Doc Smith isn’t one of my favourite authors. Recently, someone else’s review led me to wonder why I can ignore archaic writing styles to enjoy other pulp authors, but cannot do so for Doc Smith. One way to answer the question is to reread the very first Smith I ever read, Gray Lensman. This book was originally serialized in Astounding in 1939; I read a 1970s reprint of the 1951 novel version. I now know why I didn’t like Smith. I have to warn you, it’s a pretty stupid reason.
1957’s Star Born returns to the universe of 1954’s The Stars Are Ours! It is not a long book, but Norton manages to get more value out of her limited page count than later authors could do with much longer narratives.
I could tell, even before opening my mass market paperback of 1984’s Job: A Comedy of Justice, that it documented my increasing disenchantment with Heinlein, once one of my favourite authors. (You might not have guessed that from my recent reviews.) Rather than buying the book new, I had purchased a used copy from Mike’s Bookstore . Whoever owned it before me had left it worn and dog-eared before selling it. That person must have liked it more than I did. I don’t think I have reread it once since that first time in the mid-1980s. It’s not that it’s the worst thing Heinlein ever wrote; it’s more of a funny once and by funny once I mean “meh.” How the mighty are fallen.
Leonie Kooiker’s 1974 children’s novel De Heksensteen, offered to Anglophone audiences in 1978 under the title The Magic Stone, makes an interesting palate-cleanser after this week’s snarkfest. I am not familiar with the body of Kooiker’s work and all information available about her seems to be in Dutch … so I would guess that, for some reason, this book and its sequel, Legacy of Magic, weren’t big hits in the English-reading world. Pity.
I find Tricia Sullivan’s work interesting (even if I do not always like it) and collect her books when I can. Unfortunately, only a few of her books have moved to e (and even then they can be difficult to purchase ). Her non‑e books aren’t easy to find , which is why it took me so long to get around to reviewing a second Sullivan. To my great pleasure, I recently came across a copy of 1997’s Someone To Watch Over Me, a book which had been on my possibles list for the next Sullivan review. So … After an all too long delay, my second Sullivan review.
Yesterday I complained about a novel that was more obscure than it merited. Today’s review features a book that should be more obscure than it is, Anthony Burgess’s 1985, a thematic sequel of sorts to Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four. What this book deserves is 1111 words of me screaming incoherently. That would be a suitable riposte to a book that consists of a book’s worth of an elderly1 conservative moaning on about how the trade unions, women’s lib, gay homosexuals2, and Those Darn Kids ruin everything, leaving poor Britain supine before the virile might of the Islamic world. That might relieve my feelings, but it would not be amusing or instructive to read. So, have a review! A review resentful that I read this crap at all.
Clifford D. Simak’s 1963 Hugo-winning novel Way Station in many ways exemplifies the strengths for which Simak was known, as well as some of his characteristic weaknesses. Way Station is also an example of something that is quite rare amongst Hugo-winning novels: it is very much out of print, along with most of Simak’s oeuvre, a development that has left it undeservedly obscure. I may not be able to place the book in your hands but at I least I can remind people it exists.
Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1915’s feminist utopia Herland is the middle volume of a trilogy, being preceded by Moving the Mountain and followed by With Her in Ourland. I had not previously read this book and didn’t know what to expect. Well, given the time when it was written, I did expect some form of genteel racism, perhaps coupled with eugenics, and I wasn’t wrong. But there’s more here than that.
Antal Szerb was a major figure in the Hungarian literature of the first half of the 20th century, and his 1942 novel Oliver VII is a perfect confection of a comedy. It seems a great shame, therefore, that the novel was not translated into English until 2007 — although Len Rix’s translation is a fine one — and an even greater shame that the forty-three-year-old Szerb, who refused to be run out of his homeland by jumped-up thugs, was beaten to death by a fascist in 1945.