1968


Dark Piper: Intense and memorable for young readers

Dark Piper by Andre Norton

A decade-long war is finally over and the people who live on the planet of Beltane are relieved. During the war, Beltane, where many scientists lived, was recruited for the war effort and served, unwillingly, as an experimental lab. After the war, most of the scientists left the planet, creating a brain drain, and the people who remained were pacifists who looked forward to starting a new way of life without interference from the Confederation.

When a disfigured veteran named Griss Lugard is brought back home to Beltane, he warns the citizens that because the Confederacy has fallen, there is no law, and they shouldn’t trust people who want to come to Beltane because they might have bad intentions. While the citizens of Beltane are eager to accept and shelter refugees fleeing war-ravaged worlds, Lugard vehemently objects, arguing that some of the refugees could be pirates looking for government and mili... Read More

The Last Unicorn: Withstands the test of time

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle

Peter S. Beagle’s classic The Last Unicorn (1968) turns fifty years old this year, and it’s remained in the public eye and continues to capture hearts like very few fantasies of its age. Like a fine tapestry, this gorgeous fairy tale weaves together unicorns and harpies, wizards and witches, dark-hearted kings and brave heroes. Its lyrical language is embellished with whimsical humor and given heft by bittersweet life lessons.

A shy unicorn keeps to herself in her lilac wood, where time passes slowly, if at all, and leaves remain grain and never fall. But one day overhears passing hunters grumbling that they must be in the forest of a unicorn (“Creatures that live in a unicorn’s wood learn a little magic of their own in time, mainly concerned with disappearing”) and that this unicorn must be the last one in the world. Unable to find peace after hearing this, ... Read More

Dimension of Miracles: Absurd, amusing, thought-provoking

Dimension of Miracles by Robert Sheckley

A few years ago, Neil Gaiman produced a series of audiobooks called Neil Gaiman Presents in which he identified several of his favorite novels that had not yet been produced in audio format, found suitable narrators, and provided his own introductions to the books. I’ve purchased almost all of them.

In his introduction to Robert Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles (1968), Gaiman discusses his discovery of Sheckley’s work after reading about the... Read More

The Snail on the Slope: “Entirely inaccessible to the general reader”

The Snail on the Slope by Arkady & Boris Strugatsky

Chicago Review Press and Blackstone Audio have been translating and reprinting some of the Strugatsky brothers’ works and they’ve sent me review copies. I read Monday Starts on Saturday several months ago but never managed to write a review, which I feel terrible about because I really liked that book. I will try to review it soon.

Being familiar with their style -- which is bizarre, ironic, visually arresting, and funny -- I figured I’d like The Snail on the Slope (1968), too. Not so, but it was a close thing. I loved each individual sentence that the Strugatskys composed, and even some complete scenes, but when everything was put together, I could make no sense of it. The Snail on the Slope is the most incompre... Read More

Chocky: Wyndham goes out on a high note

Chocky by John Wyndham

Following the publication of 1960’s Trouble With Lichen, fans of the hugely popular English sci-fi writer John Wyndham would have to wait a good solid eight years for his next novel to be released. During that time, the author limited himself to the shorter form, coming out with 10 stories. One of those short stories was “Chocky,” which initially appeared in the March ’63 issue of the legendary American magazine Amazing Stories, which had been started by author and editor Hugo Gernsback back in 1926. Wyndham later expanded “Chocky,” and the result was his final book to be published before his untimely passing. As had so many other of the author’s previous works, the novel initially saw the light of day as a hardcover... Read More

Stand on Zanzibar: It’s time for everybody to read it

Stand on Zanzibar by John Brunner

George Orwell and Aldous Huxley were two writers who initially established themselves not only in the world of realist fiction, but also as effective observers on society. As a result, their later novels Nineteen Eighty-four and Brave New World are heralded as two of the greatest science fiction novels ever written, with literary purists even willing to make allowances despite the sci-fi leanings. Perhaps it is John Brunner’s misfortune that his career was established in the world of science fiction. When Stand on Zanzibar was published in 1968, only those within the genre took notice of its qualities. As poignant literature that transcends genre, it too comments with profound relevance on the human condition.

