Reviews: Because My Tears Are Delicious To You

A Land So Wild and Savage

World’s Fair 1992 — Robert Silverberg
Regan, book 2


1970’s World’s Fair 1992 is the second in Robert Silverberg’s Regan series.

Would-be xenologist Bill Hasting’s essay on the possibility of life on distant Pluto was far-out stuff, but intriguing enough to win the teen a year’s stay on the 1992 World’s Fair Satellite. It’s not a vacation: he will have to work. Still, he’s enjoying a trip that others must pay $$$ to experience.

Life on the station is less exotic than one might expect.


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English Country Garden

The Day of the Triffids — John Wyndham

Although 1951’s The Day of the Triffids was not John Wyndham Parkes Lucas Beynon Harris’ first novel, it was the first that he published under the name John Wyndham. It established him as the master of the Cozy Catastrophe.

His eyes bandaged thanks to an injury, Bill Masen cannot see the wondrous meteor shower that lights up Earth’s sky. As a consequence, he is spared the side-effect that manifests the following day: total blindness. As most of the human population had ooh’d and ah’d at the sight, most of them are blind.

It gets worse.

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Not So Little Boys

The Ship Who Sang — Anne McCaffrey
Brainships, book 1

Anne McCaffrey’s 1969’s The Ship Who Sang is a fix-up of SF stories published 1961–1969.

Hideously disfigured Helva might have been humanely euthanized, as was routinely done to those outside the norm for her time and place. But she had a brain worth salvaging. Helva survived the conversion process and was reborn as … the brain of interstellar ship XH 834.


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Cherry Lips

The Dragon — Jane Gaskell
Atlan, book 2

The Dragon is the second half of the original 1963 hardcover edition of Jane Gaskell’s The Serpent, which in turn is the first part of the Atlan series. Publishers, am I right? Let’s call it book two of the Atlan series and move on.

Thanks to the tumultuous events towards the end of the previous instalment, Cija is on the run. She manages to hide in plain sight, as her friend Smahil’s lover. Smahil insists on making this pretense real. It’s probably for the best that Cija does not know that Smahil is her half-brother.

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Someone Out There

Shakespeare’s Planet — Clifford D. Simak

Clifford D. Simak’s 1976 Shakespeare’s Planet is a standalone SF novel.

Carter Horton wakes from hibernation to the news that his starship’s long voyage in search of an Earthlike world has finally succeeded. Unfortunately, this quest took a thousand years in the ship’s frame of reference and even more in Earth’s frame of reference. All of his human companions died in a mishap centuries ago. His only remaining companions are his Ship’s mind and an obsequious robot named Nicodemus.

Oh, and Ship refuses to head back to Earth on the grounds that enough time has passed to make their quest utterly pointless.

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Spare Me Over

A Princess of Mars — Edgar Rice Burroughs
Barsoom, book 1

1912’s A Princess of Mars is the first book in Edgar Rice Burroughs’ interminable Barsoom series.

Having fought on the losing side of the Slavers’ Uprising, Captain John Carter heads west to see what he can steal from North America’s indigenous population. Cornered by a Native American warband, death seems inevitable … but as is the way of portal series, Carter finds himself transported to an entirely unfamiliar world.

Carter is on dying Mars, or as its inhabitants call it, Barsoom.

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No More Ashes, No More Sackcloth

Panic in the Year Zero! — Ray Milland

Ray Milland’s 1962’s Panic in Year Zero! is a film about surviving an atomic war. John Morton and Jay Simms’ script was based (without credit) on Ward Moore’s “Lot” (1953) and “Lot’s Daughter” (1954).

Los Angelinos Harry Baldwin (Ray Milland), wife Ann Baldwin (Jean Hagen), son Rick Baldwin (Frankie Avalon), and daughter Karen Baldwin (Mary Mitchell) set out early one morning for a camping trip at rustic Shibes Meadow, a trip for which Harry seems the main enthusiast. Their timing proves fortunate. Soon after they reach country roads, mysterious bright flashes signal the end of the Baldwin’s comfortable middle-class life.

