Close Up: The Saliva Tree and Other Strange Growths

Posted in Close Up with tags , , on April 22, 2012 by Aaron

closeup Brian W. Aldiss
1966

This is a departure from the norm as this is the first ‘official’ Close Up I’ve done for a non GP book.  This blog contains a couple of pseudo-Close Ups of some Gene Wolfe’s books, but none conform to the regular GP template.  So, as one of my favorite short story collections, I have always wanted a first edition of The Saliva Tree.  I picked this up off eBay for a reasonable – though not bargain – price compared to others I’ve seen around the ‘net.  This copy has some special provenance which I’ll outline later.  It’s in pretty good condition, so let’s have a closer look.

The cover and, importantly the spine, are bright and exhibit no fading.  Two things to note on the cover are a sort of a graze mark that has deposited some dark substance upon the top right of the cover and a 1cm closed tear to the bottom edge.  The cover art by Charles Mozley is interesting.  Depicting a scene from the title short story (1965 Nebula Award winning novella, actually..) seems to be at odds with what was the normal SF cover art around that time, though it fits very well with that particular tale.  There is a nice little bio about Mr Mozley at the University of Reading here.

Nice cloth in perfect condition.

The top and bottom views reveal nothing we haven’t seen already.  It looks very nice.

There’s a little wear to the head and tail of the spine, but nothing really noteworthy or damaging.

The back of the jacket looks good except for a slight score just to the left of Best Fantasy Stories, and some staining across the blurb for Earthworks.

I mentioned some provenance earlier.  This copy was a complimentary issue, issued about three weeks prior to publication to one Ritchie Calder – then president of the H.G. Wells society.  We see in the laid in letter how The Saliva Tree ties into the association with H.G.Wells.  Also (if you’ve read it..), how the cover art relates very well to this association and the title story.

Click image for a larger view.

Year: 1966
Paid: $85
Art: Charles Mozley
Copies: ? (I’m trying to contact Faber and Faber regarding volumes..)
Binding: Currey priority ‘A’- Dark green cloth with gold lettering on spine.
Edition Notes:First published in mmcmlxvi” on copyright page
Chalker & Owings: Absent. Chalker and Owings only references independant/specialty publishers.  Faber and Faber are neither.
Currey: THE SALIVA TREE AND OTHER STRANGE GROWTHS. London: Faber and Faber, [1966]. Two bindings, priority as listed: (A) Dark green cloth, spine lettered in gold; (B) Dark green boards, spine lettered in gold. First published in mcmlxvi on copyright page.
Comments: I’m proud to have this.  It’s one of my favorite collections from one of my favorite authors.  Extra special is the provenance as I mentioned.  It’s a great collection!!  Highly recommended reading.
Expand Upon: wikipedia – see Brian Aldiss’ page, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Mouthwatering…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 19, 2012 by Aaron

I’ve always been a huge fan of Brian Aldiss.  The first book of his I read was Helliconia Spring when I was about… I dunno, about 12 or 13 years old or so.  I enjoyed it hugely, and went on to read the other books in the series – Helliconia Summer and Helliconia Winter.  Aspects of these books were a little too adult for me at the time, though I did appreciate them more upon a second reading several years later.  As an aside, GP book The Survivors takes place in a solar system very similar to that of Helliconia.  Or rather, the Helliconia trilogy takes place in a system that perhaps draws it’s inspiration from that in which Tom Godwin’s Ragnarok orbits.  I commented on this in the Review.  I have subsequently read many of Mr. Aldiss’ books and have enjoyed his writing immensely.  In my library are a couple of his first editions – The Malacia Tapestry from 1976 and the 1963 collection The Airs of Earth – as well as five or six various paperbacks.  The reason for this post is that last week I picked up a first edition of what is my favorite of his short story collections, The Saliva Tree and Other Strange Growths, published in 1966.  I’m excited about that, it should arrive next week.  We might get a photographic look at it sometime…

Lost Continents, rediscovered…

Posted in Book Care, New Arrivals with tags , , on March 27, 2012 by Aaron

Well… it seems the signed inscribed copy of de Camp’s Lost Continents that I bought in early January is indeed lost.  It left the US apparently, but it never turned up at my door.  It may appear sometime, but I’m not holding out much hope.  However.  I bought another signed inscribed copy yesterday.  Let’s hope it doesn’t disappear en route like the last.

Today, I was extremely pleased to get my first GP Conan book!!  Conan the Conqueror, from 1950 – first of the seven Conan titles published by Gnome Press.  Hurray!!

These two I expect to be here in about three weeks.  The problems with the lost Lost Continents has made me think a little more on insured, tracked shipping.  While I was very disappointed to not have received the book, it is the only book of the near-100 I have had posted to me over the past three years that hasn’t arrived.  I figure that the money I lost (about $100 including postage) on this non-arrival is much, much less than the money I would have spent insuring and tracking all books of a similar or greater value.  Of course, significantly valuable items of about, I dunno… $150 or more should be insured, but the vast majority of my books haven’t been worth that much.

Well, that’s how I rationalize it at least, so I’m not so broken up about it going AWOL.

Incidentally (assuming they both actually arrive), I’m now only 1 book away from the 75% mark in my GP collection.

