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Books for Review should be sent to: Don D'Ammassa, 323 Dodge Street, East Providence, RI 02914

LAST UPDATE 9/27/17

The Genius Plague by David Walton, Pyr, 2017, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-63388-343-7

This is mildly reminiscent of Poul Anderson's early novel Brain Wave. Anderson portrayed a future in which Earth moved out of a region of space that suppressed intelligence, causing us all to get smarter. Walton's premise is a deadly plague which kills large chunks of the population, but leaves those who recover far more intelligent than they were beforehand. The question here is whether or not this is a beneficial change. Is it a logical advance in human evolution or is it the first step in our loss of our true nature? Unfortunately, there are some downsides to the effects caused by the fungi behind the plague. The conflicting opinions about what is happening are demonstrated through two brothers with diametrically opposed views. This was a very fine thriller as well as SF. 9/27/17

Nightmare Tower by Sam Merwin Jr.,  Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1953)

This novella is about a woman carried off to Mars by an involuntary colonist from that world. Both of them have telepathic powers, and those powers have attracted the attention of a secret and inimical alien presence. Despite the melodramatic premise, this is a tedious and uninteresting story that retreads long overused plot threads, and does them badly. 9/26/17

World of the Living Dead by Ed Earl Repp, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1932) 

This is the longest piece of fiction I've read by Repp, and I'd have to say his short stories are better, at least marginally. It's a lost world novel in which a yacht full of people is dragged down to an undersea kingdom. The inhabitants are not human and they are creating an army of undead skeletonlike creatures with which they plan to conquer the surface world. Our heroes thwart them, needless to say. Not as good as it sounds, and it doesn't sound good. 9/24/17

Original Sin by David R. George III, Pocket, 2017, $7.99, ISBN 978-1-5011-3322-0

This is a Star Trek Deep Space Nine novel. Captain Sisko is off on an exploratory mission which eventually leads to first contact with an alien species. Unfortunately, the aliens are hostile, attack without warning, and carry off several dozen prisoners including Sisko's daughter, who had a similar experience with a Bajoran fanatic when she was quite young. There is something about his daughter that has never seemed quite right, and Sisko has been feeling unfocused anxiety for a while. Eventually he gets her back, and takes steps to make certain that their misfortune is not repeated when the next ship arrives. This was a fairly long novel that I thought meandered quite a bit along the way. I was never fond of the original show, which may have affected my experience with this book, but it didn't seem up to the author's usual standards. 9/22/17

Wolves of Darkness by Jack Williamson, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1932)

Although Williamson approached supernatural themes early in his career, he usually pulled away at the last minute. This is a rationalized werewolf story – there is a machine that can transform people. It's darker than most of his fiction, but it's from very early in his career and the clunkiness undercuts any chance it had of becoming one of his better stories. It's only a novelette but feels longer, and not in a good way. 9/21/17

Earth, the Marauder by Arthur J. Burks, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1930)

Burks wrote some interesting short stories, but this novella is so absurd that it is hard to describe. Because humans have become immortal, Earth is heavily overpopulated. So the world dictator decides to move Earth closer to the moon and then wipe out all the moon men and take over their world. After that Earth can move on to Mars and so forth. The science is really terrible, the logic is really terrible, and the prose is really terrible. 9/19/17

The House That Hate Built by Peter Dakin, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1953)  

An eccentric prospector on Mars builds a castle in the wilderness. His estranged son takes over when he dies and the castle is the subject of official interest because of the possible connection to the disappearance of several criminals. The son coerces an Earth woman into marrying him, but the marriage is never consummated and her former fiancι comes to Mars determined to discover the truth. Nothing particularly memorable about this one, but it was better written than I expected. Dakin wrote very little fiction. 9/16/17

The Massacre of Mankind by Stephen Baxter, Crown, 2017, $27, ISBN 978-1-5247-6012-0

Baxter already wrote a sequel to The Time Machine by H.G. Wells. This is a sequel to The War of the Worlds. The original landing was just a scouting party. Now they arrive in England in much greater numbers and with much better weaponry and tactics. They have also taken steps to prevent the infection that destroyed their predecessors. A handful of characters retell their experiences during the second Martian War. Although I found this enjoyable, it didn't have the feel of the original. I think this is because a good part of the Wells novel was designed to be suspenseful and even mysterious. This is more of a war novel, an adventure, and the stakes are higher perhaps but still straightforward. It's the third sequel that I can recall reading, however, and the best of them by far. 9/14/17