The book’s title is based on the idea that 7 billion people would require an area of land the size of Z... Read More

A Necklace of Raindrops: Eight charming children’s bedtime stories

A Necklace of Raindrops by Joan Aiken

Joan Aiken’s sweet collection of eight short children’s bedtime stories, originally published in 1968, has just been released in audio format by Listening Library. The audiobook is just over 1.5 hours long and is excellently and lovingly narrated by the author’s daughter, Lizza Aiken. It contains these stories:

“A Necklace of Raindrops”  ̶  Every year on her birthday, the North Wind gives Laura Jones a new raindrop for her necklace. Each raindrop gives Laura a special power. When a jealous schoolmate steals the necklace, Laura has to find it. Fortunately, since she is such a nice girl, she has friends to help.

“The Cat Sat on the Mat”  ̶  Emma’s impoverished family lives on a broken-down bus. When a fairy gives Emma a cat that grants wishes, Emma has the chance to make th... Read More

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?: Book vs. film

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

Ridley Scott’s 1982 film Blade Runner was arguably the most brilliant, though-provoking, and intelligent SF film ever made, with a uniquely dark vision of a deteriorated future Earth society and a morally ambiguous tale of a bounty hunter Rick Deckard hunting down and ‘retiring’ a series of very intelligent Nexus-6 type replicants (androids) that want very much to live. The movie changed the way moviegoers looked at SF films, and brought great credibility to its director and the genre for a much wider audience, although it was a box-office failure and Philip K Dick never lived to see the completed film. It raised questions of morality and humanity that are basically unanswerable, but presented this vision in a visually stunning, emotionally compelling and visceral story with complex characters and no easy ... Read More

The Einstein Intersection: New Wave SF with style but story lacks discipline

The Einstein Intersection by Samuel R. Delany

It doesn't get any more New Wave SF than this very slim 1968 Nebula-winning novel (157 pages), and it's hard to imagine anything like this being written today. The Einstein Intersection is a mythical retelling of the Orpheus and Eurydice story in a far-future Earth populated by the mutated remnants of humanity. Being a Samuel R. Delany book, the writing is disjointed, jazzy, lyrical, playful, and tantalizing. The surface events are fairly obscure, but it's clear that the real narrative is buried beneath, and in case you didn't catch on, every chapter has several obscure (and fairly pretentious) quotes from intellectuals, not least of all the author himself, who inserts between chapters snippets of his journals from his artistic travels in the Mediterranean while writing this book, in classic meta-fiction style. Even in a longer book I’d view this literary ... Read More

Nova: A New-Wave Grail Quest space opera from the 1960s

Nova by Samuel R. Delany

Nova is Samuel "Chip" Delany's 1968 space opera with mythic/Grail Quest overtones. It is packed with different themes, subtexts, allegorical and cultural references, and literary experiments, and the young author (just 25 years old) is clearly a very talented, intelligent, and passionate writer.

But I didn't enjoy it, sadly. While I thought Babel-17 was a very fast-paced, vivid and engaging space opera that centered on language and identity, Nova felt very turgid and forced. Why, you ask? Well, the author was determined to mold the story along the lines of a Grail Quest, Moby Dick, and Jason and the Argonauts, with the goal being a race to retrieve the super-material Illyrion from the heart of a recently-exploded n... Read More

The Creature From Beyond Infinity: Kuttner’s first novel

The Creature From Beyond Infinity by Henry Kuttner

The Creature From Beyond Infinity was the first novel published by Henry Kuttner, an author who was one of the half dozen or so pillars of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. It first saw the light of day in a 1940 issue of "Startling Stories" magazine under the title A Million Years to Conquer, and finally in book form in the 1968 Popular Library paperback that I recently completed. Although that original title may perhaps be a more accurate descriptor, the pulpier Creature title gives a truer feel for what this book is: pulpy as can be!

