Archive for the 1957 Category

Close Up: Two Sought Adventure

Posted in 1957, Close Up with tags , on June 5, 2011 by Aaron

closeupFritz Leiber

I’ve had these pics over on my Gnome Press Flickr site for almost a year. Since I posted a Review for this title recently, it’s past time to get the Close Up done.

A somewhat odd cover. Kind of stylized and I didn’t like it much at first.  I’m a very classic ‘Golden Age’ cover kind of guy.  The covers for Pattern for Conquest and Cosmic Engineers being two of my favorites.  It grew on me however, and I’m not adverse to it now.  It does thought present a nice segway from Golden Age art into the New Age nonsense represented by the likes of The Philosophical Corps.  Come to think of it, because Gnome Press spanned a period of time running from the tail end of the Golden Age to the beginnings of the New Age, the evolution of their cover art provides an interesting commentary.  I might post about that sometime.  Anyway, check out the cover below.

The artwork quite accurately depicts our two heroes – Fahrfrd and the Grey Mouser.  Some slight rubbing on the cover that is somewhat masked by the appearance of the artwork.  Around the jacket where the block sits against the flaps there is some foxing on the unprotected areas there.

The boards are a little rubbed, but in generally good condition.

From the top and bottom we can see the typical GP browning of the block.

Though it’s not too bad for a book of this vintage.  You can see that the edges of the jacket are in quite nice condition as well.  Except for one thing.
This view, while illustrating the nice condition of the edging, hints at two major problems with this copy.  First, there is a 1cm tear through the ‘W’ on the front.
And you can see the rubbing on the spine of the jacket is quite bad.
Close photography always really highlight cosmetic issues like this.
The tail of the spine presents no issues except that damn rubbing.
The back of the jacket exhibits more of the endemic rubbing.

Year: 1957
Paid: $40
Art: Lionel Dillon
Copies: 4000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Black boards with red lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: TWO SOUGHT ADVENTURE, by Fritz Leiber, 1957, pp.186, $3.00. 4000 copies printed, 3000 initially in black boards, 1000 in 1959–1960 in gray cloth.
Currey: TWO SOUGHT ADVENTURE. N.Y. Gnome Press Inc., [1957]. Two bindings, priority as listed: (A) Black boards stamped in red; (B) Gray cloth stamped in red, (C) Red boards stamped in black (not seen) First edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: Rubbing, as has been described above, is the major flaw with this copy.  If we set that aside, it’s pretty damn good.  Unfortunately though, we can’t set it aside.  However, $40 isn’t outlandish for this title even in this condition.  Interesting that Currey notes an unseen (C) state binding while officially recognizing only two.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database



Review: Two Sought Adventure

Posted in 1957, 3:Lunar with tags , on May 5, 2011 by Aaron

Fritz Leiber

I was looking forward to reading this very much as a bit of an escape from the usual SF fare. As soon as I started reading it, I had my doubts about the worth of the contents. I have never liked being introduced to a fantasy book by the scene being set with what seem clumsy and contrived fantasy names and locations. It’s as if the author wants to impress with the power of his imagination and how exotic and mysterious his world must be.  Maybe back in the day it was fine, but these days to this sometimes jaded and experienced reader it’s not interesting, even a turn-off perhaps unless you’re about 16 years old.  However, as I often say here, when reading these stories we mustn’t be too critical in a contemporary light.  We must try wind our minds back to the times in which they were written.  Not an easy thing when you’re born in 1969, but as I was weaned on Heinlein juveniles and Hugh Walters around 1980 or so it’s no big deal really.  I really want to pick up some Walters first editions sometime… hard to come by those.

To the book at hand.  While I did start with a fair bit of skepticism, that quickly disappeared as I got engaged in the capers of this pair of fearless and daring adventurers.  Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser present an unlikely couple in the form of a Conanesque barbarian and a diminutive thief in the mold of a kind of a half-elf character from Dungeons & Dragons.  Indeed, these characters and their world were apparently an influence in the role-playing world.  You can read about them in more detail on wikipedia here.

Fritz Leiber presents a bit of a tragic figure for all his ability as a writer in the realms of SF, horror and fantasy.  Apparently an accomplished fencer, this skill of his comes through in excellent and believable descriptions of bouts of swordplay throughout the collection.  It is a collection, did I mention that?  Anyway, these two good friends engage in a bit of hack & slash and various other types of derring-do – breaking and entering, wasteland adventures and such and so forth.  Their influence as literary characters and that of their world (in particular their hometown of Lankhmar) remain to this day.  I recommend looking into these two more widely on the Internet.

This isn’t a particularly good review.  It’s the first since, well… Mutant, way back in December ’09!!  Man, I’m out of practice.  Still this is better than nothing and will hopefully get my Review wheels turning again.

Bottom line is (and this is what we all want after all..) that this is a good collection of Fantasy tales with two very believable and human protagonists.  No superhuman abilities or miraculous escapes, just excellent fantasy fun with engaging characters.  If you are seeking adventure, make it three and join Fafhrd and Mouser.  Highly recommended.