Enchantress of Lemuria by Stanton Coblentz, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1941)

I have yet to read an actually enjoyable novel by this author, although at one time he had a fairly good reputation. This minor piece from early in his career involves as war inside a hollow Earth, which is discovered by our protagonist, who first invents a device for watching events at a distance and then journeys there himself. Rather dull despite the melodramatic plot, and with a cast of shallow characters several of whom are interchangeable. 9/13/17

Warrior of Two Worlds by Manly Wade Wellman, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1944)

A typical hero with amnesia finds himself caught up in the midst of an interstellar war. This otherwise routine and uninteresting space opera occasionally echoes some of the themes Wellman would use in his more popular and enduing work, including mysticism and folk legends. With a cast of stereotypes with unusually dull names like Sporr and Klob. The cover art is from an Otis Adelbert Kline Mars novel. 9/11/17

Secret of the Earth Star by Henry Kuttner, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1942)  

This novelette owes a bit to Beau Geste by P.C. Wren. Three American brothers all join the French Foreign Legion in Africa to escape the law. It diverges after that when they find a hidden world beneath the Sahara, inhabited by a fallen civilization that once had a technology superior to our own. Lost world stories were much more popular during the 1940s than they are now, and while this one contains nothing of great interest, Kuttner was always an easy read. 9/7/17

Monsters of the Ray by A. Hyatt Verrill, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1937)

A team of scientists in South America discovers a method of peering back into the past and uncovering the secrets of the Incan civilization. Although the pacing is slow – very little actually happens until the climax – this was a surprisingly engaging story that even suggests that Verrill had done considerable research beforehand. The title is rather misleading. 9/3/17

The Human Termites by David H. Keller, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1929)

A scientist discovers that termite colonies in the equatorial belt are actually gestalt individuals, each hive effectively an intelligent entity with a united purpose. He is able to communicate with them and learns that they are developing plans to adapt to the colder parts of the Earth and eventually replace humanity. Although the story moves very slowly it develops considerable tension later on. Keller's prose, however, is leaden and it is difficult to maintain much interest in the plot. 9/1/17

So Close to Home by James Blish, Ballantine, 1961

Blish's second collection was not spectacular and contains some bad stories – "One-shot," "Sponge Dive," and "First Strike" in particular. "The Box" is excellent and anticipated Stephen King's Under the Dome.  Blish's preoccupation with nuclear war and its aftermath is reflected here once again. He also occasionally hints at a distrust of science in general. Blish had passed his most productive years very quickly and was only intermittently interesting from this point on. 8/30/17

Galactic Cluster by James Blish, Signet, 1959

This was the author's first actual collection and it contains some of the best of his short work, particularly "A Work of Art" and "Nor Iron Bars." Many are technical puzzle stories and most involve space travel to some degree. Blish also frequently considered the possibilities and ramifications of nuclear war, not unusual for the 1950s. Most of these stories were recollected under other titles in subsequent years. With a couple of exceptions, most of these did not hold up well, particularly compared to my vague memories from when I read them more than fifty years ago. 8/28/17

Halo: Retribution by Troy Denning, Gallery, 2017, $16, ISBN 978-1-5011-3836-2

The Halo gaming series is alive and well in novel tie-ins, of which this is the latest. The great interstellar war has ended in a kind of truce, but the aftermath is troubled by friction, isolated incidents, and even an assassination. This story involves one such incident in which the family of a prominent military officer is taking captive by unknown parties. This leads to a kind of military police procedural in which the protagonist investigates the most likely culprit, only to discover that the situation is even more complex than it already appeared to be. There is also a secret military project, some interpersonal conflicts and rivalries, and the prospect of a new and even more devastating war breaking out to replace the one just ended. Quite good, and I thought the interplay of police procedural and military themes worked well. 8/26/17

Patterns of Interference by Christopher L. Bennett, Pocket, 2017, $7.9, ISBN 978-1-5011-6570-2

I never watched Star Trek Enterprise so I have no way of knowing how loyal this is to the spirit of the show, but I do know that it does not feel like any of the other Star Trek series despite the familiar names and aliens. The young Starfleet has been shaken by a major scandal that also involved a secretive organization known as Section 31 and the consequences are still resonating. The Federation is also troubled by a wave of xenophobia that I suspect was patterned after events in the real world in recent years. Tripp Tucker, special agent and the protagonist, has his own ideas of what changes he needs to be made, but they aren't always complementary to those that the military high command has in mind. The policy of covert interference in other planet's cultures is particularly under fire. Although things work out well enough by the end, there is a hint that there are more troubles to come, presumably in another book. Although it doesn't feel like a Trek novel to me, that's not necessarily a bad thing, and I enjoyed this one. 8/25/17

