start to crumble. So we played by David.

Aug 17, 2017, 7:11pm Top

Good choices all. A couple of years ago I started reading through Asimov's works chronologically, but stalled pretty early. I liked them pretty well, but they didn't bowl me over the way I remember Foundation doing so long ago. I should pick up that project again.

I read Rendezvous with Rama for the first time just this year. I liked it a lot, and the sequel is currently in the car and my emergency read.

I read The Demolished Man about fifteen years ago, and didn't get it. I know that it's widely admired, so it's probably a right book/wrong time conflict. I should probably give it another chance. (I *am* a B5 fan.)

On the other hand, I've never been a Star Trek: TNG fan. This is largely because of personal failings -- first it was original-series snobbery, then it was Having Other Things To Do, and some uglier excuses. Which is too bad: I've recently watched both series on Netflix, and reluctantly think TNG is the better series, on balance. But that also means I've read very few of the tie-in novels. I'll put Q-Squared in the Someday Swamp.

Aug 17, 2017, 8:26pm Top

Wow, you both have some good ones listed there. I'll second Dune (and also didn't care for the sequels. Also Sundiver and the other Uplift War books. The Foundation books - at least the first few - are also faves, but I'm also fond of his robot stories/books. Also was a Heinlein fan.

And yeah, The Anubis Gates is awesome!

As is B5 - even did a binge on Netflix a bit ago.

Edited: Aug 17, 2017, 10:43pm Top

>226 The Uplift War is another series I keep meaning to get around to. Oh so, so many books!

Heinlein.. I know I ought to have read most of his work by now but I haven't. I think it's because I tried some of his stuff when I was much, much younger and it was the wrong stuff -- I remember trying but not finishing The Number of the Beast and Friday and The Cat Who Walks Through Walls. I didn't try any of his earlier stuff until I was older, and was really put off by Starship Troopers' politics. I think my window of opportunity for appreciating Heinlein may have closed.

Edited: Aug 18, 2017, 12:32pm Top

>222 swynn: I certainly hope it doesn't come to that, Micky. In the meantime I suppose FDT can use that as a slogan: "Maybe not more evil than Elsevier."

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:48pm Top

91) DAW #105: The Fall of Chronopolis / Barrington J. Bayley
Tagline: The Last and First Days of the Chronotic Empire
Date: 1974

Set in a future where ... hm. The setting is so complicated a description may try your patience. Let's try arranging points into a bulleted list.

  • Time travel has been invented.

  • The Chronotic Empire has developed a time-travel infrastructure, consisting of six evenly-spaced nodes up and down the timeline. Time travel is stable only between established nodes. This helps reduce paradoxes.

  • Time-traveling ships navigate through a five-dimensional stream called the "stratum." Travelers must stay on board the ship, because direct exposure to the stratum is psychologically damaging.

  • Communication between a ship and a node can only be accomplished via human couriers (because of reasons). Couriers are so damaged by their exposure to the stratum that they are mercifully killed after delivering a message. For this reason, courier duty is performed by condemned criminals.

  • Somewhere further down the timestream is a rival power, The Hegemony, which attempts to undermine the Chronotic Empire's power by altering its history.

  • The Chronotic Empire has an official religion, a variant of Christianity that views potential time, actual time, and the stratum as emblematic of the Trinity. Or perhaps the *actual* Trinity, I'm not clear. Anyway, adherence to the religion and its rites are strictly enforced and heresies are persecuted.

  • So of course there is a thriving heresy, the Traumatics, who believe that actual time is an illusion and the stratum is the only reality. Traumatics worship the true god Hulmu who lurks in the stratum and consumes human souls. The Traumatics perform human sacrifices.

Whew. That'll do for background though it leaves out *lots* of details. The story follows Aton, a commander of a time ship who loses his vessel in a battle with The Hegemony. Most of his crew is lost but Aton survives and is framed for murder by a handful of other survivors, who happen to be Traumatics. Aton is sentenced to courier duty, but manages to survive that also and finds himself joining an armada whose aim is to destroy the Hegemony. The mission fails, but instead Aton learns some secrets about the true state of the universe.

With all that background and all those details to fill in you might expect a pondersome, explication-heavy narrative. On the contrary, it snaps right along at an adventure's pace despite frequent brief pauses to unravel some paradox or spin a point of time-travel theology. The characters may not be very inventive, and the prose may not do much more than it must, but the story rolls along so quickly and the setting fills out so smoothly that really you don't mind. What you *will* mind is its nasty misogyny. There are exactly two significant female characters, of whom one is kidnapped and murdered, and the other is tortured and raped by the Traumatics with the aim of convincing her to participate in her own sacrifice. And it's not just one scene: the character's torment is extended through most of the book's length. All of the structural cleverness can't make up for the taste that will leave.

