1958


The Cosmic Rape: “Bastits!”

The Cosmic Rape by Theodore Sturgeon

In Theodore Sturgeon’s International Fantasy Award-winning novel of 1953, More Than Human, six extraordinary young people with various extrasensory mental abilities blend their powers together to create what the author called a “gestalt consciousness.” And in his next novel, the Staten Island-born Sturgeon amplified on this idea of shared consciousness, but upped the ante quite a bit; instead of a mere half dozen souls forming one hive brain, Sturgeon posited the notion of a mind containing the thoughts and experiences of the life-forms of 2½ galaxies! The book was The Cosmic Rape, which followed More Than Human by five years. This ... Read More

Starman’s Quest: Silverberg doesn’t want you to read it

Starman’s Quest by Robert Silverberg

Editor’s Note: Being in the public domain, Starman’s Quest (1958) is available free in Kindle format. You can add audio narration for $2.99.

There’s an author’s note attached to various versions of Starman’s Quest at Amazon that goes like this: “This book is a very early and not very good work of the author, who has tried to prevent the issue of a new edition of it. Unfortunately, since it is no longer protected by copyright, he can't prevent its distribution, but he recommends that you choose some other book of his to read.” The audio version I listened to has a less dire warning: “This was my second novel which I wrote when I was 19, in my junior year at Columbia. I’ve written better ones since. But readers interested in the archaeology of a writing career will probably find much to e... Read More

Non-Stop: A classic that is vivid, brisk, entertaining

Non-Stop by Brian W. Aldiss

Number 33 of the Science Fiction Masterworks series, Brian Aldiss’ 1958 Non-Stop is indeed a classic of the genre (variant title: Starship). Standing well the test of time, the story is vivid, brisk, and entertaining — facets complemented nicely by intelligent commentary and worthwhile purpose. With Aldiss examining human nature in unusual circumstances to say the least, the underlying assumptions nevertheless exist closer to reality than the majority of sci-fi. Readily enjoyable on the surface, there remain several thought-provoking undercurrents waiting for the reader to explore.

Non-Stop is the story of Roy Complain, a disgruntled hunter of the Greene Tribe in Quarters. His brother was lost to the tangles years before and, in the first few pages, his wife is abducted by a neighboring tribe. Complain must... Read More

A Stir of Echoes: Matheson’s first supernatural outing

A Stir of Echoes by Richard Matheson

Richard Matheson is an author who never seems to let me down. The first two novels that I read by the man, I Am Legend (1954) and The Shrinking Man (1956), are superb and highly original sci-fi creations, and both have been memorably filmed. (I seem to be in the distinct minority in preferring the 1964 U.S.-Italian coproduction The Last Man on Earth, starring Vincent Price, over 1971’s The Omega Man, featuring Charlton Heston, although neither quite does justice to the I Am Legend original. The Incredible Shrinking Man, of course, filmed in 1957 with Matheson’s screenplay and starring Grant Williams, is one of the finest science fiction outings of the ‘50s.)

An... Read More

A Mirror for Observers: Aliens struggle over the soul of one young man

A Mirror for Observers by Edgar Pangborn

It's somewhat surprising that this 1954 International Fantasy Award winner has never found a very large audience in the SF genre. The writing style is reminiscent of Theodore Sturgeon or Ray Bradbury, very much focused on the characters and their inner thoughts and struggles, a big contrast with the more pulpy science and space-adventure tales featured in pulp magazines like Galaxy and Astounding.

I knew about A Mirror for Observers only because it was included in David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels. Although it is ostensibly the story of two undercover Martian Observers who battle over the heart and soul of a promising young boy, it basically breaks down to 65% character stud... Read More

Have Space Suit — Will Travel: Appealing space adventure for kids

Have Space Suit — Will Travel by Robert A. Heinlein

More than anything, Kip Russell wants to go to the moon, and that means he needs to go to college first — the best college he can manage to get into and pay for. So, with the encouragement of his father, who has (gleefully) pointed out the deficiencies in Kip’s public education (and complained extensively about taxes), Kip educates himself and works hard to earn money. When he enters a slogan contest for a national soap company, he hopes to win the money he needs for tuition, but instead he wins an old space suit which he engineers into a functional suit.