The Ambassador from Mars by Harl Vincent, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1928)

Here we have a typical novelette from the era when it was still possible to believe that other planets in the solar system had intelligent inhabitants. The protagonist is kidnapped to Mars by an otherwise likeable race that is dying out in part because of the deteriorating conditions on that planet, but more importantly because another and more malevolent race living underground is preying upon him. They want their captive to agree to serve as their ambassador to Earth so that they can be protected from their enemies.  8/18/17

The Seedling Stars by James Blish, Signet, 1957 

I was very impressed when I read this fix up about colonizing the galaxy by modifying humans to fit their environments, and the concept is still fascinating. The execution, however, does not live up to my memory. The society of microscopic humans is completely implausible, the motives for the adaptees on Ganymede are murky, and only the jungle planet story is particularly good.  8/18/17

Midsummer Century by James Blish, DAW, 1972

Blish's last novel is really a fantasy despite its SF plot. A man from our time is mentally projected into the distant future. He finds himself sharing the brain of a kind of immortal organic oracle, but escapes into a human body. The human race is about to be wiped out by intelligent birds – who are still the same size but now can speak and are highly intelligent – but he manages to reach a hidden installation in Antarctica where his consciousness is housed in a computer that helps humans resist extermination. Dreadfully bad and boring. There are two much better short stories included.  8/17/17

You Can't Buy Eternity by Dwight V. Swain, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1957)

A standard and rather dull novelette about an interplanetary quest to find the secret of immortality. The two fisted hero rescues the fair maiden and outsmarts and outfights the villains. Swain was a better writer than many of his contemporaries, but he seemed to have little imagination and most of his work reads very much like the rest of it. The prose is not awful but the plot evokes the feeling of deja vu. 8/14/17

Beyond Infinity by Robert Spencer Carr, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1951)

Carr was the brother of mystery writer John Dickson Carr. This novella concerns a scientist whose attempts to build a faster than light drive resulted in disaster and disgrace. Now he has a new project to complete his research and perhaps discover immortality as well, but there is one person among his team who has a private agenda. Rather dated story line but Carr was a better prose stylist than most of his contemporaries. He wrote only a few other stories. 8/14/17

Spock Must Die by James Blish, Bantam, 1970 

This was the first original Star Trek novel for adults, following a YA effort by Mack Reynolds. War with the Klingons breaks out when the Organian homeworld disappears. An experiment with a transporter results in a duplicate of Spock. One of them is on the side of the Klingons, but it is impossible to tell who is the original. Spock comes across as emotional and illogical at times, in variance from the television show, and the problem and solution are too contrived to be plausible. 8/13/17

Welcome to Mars by James Blish, Avon, 1967  

Blish was not at the top of his form with this rather silly YA novel about a boy who adds antigravity to his treehouse and flies off to Mars, where he gets stranded. His girlfriend figures out how he did it and follows, but she gets marooned as well. They discover an ancient Martian civilization and manage to last long enough for a rescue operation from Earth. Really bad. 8/12/17

The Vanished Jet by James Blish, Weybright & Talley, 1968

A short, marginal SF novel for young adults. An experimental aircraft disappears and may have been hijacked by the Soviet Union. The protagonist is a teenager whose parents were passengers on the missing aircraft and he manages to figure out that the ship was diverted to Saudi Arabia. He convinces the authorities that he is right and eventually finds the ship, carries a concealed radio, and signals for help. Not very plausible and not remotely entertaining. 8/12/17

Mission to the Heart Stars by James Blish, Avon, 1965 

The sequel to The Star Dwellers is also for young adults. Earth's government decides to see just how much weight it has to bring against the Heart Stars, a vast and very old interstellar civilization which has been watching humanity through bases in the asteroid belt and inside the hollow Martian moon Phobos.  They eventually discover that the Heart Stars have been a decadent and corrupt tyranny and return to Earth after a series of mildly interesting, episodic adventures. 8/10/17