Cautiously recommended for its inventive worldbuilding and engaging plot, but with emphatic warnings about its sensibilities.

The sparkly cover is by Kelly Freas.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:49pm Top

92) Perry Rhodan 12: Das Geheimnis der Zeitgruft (= Secret of the Time Vault) / Clark Darlton
Date: November 24, 1961
Tagline: The time barrier guards one of the greatest secrets of the universe.

The story so far: Perry Rhodan has done it! His mutants with their mental powers have plunged the Topsiders into the worst sort of confusion, and have captured the Arkonide battleship that was the centerpiece of the enemy's space fleet. With this ship Perry Rhodan has nothing more to fear from the Topsiders, and now has the opportunity to return to Earth. And he does -- but he promises the Ferrons, humanoid natives of Vega, that he will return in order to drive the Topsiders out decisively. Besides, the system of Vega hides another secret: THE SECRET OF THE TIME VAULT, the mystery of eternal life which Perry Rhodan wants desperately to unravel ...

Rhodan returns to Earth, where he picks up a full crew for the Arkonide ship. The plans for the matter transmitter, however are false. So Rhodan returns to Vega with two missions: (1) defeat the Topsiders once and for all and (2) learn the secrets of the transmitter. Step 1 is pretty easy and involves slapstick comedy, as Rhodan's mutant corps sabotage the Topsiders' efforts. By the end of the adventure the remaining Topsiders have retreated far to the edge of the Vega system, on its fortieth planet. Step 2 is a little more difficult because the Ferrons are extremely reluctant to divulge anything about the transmitters, which were gifted them millennia ago by benevolent visitors from an advanced civilization. The Ferrons themselves don't even know details of the transmitters' construction, since plans are hidden in an invisible vault, whose key is a riddle the Ferrons have not been able to solve.

Perry Rhodan solves it. He also learns that the Ferrons' visitors claimed to live longer than the sun, which means he is hot on the trail of the legendary Planet of Immortality so sought-after by Crest and Thora.

Teaser for the next adventure: With the help of his mutants Perry Rhodan has in a fairly bloodless way driven the Topiders from the main planet of the Vega System. But the Topsiders are by nature most stubborn. They pull themselves back to the edge of the system where the build a fortress: THE FORTRESS OF THE SIX MOONS, where they continue their plans for conquest.

The cover is by Johnny Bruck. Bruck also provided five interior illustrations for the original edition. You can see all of them at the (German-language) Perrypedia webpage for the Heftroman.

Over at Ace, series editor Forrest J. Ackerman was looking for ways to cut production costs of the English translations.
He'd been packing two Heftromane into every paperback, and figured he could cut licensing and translation costs in half by cutting it to one per book. Beginning with The Secret of the Time Vault that's what he did. The move was probably financially necessary but left Ackerman with anther problem: barely enough content for a paperback. So he added essays, bonus stories or other filler in each volume. In The Secret of the Time Vault that filler included an introduction, an essay on "scientifiction" films, a letters column, and seven interior illustrations by Mike Gilbert.

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:50pm Top

93) The Caped Crusade / Glen Weldon

A history of Batman and Batman fandom, by a Batman fan.

Those who've seen Batman mostly on screen are aware of dramatic differences in presentation: from the campy television show of the sixties, to Tim Burton's goth sociopath, to Joel Schumacher's ... well, whatever Joel Schumacher was doing ... to Christopher Nolan's grim social philosopher. The comics have hit all the same notes with even more dramatic extremes, and hardcore fans have very specific ideas about which interpretation is the "right" one. It's Weldon's gift to the casual fan to recount the entire history with a mixture of affection and distance, pointing out aesthetic hits and misses of each incarnation.

For myself -- and this alone probably proves me No True Fan -- I am most fond of the Tim Burton version, and especially of the second one, Batman Returns, with its genial psychopathology and its army of doomsday penguins. Weldon says this isn't so much a Batman movie as it is a Tim Burton movie that has Batman in it. He's not wrong.

(You know what I'd really like? A John Waters movie with Batman in it. Someone hurry up and give him a license and a hundred bucks for production costs.)

It's thoughtful, snarky, and enthusiastically recommended to anyone with the vaguest interest in the character.

Aug 21, 2017, 8:23am Top

Chiming in to agree that Dune is *amazing.* I liked Rendezvous with Rama, too, but not enough to continue with the series, at least for now. I'm interested to see what you think of the second book.

Aug 21, 2017, 10:48am Top

>232 More Dune love!