Close Up: SF’57: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy

Posted in 1957, Close Up with tags , , on July 18, 2010 by Aaron

closeupJudith Merril, editor

The second in the series and the one I acquired third.  This particular copy has two sides.   Firstly, the jacket, while quite nice, has a couple of significant issues.  None are apparent on the cover itself which is quite… nice. But you can see some problems on the spine.  We’ll have a closer look at those soon.
I said two sides.  The other ‘side’ as it were, is the condition of the binding.  Which is Fine.  I’m inclined to suspect that this jacket may have been married to the book.  The wear overall doesn’t seem to be reflected on the binding.
I think I will have to exhibit a bit more care with my post-processing of the Close Up photos.  I’m not very happy with these in hindsight.  There are a few ragged edges where I haven’t removed the background carefully enough.  I’ll see if I still have the originals and maybe replace these ones.  In any event, you can see the boards are nice and clean and sharp. The pages are crisp without any discoloration.
The top and bottom view are pleasing from the binding’s point of view.  The block is white and sits nice and square.
The bottom of the jacket is quite frayed.  Thankfully there are no chunks missing and the dust jacket protector holds it together well.  The pink color on the spine looks a bit faded when compared to that on the front cover.
There is a nasty score on the spine, you may have noticed it earlier.  Here’s a closer look.
Now, there is no trace of this on the spine of the binding.  I thought perhaps there might be hence my suspicion about the jacket/book combination not being original.  Maybe.  Maybe not.
A little dirty looking shelf-wear on the back.  Not as bad in person.  Apart from the obvious fraying at the base of the spine, it is pretty sound.

Year: 1957
Paid: $16
Art: W.I. Van der Pohl
Quantity: 3000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Red cloth with black lettering on spine
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: SF:57—THE YEAR’S GREATEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, edited by Judith Merril, 1957, pp.320, $3.95. 3000 copies printed. Jacket by W.I. Van der Poel. Simultaneous edition: mass market pb, Dell, NY: 1957. Basically for the library market, explaining the short run.
Currey: SF’57. New York, The Gnome Press Inc, Publishers, [1957]. First edition so stated on copyright page. Note: Dell and Gnome Press editions published simultaneously.
Comments: Pages and binding are in beautiful condition, pity about the jacket.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Review: The Shrouded Planet & The Dawning Light

Posted in 1957, 1959, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , , , , on June 6, 2009 by Aaron

Robert Randall (Robert Silverberg & Randall Garrett)
1957 & 1959

I’ve been looking forward to reading these two books ever since I picked up The Dawning Light from Joe back in November (December?) last year.  Just like the Close Up for these two books, this will be a double-header review.  Both these books by Robert Randall are the joint work of two authors – Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett.  Garrett was an experienced contributor to pulp magazines and several years older than Silverberg, and acted as a kind of mentor to the younger writer.

These two books together represent one almost seamless and continuous story despite their origins as pulp fare.   ‘Planet’ was originally published in three separate parts in Astounding Science Fiction during 1956.  For the Gnome Press hardback release in ’57, linking chapters were added to aid the flow in novel form.  Something, incidentally, that was desperately needed for The Philosophical Corps, so desperately in fact that their absence effectively destroyed what could have been a much better book… but I digress.  ‘Light’ was likewise release over three consecutive months in 1957 in the same magazine. The linking chapters work very well in these books, so well that you wouldn’t know unless you… knew.

Wikipedia goes into quite a bit of detail regarding the plots of these two books (‘Planet’ here, ‘Light’ here) and has a substantial reference regarding the planet Nidor where the books are set.  However, if you want to really enjoy these books, I recommend not reading them (the wikipedia entries, I mean) if you can at all help it.  I somehow managed to studiously avoid all this information until after I completed the tales, and my reading experience was, I think, all the better for it.

So, what was the reading experience??  I’m not going to go into detail, I’m just going to gloss over the basic structure so you can enjoy it the way I did.  The biggest strength of the story is that we never find out what the real motivations of the Earthmen are until the very end.  I found myself swinging one way or the other with regards to whether they were benign or not.  But let’s back up a bit.  The planet Nidor orbits a very bright star and is perpetually covered in cloud.  Indeed, the Nidorians have never actually seen their sun, or even the sky for that matter.  This brings to mind the Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten Planet which I read recently.  In another parallel with that book, nightly rains are a by-product of all that cloud.  Since a great cataclysm some four thousand years ago, the Nidorians have lived in a static society structured around the worship of ‘The Great Light’, their sun.  Everything is in balance from the planet’s ecology, to the economy, to leadership by the oldest members sixteen tribes.  This living, yet petrified civilization is what’s alluded to by the title of the first book.  It certainly is a ‘shrouded’ or ‘mummified’ planet.  Well, it is until the Earthmen arrive and playing on being emissaries of The Great Light, shake things up a bit.

If the title of the first book gives you an indication of what the planet is like, the second title does too.