The mushroom clouds growing over Los Angeles confirm what the bright flashes suggested. America’s enemies have struck with atomic force on Los Angeles. Although Ann’s mother may still be alive in flaming LA, Harry soon gives up any hope of rescuing the superfluous old lady (played by nobody, as she never appears on screen). Instead, he focuses on saving his family from the chaos to come.

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Like a Bird in a Nest

The Serpent — Jane Gaskell
Atlan, book 1

1963’s The Serpent is the first volume in Jane Gaskell’s Atlan series.

Long, long ago, before Atlan and Mu sank, when humanity still lived alongside the brontosaurus, Cija was raised in an isolated palace by servants of her Dictatress mother. Now seventeen, Cija chafes at the restrictions under which she must live.

The Dictatress descends upon the palace and Cija’s life changes in an instant.

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Looking Down on Creation

Riding the Torch — Norman Spinrad

Norman Spinrad’s 1974 Riding the Torch is a standalone science fiction novella.

Mistakes were made. Earth is a lifeless cinder. Before the planet was seared, a small fleet of interstellar ships managed to escape. Surely somewhere in the sky, there must be a second Earth.

A thousand years later, the torchships are still looking. On and on they travel, harvesting the materials they need to survive and prosper from the interstellar void.

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Lost in the Garden of Eden

The City of the Sun — Brian M. Stableford
Daedalus Mission, book 4

1978’s The City of the Sun is the fourth novel in Brian M. Stableford’s Daedalus Mission series.

Earth’s first expedition to recontact its abandoned colonies found only empty worlds, worlds where colonists had been overwhelmed by local conditions. The Daedalus Mission is the second expedition, sent out to assist colonies when possible and to determine the reason for the colony’s demise if defunct. Thus far the crew of the Daedalus (Nathan, Linda, Conrad, Karen, Pete, Mariel and Alex) have found two surviving (if odd) colonies and one world where humans were horribly transformed by unforeseen local conditions.

As far as they can tell from orbit, Arcadia seems to have failed utterly. Then the expedition spots one lone city.

Here there be spoilers

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Up Where We Belong

The War in the Air — H. G. Wells

H. G. Wells’ 1908’s The War in the Air is a standalone near-future (from the perspective of 1908) military thriller.

The inevitable march of progress has transformed bucolic Bun Hill into a thriving London suburb. Greengrocer Tom Smallways views this change (and change in general) with the deepest suspicion. His brother Bert, on the other hand, is eager to embrace change, particularly of the sort that involves Bert becoming wealthy.

Middling bright and uninhibited by any particular sense of ethics, Bert has thus far been denied the riches to which he is so clearly entitled, riches that would enable him to marry the charming Edna. When fate drops into Bert’s lap the chance to make a fortune by selling stolen military information to the Germans, patriotism inhibits Bert not at all.

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On the Road Again

The Man of Bronze — Lester Dent
Doc Savage, book 1

Lester Dent’s 1933 The Man of Bronze is the first volume in the Doc Savage series. It was published under the house name Kenneth Robeson and was followed by 180 further adventures (penned mostly by Dent) until the title was cancelled in 1949. There have been further sequels and adaptations, as detailed here.

Trained from birth to be a paragon of human achievement, Clark “Doc” Savage is the Man of Bronze: a gigantic, extraordinarily talented genius who is monumentally wealthy as well. He uses his abilities to better the world.

Clark “Doc” Savage returns from a sojourn in his arctic Fortress of Solitude to face a tragedy. In his absence, his father, Clark Savage senior, has died of a mysterious illness. No sooner does Doc convene with his five chums on the 86th floor of a skyscraper to discuss the matter than a mysterious red-fingered sniper tries to murder Doc. Something is up!