Rama II has been in the car for a long time. Perhaps I shouldn't wait for an emergency.

Aug 21, 2017, 3:10pm Top

>231 brodiew2: I liked you review, but it sounds like the book sticks to televised or movie interpretation rather than a history of the comic book character. Either way, it's still cool.

>233 I liked the sequel series.

Edited: Aug 21, 2017, 4:39pm Top

>234 it sounds like the book sticks to televised or movie interpretation rather than a history of the comic book character ...

Then I've misrepresented it. My own experience with the character has largely been through movies and television, which is probably why my comments slant that way. But Weldon has a *lot* to say about the character in the comics, and about how the comic-book character and the televison/movie characters have influenced each other. He also talks about how trends in the comic book industry and popular culture have affected Batman's fortunes and character: from publishing booms and busts, to moral panics, to DC's various attempts at retroactive continuity. And the presentation comes off as thoroughly informed and affectionate, though not uncritically so.

Weldon seems most fond of the run by Neal Adams and Dennis O'Neal during the 1970s, and a bit put off by Frank Miller's humorless hypermasculine version, which he calls "badass" in a way that is at least mildly mocking. He also seems to favor Grant Morrison's run prior to the "New 52" launch, including Batman Incorporated, a title which I knew nothing about but which sounds very appealing. He's bemused by the book's narrative gimmickry in the 1960s and by the industry's marketing gimmickry in the 1980s. If you're familiar with the series you'll find plenty to agree or disagree with, and if not then he offers a good map.

And I really should get to the next Rama book.

Aug 21, 2017, 4:40pm Top

>235 Ok, so this one's really got my interest up now.

Aug 21, 2017, 5:00pm Top

>235 I appreciate the detailed response, swynn. Perhaps you should write a book. I love you easy going, yet fascinatingly informative style.

Aug 21, 2017, 11:15pm Top

>235 swynn: Are you a fan of comic-book Batman, Jim?

>236 Thanks, Brodie! I'll hold off on the book though. There are still so many of them to *read*.

Weldon has also written one about Superman, which is of course now in the Someday Swamp.

Aug 22, 2017, 10:17am Top

>238 In my younger days. I've kept up off and on over the years. Was interested in the comments on Frank Miller's Batman and hypermasculinity. That's been one of my thoughts with more recent incarnations as well.

Aug 22, 2017, 12:21pm Top

The Court of Owls story line from Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo is pretty compelling. However, for my taste, even mainstream comics are pushing the envelope violence wise. Batman and related titles, for DC, seems at the forefront of violence and mental instability.

Aug 22, 2017, 9:29pm Top

>239 I think you'd find Weldon's book interesting then. Hope you like it if you get around to it.

>240 I haven't read many comics for years, other than titles that find their way onto the Hugo ballot. I collected from the mid-1980s to the 1990s, and things got pretty violent then -- and Frank Miller's Batman was a piece of all that. Course I was young and ate it up. I'm less enthusiastic about it nowadays, but still enjoy something inventively over-the-top.

Aug 22, 2017, 9:36pm Top

>241 I got an email today telling me it's ready for pick up at the library... 😀

Edited: Aug 24, 2017, 2:50pm Top

94) DAW #106: The Metallic Muse / Lloyd Biggle, Jr.
Date: 1974
Tagline: Seven soaring science fiction sequences

Seven stories by Lloyd Biggle, most of them riffing in one way or another on the arts. Some of them never really break out of formula, but a couple are quite good. My favorites are "The Tunesmith" and "The Botticelli Horror."

The Tunesmith
Marketing companies have taken over the music industry: every song is a gingle, and professional musicians are contractually obliged to play no music without a sponsor. But tunesmith Erin Braque has other ambitions ...

Leading Man
A standard who-is-the-resident-and-who-is-the-keeper story, set in a mental institution.

Spare the Rod
A kindly old violin teacher is losing his students to a newfangled violin-teaching robot. He's not worried, though, because his years of experience have taught a thing or two the robot doesn't know yet.

Orphan of the Void
Tom Sandler is a soldier in the army of an intergalactic empire. He doesn't remember much of his childhood, only that he was raised by foster parents in a house that never felt like home. So when a pop-music earworm launches a nostalgic fad for "going home," it's not his foster parents' planet he yearns for. But finding the planet he *does* want to return to, will be a difficult project.

Well of the Deep Wish
After some sort of radioactive disaster, humanity is living underground. The production of popular dramas is big business, and one of the studios has a problem: their writers are falling off in productivity. Instead of writing, they pass too much time in "The Tank," a sort of virtual-reality space that simulates scenes intended for inspiration.

