Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXXXI (Iain M. Banks, Mike Resnick, Sydney J. Van Scyoc, and David J. Skal)

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

1. Santiago: A Myth of the Far Future, Mike Resnick (1986)

From the back cover: “SEBASTIAN NIGHTINGALE CAIN: County hunter. You can call him Songbird–but only once. He’s after Santiago.

VIRTUE MECKENZIE: Freelance reporter. She never give up. She wants an interview… with Santiago.

THE SWAGMAN: He collects art–at gun point. He wants a few pieces currently in the hands of Santiago.

SANTIAGO: Bandit, murderer, known to all, seen by none… has he killed thousand men? He has saved a dozen worlds? His legend is as large as the Rim itself, his trail as elusive as a wisp of starlight in the empty realms of space. The reward for him is the largest in history.

SANTIAGO: Do you dare to chase him?”

Initial Thoughts: I have yet to read anything by Mike Resnick. I know this is outside of my self-imposed endpoint of 1985 by a year…. but…

2. Walking on Glass, Iain Banks (1985)

From the inside flap: “Graham Park, an art student, i on his way to meet the woman with whom he has been in love for months. She is an enigma to him. He is walking on air. He has innocence on his side.

Steve Grout trusts nobody, nothing. In the grip of a wholly justifiable paranoia, he knows that They are out to get him. He wears a safety helmet at all times as a precaution against invisible enemies. He does not know it, but the attack will come from the sky.

Quiss, an irritable old man protected against the cold of his shale castle by layers of fur capes, plays interminable, impossible games that are a prelude to a riddle. The answer to the riddle will release him. He is walking on glass.

These three men are on a collision course.

With the brilliance of language and penetrating understanding of human nature that inspired Andrew Greeley to call Iain Banks’ first novel The Wasp Factor, “one of the strangest stories of grace and redemption that it has ever been my privilege to read,” the author has produced a dazzling work of many dimensions. Walking on Glass is a story of the crime of innocence, the conspiracy of law, and the dark comedy of survival.”

Initial Thoughts: I’ve only read Banks’ The Wasp Factory (1984). One of multiple authors I wish I had discovered when I read SF more widely in my late teens and early 20s as I never got around to the Culture novels before I found my niche. Walking on Glass appears to contain some science fictional elements although it was not published under his full “Iain M. Banks” name that he used for his genre works.

3. Starmother, Sydney J. Van Scyoc (1976)

From the cover: “Centuries have passed since the first Earth colonies were founded, evolution has played cruel tricks. The backplanet [sic] of Nelding is an especially tragic case. There, an eruption of grotesque mutations has divided the colony into two hostile races.

Peace Cadet Jahna came to Nelding to care for mutant infants, and soon found herself the center of a strange rite. Hailed as the bearer of healing life by some, vilified as a force of devastation by others, was she the long-awaited deity from the skies–the awesome and legendary STARMOTHER?”

Initial Thoughts: I recently covered Van Scyoc’s first three published SF short stories. I look forward returning to her novels.

4. Scavengers, David J. Skal (1980)

From the back cover: “AT THE CHURCH OF THE EXTENDED MIND THE ULTIMATE SENSATION IS INHABITING THE MINDS OF OTHERS…

Now Tracy’s own mind was putty from their endless experiments. The injections she took kept her afloat… but on a sea of other people’s dreams and alien desires. Now she couldn’t live with them and she couldn’t live without them.

There Brian sought the remains of Kelly, his lover. He only wanted to bring her back, to salvage some piece of her for himself. He found the girl, Tracy, and made her a vehicle for his own experiment. And soon three minds grappled for life.. in a private hell only two could survive.”

Initial Thoughts: Skal passed away in January this year. I read his first-published short story “Chains” (1971) recently. It had potential.


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