From Way, Way Back in Your Reading Life

tinkerdan

∞<Q-Satis
Joined
Dec 10, 2012
Messages
4,293
Location
x² + y² = r²:when x~∞
I have shelves full of Science Fiction and Fantasy that I've collected from over 40 years and I try cycling through them periodically. I never grow tired of them and even the ones where the science might begin to feel ridiculous I still enjoy them. My selections tend to be drawn by character rather than science.
Two of my oldest starter books were.

After Doomsday by Poul Anderson.
It starts with these lines::
"Earth is dead. They murdered our Earth!"

Carl Donnan didn't answer at once. He remained standing by the viewport, his back to the others. Dimly he was aware of Goldspring's voice as it rose toward a scream, broke off, and turned into the hoarse belly-deep sobs of a man not used to tears. He heard Goldspring stumble across the deck before he said, flat and empty:
"Who are 'they'?"
Of course now I know the rest of the story but that has always been enough to drive me into the story.

And then there is Marion Zimmer Bradleys Colors of Space.

The Lhari Spaceport didn't belong on earth.

Bart Steele had thought that, a long time ago, when he first saw it. He had been just twelve years old then, and all excited about seeing Earth for the first time--Earth, the legendary home of mankind before the Age of Space, the planet of Bart's far-back ancestors. And the first thing he'd seen on Earth, when he got off the starship, was the Lhari spaceport.

And he'd thought, right then; it doesn't belong on Earth.
Once again it says it all in so few lines that I have read both of these so many times I can't recall and I wore the original copies down until the pages were all loose from each other and have since replaced them so I can continue to enjoy them.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
Now rereading L. P. Davies's The Artificial Man. I bought this copy 23 Oct. 1971 and had already read the book; I don't think I'd ever read this copy till now. It's a Doubleday book club edition without a dustjacket. Was it in their mystery and detection club rather than their sf club?

Memory indicates that the first time I read this novel, it was in this paperback--

That face looks slightly like Patrick McGoohan's at the time of the Prisoner TV series, and this novel, which came out shortly before the series, does remind one a bit of McGoohan's series, what with a quite English hamlet that is actually the setting of surveillance, frequent injection of psychoactive drugs, etc.

The paperback was issued by Scholastic, aimed, I suppose at the high school (or even middle school?) market.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00005VG8J/?tag=brite-21

The content is a bit "mature" for that group, one would have thought, what with the elements just mentioned, one of the male characters touching the feminine interest's breast, etc.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
Now rereading Damon Knight's memoir of The Futurians, which I read soon after it came out around 1980.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
And I've started a rereading of the Ballantine Fantasy series paperback from March 1970 that really got me going with Lord Dunsany. I bought my copy on the 26th of that month, at a time when, just a lad, I couldn't buy new books very often!
 

AndrewT

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jan 21, 2012
Messages
176
And I've started a rereading of the Ballantine Fantasy series paperback from March 1970 that really got me going with Lord Dunsany. I bought my copy on the 26th of that month, at a time when, just a lad, I couldn't buy new books very often!
Wow, did your write the date in the book or just happen to remember it like it was your birthday? It's not all that odd to remember some dates of things that happen but to remember a day you bought a book would be unusual to say the least.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
Wow, did your write the date in the book or just happen to remember it like it was your birthday? It's not all that odd to remember some dates of things that happen but to remember a day you bought a book would be unusual to say the least.
It was about that time that I began to write the date when I bought a book -- I'm not sure why I did that, but it's sometimes interesting now to be able to tell when I got a book -- and, since I often included this, where -- the name of the book store. Back then, I lived in southern Oregon, and some independent book stores were around, notably Blue Goose Books. However, the Dunsany book may have been a book that I bought in a drug store.

I often don't write when I got a book any more. Virtually all of them come by mail order.
 

Nechtan

Well-Known Member
Joined
Dec 31, 2014
Messages
153
Over the last few years I've reread some books I hadn't read since my teens. It hasn't always been a pleasant experience and some happy memories have been ruined so I've become a bit hesitant to revisit places, so this year, when I picked up Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea Quartet and Julian May's Saga of the Exiles there was a certain amount of trepidation. I had loved both of these when I first read them about twenty years ago and I would have been gutted if another childhood memory was soured.

