Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Intresting but not really good....

On his blog PUNKADIDDLE (http://punkadiddle.blogspot.com/), British writer Adam Roberts reviews an "intresting but not really good" 4got10 SF novel from 1970, TAURUS FOUR by Rena Vale. Roberts reviews lotsa older SF books (some qualify as antiques), but was sucked in2 this 1 by the intriguing cover.
SF Cms 2 hava lotta books like this. There Cm 2 B a bunch that have fallen thru the cracks over the yrs & Dserve 2 B dug out 4 another look. (Makes me wish I was still 19 yrs old & reading EVERYTHING, so I could go back & re-discover summa this overlooked stuff. I also feel like I otta B hanging out at my local used bookstore more often....) Summa the "intresting but not really good" novels that have stuck w/ me over the yrs include....
+ FROM THE LEGEND OF BIEL, Mary Staton (1975) -- This book re-launched Ace Books' acclaimed "Ace Specials" line 4 yrs after editor Terry Carr left the company & Ace's SF sales had bn languishing. It's 1/2 a pretty-good book, starting w/ the geometricly-shaped bldgs that 4m the alien city that's shown on the front cover. The painting shows the MT city surrounded by vast grassland, w/ tiny human shapes in the 4ground, nothing else.
Inside the book, a human Xploration team lands on an apparently Dserted planet, approaches & Xplores the abandoned city. At 1 point, a member of the team Nters a huge bldg that Cms 2 B a center 4 worship. After a long look around, he activates what appears 2 B a playback Dvice, & a piece of alien music Bgins playing inside the shrine.
The 1st notes of this alien music immediately turns the brains of all the members of the Xploration team (Bcos they all hear the music thru the comm in their spacesuits) in2 Swiss Cheese, & it's all downhill 4 the final 200 pgs of the novel.
Which is 2 bad, cos the 1st 1/2 was presented clearly & directly, & the occasional typographical tricks weren't 2 irritating & didn't get in the way of the story 2 much. Tho much of the resta the story (from the humans' viewpoint) is mush, there's a LONG history of the aliens that doesn't add up 2 much, & the surviving members of the Xploration team DO get off the planet (I THINK, Xcept 4 the guy who triggered that infernal music....), but none of it is presented w/ NE 4ce or weight -- it doesn't MEAN NEthing. 1st 1/2 pretty great, 2nd 1/2 mush.
+ SEED OF LIGHT, Edmund Cooper (1959) -- Not the 1st generation-starship story, but nicely handled, w/ some great mind-Xpanding ideas, even tho it reads more like an in-depth outline rather than a novel.
Perhaps the best segment is when a "super-genius" takes charge of the ship, & thru Xtended meditation can C the MT path ahead 4 the Xplorers & the yrs of failure ahead of them -- but B4 he can take the actions that will lead them in a more hopeful direction, he dies -- & the Xplorers do in fact suffer yrs of failure & frustration, just as their far-Cing genius had predicted.
The problem, I think, is that much of the book is TOLD & very little of it is SHOWN. It's not dramatized much. I remember Cing mayB 10 lines of actual dialogue in it -- leading me back 2 my point that it's more like an Xpanded outline. But some of the ideas & concepts R pretty neat....

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