1974.01


The Sentinel: Near-classic horror thriller

The Sentinel by Jeffrey Konvitz

I’d never heard of Jeffrey Konvitz’s superb horror/thriller, The Sentinel (1974), until I saw it promoted on a couple of discount ebook newsletters I receive. The cover, while lacking any subtlety, sold me on the whole horror-wrapped-up-with religion angle. And while the image may be a bit over the top, The Sentinel slow boils its simple premise and bubbles with persistent and pounding tension.

The Sentinel is reminiscent of Ira Levin’s Rosemary’s Baby, William Peter Blatty’s The Exorcist, and to a lesser extent William Hjortberg... Read More

The Forever War: An SF treatment of Vietnam

The Forever War by Joe Haldeman

William Mandella, a genius studying physics, has been drafted into the elite division of the United Nations Exploratory Force, which is fighting a seemingly never-ending war with the Taurans. After strenuous training with other elites on the Earth and in space, William and his colleagues are sent on various missions throughout the universe, traveling through black holes to get to each warfront. During each mission some of William’s friends die, but that’s expected. What’s surprising is that when he returns home, very little time has passed for him, but space-time relativity has caused many years to pass on Earth. Thus each time he comes back, he’s shocked by the changes that have occurred — changes in people he knows, changes in society, and technological advances which affect the progress of the war.

These changes are so drastic that Mandella, who was a reluctant soldier to begin with, would rather r... Read More

The Ginger Star: “The Queen of Space Opera” comes roaring back

The Ginger Star by Leigh Brackett

Old-time fans of Leigh Brackett’s most famous character, Eric John Stark, would have to exercise a great deal of patience after the first three Stark stories — “Queen of the Martian Catacombs,” “Enchantress of Venus” and “Black Queen of Mars” — appeared in the pages of Planet Stories magazine, from 1949 - ’51. It would be a good 13 years before the author revisited her “Conan of the spaceways,” and then it was to only revise and expand the first and third tales to create the short novels The Secret of Sinharat and People of the Talisman. Another decade would pass before Brackett touched on the character again (to be fair, Leigh was more of a screenwriter for film and television at this point in her career), but in 1974, the patience of her ... Read More

Hadon of Ancient Opar: Farmer plays in Burroughs’ world

Hadon of Ancient Opar by Philip Jose Farmer

To most general readers of science fiction, Philip Jose Farmer is probably best known as the creator of the RIVERWORLD series, and possibly also as the Golden Age writer who brought sex into the Science Fiction scene through his stories “The Lover” (1952) and Flesh (1960). He also loved to dabble in other author’s created universes, to the extent that he wrote numerous pastiches and fictional “biographies” purportedly by and about such characters as Edgar Rice BurroughsTARZAN, Kurt Vonnegut’s KILGORE TROUT, and DOC SAVAGE, just to name a few. Fans of Burroughs’ Tarzan books will probably remember that the erudite “ape-man” visited a lost city known as Opar in several of the books, ... Read More

Walk to the End of the World: Post-apocalyptic feminist science fiction

Walk to the End of the World by Suzy McKee Charnas

In the mood for a good piece of post-apocalyptic, feminist science fiction? Well, then, I've got a doozy for you! Suzy McKee Charnas' first novel, Walk to the End of the World (1974), is just such a book, combining a tough little tale with a healthy dose of sociopolitical rumination.

Taking place many years after mankind has destroyed its planet with wars and pollution, "leaving it to the wild weeds," Walk to the End of the World introduces the reader to the society of the Holdfast, a seaside community whose inhabitants subsist on the seaweed, kelp and hemp they manage to farm. Charnas reveals an extraordinary wealth of detail regarding the Holdfast's customs, religion and cultures; her depth of imagination, not to mention writing skills, are most impressive, especially for a beginner novelist.

Perhaps the most salient aspect of life in this post-apo... Read More

The Mote in God’s Eye: A classic First Contact story

The Mote in God’s Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

The Mote in God’s Eye, co-written by frequent collaborators Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, is a classic First Contact science fiction story which Robert A. Heinlein called “possibly the finest science fiction novel I have ever read.” The story takes place in 3017 AD in the future of Jerry Pournelle’s CODOMINION universe (though it’s not necessary to have read any of those books to enjoy The Mote in God’s Eye). Humans have developed the Alderson Drive which allows them to immediately jump to certain points in space. Thus they’ve been able to colonize many planets which are ruled by a single government similar to the British monarchy.

Up to this point humans have assumed they’re the only intelligent species in the universe, but an alien spaceship has just bee... Read More

The Seedbearers: Virtually unreadable

The Seedbearers by Peter Valentine Timlett

The 1970’s were the heyday of the “sword and sorcery” boom that started a decade earlier with the publication of pulp fantasy adventure writer Robert E. Howard’s CONAN stories by Lancer Books. The popularity of Howard’s newly rediscovered (at least to young fantasy readers such as myself at the time) work, coupled with the earlier surge of interest in fantasy spearheaded by the mass market paperback editions of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit and THE LORD OF THE RINGS published by Ballantine Books, led to a decade where mass market paperback fantasy books could be found almost anywhere: grocery stores, newsstands, and of course bookstores. The general plots of most of these works included barb... Read More