Archive for the 1955 Category

Close Up: Reprieve From Paradise

Posted in 1955, Close Up with tags , , on May 3, 2011 by Aaron

closeupH. Chandler Elliott
1955

It’s about time I got another proper Close Up on the site.  It’s been eight and a half months since the last which was Science Fiction Terror Tales.  The photos for this book have been kicking around over at my Gnome Press Flickr site since mid-November along with a couple of other titles too.  Not happy with the quality as the background is far from white, but we can see the book itself well enough and at this stage, beggars can’t be choosers…

Back to the issue at hand.  The condition overall is very nice.  Nice cover, quite clean though you can see some slight browning around the cover.  This is accentuated by the lighting I’ve got here, it’s not as noticeable in actual fact.

Nice overall and a good first impression.

As expected, the cloth is nice with the dust jacket removed.  Very clean, no issues at all.  Well, some slight bruising at the head and tail, but not affecting the condition of the book.

With a closer look at these points, we can see the excellent condition of the jacket and the binding.

Some slight browning of the block and we get a glimpse of an unusual feature of this particular copy.  Let’s pull back a little.

Very nice, a hint of a roll at the top of the spine.  Can’t quite see that ususual feature here so let’s get closer again.

See it now?

This copy was evidently bound with two different grades of paper.  The majority of the block has discolored more rapidly than the first signature there.

The back looks slightly discolored, but as for the front, it’s emphasized by the lighting here.

And there we have it.  The first Close Up for a long time.  Let’s hope I can get a few more up soon. Lighting continues to be an issue, but we’ll soldier on…

Year: 1955
Paid: $38
Art: Mel Hunter
Copies: 4000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Green cloth with deep red lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: REPRIEVE FROM PARADISE, by H. Chandler Elliott, 1955, pp.256, $3.00. 4000 copies printed. Jacket by Mel Hunter.
Currey: absent
Comments: In a nice solid condition.  Interesting tidbit with the two grades of paper used in binding this copy.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

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Close Up: Science Fiction Terror Tales

Posted in 1955, Close Up with tags , , on August 17, 2010 by Aaron

closeupGroff Conklin, ed.
1955

This title is one of the pinnacles of Gnome Press collecting. This was one of the books I’d resigned to the last legs of my Odyssey. In book collection circles it seems to share the rarefied atmosphere inhabited by such titles as Asimov’s  I, Robot and Foundation, Simak’s City and Against the Fall of Night from Arthur C. Clarke.  It’s certainly not the most expensive of titles – any of those mentioned in similar condition would fetch more – but urban legend has it that it’s the rarest of all the GP books.  The reason, I read somewhere (and I wish I knew where exactly, I can’t for the life of me remember), is that it was a particularly popular title with libraries.  Once a book hits a library it get’s stuff glued into it, stamped, taped, rebound and generally receives all manner of abuse.  Hence picking up a copy in reasonable condition is a rather special occasion.

So, for this special occasion, cue the golden horn wielding cherubs and garlands of wild flowers.  Here we go.
Groff Conklin, ed. - Science Fiction Terror TalesNot bad.  Looks like some slight sunning on the spine, but otherwise pretty good.  Colors are still bright and the dust jacket in general is free from any rubbing.  Sans jacket it also looks sharp.
Nice. No wear on the edges of the boards at all and only some slight bumping to the head and tail. Looking from the top we see a couple of problems.

First, the discoloration here is quite evident and we can see some spotting. Also some creepy-crawly has had a bit of a munch on it at some stage. Thankfully though the hole only goes about a quarter inch deep. The bottom view is a little better.

The edge of the block is much cleaner with less discoloration. A closer look reveals no surprises.


The edge of the jacket is excellent all-round with that slight wear at the extremities of the spine. No problem.
A bit of age toning inside.

But nothing unusual for this vintage. Some foxing where the paste-down and front free end-paper meet, non-existent at the rear.

All in all, very nice. The rear of the jacket is a continuation of the front – minimal rubbing and shelf wear, still bright too.

