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1968 - Year in SF&F: Reviews



THE WONDER TIMELINE: SF&F RETROSPECTIVE
Read other issues here

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Philip Jose Farmer
"The Jungle Rot Kid on the Nod"

© 1968, 1970, New Worlds,
Riverworld and Other Stories, 1979

Tarzan on crack, with wild politics and some hardcore stuff mixed with incomprehensible "new wave" William Burroughs-style word tsunami. Some will like it, some will simply skip it. But it is a side of Philip Jose Farmer which is playful, whimsical, mischievous and so forth. It exists, so deal with it.

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Katherine MacLean
"Fear Hound"
(Resque Squad series)
© Analog, May 1968
The Missing Man, 1975
--story : Best SF 1969
--/ cool sf story
--/ idea: ESP fear location service

This story is clearly just a "single-idea" vehicle, but as such it is pretty effective. Katherine MacLean's style is competent if not overly exciting; it moves smoothly and in general exudes this velvety “literate-style” quality. In this story we have a kind of ESP "Ghostbusters" emergency response team that sniffs the psychic air over the whole city, looking for any significant outbursts of fear, and then gets on its way to squash crime that has barely even happened yet. Sounds like a neat idea to supplement existing emergency services - but I think that one could write a significantly more exciting story around all that…

And, by the way, Katherine MacLean returned to this venue later in somewhat more polished novel “The Missing Man” - read the excellent review of it here. This novel got a 1976 Nebula Award nomination, and this novella is part of it - overall a smooth and stylish effort.

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Clifford D. Simak
"So Bright the Vision" (coll)

© Ace Double, 1968
--/ fourth place sf collection
--/ wonder award
--/ style award

Scrumptious assortment of vintage Fifties SF morsels from "the master confectioner of them all". Simak's stories will glow in your mind like a warm sunset at the end of a stressful day, will make you want to greet your neighbour with a smile and a friendly pat on the back.
review: 25-Jul-06 (read in 1997)

READ COMPLETE REVIEW OF THIS COLLECTION HERE

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James White is one of my favorite writers of solid space adventure, an under-appreciated master of UK Sixties hard science fiction. The wholesome values and entertaining plots of his writing never disappoint, comparable to the best of Simak, Niven and Leinster.




James White
"All Judgement Fled" (nv)

© IF, Dec 1966-1967
Rapp & Whiting Publ. 1968
--/ third place space sf novel
--/ wonder award
--/ emotion award
--/ shock value
--/ adventure award

This is an unsung masterpiece of "first contact" science fiction, a most rewarding adventure that you can still find in many used book stores. A case of "not judging by the cover", an unexpected find - Third Place for Space Novel in all of science fiction? Yes, don't forget who is the writer: James White, one of the most solid providers of space adventure fiction in the 60s, always writing with good pacing, excellent subject matter and special effects worthy of Larry Niven's best. In a way he was UK's answer to Larry Niven, they even shared the same magazine issue this time. With the "new wave" attracting more and more writers to the psychedelic realms of incomprehensible experimentation, James White stuck to his guns till the end of the 60s and beyond: this is a feast for any hardcore space fiction fan.

The book starts as a Cold War paranoia thriller (there are sinister political agendas among the 6 person crew on a space mission to meet an alien vessel - including the "compulsory" nuke hidden somewhere on board) The claustrophobic feeling is vintage Frank Herbert, whose "Under Pressure" is the best "enclosed spy" thriller of its kind, with James White coming close second. It definitely helps that both writers were medics - Herbert was a psychologist, White a practitioner - the tension is palpable, soon to grow almost unbearable. The alien spaceship contains more than a few surprises, including nasty creatures of an "Aliens" kind (the ones so cheerfully exterminated by Sigourney Weaver in the well-known movie). The "first contact" situation deteriorates so realistically and so fast that one man has to repeatedly make decisions against the combined opinion of his superiors and the whole population of Earth. Dramatic tension is excellent, the ending is touching and remarkably romantic - something out of the good old Forties stories, rather than cynical Sixties. Overall an excellent thriller, worthy to be put on the big screen, if Hollywood only had the brains and the guts to turn this hidden gem into a big-budget script.

As for James White's body of work in general and his consistent quality, somebody said "This is what "Star Trek" should've been like". Comparable to Murray Leinster's best, and just as readable today - this is "The Right Stuff", precursor of modern space adventure renaissance.
review: 23-Aug-07 (read in 2007)



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"SF&F Reading Experience" is part of "Dark Roasted Blend / Thrilling Wonder" family of sites. We try to highlight the most entertaining and rewarding science fiction and fantasy, with emphasis on memorable reader experience, not necessarily general acceptance by the critics. Have fun, and delve into our extensive ratings and reviews!

Most reviews are written by Avi Abrams, unless otherwise noted. Reviews also appear on our unique historical retrospective page Wonder Timeline of Science Fiction. Feel free to submit your own review, if a particular story is not listed here.


All major OFFICIAL AWARDS are highlighted in BLUE
("winner" has a letter "W" by it, otherwise it is a runner-up only)

Our PERSONAL AWARDS (ratings) are highlighted in RED and PURPLE:
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--/ cool : (equal to fifth place)
ALL "BEST OF" LISTS ARE LOCATED HERE

These awards are given in the following categories:
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Also, there are our personal STYLE / GENRE SPECIFIC AWARDS. These reflect the story's content and the lasting impression on the reader:

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