Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXXXII (Vernor Vinge, Brian Stableford, Joan Cox, and Pierre Boulle)


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

1. The Witling, Vernor Vinge (1976)

From the back cover: “Witling: A pretender to wit. (Webster’s Dictionary)

In the eyes of the inhabitants of Giri the scientific explorers from outer space were witlings. In the context of that primitive-seeming planet, they were.

Because on Giri a peculiarity of evolution had given a special talent to all living things–and this talent had made unnecessary most of the inventions associated with intelligent life elsewhere. Roads and planes, engines and doors… these were the products of witlings, not of ‘normal’ people.

So when the little band from Earth’s exploration team fell into Giri hands, their problem was unprecedented. How to demonstrate that science is worthwhile and how to keep the medieval masters of Giri from realizing their potential for cosmic mischief.”

Initial Thoughts: Vernor Vinge passed away on March 20th. Here’s Rich Horton’s obituary in Black Gate. I thoroughly enjoyed his fiction before I started my website: I’ve read A Fire Upon the Deep (1992), A Deepness in the Sky (1999), The Peace War (1984), Marooned in Realtime (1986), Rainbows End (2006), and “Grimm’s Story” (1968). I thought I’d acquire some of his work that fit the perimeters of my site that I’d missed. I have a collection of his short fictions arriving any day as well.

2. To Challenge Chaos, Brian Stableford (1972)

From the back cover: “They named the planet Chaos X, because one hemisphere was not in this universe–and no one who ventured there would ever return. They named the other universe Ultra, because it was beyond the laws of the Milky Way galaxy. It was only by means of Ultra’s non-Euclidean physics that men could travel the stairways. They named the ruler of that “immobile” planet Fury, because that was the effect of his power on people. But they were afraid to call Craig Star Gazer by any other name, because he was the space captain who was going to cross into Fury’s domain and wrench his loved one from Ultra’s power–and this was something that no one had ever done before except the legendary Orpheus.”

Initial Thoughts: Brian Stableford, prolific author, editor, and science fiction scholar, passed away on February 24th. Here is his obituary on Locus. While I have not found the Stableford work that has entirely spoken to me, what I have read demonstrates his often engaging ideas and worlds. I know little about this particular volume–I had it sitting on my pile of unprocessed books and thought I’d feature it now. Of those I own, I’m most likely to get to Man in a Cage (1975) this year.

3. Mind Song, Joan Cox (1979)


On the planet Eden, a terraformed paradise in the midst of a Hellenic Age, one man hunts the supreme secret–that may be only a myth…

Call him Don Eal of Erl.

Call him lover, dreamer, rebel, seer.

Death-sentenced on his own world, rescued and led across wild and nomadic lands to the gleaming Citadel with its hidden ultramodern room–he alone can pass unscathed into the world of blue-green skies and bustling spaceports, searching the galaxy for treasure too close to see.

He alone can unlock the mystery for which an ageless race lost their memories to save their lives.”

Initial Thoughts: All I know about Joan Cox, I’ve cribbed from the brief entry on SF Encyclopedia: “US rancher and author whose first sf novel, Mindsong (1979), features a planet terraformed into a Hellenic Eden. Her second, Star Web (1980), is somewhat less engaging.” We shall see!

4. Time Out of Mind, Pierre Boulle (1963., trans. by Xan Fielding and Elisabeth Abbott 1966)

From the back cover: By the author of PLANET OF THE APES.


Masterful, provocative tales of an improbable but all-too-possible, fantastic but all-too-real world in which:

A robot is made perfect when programmed to fail.

A murderer from a dead civilization pursues himself through time.

A miracle converts a scientist–and causes a priest to lose his faith.

Weightless sex is found to have its peculiar ‘delights.’

A man and a computer battle in a duel of honor.

Hiroshima blossoms with deadly nuclear flowers.

This i the rich and varied universe of Pierre Boulle, the disturbing genius who gave the world PLANET OF THE APES.”

Contents: “Time Out of Mind” (1953), “The Man Who Picked Up Pins” (1965), “The Miracle” (1957), “The Perfect Robot” (1953), “The Enigmatic Saint” (19665), “The Lunians” (1957), “The Diabolical Weapon” (1965), “The Age of Wisdom” (1953), “The Man Who Hated Machines” (1965), “Love and Gravity” (1957), “The Hallucination” (1953), “E=mc2” (1957).

Initial Thoughts: While I have seen the original Planet of the Apes film, I have not read any of his fiction. I followed Rachel S. Cordasco’s review series of ALL of his translated fictions and finally acted on some of her reviews! Here’s her review of Time Out of Mind (1963, trans. 1966).

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