Year: 1955
Paid: $267
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Quantity: 5000 copies (Eshbach)
Binding: Red cloth with black lettering on the spine
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: SCIENCE FICTION TERROR TALES, edited by Groff Conklin, 1955, pp.x/ 262, $3.50. 5000 copies printed. Points: Because of the relative scarcity of this title, we were initially inclined to believe not all were bound, but have since determined that the print run is correct; Conklin had an exceptional public library status as a must-order anyway and this received a superior review from Kirkus. Reprints: Mass market pbs., Pocket Books, 1954; again, 1969.
Currey: absent
Comments: I consider myself very lucky to have a copy of this book.  The condition is nice enough and a fair price for such.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: Address: Centauri

Posted in 1955, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , on December 6, 2009 by Aaron

F.L. Wallace
1955

Wow, I’ve been really lucky lately.  I’ve been treated to some excellent space opera from the Gnome Press stable.  Following the mediocre reading experiences that were Pattern for Conquest and Cosmic Engineers,  I’ve had the pleasure of The Mixed Men, The Starmen and now Address: Centauri.

But who is author F.L. Wallace??  Well, this is his one and only novel.  Check out his pages on Wikipedia and the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.  Somewhat dissimilar to the majority of authors published by GP, he wrote entirely in the 50’s and the very early 60’s.  The very early 50’s, the 40’s and even the 30’s provided the majority of the material for Gnome Press.

I hinted that this is a space opera, but upon a bit more reflection I’m not so sure.  Space opera is typified by it’s large scale – planet hopping, vast distances, extremely advanced yet poorly described technology and often rather thin characters.  While all of this is more or less present here in Address: Centauri, it’s arrangement sort of dissuades me from attaching the ‘space opera’ label.

Earth is the province of beautiful people, medical and cosmetic technology is advanced enough to remedy a great many problems.  But not all.  For those for whom finances or the technological limits are a barrier we have ‘Handicap Haven.’  An asteroid that houses an advanced medical facility catering to societies physical and mental rejects, and we indeed do have a motley bunch of starring characters drawn from this pool.  Which brings me to something I mentioned in the Close Up about the cover illustration something about the story.  I’m talking specifically about the main characters.

First, looking a bit like a Weeble, is Jordan – a genius engineer who has no legs.  Next is huge Anti.  Formally a talented dancer, but infected by some kind of rampant flesh-building organism.  Next our main man, Docchi.  Through a near-fatal accident, his tissues have been saturated with a partially organic ‘cold lighting’ fluid that responds to his emotional state by lighting his skin.  Jeriann looks great physically but has no digestive system whatsoever.  Finally the beautiful face of Nona.  Emotionally retarded and unable to communicate but with a kind of telepathic empathy with, and ability to influence, electronic and gravitic systems.

To cut a long story short, it’s Nona’s ability to control the artificial gravity of Handicap Haven that sets our population of rejects on their way to Alpha Centauri in a race to be the first to reach another star system, find a true home and perhaps establish contact with an alien civilization.

But, getting back to the question of whether this is a true space opera or not, lets check the boxes.  Vast distances and planet hopping – we go from Sol system all the way to Alpha Centauri.  Check.  Extremely advanced yet poorly described technology – artificial gravity and medical marvels.  Check.  Rather thin characters – barring Docchi, we spend very little time on the motivations and personalities of the other characters.  Check.  However, the vast distances are not a feature but a vehicle or framework for the story to take place in.  The means of setting up a time frame and a duration within which the story can transpire.  The advanced technology is in fact analyzed in a little more detail than we might expect from traditional space opera.  Sure, it’s still a bit sketchy, though to Mr Wallace’s credit, what he does describe leans more towards the harder side of science and it does have an air of credibility.  And we do develop real sympathy for the characters and their plight.  Indeed, the author has provided a very interesting group for us to enjoy the story alongside, and the two most interesting for me are Docchi and Nona.

We don’t really get to know Nona that well aside from her ability that unlocks faster-than-light travel by manipulating gravity, or to be more precise, mentally manipulating the systems that manipulate gravity.  It is her mysteriousness that is attractive however, and she also develops a relationship with Dr Cameron – the only able-bodied and initially very reluctant (he was effectively kidnapped after all) member of our crew.

Docchi is the leader.  He organizes the rebellion that leads to Handicap Haven’s departure and we experience his angst and frustration at having to evaluate and cater to the special needs of the asteroid’s various maladies and juggle (amongst other things) the rationing of power and the allocation of medical supplies en route to the Centauri system.

To wrap this review up without giving too much away, we learn that this rag-tag bunch achieve their goal, find a new home and are viewed as the true representatives of the human race.

There is a great base here from which F.L. Wallace could have built a couple more books around our team’s efforts to establish their home and relations with the denizens of the Centauri system. It’s a real shame he didn’t as I really enjoyed the ride out there, and would have liked to tag along on some more adventures with Docchi, Nona, Anti and their interesting friends.

