A Rediscovery of Clifford D. Simak - A Reading Challenge

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Book 13: Ring Around the Sun - Novel, 1952

This is an older novel by Cliff, predating his golden patch for me (mid-60's to early 70's). I enjoyed the book and it's very 'Simakian'; much of it set in semi-rural or small town Wisconsin, and it covers a lot of the themes of his most famous works: who we are, where are we going as a race, and what is time and can we exploit it. On that basis, its hard to see how a Simak fan wouldn't enjoy it. It also has the advantage of being quite short and pacey. I'd say it was a solid B+ novel, without being quite at the top of tree.

For those who are not fans of Simak, or who have not read him, I'm not sure I'd recommend it especially, however, at least as a first book to try the author. The central SF premise is nice enough, but the simplicity of the 'scheme' and how this hoodwinks the civilized world for so long is not very tenable. This is SF showing its age I think, as the reader must suspend a sizable amount of disbelief, not from the SF aspects so much, as from the idea that the plot would develop as it does. Its all too neat , coincidental and unlikely to work out. I think Simak worked on this much better in later novels. In Way Station or All Flesh is Grass, the plotting makes much better internal sense, even if the premise is extraordinary. The twist at the end of this novel also quite easy to spot coming, as the alternative we are supposed to be diverted by is so obviously sign-posted we don't believe it for a moment.

All of which sounds rather negative, but I mention these reservations to explain why this is a B grade novel, not an A grade classic. Its still enjoyable, it's quintessentially Simak's style of pastoral SF, and the idea is probably a bit of a classic, so fans of SF history and development would enjoy the romp I'm sure.
 

2DaveWixon

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This book has a bit of a history for me: when I was that classic phenomenon - a teen who had just discovered science fiction -- I was having trouble finding enough of it to read. But RING AROUND THE SUN was there, in the county library (next town over from mine, so I did not get there often until I was in high school there...). But I could not get at it!
It was in the "adult" section, and the librarians watched me like a hawk, to make sure I didn't get any of the good stuff (I guess...). So once every few weeks, after I had searched the room that held the book considered suitable for kids, I would wander into the adult rooms.
There was not much SF even there. But for some reason, RING stood out to my eyes, calling me...
So far out of reach...
 

BAYLOR

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This book has a bit of a history for me: when I was that classic phenomenon - a teen who had just discovered science fiction -- I was having trouble finding enough of it to read. But RING AROUND THE SUN was there, in the county library (next town over from mine, so I did not get there often until I was in high school there...). But I could not get at it!
It was in the "adult" section, and the librarians watched me like a hawk, to make sure I didn't get any of the good stuff (I guess...). So once every few weeks, after I had searched the room that held the book considered suitable for kids, I would wander into the adult rooms.
There was not much SF even there. But for some reason, RING stood out to my eyes, calling me...
So far out of reach...
I read that one book about 25 years ago, a great book but a very offbeat in terms of story.
 

2DaveWixon

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Nice story Dave - what did you think of the book when you finally read it?
Actually, I was a little disappointed, that first time (which was when I became 17 while a senior in high school -- I think the librarians gave up on watching me...I wasn't that attractive!)(Just kidding. Really!)
I was in my action-seeking cycle, and the book was too quiet for me.
My understanding has grown since then.
Let me add that as I have gotten older -- and after I met Cliff and immersed myself in all his work -- I find fascination in re-reading RING (along with his other works) because I'm able to pick out the themes that weren't apparent to me earlier...the book has become part of the overall tapestry of Simak works now in my head...
Maybe I'm better at seeing the little things.
 

BigBadBob141

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REF:2DaveWixon.
I had no trouble at Nuneaton Libary, at age 10 my first books out were Simak's Way Station plus Faber & Faber's Best SF 1 & 3.
Edited by Edmund Crispin!
All good stuff!!!
 

2DaveWixon

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So I guess you're saying that librarians in your area are willing to assist in the corruption of youth?
That explains a lot about you, BBB!
Seriously, though, my experience with RING (recounted above) predated the publication of WAY STATION -- but I was able to get to the latter book quickly, later on, because I got it as one of my free books for joining the SF Book Club (which led to the second time I was thrown out of SFBC -- but I got the book!)(At that point, I still had not gotten to the earlier-published RING...)
 

Hugh

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It must have been something very serious.

And not once, but twice, if I remember right.
 

2DaveWixon

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I too was a member of the SFBC, got some really nice stuff from them. How in the world did you get tossed out? Buy too many books?
It must have been something very serious.

And not once, but twice, if I remember right.
Wow! Didn't know he was such a hooligan.
Fortunately the moderators on this forum are really on the ball.
I'm hurt!