I’ve decided that I can’t comment how I want here without giving too much away, and if you haven’t read these books then I don’t want to spoil it.  The exact motivations of our brethren in the future really are skillfully witheld until the end, and in such a way that I couldn’t make a confident guess as to what they might be.  Suffice to say that there is a lot of scope for different interpretations and comment on the motivations for intervention/nonintervention in foreign (and not necessarily off-world) cultures.

The authors have created a very believable world here populated by interesting characters.  The writing is excellent and the story well paced and engaging.  I thoroughly recommend it.  The only negative aspect that is worth comment is that the revelations at the end are too hastily resolved.  Upon reflection, I think this may be a by-product of the pulp origins of the story.  Each book was published in three parts so the sixth and final installment had to provide a satisfactory conclusion as well as being reasonably self-contained in the confines of a short story.  If they went to the trouble of penning linking chapters, also fleshing out the ending to be more suitable for one long novel (which these two books essentially are) would have been a good idea.

One thing that many stories of this vintage suffer from is the curse of the outdated technology.  Not so here.  Because all of the action takes place on Nidor where the technology is relatively primitive to that contemporary to the time of writing, there isn’t much danger of attempting to describe stuff that seems odd or flat out nonsense to the modern reader.  One of the reasons why the tale holds it’s own very well today.

This is a very entertaining and satisfying read that despite being a little too quickly wrapped up at the end, I think any SF fan will enjoy.

Close Up: The Shrouded Planet & The Dawning Light

Posted in 1957, 1959, Close Up, Comparisons with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by Aaron

closeupRobert Randall (Robert Silverberg & Randall Garrett)
1957 & 1959

I’m doing something a little different for this Close Up. Since these two books are effectively one continuous story, we’ll examine them together.  Looking at the two together illustrates something immediately.  It illustrates one of the things I wish never happened.  One of the things I struggle to understand.  One of the things I find disappointing about Gnome Press.  This: Why did the cover art go from wonderful, colorful, imaginative and descriptive, to… crap??  I suspect there are several answers to this question, and I’ll attempt to address this issue in it’s own post sometime.  For the meantime, we can see what I’m talking about here.

On the left, nice art, attractive, makes me interested.  On the right… not.

I usually give you bigger pics to enjoy, but I’m trying to put them side-by-side on this occasion.  If you want to see in more detail, just click the image and it’ll open the appropriate page on  the Gnome Press Flickr site.

Both books are very similar in condition.  They look good from a distance, but up close not so much.  We’ll have a closer look at this later.  Let’s take the jackets off.

‘Planet’ is in a little better condition here.  ‘Light’ has a bit of spotting on the boards.  Looking at the top we can see the usual darkening of the block.

‘Planet’ is a bit ahead here too.  It’s difficult to tell from these pics, but time has been a little kinder to ‘Planet’s’ text block.

You can also see that ‘Light’ isn’t quite sitting flat.  This is because I photographed it just after putting a dust jacket cover on.  I took the pics of ‘Planet’ prior to doing so.  The spine is a little more secure on ‘Planet’, you can see a slight lean there on ‘Light’ though that is exaggerated by the Brodart cover.

The difference in the darkening on the block is a bit more evident here.  The jacket on ‘Planet’ is a little worn on all extremities.

Though the jacket on ‘Planet’ is a little worn, ‘Light is in pretty good condition around the edges.  However, if you look closely at ‘Planet’ you can see an issue that both jackets share and is also quite serious on both.  Foxing.  Let’s have a closer look at portions of the jacket now.

You can see it prominently now, especially if you check out the larger pics.  I didn’t take a pic of the inner side of the jackets, but it is worse there.  Very noticeable on the endpapers too.

‘Planet’ is obviously suffering less in this regard and ‘Light’ does have issues as you can see.  Check out a previous owner’s embossed stamping there on ‘Planet’, which also has another owner’s stamp on the front paste-down.

You also get a good view of the extent of the foxing on the dust jacket.  It’s evident all over, but this is about the worst spot on the book.

I mentioned both books have the typical Gnome block browning and ‘Light’ is the worst off.

Almost in the same league as the copy of The Survivors I have.  The back of each book is quite nice and rip/wear free, the foxing is the big turn-off.  If it wasn’t for this endemic problem on these two books, their grade would be VG to NF.

Alas, this issue relegated both of these copies down to G I think.  It’s a shame, as otherwise they are both in great condition.

The Shrouded Planet
Year: 1957
Paid: $23
Art: Wallace Wood
Quantity: 5000 copies (2038 remaindered)
Binding: Navy blue boards with sky blue lettering on spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Text block darkening and foxing on an otherwise nice copy.  Two previous owners stamps.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

The Dawning Light
Year: 1959
Paid: $29
Art: W.I. Van der Poel
Quantity: 5000 copies (1530 remaindered)
Binding: Navy boards with red spine lettering.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Significant block darkening and foxing on an otherwise nice copy.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

These two books to my mind are in exactly the same condition.