In Le Guin's case, not only were A Wizard of Earthsea, the Tombs of Atuan and the Farthest Shore just as good as what I remembered, I now loved Tehanu which I previously had thought was a really poor effort.
them
And Julian May was still highly enjoyable but not quite as good as I remembered. So that's two memories unsullied.

I would like to try McCaffrey's Pern books and Farmer's Riverworld again at some point although memories, hesitancy and souring, y'know, and, coming at it from the opposite direction, I'd like to try E.R. Edison and Mervyn Peake again. I just couldn't get into the language when I was younger and I've been thinking about trying them again. A lot of people rave about them and I feel like I'm missing out.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
I'd like to try E.R. Edison and Mervyn Peake again. I just couldn't get into the language when I was younger and I've been thinking about trying them again. A lot of people rave about them and I feel like I'm missing out.
For me, these are books that should be read in large portions, like those of Dickens. Read thus, they can be great. I included Titus Groan in a college class on fantasy some years ago and it went over reasonably well. A key thing to keep in mind is that Peake is dealing with what many of its inhabitants seem to regard as a perfect, finished society -- not "finished" in the sense of at its end, but "finished" in the sense that nothing remains to be done but to keep it as it is. Hence a s l o w pace is not only excusable but needed.

Eddison's "Mercury" turns out to be a realm that really is perfect and finished, as one eventually learns -- not to give too much away. So maybe that plays into the elaborate style again.
 

Michael Colton

Well-Known Member
Joined
Jul 20, 2014
Messages
1,027
I do not know if it counts as 'way way back,' but I recall picking up Quicksliver again for a reread because I didn't remember it well, but for some reason I had difficulty staying engaged. I remember being rather surprised. I must not have been in the right place for the Stephenson thing.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
Have been reading in Ballantine's first collection of Lord Dunsany's tales, At the Edge of the World.

Just read this story:

The Field of Zaad
Upon the road of Zaad a traveller met a man who lived in a nearby village, and the traveller, pointing with his hand to a vast field, asked the man saying, “Was not this the battle-ground where King Ahlam overcame his enemies?”

And the man answered and said, “This has never been a battle-ground. There once stood on this field the great city of Zaad, and it was burnt down to ashes. But now it is a good field, is it not?”

And the traveller and the man parted.

Not a half mile farther the traveller met another man, and pointing to the field again, he said, “So that is where the great city of Zaad once stood?’

And the man said, “There has never been a city in this place. But once there was a monastery here, and it was destroyed by the people of the South Country.”

Shortly after, on that very road of Zaad, the traveller met a third man, and pointing once more to the vast field he said, “Is it not true that this is the place where once there stood a great monastery?”

But the man answered, “There has never been a monastery in this neighbourhood, but our fathers and our forefathers have told us that once there fell a great meteor on this field.”

Then the traveller walked on, wondering in his heart. And he met a very old man, and saluting his he said, “Sir, upon this road I have met three men who live in the neighbourhood and I have asked each of them about this field, and each one denied what the other had said, and each one told me a new tale that the other had not told.”

Then the old man raised his head, and answered, “My friend, each and every one of these men told you what was indeed so; but few of us are able to add fact to different fact and make a truth thereof.”
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
Now here's one from way, way back indeed -- Keith Laumer's August 1967 The Invaders novel for Pyramid books, connected with the new ABC TV series. My memory is that I got a copy of this paperback (what happened to that paperback, I don't remember -- I'm reading a library copy) through the middle school "book club." I lived in an Oregon town where you only got NBC unless you had cable, which we didn't. But the "Book Club" ad made it clear this was sf. I must have read it in 1967 or 1968 or so. Maybe I read it more than once before it left my collection.

It's a competent sf/thriller thing, with, as it turns out, differences from the so-so TV series. In the book the hero is an engineer type, not an architect, and he catches on to the alien invasion quite gradually. It seems that different manufacturing plants are producing single parts using strange schematics supplied by shadowy persons. The hero realizes that the parts fit together to make something, and happens to have a brilliant scientist friend. Yes, the assembled parts make a ray gun. In the TV series, the hero sees a flying saucer land in the woods off a back road and things go from there. As far as I remember, I'd never seen any of the series till a few weeks ago, when my wife and I began watching them on YouTube. They are tolerably entertaining old shows, showing producer Quinn Martin's use of elements used more compellingly in the sometimes excellent Fugitive TV series that, I think had just ended about the time The Invaders began. You've got the theme of a man often on the run, who gets involved with people whom he'll have to leave so he can continue his lonely quest, etc.

upload_2015-7-9_21-42-9.jpeg

It seems there were at least two sequels --

However, I don't suppose I will be trying hard to track them down.