The Castle in Cassiopeia by Mike Resnick, Pyr, 2017, $17, ISBN 978-1-63388-231-7

Third in the Dead Enders series. Back in the first adventure, the protagonist and his crew managed to abduct a planetary leader and replace him with a less bellicose clone. Not too surprisingly, the clone begins to exhibit the same belligerence, having been corrupted by gaining so much power. So in effect, the Dead Enders are going to have to repeat their earlier mission. They succeed, of course, but not entirely as planned and only after a series of adventures in what is billed as the most secure castle in the galaxy. Resnick's space operas are invariably entertaining and fast moving and while he is more likely to be remembered for his more serious work, stories as lively as this are always going to be popular. 8/9/17

The Hidden World by Edmond Hamilton, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1929)

A group of scientists and adventurers exploring some unusual phenomena become aware of an entire civilization hidden inside the Earth. They inhabitants aren't human either, vaguely resembling starfish, and they have a superior technology which makes them a threat to the surface world. Captures and escapes ensue. Entirely implausible, of course, but this was written almost a century ago so one should make allowances. One of the better of Hamilton's early adventure novels. 8/8/17

The Quincunx of Time by James Blish, Dell, 1973 

This is the expanded version of the short story "Beep."  There is not a great deal of plot and it is still just a novella. The security services for Earth are dismayed when a mysterious individual reveals information about a new communications system and also displays an ability to read the future. The solution involves the beep at the beginning of every message, which actually contains every message that has been or will be transmitted. More of an intellectual exercise than a novel. 8/7/17

And All the Stars a Stage by James Blish, Avon, 1971 

The sun is about to go nova so a fleet of 30 starships are built to evacuate a tiny portion of the Earth's population. The protagonist is one of the crew members. Most of the usual elements of this type of story are included – battles for places on the evacuation ships, physical attacks when they attempt to take off. There is also a matriarchal society that is very poorly justified or explained by the author and pretty much impossible to believe in.  Blish also made a glaring mathematical error that undercuts part of the story, and he repeats it later on. After various adventures, it turns out to be a variation of the Adam and Eve story. Disappointing. 8/6/17

Standard Hollywood Depravity by Adam Christopher, Tor, 2017,  $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-9183-4 

This is a novella featuring Raymond Electomatic, a robot assassin/detective whose memory tapes have a 24 hour capacity so that he has to be rebriefed every morning. His latest case involves a dancer with mob connections and a mission to retrieve a mysterious package. The usual hijinx ensue. Although there is some humor in this series, it is mostly straightforward and serious and while the limited memory premise seems unlikely to me, the consequences are entertainingly engaging. 8/5/17

A Torrent of Faces by James Blish and Norman L. Knight, Ace, 1967

This was originally published as a series of three novelettes.  The world is vastly overpopulated. Humans live in gigantic cities sprinkled through a managed forest that has no animals or insects. It is a kind of Utopia, although it is governed by corporations. The discovery that a giant asteroid is going to strike Earth and cause widespread damage leads to the develop of elaborate disaster plans. The stories are intermixed with a serial killer, the development of a new deep diving technique, the discovery of an interstellar drive, and other issues not always relevant to the main plot. It's very readable, but at the end, I felt as though there should have been a fourth section to explain what had just happened. 8/1/17

The Night Shapes by James Blish, Ballantine, 1962  v354 

This is a fix up of two long stories published in the late 1940s in a jungle magazine and it appears Blish was trying to emulate H. Rider Haggard. The first and longer story is about an expedition into the Congo to investigate illegal mining operations that runs into not only bad guys but a living dinosaur. The second part has the protagonist trying to prevent outsiders from discovering the valley of the dinosaurs because they will inevitably spoil the area. The dinosaurs actually have little more than cameo appearances. Quite minor. 8/1/17

Titan's Daughter by James Blish, Berkley, 1961

A brilliant scientist has been able to use genetic engineering to create a few dozen tetraploids, eight foot tall humans with enhanced senses and a longer lifespan. Predictably they are resented and feared by ordinary humans. One of the tetra is brilliant but paranoid and he decides to manipulate things to force a confrontation, making use of a new weapon that exerts force without any recoil. His plans go awry. Charitably this is a minor book, but realistically it is just bad. The politics are bogus, Blish's depiction of how laws work is just plain wrong, and there are jumps of logic that are designed to further the plot without the work of actually justifying developments. 7/26/17

The Man from Yesterday by Howard Browne, Armchair, 2017 (magazine appearance 1948 as by Lee Francis) 