Close Up: Address: Centauri

Posted in 1955, Close Up with tags , , on November 21, 2009 by Aaron

closeupF.L. Wallace
1955

I got this in a package purchase along with Renaissance, SF’58 and Space Lawyer, and overall probably in the poorest condition of the four.  Edd Emsh usually provides fantastic cover art, but on this occasion it’s a little on the ordinary side.  However, it does highlight a couple of things about the story which I’ll mention in the Review.  Overall the book is in pretty sound physical condition, but those bugbears of foxing and Gnome’s cheap paper are apparent.  Anyway, let’s check it out.
As I said, physically (tears, chips, wear) it is pretty good, but you can see it’s looking a little mottled, especially down the leading edge.  Some sunning on the spine too.  It’s starting to look better with the jacket off though.  The boards are pretty clean.
Though there is what looks like a slight oil stain along the bottom front edge.
The top and bottom views reveal no issues except that thing I mentioned earlier.
You can see the darkening on the block.  We’ll have a closer look at that later.

The spine extremities are ok, and the edges of the jacket are pretty good.  from the top you can see the discoloration and slight sunning to the spine.  Also on the spine is a graze – right over poor old F.L. Wallace’s name too.  Darn.
You can see the mottling/discoloration too quite well also.
There is staining and/or foxing on the flaps, the rear being the worst.
I’m never quite sure how to tell the difference between what is true foxing and what is a stain from some other source.  I suppose it doesn’t really make much difference as the result is pretty much the same.
The poor quality paper has resulted in the typical browning of the block.
But of more interest to me here (as I am so fond of pointing out) are the cool designs at the beginning of each chapter.  Nice.
The back of the jacket is ok.  General discoloration is apparent, but no real damage.

Year: 1955
Paid: $15
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Quantity: 4000 copies, 1263 copies remaindered.
Binding: Olive/tan boards with black lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: A reasonable copy. Basically poor aging drags the condition of this down a notch or two. Pity.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: This Fortress World

Posted in 1955, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , on June 18, 2009 by Aaron

James E. Gunn
1955

James Gunn is a recent Science Fiction Grand Master and a very well respected figure in SF circles.  He has been the director for the Center for the Study of Science Fiction at the University of Kansas since it’s inception in 1982.  I recommend you exercise the link, where you can learn a bit about Mr Gunn, his accomplishments and the work done at the CSSF.  There are some interesting essays and other material there.

I struggled to get into this book, but only for the first few pages.  I don’t know exactly why – if the very start of the book wasn’t as engaging as I needed, or whether it was my own frame of mind at the time.  Whatever it was, I had a couple of false starts getting in to it.  Consequently, the story had an uphill battle to regain what it had lost (or perhaps what I had neglected to appreciate).  Anyway, that it did, and some.

First, a bit of background.  Mankind had forged a Galactic Empire, but it has since decayed into an aggregation of insular planets, each apparently quite independent and mostly run by emperor-like figures.  Aside from the ruling classes, the mass of humanity is uneducated and in a very sorry state.  Humanity seems to be arranged in a kind of caste system, with serfs and noblemen and such.  Religion seems to be the only consistent cultural factor across the Galaxy.  The exact nature of this religion isn’t made explicit, but I took it to be a monotheistic organization something in the nature of a Benedictine or Carthusian order.  Religion caters to the masses while staying away from controversy and consequently the ruling elite are happy with this arrangement providing that it doesn’t evolve and threaten their hold over the people.

All the action takes place on the planet of Brancusi, almost entirely within the capital city.  Our hero, Dane, is an acolyte monk, having lived all his life within the huge walls of the monastery.  The monastery itself is a ‘fortress world’, a motif which recurs throughout the book and one which I’ll talk about later.  In strange and violent circumstances he comes into possession of a mysterious artifact that is believed to hold a secret that could bring great power to whoever can unlock it.  A pursuit ensues that lasts almost the entire book and in the end (to use a cliché) the good guy gets the girl.

The story is fast-paced and keeps it up pretty much the entire time.  Poor Dane finds himself in one predicament after another with the mercenary Sabatini always in close pursuit.

There are a couple of interesting things about the story which I’d like to comment on.