"Rafe Bernard" sounded like a pseudonym, and it was, but the real name, Reginald Alec Martin, didn't leave me much the wiser...

Was the TV series more popular in the UK? There may have been one or more novels of The Invaders published there than here. I'm not interested enough to try to nail everything down.... I'm intrigued by this one's title:

http://bearalley.blogspot.com/2010/10/tv-tie-ins-invaders.html
 
Last edited:

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
The first third of the Laumer paperback I've been reading was "The Discovery," discussed in #92 above. The middle section of this Invaders paperback is called "The Maniac." Much of it is a corny sneaking-around-the-fiendishly-boobytrapped-old-mansion-in-the-dark affair. It hardly seemed to belong in the milieu of the alien invasion idea. It could have been an episode of the series, maybe timed for Hallowe'en.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
The final section of The Invaders was about the "Counterattack." David Vincent and a sergeant who's seen the invaders steal an armored vehicle from a military base and head for the desert area where the aliens will be landing a brood-bearing ship under cover of a meteor shower. Someone shows up unexpectedly, the powerful alien commander Dorn, whom Vincent spotted in the first third, and whom we might have thought was electrocuted in the second. Dorn's the worse for wear but still determined upon the invaders' intentions. Vincent dispatches him at last with a bunch of heavy machine-gun fire, and here I thought it was a bit surprising that this book was picked up for the school "book club" that I mentioned in #92 above, because the violence is so graphic. Laumer also described the authentic appearance of the invaders a little; so far as I know, the television series never attempted to do so, not even verbally. Military forces that have followed Vincent and the sergeant arrive and annihilate the alien craft and its occupants. I probably relished this stuff back around age 12 -- a lot more than some of the stories I was sampling in the public library's Galaxy anthologies, for example.

I don't remember seeing the sequel
upload_2015-7-15_9-50-12.jpeg
or the Invaders comics, but because these typically just featured photos of the actor who played Vincent's role, they might not have made much of an impression.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
This thread is for anyone who wants to write about reading from way back in her or his life. Thanks for all responses so far. I appreciate the way people are explaining whether they are referring to books that they have kept rereading over the years, and books they read a long time ago and then revisited. Both types of responses are interesting.

I expect to contribute to this thread with comments focusing just on the latter type of books. There are a few sf books for young readers that I seem to remember having read, but have not reread. It should be fun to revisit them. But I don't mean this thread to be restricted to sf and fantasy, nor to books that were intended for youngsters. I left it vague as to how far "way, way back" is. For a 60-year-old in 2015, that might mean reading that one did in the early 1970s or earlier.

My next selection is Donald Wollheim's The Secret of the Ninth Planet, a science fiction "juvenile" book published by Winston in 1959. This seemed like a good one to be reading during the present "Pluto Week."

I don't know exactly when I first read this, in a copy from the Coos Bay, Oregon, public library, but it has to have been one of the very first full-length sf books I ever read, and I probably read it around 1968. Reading it again, I'm thinking: Yes! This was indeed what I was looking for. It builds a mood of unease -- in the near future, our young hero and his father and their expedition mates are on an archeological mission in the Andes, and young Burl Denning notices, one morning, that though he sees no clouds, the sunlight is a bit dimmer than expected. He finds too that radio transmission is impaired. Turns out that unknown aliens have installed a sun-tap station in a remote mountain valley there, which is stealing solar energy from the earth and already causing temperatures to fall and imperilling crops. Burl and his father receive a message in a rocket from California that tells them where to look. Having some dynamite with them, they are able to blast their way into the sun-tap station, but can't stop it running until Burl grips a device that energizes his body such that he can operate the controls. With his special ability, he becomes a member of a spaceship crew set to visit the other planets where sun-tap stations have been installed and turn them off; otherwise, the sun is liable to go nova.

The good fortune of an experimental anti-gravity ship capable of traversing the solar system is, of course, a too-obvious convenience from an adult reader's perspective. I doubt very much that it bothered me at age 12 or so.