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Worry, Worry, Scurry, Scurry

Earthwreck! — Thomas N. Scortia

Thomas N. Scortia’s 1974 Earthwreck! is a standalone near-future SF novel.

Captain Quintus Longo leaves his wife and children for what he believes will be a routine tour of duty on the American space station1. Thanks to a bold gambit by Japanese and Palestinian terrorists, it is the last time Longo sees his family alive.

The first hint the world gets that terrorists have seized control of the Arab Republic nuclear weapons comes in the form of three kiloton-range nuclear explosions in Tel Aviv. The Israelis respond with a megaton-range strike on the Aswan Dam. Millions die in Israel and Egypt; tragic but not world-ending. Russia and China back opposing sides in the conflict, but the Soviet-Chinese clash that follows isn’t necessarily the apocalypse, since both sides initially limit themselves to battlefield nukes. The United States issues an ultimatum to China and Russia: negotiate or face American fury. Rather than forcing the Russians and Chinese to stand down, the result is a full scale global thermonuclear war.

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In the Arms of the Angel

Passenger to Frankfurt — Agatha Christie


Agatha Christie’s 1970 Passenger to Frankfurt is a standalone thriller and dystopian novel.

Sir Stafford Nye’s diplomatic career is less due to any aptitude for the job and more because in the gently declining post-Empire world, no better candidate presented themself for the job. On his way back from another fairly pointless summit in Malaya, Nye’s one noteworthy characteristic catches the eye of a desperate spy.

His bold fashion sense.

Spoilers follow.


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Welcome to the Future

The Day After Tomorrow — Robert A. Heinlein


The Day After Tomorrow is an alternate title for Robert A. Heinlein’s mercifully standalone Yellow Peril novel, Sixth Column.

Fifty years after the Noninterference Act ended contact between America and PanAsia, PanAsia launches a sudden and overwhelming attack on the US. Armed with superior military intelligence and impressive weapons, the PanAsians crush the Americans. Having won the war, the PanAsians move onto the next phase of their plan: reducing white Americans to slaves in a land they once called their own.

All is not lost. The Citadel remains, an advanced military research facility overlooked by the PanAsians. It is America’s last hope.

If only most of the personnel were not dead.

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The Company of Strangers

The Ginger Star — Leigh Brackett
Skaith, book 1

1974’s The Ginger Star is the first volume in Leigh Brackett’s extra-solar planetary adventure series set on the planet Skaith.

Eric John Stark was raised by savages on Mercury. Unforgiving Mars honed him into a man of action. A grim loner by nature and circumstance, he is fiercely loyal to a select few. Among those chosen few is Stark’s human foster father, Simon Ashton.

When Ashton is reported to have been kidnapped on the dying world Skaith, Stark does not hesitate to race to Ashton’s rescue.

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Static Connection

A For Andromeda — Sir Fred Hoyle & John Elliot
Andromeda, book 1

Sir Fred Hoyle and John Elliot’s 1962 A For Andromeda is the first of two Andromeda novels. It is a novelization of Hoyle and Elliot’s 1961 television SF serial drama of the same name.

In the distant future of 1970, Britain is increasingly under the sway of an America on whom the British are dependent for defense against the Warsaw Pact nations. Once a mighty imperial power, now it enjoys also-ran status. It does have one accomplishment of which it can be proud: the Bouldershaw Fell Radio Telescope, the most powerful radio telescope on Earth.

Almost immediately following Bouldershaw’s activation, the grand device detects a signal coming from a star in the direction of the constellation Andromeda.

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The Other Side of the Mountain

The Guardian of Isis — Monica Hughes
Isis, book 2

1981’s The Guardian of Isis is the second volume in Monica Hughes’ Isis trilogy.