First is Dane himself.  He is a very interesting character and we see him develop from a very naive and cloistered individual into one with cunning and resourcefulness, despite never entirely losing that naivety.  His physical presence and prowess is considerable though it’s never made a big deal of over the course of the story, indeed Dane offhandedly describes impressive feats beyond the physicality of his co-characters.  I’m a huge Gene Wolfe fan and in this way Dane reminds me of the way Mr Wolfe writes many of his characters.  Often very blasé about apparently startling or disturbing events, and deadpan yet fulfilling with descriptions of things that other writers would likely see as opportunity for over-exercising creative prose. I guess what I’m trying to say is that Mr Gunn gives Dane a powerful and intimidating presence (apparently as a by-product of his healthy lifestyle and fitness regime in the monastery) through an accumulation of his actions and deeds, rather than laying it out for us.  I like that style.  It gives me credibility and makes me feel smart as a reader.

The other thing is the fortress motif I touched on earlier. This occurs time and time again throughout the course of this tale.  Because I’m no literary academic – I’m just an SF fan who does this for my own enjoyment and hopefully that of others – I probably wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for one particular exchange in the book:

“But if people aren’t born evil, how do they get that way?”
“They’re afraid of getting hurt, and they build up a wall around themselves for protection.  They build themselves a fortress and sit inside it, sheltered and afraid.  Afraid that someone will break in and find them there, see them as they really are, alone and helpless.  For then they can be hurt, you see.  When they are naked and defenseless.  We’re a whole galaxy of worlds, revolving endlessly, never touching, crouched within our fortresses, alone, always alone.”

This came about half-way through the book, and was the first use of the word ‘fortress’.  That’s really what made me sit up and take notice.  This is a succinct summation of this societies individuals and it scales right up through the fortress of the caste system, to the fortresses of the independent planets and the only interplanetary organization – the religion – has fortress-like outposts on each world.  Even Dane in his quest to keep the artifact from those that hunt him, and his desire to uncover the motivations of those behind the scenes spends time in fortresses of one kind or another.  From the beginning of his adventure in the fortress of the monastery, to the various brief and secret havens he finds, to the cell Sabatini has him incarcerated in for a while and finally to old Earth which is sheltered from the rest of the Galaxy.

Despite the book being like a fortress itself in that I found it difficult to break into initially, once I was inside the adventure opened up and took me along for the ride.  I can see why Mr Gunn has had a very loyal fan-base for so many years.  I am looking forward to picking up James Gunn’s collaboration with Jack Williamson on the Gnome Press book Star Bridge.

Pop over to visit Bill the SciFi Guy and check out his reviews for Star Bridge and for Mr Gunn’s The Immortals.

Close Up: This Fortress World

Posted in 1955, Close Up with tags , , on June 15, 2009 by Aaron

closeupJames E. Gunn
1955

This book is in excellent condition.  There are just two or three minor faults to comment on which we will do presently, but first just a small bit of provenance.  This book is one of three I have that come out of the library of Gregg and Tina Riehl.  I must thank them for caring for their books – all three are in pretty good condition, and this is the best.  The book has an interesting cover.  I wasn’t sure what to make of it, but now that I’m reading it – the Review will be up in the next week or so – it’s making more sense.
I’m still working on getting the lighting right for these pics.  I’m loathe to extract the jackets from their protective covers, but I might have to for the sake of decent images for you to enjoy.  Just a touch soiled, but nevertheless, a clean cover as you can see.
Book sans dust jacket is nice too.
Currey ‘A’ priority binding at that.  I love the cloth shelf back with boards style.  Looks classy, especially with that attractive patterning on the boards.
Viewed from the top it still looks very good.  Sits nice and square and the binding is still firm and in excellent condition.
It’s much more interesting from below.  Check this out.
Exactly the same condition as the top.  But wait… what’s that we can see??  If you look carefully at the bottom of the block you can see the name of the book and surname of the author penciled in.  Let’s get closer.
I’ve zoomed in on ‘World’ and ‘Gunn’.  An interesting but unfortunately uncool thing about this book.  Perhaps more concerning is that I never noticed it until I stated inspecting the book for this Close Up.
The head and tail of the spine are in great condition, not too much drama there, perhaps a little wear showing at the head of the dust jacket.
But the tail is in superb condition.  That writing is visible here also.
A touch of darkening is beginning to become apparent, working it’s way in from the edges of the block.

Finally, the rear of the jacket is pretty good apart from a bit of soiling on the spine edge (probably from grubby hands).

It looks a bit worse than it does live.  Also a bit of a graze between the Prelude to Space and Iceworld listing.

