The Forgotten Beasts of Eld: A supremely entertaining book

The Forgotten Beasts of Eld by Patricia McKillip

As one of Patricia McKillip's earlier works, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld provides an interesting comparison to her first publication Riddle-Master, a dense trilogy that made the most of her trademark poetic-prose. On the other hand, The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is a relatively slim volume with a clear concise style and a straightforward story. Since then, McKillip has managed to successfully merge the aspects of both works in her later works, but The Forgotten Beasts of Eld is by no means an example of a new writer still trying to find her voice. Far from it: The Forgotten Beasts of Eld has a fascinating premise, intriguing character interactions and a rewarding conclusion.

Sybel is the solitary wizard of Eld Mountain, living in a great white house with a ... Read More

Concrete Island: Stranded in modernity like a latter-day Crusoe

Concrete Island by J.G. Ballard

In the early 1970s, J.G. Ballard was busily creating modern fables of mankind’s increasingly urban environment and the alienating effect on the human psyche. Far from humans yearning to return to their agrarian and hunter-gatherer roots, Ballard posited that modern man would begin to adapt to his newly-created environment, but at what price? Ballard’s protagonists in Crash (1973), Concrete Island (1974), and High-Rise (1975) are modern, urbane creatures, educated and detached, who embrace their technology-centric lifestyles. But when conditions change, their primitive urges and psychopathologies emerge to horrifying effect.

In Concrete Island, a modern-day retelling of Robinson Crusoe, Ballard introduces the... Read More

Born With the Dead: Three shorter pieces from one of science fiction’s best

Born With the Dead: Three Novellas About the Spirit of Man by Robert Silverberg

Born With the Dead gathers together three of Robert Silverberg's mid-career science fiction novellas into one remarkably fine collection. With a length greater than a short story or novelette but shorter than a full-length novel, these three tales clock in at around 55 to 70 pages each, and all display the intelligence, word craft and abundance of detail common to all of Silverberg's work in the late '60s to mid-'70s. Although subtitled "Three Novellas About the Spirit of Man" on its original 1974 release, the collection features a trio of tales that, strive as I might, I cannot find a common denominator among. Two of the stories concern how mankind deals with the subject of death, while the third has man's relation to religion and God as its central theme. OK, I HAVE thought of some commonalities among all three: They are all wonderful exemplars of modern-day sci... Read More

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said: A fan favorite

Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said by Philip K. Dick

Despondent over the failure of his fourth marriage and at the same time stimulated to fresh creativity after his first mescaline trip, cult author Philip K. Dick worked on what would be his 29th published science fiction novel, Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said, from March to August 1970. Ultimately released in 1974, an important year in Phil's life (the year of his legendary "pink light" incident), the book went on to win the prestigious John W. Campbell Memorial Award, was nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and has been a fan favorite ever since.

Incorporating many of the themes, tropes and obsessions that would later be subsumed under the adjective "phildickian," Flow My Tears, The Policeman Said introduces the reader to Jason Taverner, a popular singer/TV variety show host in the Los Angeles of 1988. It is a typically dystopian Dick future, in whic... Read More

The Wizard in the Tree: Not up to usual quality

The Wizard in the Tree by Lloyd Alexander

All the wizards have long since departed this land for Vale Innis — but one has been left behind. When Mallory's favorite oak tree is felled, she finds a surprising discovery inside: an old wizard named Arbican who's desperate to follow his fellow wizards across the sea. The orphaned Mallory has grown up with stories of magic and enchantment, and couldn't be more delighted with the discovery — especially if there's a chance that she can go with him. Mallory does not have the most wonderful life as scullery maid to the nasty Mrs Parsel, but Arbican has bigger problems: his magical powers have been severely depleted, and if he does not reach Vale Innis soon, he faces imminent death.

It sounds like another wonderful Lloyd Alexander story, but sadly The Wizard in the Tree falls short on several levels. It is a very slim novel, and so does... Read More