A cave man is brought to the future – actually our present now – where he has the usual problems fitting in to society. Although there is plenty of melodrama, this is actually rather restrained for Browne, and there is even some cursory attempt to think about the problem of different views of the value of human life, etc. Ultimately though it turns out to be capture and escape with assorted mayhem, and Browne's prose style was clunky and nearly unreadable at times. 7/25/17

A Life for the Stars by James Blish, Avon, 1962 

Blish's second YA novel was much better than the first. Chronologically, it's the second in the Cities in Flight series. A teenager is press ganged into the city of Scranton and later transferred to New York City, where he finally receives an education and is allowed to apply for full citizenship. There are some slow bits – a lengthy discussion of the history of the Okies and a second about how the city of New York operates – but it doesn't have gaping plot holes and silly lectures about morality.  7/24/17

Killing Is My Business by Adam Christopher, Tor, 2017, $25.9, ISBN 978-0-7653-7920-7

Fourth in a robot noir series (although the first is a novelette and ebook only) whose protagonist is the last robot on Earth, but also a private detective. To be completely true, he's not really a detective either but an assassin for hire. He has one serious flaw - his memory tape has a capacity of 24 hours, so every morning he forgets everything that happened prior to that moment. I scratched my head a little about that premise, but once past that this - and a previous book in the series that I also enjoyed - grabbed my attention and held it to the end. His latest assignment is, naturally, a lot more than it initially appears to be. This has proven to be an enjoyable series and I need to track down the two I missed. 7/23/17

The Star Dwellers by James Blish, Avon, 1961 

Humans encounter an alien life form that is composed entirely of energy. The Angels seem benevolent, or at worst neutral, but a mission is sent to find out more about them before they are to be allowed to visit Earth. This is a YA novel and is clumsy, nonsensical, and laughably naοve. It also contains a lengthy lecture about the evils of teenage sexuality, popular music, and other aspects of 1960s culture that is shockingly ugly and just plain dumb. It is hard to believe that the same person who wrote the intelligent and thoughtful A Case of Conscience also promoted such vile ignorance. The story contains multiple plot holes and implausibilities. 7/21/17

The Seven Jewels of Chamar by Raymond F. Jones, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1946)

Short novel set in the familiar solar civilization involving seven jewels which, if brought together, will provide the holder with unspecified powers to control the entire universe. The protagonist's father is killed during the theft of one and he has to team up with the woman he originally thought was the murderer in order to cross space and track down the killer. Jones wrote much better stuff than this. 7/21/17

The Sunless City by J.E. Muddock, Dodo, 2009 

This is another hollow Earth lost world quasi-Utopian novel. The protagonist and friends descend through a mysterious lake to gain entrance and then spend most of the novel getting a tour of the society. Our hero ultimately offends the locals and gets put on trial, but talks himself out of trouble. This is quite boring and I skimmed several chapters. Muddock was best known as author of the Dick Donovan detective series, which is much better written than this. 7/20/17

The Triumph of Time by James Blish, Avon, 1958  

Although the Okie city of New York has colonized a new planet successfully, John Amalfi is bored and wants to return to space. Then he discovers that the universe is about to collide with an antimatter universe, bringing about the end of time. He battles some religious fanatics, then manages to survive the collapse and becomes the god of the new universe. The novel is not only pessimistic but almost completely unengaging, with lengthy digressions, long technical discussions, and very little substantive plot. 7/19/17

Pacific Rising by John Dennehy, Severed Press, 2017, $12.95, ISBN 978-1925597813  

This is what is known as a kaiju novel, i.e., it's about an unrealistically large monster attacking human civilization, in this case the long suffering Tokyo. A hurricane has disturbed the very long sleep of a reptilian predator and conventional weaponry has proved ineffective in stopping it. But there happens to be a group of marines on a secret mission inside North Korea, and they may have the means to kill the beast. There is not a lot you can do with kaiju stories since they necessary focus on the creature and the havoc it wreaks. Dennehy does better than most I've read, making a real effort to bring his characters to life. There are even a few exciting scenes, although the formula remains predictable. 7/18/17

The Dark Moon Saga by Charles W. Diffin, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1931)

This collects the novella, Dark Moon, and the novel length sequel, Brood of the Dark Moon, although it leaves out the third in the series. Earth acquires a mysterious new moon whose surface is hidden. At the same time, giant space worms encircle the Earth and attack any high flying aircraft. The heroes have an experimental spaceship and they travel to the new moon, which is habitable and inhabited by giant spiders, cave men, giant bats, and other horrible things. In the second story, they are stranded there with a group of villains from Earth. Neither story is awful, and Diffin's prose was better than most pulp writers, but neither is very good either. 7/17/17