During a trial run in his new decked-out suit, Kip gets picked up by ugly evil aliens. On their spaceship he meets an eleven year old American girl named PeeWee and a cute cuddly alien they call The Mother Thing. Kip, PeeWee and The Mother Thing must foil the plans of the evil aliens. In the process Kip, who thought all he ever wanted... Read More

The Blind Owl: An unusual find

The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hedayat

My ongoing attempt to read all 200 books spotlighted in Stephen Jones’s and Kim Newman's two excellent overview volumes, Horror: 100 Best Books and Horror: Another 100 Best Books, has led me to some fairly unusual finds. Case in point: Sadegh Hedayat's The Blind Owl, which is — or so claims the Grove Press edition currently in print--"the most important work of modern Iranian literature." Originally published in Bombay in 1937 under the Persian ... Read More

Invaders from Earth: A perfect little sci-fi adventure

Invaders from Earth by Robert Silverberg

There is apparently a marked difference in the novels that sci-fi great Robert Silverberg wrote before 1967 and the ones he penned from '67 to eight or nine years after. Those two dozen novels of the 1954-'65 period, it has been said, are well-written, polished, plot-driven tales reminiscent of the pulp era of sci-fi's Golden Age. But after author/editor Frederik Pohl gave Silverberg freedom to write as he chose in '67, a new, more mature, more literate quality entered Silverberg's work, and the two dozen novels that he wrote during this second phase of his career are often cited as his best. Having just completed seven books from this late '60s/mid-'70s period, I was curious to check out one of the author's earlier works, just for comparative purposes.

At random, I selected 1958's Invaders From Earth, Silverberg's ni... Read More

Nine Horrors and a Dream: A horror collection

Nine Horrors and a Dream by Joseph Payne Brennan

Nine Horrors and a Dream is a collection of Joseph Payne Brennan's best horror tales, and was first published by Arkham House in 1958. The book consists of short stories that, for the most part, first appeared in the classic pulp magazine Weird Tales in the early 1950s; indeed, the book is dedicated to that great magazine, which ended its 31-year run in 1954. Prospective readers of Brennan's collection should be advised that this is NOT an easy book to acquire. It's been out of print for many years, and it took me a half dozen attempts at eBay auction before I could get my hands on a decently priced copy. But it was worth the trouble. This is an extremely enjoyable bunch of scary stories, and Brennan turns out to be an exceptionally readable author, writing in a clean and forthright style. The 10 stories in this collection run the gamut from the monstrous to the macabre, with many of them... Read More

The Languages of Pao: One of my favorite Vance books

The Languages of Pao by Jack Vance

Jack Vance
is known as a master stylist who, at his best, has an exquisite way with the written English language, a tribute in many ways to his idols P.G. Wodehouse and the unjustly forgotten Jeffery Farnol, among others, but Vance is also a writer of thought-provoking and unique ideas. The Languages of Pao is Vance at the top of his game as far as exploring unusual concepts. The premise of the story is based on a theory known as “Linguistic Relativity” or the “Sapir–Whorf hypothesis” and in layman’s terms it basically means that the language a person speaks shapes human thought patterns and behavior, in both individuals and societies. Vance has here taken the theory to its logical extreme conclusion in a far future time, where a group of “wizards” use the method to attempt to change the mindset of an entire planet to suit their own agenda.

Young Beran Penasper is heir to... Read More

To Marry Medusa: A beautiful but frightening speculation

To Marry Medusa by Theodore Sturgeon

Note: Here is Sandy's review of the related The Cosmic Rape.

Dan Gurlick is a pathetic human being, which is undoubtedly why nobody likes him. He has no identifiable positive personality traits, his motivations and desires are base, and he lacks the skills and knowledge to appropriately acquire the things he wants. Life suddenly changes for Gurlick when he accidentally ingests the spore of an alien hivemind named Medusa. Medusa has been all over the universe enfolding the collective minds of the species it finds. When Medusa becomes conscious on Earth, in Gurlick’s mind, it’s surprised to find that human brains are not connected. Perhaps humans have sensed Medusa’s plan and have protected themselves by disorganizing. The hivemind plans to use Gurlick’s limited brain to figure out how to put hu... Read More