Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXXX (Tim Powers, Octavia E. Butler, George Alec Effinger, and Tom Purdom)

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Which books/covers/authors intrigue you? Which have you read? Disliked? Enjoyed?

1. Dinner at Deviant’s Palace, Tim Powers (1985)

From the inside flap: “The civilized world had come to an end more than a century earlier, but in California life and society went on… taking strange, often horrifying forms.

Gregorio Rivas was a survivor–a proud, resourceful man who had, most recently, made his way from the corrupt, crumbling city of Venice to carve out a successful career as a musician within the walls of Ellay. He played his pelican with raw energy and flashy style, and people came from all over to hear him. But Greg’s real claim to fame had nothing to do with music. It was a part of his past he wanted to forget. And it had come back to haunt him…

A well-dressed old man stood at the bar watching the band play, and it took a few moments between the time that Rivas first noticed him and the unpleasant spark of recognition. It was Barrows, father of the girl Greg had loved some 13 years ago, and longed for ever since. Urania.

Barrows hadn’t been at all pleased at the relationship between his only child and a tenant farmer’s son, and he’d put an abrupt end to the romance–to the boy’s everlasting humiliation. Yet Greg managed to remain outwardly cool as he wandered over to join the man, well aware that there was only one possible reason for Irwin Barrows to seek him out.

It was Greg Rivas, redeemer, the old man wanted. For Urania had been recruited by the followers of self-proclaimed messiah Norton Jaybrush. Outsiders knew very little about the cult–just stories of Jaybrush’s “miracles” and incredible powers of mind control… and the disturbing fact that once a convert entered the Holy City of Irvine, he or she never returned. Grief-stricken families who could pay the price hired redeemers–contract kidnappers who would, with luck, bring lost sons and daughters home again before the cult’s mysterious sacrament burned out their minds. And of all the redeemers, Greg Ricas was the best. Because Greg had once been a Jaybird himself […].”

Initial Thoughts: Nominated for the 1986 Nebula Award for Best Novel. I have not read anything by Tim Powers — yet. Post-apocalyptic California cults? Count me in.

2. Clay’s Ark, Octavia E. Butler (1984)

From the back flap: “In the future where casual barbarism and criminality are rife, the kidnapping of his doctor and his two daughters in the desert seems hardly exceptional–except that the kidnappers seem hardly human.

Victims of a ‘close encounter’, the desperate abductors have become infected with an alien virus so insidious and deadly that they have become exiled from their own race. The compulsion to spread the infection is fierce–to resist it is sheer mental torment–but to submit means to surrender ones humanity, and be ruled by an insatiable physical hunger, unhindered by morality or restraint.

The tension between the kidnappers and the kidnapped is stretched to breaking point as the virus threatens to overwhelm not only them, but the whole of humanity, body and soul.”

Initial Thoughts: Last year I read, and mostly enjoyed, Butler’s Mind of My Mind (1977) in the Patternist sequence. I now own all the volumes but the impossibly expensive (and disowned) Survivor (1978).

3. The Wolves of Memory, George Alec Effinger (1981)

From the back flap: “NO ONE EVER RETURNS FROM THE FARAWAY PLANET CALLED HOME.

When the bumbling idiots of the human race turned over their cares and woes to the infinitely superior mechanisms of TECT, they clearly made a wise choice.

Take the case of Sandor Courane. TECT offered to make him a college basketball star. When it turned out he could barely dribble, TECT gave him a second chance as a science-fiction writer. And when no one bought his book, TECT offered him a comfortable job on the assembly line of a Japanese auto plant.

When Courane had the effrontery to flunk as a screw-turned, TECT was even kind enough to send him to a rehabilitation program on a lovely pastoral planet.

The end-of-the-line world called Home.”

Initial Thoughts: Acquired on suggestion of Mark Pontin, Friend of the Site. For some reason, this one had escaped my knowledge of Effinger… Mostly likely the next Effinger I read.

4. The Barons of Behavior, Tom Purdom (1972)

From the back flap: “Ralph Nicholson, psychotherapist to the psyched-out world, had discovered a terrible secret. Martin Boyd and his political machine were controlling all of Windham County by playing upon every psych technique in existence. Nicholson had only one way to combat Boyd’s machine and, incidentally, save his own life. Ralph Nicholson must built a better psycho-political machine to make the world safe for mankind’s collective mind.

But Nicholson face an established monster, and his only weapons consisted of his brain, his computer, his wife and finding the right dark horse candidate to be the puppet on his psychological strings. And while Nicholson searched and computer, Boyd’s machine was grinding ever closer to a final printout of mankind’s destiny.”

Initial Thoughts:  Tom Purdom (1936-2024) earlier this year. I thought I should go ahead and read a some more of his work. Check out my recent review of his odd story of group marriage: “Courting Time” (1966).


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