1971.01


Android at Arms: A prince wonders if he’s an android

Android at Arms by Andre Norton

This year Tantor Media has been producing audio editions of the Baen omnibus collections of Andre Norton’s science fiction stories. Gods and Androids (2004 in print, 2021 in audio) contains the two novels Android at Arms (1971) and Wraiths of Time (1975). I am reviewing the novels separately because that’s how they were originally released, and that’s usually been our practice here at Fantasy Literature. Each of these stories stands alone.

In the opening scene of Android at Arms, Andas Kastor comes to consciousness in some sort of automated jail cell on a harsh uninhabited planet. He has no idea how long he’s been there or how long he’s been in a state of delirium. In fa... Read More

The Pastel City: A baroque, decaying, phantasmagoric dream city

The Pastel City by M. John Harrison

Viriconium sits on the ruins of an ancient civilization that nobody remembers. The society that was technologically advanced enough to create crystal airships and lethal energy weapons is dead. These Afternoon Cultures depleted the world’s metal ores, leaving mounds of inscrutable rusted infrastructure with only a few odds and ends that still work. The current citizens of Viriconium are baffled by what they’ve dug up, but they have no idea what any of it is for.

tegeus-Cromis, “who fancies himself a better poet than swordsman,” used to be Viriconium’s best fighter until he left the Pastel City after King Methven died. But Viriconium is now under threat — young Queen Jane, Methven’s daughter, is about to lose the empire to her evil cousin. Queen Jane needs the help of the men who once served her father so faithfully, so she sends tegeus-Cromis to find and take command of her army. A... Read More

The Knight of the Swords: Begins as a tale of revenge, but becomes much more

The Knight of the Swords by Michael Moorcock

I started reading Michael Moorcock only a few years ago, and already he is one of my favorite authors. And the six-book CORUM series, for me, is second only to the ELRIC saga. In some ways I like better that Corum’s story is complete within these six volumes, unlike Elric’s, which never ends as Moorcock continues to add new stories (though he has, at least, written the story that tells of Elric’s end as a character). The basic story is that Corum, a being of an older race in its decline, is confronted by the upstart creatures Man, who attack Corum’s people, systematically destroying them all, leaving Corum the last of his race. Corum’s story is, at first, his simply seeking revenge, but what makes the story great is that his revenge eventually is channeled to a hig... Read More

The Exorcist: Deep, dark, literate horror

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty

Sometimes I wish there weren't so many amazing books to read. Because every once in a while I come across a book so intricate, so subtle, and so intense, that without a second, slower, read, I know there is zero chance that I capture a true understanding the book in its entirety.

William Peter Blatty's The Exorcist is that kind of a book. It's creepy, crude and scary. On more than one evening while reading in bed, I found myself half jumping across the room only to find the cat poking his head through the door to see if it was breakfast time. One morning on my bus ride into work, I almost elbowed a poor woman in the head, so throughout engrossed I was in Blatty's deeply affecting novel.
What looked like morning was the beginning of endless night.
The Exorcist, which Blatty converted into the screenplay of the wel... Read More

To Your Scattered Bodies Go: The Riverworld is fascinating

To Your Scattered Bodies Go by Philip Jose Farmer

After he died, the famous 19th century explorer Sir Richard Francis Burton wasn’t surprised to find that what the Christian priests had taught about the Resurrection wasn’t true. But he was totally bewildered by what actually happened. He woke up young, hairless, naked, and turning in midair (as if on a spit) in the middle of 37 billion other young, hairless, naked and rotating humans. Soon after waking, the bodies — all the people over the age of five who had ever lived — plunged to the ground and began their new lives together in a giant river valley... Is this Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, or is it some huge social experiment being run by aliens?

Most of the humans, happy that their basic needs are being met, are content to just be living again. Some people see... Read More