Fifty-five years after Pegasus II delivered eighty-odd colonists to Isis, sole habitable world of the star Ra, the human numbers have swelled to about eight hundred. Only a few of the original colonists are still alive. David London is one of those few. When his father died, David grabbed the office of president for himself. He has never stepped down. David has spent his long decades in power enforcing his vision of the perfect community: advanced technology forbidden, strict taboos imposed, women reduced to the status of domestic animals. Above all: no exploration of the world outside their small valley.

Jody n’Komo, one of those eight hundred colonists, is the grandson of one of David’s bitter (vanquished) rivals; he has the misfortune to look like his grandfather. David has transferred all the hate he felt for the grandfather to the grandson. Sooner or later, he will find some crime for which to punish young Jody.

Spoilers.

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Goodbye Stranger

Cycle of Fire — Hal Clement

1957’s Cycle of Fire is a young-adult novel by Hal Clement.

Marooned in a vast lava field by a glider crash, Dar Lang Ahn undertakes to march out on foot. It’s only after he has set out that he realizes that the march will be much harder than he expected. He and his precious cargo of books might be lost forever.

An unexpected encounter saves Dar’s life and his books. Immediate consequences: benign. Long-term consequences: wrenching transformation for Dar’s people, the natives of the world Abyormen.

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Cross the Mighty Ocean

Exiles to Glory — Jerry Pournelle

Jerry Pournelle’s 1978 Exiles to Glory is a young-adult SF novel. It is set in the same universe as the Laurie Jo Hansen stories (after “Consort” but well before “Tinker”).

Although born a welfare parasite, Kevin Senecal has resisted the call of drugs and welfare-state-subsidized indolence. His engineering degree is within grasp. With degree in hand, he can stride into the life of desperation that is every decent, clean American’s birthright. That is, if he can convince the Umbridge-like bureaucrats who rule the university to let him graduate.

His academic status becomes… academic when Kevin is ambushed by filthy welfare barbarians determined to burn him alive. Kevin escapes with his life, badly injuring one gang member and killing another in the process. Now the gang is determined to kill Kevin. They do kill both of his cats.

A cop warns Kevin off; it’s no use to appeal to the police. Kevin would only be charged and convicted of assaulting and killing minors. Too white and hard-working to expect a fair trial, Kevin takes the only other option open to him: he heads into space.

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Whole World’s Upside Down

The Other Side of the Sky — Arthur C. Clarke

1958’s The Other Side of the Sky1 is a collection by Arthur C. Clarke. The Signet MMPB is only 160 pages long, but there are two dozen stories in this book. Most are rather short.

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Moments Remaining in a Burned Out Light

The Flight of the Horse — Larry Niven

1973’s The Flight of the Horse is a collection of Larry Niven stories. It is almost but not quite a collection of stories about hapless time-traveller Svetz, whose career is blighted by the fact that Niven thinks time travel, unlike FTL drives and telepathy, is ludicrous.

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Honest Pay and Fair Treatment

Four-Day Planet — H. Beam Piper

1961’s Four-Day Planet is a standalone young-adult novel set in the Federation period of H. Beam Piper’s Terra-Human future history.

Teen journalist Walt has lived his whole life on Fenris. He’s one of the ten thousand people who call that odd world home. They are isolated and poor; they languish under a corrupt government. Life can only get worse … or so it seems.

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Dance Fever

House of Stairs — William Sleator

1974’s House of Stairs is a standalone young adult novel by William Sleator.

In a not-too-distant future, five children — timid Peter, unruly Lola, confident Oliver, accommodating Abigail, and cunning Blossom — are consigned by the authorities to the House of Stairs. Although they have very different backgrounds and personalities, all five of them share one characteristic: they are all wards of the state.

Make that two things: Nobody will ever miss any of them.

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I’ve Got Money Now

Gateway — Frederik Pohl
Heechee, book 1

1977’s Gateway is the first novel in Frederik Pohl’s Heechee series.

Robinette Broadhead has wealth and status, so why is he so miserable? The answer lies in the past, in the source of Broadhead’s money: the alien starport humans call Gateway.

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