Actually, I got tossed (both times) for being underage -- I'm fairly sure the Club was afraid that if I neglected to pay for the books I ordered (the way the Club worked was, they sent you a bulletin previewing the upcoming month's selections; and if you did not proactively (a word I did not know at that time) refuse one or both of them, they just sent them to you, with a bill...) -- that if I didn't pay my bills, they couldn't sue me because I was underage.
I didn't have much money, but the books were usually about $1.49 or so, so I could have managed (I'd have resorted to crime to get more of the SF that was so rare in those days and that place...). And I wasn't about to antagonize my only source of SF!
 

2DaveWixon

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Further memories spring up:
The second time they tossed me, I had just received a couple of books, and one was WAY STATION! I loved it.
But when they told me I couldn't continue to be a member, they also told me I didn't have to pay for that last couple of books -- so I got WAY STATION for free! (And I still have that same copy, and AUTOGRAPHED! Cliff loved that story when I told it to him, years later.)

(Thank goodness, it was about that time I discovered that I could subscribe to SF magazines...)
 

2DaveWixon

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The problem with subscribing to SF magazines was that I had to intercept them when they arrived, because my mother disapproved of all those covers with girls in skimpy bathing suits...I don't think she believed that I was most interested in the printed matter...
 

Hugh

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Apologies, Dave, I was aware from another thread that the reason was age rather than hooligan-tendencies.

I just love hearing memories of these early encounters with SF. How wonderful to get a classic like Way Station for free from the Book Club. Maybe they thought if they give you a classic for free, you would cease your efforts to re-enlist.

My copy of Way Station is also the SFBC edition, but the English printing. Sadly it is not signed. Some years ago I decided I wanted a signed copy of something that he had written, so I bought a signed copy of All Flesh is Grass from a seller in Turnpike Road, Golden Valley, Minnesota called Ron. It's signed "To Ron, all regards Cliff Simak". Someone told me later that Ron was a bookseller friend of Cliff's who used to get him to sign copies regularly.

Re: your mother disapproving of the magazine covers. I had a slightly similar problem, but I never got round it. Age 7 (1959), I discovered imported US comics for sale on a Woolworths Counter. Unfortunately she caught on to the covers and I became limited in my purchases to Harvey Comics as the covers said they were approved by "The Comics Code". As a result I still retain some knowledge of the intricacies of Sad Sack's army life.
 
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2DaveWixon

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Apologies, Dave, I was aware from another thread that the reason was age rather than hooligan-tendencies.

I just love hearing memories of these early encounters with SF. How wonderful to get a classic like Way Station for free from the Book Club. Maybe they thought if they give you a classic for free, you would cease your efforts to re-enlist.

My copy of Way Station is also the SFBC edition, but the English printing. Sadly it is not signed. Some years ago I decided I wanted a signed copy of something that he had written, so I bought a signed copy of All Flesh is Grass from a seller in Turnpike Road, Golden Valley, Minnesota called Ron. It's signed "To Ron, all regards Cliff Simak". Someone told me later that Ron was a bookseller friend of Cliff's who used to get him to sign copies regularly.

Re: your mother disapproving of the magazine covers. I had a slightly similar problem, but I never got round it. Age 7 (1959), I discovered imported US comics for sale on a Woolworths Counter. Unfortunately she caught on to the covers and I became limited in my purchases to Harvey Comics as the covers said they were approved by "The Comics Code". As a result I still retain some knowledge of the intricacies of Sad Sack's army life.
Please, Hugh, I knew you were joking! (If I didn't, you'd be dead now...!)

Seriously, though: I don't think they freebied WAY STATION because it was a "classic;" it wasn't, yet.
My mother never found comic book covers to be particularly salacious, so that was never a problem for me. But in any case, most of the comic books available when I was young were from Disney (I was very fond of "Uncle Scrooge," which usually had a higher level of fantasy than most Disney products -- and boy! I guess that was a strange thing to say!)) (But they also did "Turok, Son of Stone," a series about a couple of American Indians, pre-white man, who fell into some kind of lost world that had dinosaurs and such...)
Marvel had not yet blossomed ono the comic book scene, so the "adventure" comic books were usually war stories, westerns, or the D.C. books (i.e., Superman, Batman, etc.)
 

BigBadBob141

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I don't know about corrupted?
I was reading Agatha Christie at 8.
Most of the stuff I was reading was adult, but this was the 60s.
There were no sex scenes that I know of and swearing was only bl***y .
Certainly no ffing and blinding like today!
P.S. I was thrown out of the Hell's Angels because of bad behavour!!!
 
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