In it, we meet Ardath, the sole survivor when his Kyrian spaceship crash-lands on Earth while our planet is still in the throes of its infancy. Ardath is instructed by his dying captain to repair the ship, put it into orbit around Earth, go into hibernation stasis for several aeons, and await the coming of genius... Read More

Hawksbill Station: A grippingly well-told yarn

Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg

Although it had been over 45 years since I initially read Robert Silverberg's novella "Hawksbill Station," several scenes were as fresh in my memory as if I had read them just yesterday; such is the power and the vividness of this oft-anthologized classic. Originally appearing in the August '67 issue of Galaxy magazine, the novella did not come to my teenaged attention till the following year, when it was reprinted in a collection entitled World's Best Science Fiction 1968. Silverberg later expanded his 20,000-word story to novel form, which was duly published as a Doubleday hardcover in October '68. (So why then does the author's "Quasi-Official Web Site" list the book as a product of 1970?) It has taken me all these years to finally catch up with Silverberg's fix-up novel, but I am so glad that I did. To my delighted surprise — and I only say "surprise" because the author has long expressed his... Read More

The Masks of Time: A fantastic piece of work

The Masks of Time by Robert Silverberg

I had long thought that Philip K. Dick's 1964-'66 period was the most intensely productive and prolific streak that any sci-fi author of note has ever enjoyed, with nine major novels produced during those three years. But as it turns out, Robert Silverberg, seven years P.K.'s junior, has got him beat by a mile. During the three-year period 1967-'69, Silverberg somehow managed the superhuman feat of releasing no less than 15 novels — six in '67, three in '68 and six again in '69 — and all of them, reportedly, of a very high and literate quality. Silverberg's fiction began to mature immensely in '67, by which time he had already released some two dozen full-length sci-fi novels since his first in 1954, and a look at the book in question, 1968's The Masks of Time, will serve to reveal how capable a writer he had become by this point. ... Read More

The Heaven Makers: Short and thoughtful

The Heaven Makers by Frank Herbert

The Chem are a race of aliens unknown to humankind. Because they’re immortal, they’re bored. So, for entertainment, they broadcast drama TV from Earth. Fraffin is one of the most successful producers of human drama. Authorities from his home planet suspect he may be manipulating events on Earth, which is forbidden, so they send Investigator Kelexel to find out what’s going on. But Fraffin has a way of dealing with snoopy investigators. All he has to do is trap them by tempting them with Earth’s secret pleasures.

In actuality, Fraffin is indeed interfering with humans and creating his own dramas to boost his ratings. For his current project, which he’s been setting up for decades, he incites a well-respected man to brutally butcher his wife. Before being taken to jail, the man asks psychologist Androcles Thurlow to look after his daughter, Ruth, who is Thurlow’s ex-fiance. When Thurlow gets involv... Read More

Silver Surfer: Requiem

Silver Surfer: Requiem by J. Michael Straczynski (writer) and Esad Ribic (artist)

I truly enjoy Marvel's cosmic characters, and Silver Surfer is one of my favorites. The Requiem storyline is not only the first Silver Surfer title I recommend; it's also the first cosmic title I point new readers of comics toward. First published as four separate issues in 2007, it was put together as a trade in 2008. If you are new to Silver Surfer and Marvel's cosmic universe, this book is a great place to start because you don't need any previous information to appreciate it, you meet both the Silver Surfer and the Fantastic Four, there is serious thematic content that is of human relevance, and that content is conveyed with stunning art and made palatable by some excellent, but appropriate, humor.

Straczynski very clearly and concisely gives the background of the Silver Surfer in this trade; in fact, in the middle of the first issue of this s... Read More

Pavane: A beautiful collection

Pavane by Keith Roberts

Pavane, by Keith Roberts, is a beautiful collection of six connected stories written in an alternate England where Queen Elizabeth was assassinated and Philip II won the throne of England. The Protestant Reformation never occurred and Europe, as well as the New World, fell under the control of the Pope. Now it’s 1968 and because the Roman Catholic Church has held back technological advances from the people, the English still live in a feudal society complete with candlelight, castles, moats, monasteries, and much superstition, though the Church has allowed some steam-powered vehicles and the use of semaphore telegraph lines for communication. The Church has electricity, people know they have been repressed, and there are rumors of revolution.

The title Pavane comes from the Spanish-style dance which has six steps and a coda. Likewise, after the short pro... Read More