Updates: Recent Science Fiction Purchases No. CCCXXXIII (Keith Laumer, Vernor Vinge, Mack Reynolds, Daphne du Maurier)

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

1. It’s A Mad, Mad, Mad Galaxy, Keith Laumer (1968)

Back cover: “This frenetic collection of science fiction stories–often disturbing, always entertaining–comes from outstanding and unpredictable SF author Keith Laumer.

Tingle your imagination: In ‘The Planet Wreckers,’ Jack Waverly goes to bed an ordinary mortal and wakes up a movie star. But the trouble is, his life is the price.

Tired of being a 97-pound weakling? “The Body Builders” has the answer for you: Just buy yourself the Body Beautiful.

Exorcise your hostility! A Certain Powers plans to obliterate “the greatest menace in the world today”–coast-to-coast television, better known as ‘The Big Show.’” [I think the last description is not for a story in the collection. Laumer always had a story title “The Big Show” that appeared in 1968. Maybe they were planning on including it in this collection but substitute something else at the last minute?]

Contents: “The Body Builders” (1966), “The Planet Wreckers” (1967), “The Star-Sent Knaves” (1963), “The War Against the Yukks” (1965), and “Goobereality” (1968)

Initial Thoughts: Other than a few of Laumer’s Retief stories, I remain ignorant of his work.

2. Threats… and Other Promises, Vernor Vinge (1988)

From the back cover: “Threats and Promises: HOW DO YOU TELL THE DIFFERENCE?

Take for example the ‘promises’ inherent in computers: super-human intelligence to do your every bidding and make our every wish come true; mind links with those mechanical intelligences to give us the gift of instant knowledge-on-demand of anything that has ever been recorded or can be calculated. Computer realities that aren’t just as good as everyday life—but much, much better.

But once we have such servants civilization will no longer be recognizable, or even comprehensible to such as us [sic]. Once you mind link with that super-intelligence you will no longer be human–you might not even be you. And the world that ‘you’ inhabit may be nothing more than a dream in the mind of a computer.

What was once a threat will have been a promise, and what once a promise will be some kind of… joke.”

Contents: “Apartness” (1965), “Conquest by Default” (1968), “The Whirligig of Time” (1974), “Gemstone” (1983), “Just Peace” (1971), “Original Sin” (1972), “The Blabber” (1988)

Initial Thoughts: In my obsessive Vernor Vinge binge in my late teens, I never got to his short fiction. I need to rectify that.

3. Rule Britannia, Daphne du Maurier (1972)

From the back cover: “Set in the not-too-distant future on the raw, blustery English seacoast of Cornwall, RULE BRITANNIA is the rousing saga of an indomitable woman who takes on the combined might of the British and American armed forces.

Known to all as Madam, she had retired after a brilliant theatrical career. Then she took in Emma–left motherless as a child–and the six boys, orphans whom nobody wanted. Suddenly one day their lives are transformed, as England and America join forces in an economic and strategic alliance, and American airplanes and troops swarm over the little town to ‘protect’ England from retaliatory invasion. But they hadn’t asked Madam! She leads the local protest forces, including irate villagers, her own brood of boys, and–she hopes–Emma, and pulls off a spectacular maneuver that carries the day. RULE BRITANNIA is a provocative new addition to the great du Maurier tradition–a tradition that includes such treasured bestsellers as REBECCA and DON’T LOOK NOW.”

Initial Thoughts: To be honest, the only thing I know about Daphne du Maurier is that she wrote the source material for Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Rebecca (1940). Rule Britannia (1972) was her last novel.

4. Commune 2000 A.D., Mack Reynolds (1974)

From the back cover: “It was the future perfect, the greatest society in human history, with peace and plenty, and total sexual freedom. Utopia paid you the Universal Guaranteed Income, whether you worked or not. Yet something was wrong, it was a….

Fractured Utopia

By the thousands, the disenchanted fled the cities to join tiny, mobile towns that sprang up wildly. It was called the Commune Phenomenon. Super leaders of the super future challenged Swain to locate the worm of discontent. Strange, because Swain himself felt gnawed by corruption, distracted by lust, troubled by danger…

Commune 2000 A.D.”

Initial Thoughts: As I age, I find myself more and more interested in the counterculture or flight from urban life. Reynolds’ idea-driven and “unashamedly didactic” SF remains something I have not explored in much detail. In the first years of the site, I read the third volume in the Bat Hardin sequence — Rolltown (1976). I did not care for it at the time although I highlighted the transfixing premise. I did not realize that Rolltown was the final volume in the trilogy. I finally own the first!


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