In His Own Image
A spacer fleeing a shipboard disaster comes to a nearly-abandoned space station. The only resident remaining is a loopy prophet who preaches to the station's robotic staff.

The Botticelli Horror
A sort of Venusian flying carpet monster escapes from a carny sideshow.

Cover art is by George Barr.

Aug 22, 2017, 10:28pm Top

>242 I look forward to your comments, Jim!

Aug 23, 2017, 12:02am Top

>243 Oh, I so enjoyed reading Biggle back in the 70s!

Edited: Aug 23, 2017, 10:23am Top

>245 I've only discovered Biggle recently, as part of the DAW project. Besides this one I've also read The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets, The World Menders, and my favorite so far, The Light That Never Was. This was his last for DAW so I probably won't read more of his stuff soon, but I do have Monument on my unread shelves so I'll probably get to that eventually.

Which Biggles are your favorites?

Aug 23, 2017, 10:02am Top

Oh my, it's been so long, but I see that I still have 6 of his books in my library. Besides the five you mention, I also have Silence is Deadly. Wikipedia tells me that this last one is one of 5 featuring the character Jan Darzek. I am sure I have read All the Colors of Time in that series also, but don't recognize the other three titles. I always enjoyed the way he wove the creative arts into his science fiction. I don't know at this point which of the ones I have were favorites, but obviously I have kept them all since the 70s so I must have liked them. Sounds like a good project for a reread sometime soon.

Aug 23, 2017, 8:51pm Top

>247 Hm, I haven't read any of the Jan Darzek books. I didn't even know the series existed. Of course, now that I know it exists I'm inclined to start reading it. Does anyone else have that problem?

Aug 23, 2017, 9:20pm Top

Nope, no-one *I* know...

Aug 24, 2017, 11:34am Top

>249 Yeah, I figured in this crowd it was just me.

Edited: Aug 25, 2017, 4:06pm Top

95) Thirteen Views of the Suicide Woods / Bracken MacLeod
Date: 2017

I saw this collection of short stories on a list of best horror fiction of 2017 so far. They're okay but most follow standard tropes. They're readable enough, and I'd read more, but they're not giving Joe Hill any competition.

Aug 25, 2017, 2:24pm Top

Happy Friday, swynn! I hope all is well with you.

Horror is definitely not my genre though I have a read a handful of Stephen King's early works. Not sf or horror, but I really enjoyed Orphan X recently.

Aug 25, 2017, 4:05pm Top

>252 Hi Brodie! I saw your warbling about Orphan X over on your thread. I'm keeping it in mind for my visit to the library this weekend.

Edited: Aug 25, 2017, 4:36pm Top

96) DAW #107: Flux / Ron Goulart
Date: 1974
Tagline: The face is unfamiliar but it's always me

This one is a romp about a youth revolt on the planet Jasper, in which teenagers are conducting sabotage and assassinations by suicide bombings. Ben Jolson, a shape-changing agent of the Chameleon Corps, goes to Jasper to track down the revolt's leader and put a stop to it.

These are the jokes, folks.

Goulart has a reputation for being one of science fiction's master humorists, but he just doesn't work for me. His stories have generally struck me as pleasant but silly and forgettable. This one unfortuanately has a touch of nasty, as so much of the humor depends on dialect and broad stereotypes. There are a handful of racial and homophobic slurs that I assume in 1974 were intended to be edgy, but are now (let's be generous) awkward.

Not recommended.

The cover, which bears no obvious resemblance to the contents and seems designed to depress sales rather than attract them, is by Jack Gaughan. It may be one of his lesser efforts. I prefer to think he read the book, had the same reaction as I did, and hoped to do potential readers a favor.

Aug 25, 2017, 4:48pm Top

>254 The cover, which bears no obvious resemblance to the contents and seems designed to depress sales rather than attract them

Ha! I suspect you outdid all of Mr. Goulart's alleged humor with just that one line, Steve. Well done.

Edited: Aug 25, 2017, 5:20pm Top

>254 He's a hippie chameleon dude! The art makes perfect nonsense. :-P

Aug 26, 2017, 8:17am Top

Is that really the Capitol dome on top of half a pyramid? Wow.

Aug 26, 2017, 7:28pm Top

>255 swynn: Thanks, Julia! I'd much rather have let Goulart do the work, but he'll get another chance soon.

>256 Well Jolson is a chameleon dude, and one of his diguises is a folksinger, but ... no. There is no reference to him as a blue-skinned noseless dude with no eyelids and a grille for teeth. I think it's supposed to be a robot. And there *are* robots in the story, but nothing like that.

>257 Yes. And again: not in the story, but I'm pretty sure the story in the cover art isn't much better.

Group: 75 Books Challenge for 2017

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