River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey, Tor, 2017, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-7653-9523-8

There actually was a plan to introduce hippopotami to Lousiana at one point in US history, but it was abandoned. This novella is set in an alternate America where the project went forward. That leads to this quasi-cowboy adventure in which a small group of people are hired to clean up a lake that is home to feral hippos as well as a gambling casino owned by almost equally feral humans. The leader of the group also has a personal grudge against the man who burned down the ranch where he had been raising tame hippos. This might have played as humor but it's actually very serious and very well done. One of the more unusual alternate history novels you'll ever read. 7/16/17

A Case of Conscience by James Blish, Ballantine, 1957 

The high point of Blish's career was this superb story of a priest who is part of a four man mission to a planet whose alien inhabitants have no concept of sin and who do the right thing because it is logical. The priest assumes that a moral life cannot exist without faith, and therefore concludes that the planet was created by the devil to subvert religion among humans. The idea that the devil can create is heresy in the Roman Catholic faith, but the resolution is convoluted and ambiguous, leaving it to the reader to draw one's own conclusions. I've read this half a dozen times over the years and always find it impressive and thought provoking. 7/15/17

World of the Mist by Laurence Manning, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1953)

Three friends build an experimental spaceship to cross the dimensional barrier. Somehow they conclude that super dense materials can be found in space and that proximity to them will allow the ship to cross over. They eventually do and find a strange world of shifting shapes, but then realize they do not know how to return and their air is running out. Two thirds of the book consists of quasi-scientific jargon and theorizing. The last third is interesting – Manning could write well when he put his mind to it – but not worth the boring and lengthy buildup.7/12/17

The Land of the Changing Sun by Will N. Harben, Armchair, 2016 (originally published in 1919) 

This is a rather mediocre lost world novel that doesn't always make sense. Two men stranded on a deserted island are rescued/taken prisoner by a strange vessel that sails down into a hidden world inside the Earth. This appears to be a Utopian society at first, but in due course we see its dark underside. The scientific content was almost certainly nonsense even in 1919 – a cold sun, an entirely different air that makes everyone who breathes it handsome, etc. Eventually the outsiders are instrumental in bringing about the end of the civilization and their reintegration with the surface world.  7/11/17

VOR by James Blish, Avon, 1958 

An indestructible alien arrives on Earth and demands to be killed. But can that be accomplished without destroying the entire Earth? The story alternates between members of a Civil Air Patrol unit where marital problems are mounting and a commission of government experts who have wildly differing opinions, and in some cases even different agendas. The alien seemed invulnerable and it threatens to destroy the world unless they grant its wish and kill it. This is generally considered one of Blish's minor novels, but I have always rather liked it and I thought it held up quite well sixty years later. 7/10/17

Journey into Limbo by Scott Michel, Armchair, 2017 (originally published in 1962) 

Although this is technically a lost world novel, it's not much of one. The protagonists are shipwrecked and forced to adapt to the local culture on an island that is isolated from the outside world and has developed some unusual customs. This is a mildly sexy and not very interesting novel that attracted little attention when it was published originally and its connection to SF is marginal at best.  I lost interest and skimmed the second half. 7/6/17

Year 2018! by James Blish, Avon, 1957 

This prequel to the Okie stories is better known as They Shall Have Stars. It follows the development of two separate but ultimately related scientific endeavors. One is the quest to find drugs which will prevent the human body from aging and thus lead to near immortality. The other is the construction of an artifact on Jupiter – by remote control – that will enable scientists to learn enough about gravity to create workable, large scale antigravity engines. The book feels more like filler than a novel as it jumps around without every actually establishing strong story lines. Nor can I accept that the US Congress would spend years and fabulous amounts of money building a structure whose purpose is withheld from them. But it did set the stage for the Okie series. 7/4/17

Earthman, Come Home by James Blish, Avon, 1955 

The story of the Okies, Earth cities that use antigravity to leave the planet and journey to the stars. This is actually made up of a series of four short stories. In the first, New York City finds itself caught in an interplanetary war just as forces from Earth show up to conquer both.  In the second, they help a planet menaced by a rogue city. The third involves a crisis that threatens the future of the star traveling cities, and the last ends the cycle with the cities settling down permanently on planets. The hero, Amalfi, is rather cavalier about killing people and some of his plots seem unnecessarily complex, but the stories are exciting and imaginative.  7/1/17

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