Year: 1955
Paid: $45
Art: Murray Tinkelman
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Currey priority ‘A’. Currey claims blue-gray boards with light blue cloth shelf back. Looks more greenish to me. Black spine lettering.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Slight block darkening, light pencil inscription on the base of the block and slight soiling to dust jacket. Previous owners embossed stamping to front free end-paper. Otherwise a very nice copy.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: All About the Future

Posted in 1955, 4:Stellar!, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Review with tags , , on April 24, 2009 by Aaron

Martin Greenberg, editor
1955

This is the third book of the ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ that I’ve read.  I haven’t gotten around to reviewing The Robot and the Man yet, but Journey to Infinity I have.  I have to say I am really enjoying the books in this series and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the others.  I’ll probably repeat this in all the reviews for these books, but Greenberg’s theme idea is a winner.  Slightly different from the other two I have read – collections tracing the history of mankind and the history of the development of the robot – these stories are each a different take on the kinds of cultures we might see in the future.

I’ll touch on the stories in a moment, but first I just want to mention the Foreword and the Introduction.  The foreword is written by editor Martin Greenberg in which he outlines the purpose of the collection and gives a brief intro to each story.  This is a very important part of the book because it really focuses your mind on the themes and issues to take note of.  It sets the book up nicely because without it, this would be too easy to read as just a collection of pretty good science fiction short stories.  The introduction written by Robert Heinlein is special.  Actually there are two intros, the other by Isaac Asimov.  What I’m going to do here is reproduce the intro by Mr Heinlein for you to enjoy.  It’s a fascinating glimpse into how the Great Man’s mind was working back then, how he used the present to think about a science fiction future, and how he saw the ‘real’ future from the perspective of 1955.  He has a stab at predicting some things that will come to pass  (prediction #4; The United States will never engage in a preventative war), and lists a few he thinks will probably never happen.  It’s 11 pages, but this is a must-read for Heinlein fans, science fiction fans (particularly classic sf) and fans of ’50s nostalgia in general. So here it is, ‘Where To?’ by Robert Heinlein.  Enjoy.

View this document on Scribd

If you are a bit concerned about me breaking the back of this book over a scanner, don’t be.  I held the book open carefully and photographed it.  I have also made the assumption that reproducing this here isn’t a big problem.  If I’m incorrect in that, someone advise me please.

Well, on to the stories.  As I said, I’m not going to spend a lot of space analyzing every one, but I’ll let you know a little about each.

‘The Midas Plague’ by Frederick Pohl tells us about a society, that because of the excess of production, assigns ‘consumption quotas’ to citizens.  One newly married individual hits on a brilliant but illegal and subversive idea to meet and exceed his consumption needs, reduce his quotas and move up the social scale.

The operations of an ultra-secret governmental security force is the subject of ‘Un-Man’ by Poul Anderson.  Working to secure the position of a world government in the face of shadowy interests actively working against them, this organisation of clones is hard pressed to maintain stability.

Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘Granny Won’t Knit’ is an unusual tale of blossoming psi-powers in an very conservative and conformist society.  Exposed skin is considered offensive in this male-dominance and rigidly structured civilisation.

‘Natural State’ describes the transformation of a city-dwelling media star into a ‘mudfoot’ – the technology-independent people living in the wasteland outside the walled cities.  Written by Damon Knight, the story culminates in the eventual collapse of the city-states at the hands of their more naturalistic neighbors.

In ‘Hobo God’, Malcolm Jameson tells the tale of how an unwitting and unwilling astronaut becomes an unwitting and unwilling god to the native population after his mission fails on Mars.

Walter M. Miller Jr’s ‘Blood Bank’ is set it a far, far future where the current civilisation on Earth is a dark enigma to the rest of the galaxy.  Disgraced because of a tragic encounter with a mercy ship of Terran origin, a former interstellar patrol commander is determined to unravel the mystery whatever the cost.

As I mentioned earlier, some ideas regarding society and civilisation permeates the book.  Themes such as consumerism, world government and ultra-conservatism are commented on in the various stories, perhaps not directly but Martin Greenberg has constructed the book and chosen the tales well.

I enjoyed ‘Un-Man’ the most.  It’s the longest in the collection and feels surprisingly contemporary, as if it was written recently and not 50-odd years ago.  The others by comparison feel a little dated.  This isn’t neccessarily a negative on their part, but rather testimony to the strength and style in Poul Anderson’s writing in this case.  The others vary in quality for me, but in general a very enjoyable collection, especially in the light that Greenberg’s introduction throws upon it.  I have to recommend this book if only for the introduction by Heinlein.  Perhaps the editor and authors didn’t know all about the future back then, but when considered from our point of view today, I think they indeed knew more about the future than they were given credit for.