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Unashamedly elitist science fiction



June 25th, 2017

Edmond Hamilton (1904-1977) was an American science fiction writer. He was married to fellow science fiction writer Leigh Brackett. Crashing Suns, published in 1965, is a collection of some of his very early work in the genre dating back to the 1920s.

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May 15th, 2017

A Fall of Moondust was published in 1961 at a time when its author, Arthur C. Clarke, was at the peak of his powers as a science fiction writer. A Fall of Moondust is not quite typical of Clarke’s oeuvre, this being the closest he came to writing a science fiction thriller.

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April 5th, 2017

The Space Merchants is a science fiction novel written by Frederik Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth and published in 1953. It’s also one of the great dystopian novels of the modern era.

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March 23rd, 2017

Poul Anderson’s delirious science fiction romp The High Crusade was published in 1960. The basic premise struck me as one that could have made an amusing short story but I was rather dubious as to whether it could be sustained over the course of a novel. In fact Anderson manages to do so without any difficulty whatsoever.

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March 3rd, 2017

Rendezvous with Rama, which appeared in 1973, is one of Arthur C. Clarke’s more celebrated novels. I read it many years ago and although I liked it I felt that it didn’t quite compare to masterpieces like The City and the Stars and Childhood’s End. Reading it again my opinion is pretty much unchanged. It’s second-tier Arthur C. Clarke, but second-tier Arthur C. Clarke is still better than 99 percent of published science fiction.

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February 24th, 2017

The first time I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey I was, in retrospect, too young to appreciate it. I remember being wowed by the visuals but bored by the story. I saw it again years later and was rather more impressed. Now having seen it once again after the lapse of even more years I can finally see it as a masterpiece.

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January 1st, 2017

It’s a bit embarrassing to have to admit this but in 2016 I managed to read just three science fiction novels. Which makes it a bit difficult to do a Best Reads of 2016 list! However the three SF novels I did read were all quite good. So here they are, with links to my reviews.

The best of them was E. E. "Doc" Smith’s The Skylark of Space from 1928 which really is terrific fun space opera.

The other two were Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1929 The Maracot Deep, a rather strange but intriguing lost civilisation story, and Philip Francis Nowlan’s The Airlords of Han (also from 1929) which was the second of his Buck Rogers novels.

I did read a handful of SF short stories including Laurence Manning and Fletcher Pratt’s excellent 1930 tale The City of the Living Dead. And I reread C.L. Moore’s wonderful Northwest Smith adventures from the 1930s (which are perhaps more accurately described as a mixture of science fiction, fantasy and horror).

November 6th, 2016

The original dystopian novel.


Penguin Classics, 1924, 225 pages

Set in the 26th century A.D., Yevgeny Zamyatin's masterpiece describes life under the regimented totalitarian society of OneState, ruled over by the all-powerful "Benefactor." Recognized as the inspiration for George Orwell's 1984, We is the archetype of the modern dystopia, or anti-Utopia: a great prose poem detailing the fate that might befall us all if we surrender our individual selves to some collective dream of technology and fail in the vigilance that is the price of freedom. Clarence Brown's brilliant translation is based on the corrected text of the novel, first published in Russia in 1988 after more than 60 years' suppression.

Russians know dystopias.

My complete list of book reviews.

July 29th, 2016

The Airlords of Han

Pilot X
Philip Francis Nowlan (1888-1940) wrote a number of science fiction stories but is best remembered as the creator of Buck Rogers. Buck Rogers made his debut in the 1928 novella Armageddon - 2419 A.D. and later featured in a long-running comic strip (also written in its early days by Nowlan). The Airlords of Han, the second Buck Rogers novella, appeared in 1929. The two novellas were later republished in a single volume edition.

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June 13th, 2016

The City of the Living Dead, a short story by Laurence Manning and Fletcher Pratt originally published in Science Wonder Stories in 1930, has sometimes been claimed as an influence on The Matrix. In fact the story incorporates a number of concepts that would later be hailed as revolutionary when the cyberpunk writers rediscovered them half a century later.

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