I think the book owes a lot to the Andean setting and the eerie change in the sky with which it begins. Wollheim establishes these things with a few stokes, but they help to conjure a receptive mood.

Update: Someone else had the same idea>

http://jamesdavisnicoll.com/review/in-honour-of-todays-encounter-with-pluto
 
Last edited:

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
As The Secret of the Ninth Planet continues, Burl & company visit Mercury to shut down the first extraterrestrial sun-tap station. Penetrating its clouds, the mission from Earth finds a shallow-water world with occasional muddy spots above the waters, and one of the men is attacked by a slime-creature before the humans depart, having knocked off another station. Mars proves to be inhabited by insect-like creatures who seem oblivious to the significance of the sun-tap installation in their midst. One of Burl's comrades unwittingly comes under the control of the mysterious sun-tap aliens while exploring the Martian base. Our heroes leave an A-bomb to demolish it (and, presumably, the Martian residents, who turned dangerous). The next two installations are on Callisto and Iapetus, and in the vicinity of Saturn the earthmen fight off a ship of the aliens. I must have reveled in all this over 45 years ago.
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
Wollheim wraps up The Secret of the Ninth Planet with what I may have called "action" (= violence) as a youngster. There's a skirmish on Pluto, Burl is made unconscious, and he finds himself with one of his comrades on Triton, making a quick alliance with the Neptunians there, whose world the Plutonian villains mean to make to their liking by having our sun go nova. The Earth ship leaves Pluto orbit and easily (!) finds the Tritonian invaders' base, which is also the center of their religion. Burl discovers that representatives of various species are kept in a sort of zoo by the Plutonian sun-tappers. This reminded me, and possibly reminded me at the time, of the Keepers' zoo in the Star Trek "Menagerie" ("Cage") episode. Burl sets them free and vengeance is wrought on their captors (and sometime sacrificers). My impression is that the sentence "Something furry and green leaped high in the air and came down in the middle of the Plutonians" crossed time to linger vaguely in my memory. Pluto is revealed to be a world from outside our solar system, and Triton was its moon till Neptune's gravity captured it; that's the secret of the book's title. In a way Wollheim got it right, that Pluto isn't a planet of our solar system. Of course, the 2006 decision that denied Pluto's status as a planet didn't deny its solar origin. Wollheim was having some fun with what was perceived at the time about Pluto's abnormality as a small solid planet rather than gas giant, and its strange orbit, going with the idea that it and Triton came from some other solar system. Wollheim wrote two other "juveniles" for Winston, The Secret of Saturn's Rings and The Secret of the Martian Moons. I might have read the latter book, but am not sure. I don't suppose the library has kept records of who checked out what back in 1967 or so!
 

Extollager

Well-Known Member
Joined
Aug 21, 2010
Messages
6,278
I read again yesterday and today Wyndham's The Day of the Triffids, which I think was another of the first sf novels that I read -- if memory is correct, in The John Wyndham Omnibus, which somehow had come to be shelved in the children's stacks of the Coos Bay, Oregon, Public Library. I own a copy of the novel that I purchased on 20 July 1972, by which time I'm pretty sure I'd already read the story. (My second reading seems to have been in 1997.)

This book has been called a "cozy catastrophe" story, but I wonder if those who use the expression have read it recently. It is true that Wyndham was capable of telling his story without describing horrible sights in detail. It is also true that he doesn't seem to think that, once the catastrophe of near-universal blindness and of menacing ambulatory triffids has come about, Britons would immediately behave savagely, butchering one another for food, the sighted raping the blind, and so on. He may have been imagining within the bounds of plausibility given his postulates (the nature and speed of the catastrophe and so on) and given what was, then, mostly a singularly law-abiding populace. I wouldn't be able to put a finger on it right away, but somewhere Orwell wrote about the relative gentleness of the English people in his time. In the novel, a number of the Britons forlornly hope that "the Americans" will come and help to set things right, which for a book published in 1951 seems believable.

There couldn't well be any influence one way or the other, but the account of a safe place surrounded by fence, and the use of flamethrowers to kill triffids (tall, walking plants) reminded me of the hobbits in the part of the Shire with the High Hay defending themselves against hostile trees of the Old Forest in The Fellowship of the Ring. Of course the Old Forest trees are not poisonous and do not eat the corrupted flesh of their victims.
 
Last edited:
Top