Veritable Goldmine…

Posted in eBooks with tags on February 24, 2012 by Aaron

I just found a treasure trove of SF ebooks.  Check out Arthur’s Bookshelf.  There are other genres as well but of special interest to us is his Sci-Fi Bookshelf which holds several Gnome Press published authors along with many of their Golden Age contemporaries.  All books are either .epub and/or .mobi and/or .pdf ready for your ereader.  I’m not sure how many of these are actually supposed to be in the public domain, so get them while you can.  Check out the update to the Gnome Press books online for FREE page for the GP books that are represented.

Close Up: Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars

Posted in 1954, Close Up with tags , , on February 22, 2012 by Aaron

closeupWilliam Morrison
1954

It’s been about eight months since the last Close Up, and I just completed the review a couple of days ago so this is timely.  I have quite a few books on the Gnome Press Flickr site that are still waiting to be delivered here, and this is one.  This is one of those books that isn’t that expensive, but notoriously difficult to get a decent copy of.  Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars is one of the few genuine GP juvenile (or YA) novels and I’m guessing that the reason why it’s hard to get a decent copy is that they tended to fall into the hands of libraries where books get a hard time, and also into the clutches of said young people who themselves are not known for their upstanding book care practices.  I sure know I wasn’t when I was young.  Do I have a nice copy?  I think so, so let’s check it out.

Looks super, the cover art by the great Ed Emsh is still nice and bright, thought there is some slight rubbing around the title area.  The bluish stripe down the leading edge is an artifact of reflected light and not present on the jacket.  You can see at the base of the spine that this is proclaimed as ‘A Mel Oliver Adventure’, implying that there have been, or would be others.  Sadly, this wasn’t the case and we saw no more of Mel and Rover.  A shame.

Nice binding.  I like the Mel and Rover impression there.  Again, my lighting lets me down a little here.  The upper left area looks a bit dark.  It’s actually a slight shadow.  Let’s crack it open and have a peek inside.

Nice white pages and the images of our heroes are repeated here.  Nice touch, I like it.


The only issue in these views is the small tear to the top edge of the jacket visible just to the right of the ‘M’.  More prominent in the photo below, along with some slight wear and tear on the jacket at the head of the spine.


The base of the spine looks beautiful, but we finish on a slight downer with the back of the jacket with some obvious rubbing and soiling here.

Year: 1954
Paid: $15
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Copies: 4000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Yellow boards with red lettering on spine and red Mel & Rover design on front.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: MEL OLIVER AND SPACE ROVER ON MARS, by William Morrison (pseud. Joseph Samachson), 1954, pp.191, $2.50. 4000 copies printed. Jacket by Ric Binkley.
Currey: absent
Comments: Chalker & Owings have stated the jacket is by Ric Binkley.  Quite obviously Ed Emsh has his name on the cover.  It’s quite uncommon to see this title in this condition, and I’m very happy to have it.  15 bucks was a great deal.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Review: Mel Oliver and Space Rover on Mars

Posted in 1954, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , , on February 16, 2012 by Aaron

William Morrison
1954

This book achieves the distinction of being the first of my collection that I’ve read for review without actually reading the book itself – it was read through the Kindle app on my iPhone.  I talked a bit about that in a recent post.  I have two more books to get through in this way Invaders from the Infinite and The Vortex Blaster, and I’m looking forward to it.  Three actually if you count Highways in Hiding when I re-launch into that.  The whole Kindle experience has re-inspired and reinvigorated my reading.  There is also the not-insignificant benefit of eliminating the chance of accidental damage to my precious books!!  Another advantage of reading on the iPhone is that it’s very easy for me to make notes for the review.  I can bookmark pages or highlight text for reference later using Kindle, or pop out of the app and make short text or audio memos using the Evernote app that will sync with my MacBook the next time I connect to the ‘net.  This is awesome.

I’ve occasionally mentioned in this blog about my formative reading years, checking Mr. Heinlein and Hugh Walters out of the Napier Public Library.  This was a time around 1980 just before I became a teenager.  I used to love going to the library after school.  My mum (that’s British English. For those who use inferior versions of the language, translate that as ‘mom’) , took me there and let me go for an hour or so while I grazed along the shelves, sampling the fare on offer.

Just to digress a little here, I hardly ever write in British English anymore (I think it’s referred to as International English these days..), I almost always use American English.  The reason for this is that in Korea here, where I’ve spent the last 8+ years living and teaching, the education system uses American English – a legacy of the American participation and occupation since the Korean War.  If I slip up and spell a word on the black/whiteboard the way I was taught in school, the kids pull me up about it.  “Teacher!!  Wrong spelling!!”  So I’ve adopted ‘color’ instead of ‘colour’ and ‘theater’ as opposed to ‘theatre’ to name a couple of examples.  The students find it quite interesting when I explain some of the differences between the two versions of the language.  Some foreign English teachers here are quite militant one way or the other, but it doesn’t worry me too much.  Just so long as the kids understand that neither is right or wrong, they’re just different.

Anyway… the Napier Public Library.  It’s not there anymore.  At least, not the one I enjoyed going to.  It was bulldozed and rebuilt nearby.  Rebuilt as a big, bright, airy and soulless structure in the late ’80s I think.  Actually, if I’m objective about it, it needed to be.  It had become way too small for Napier’s growing population and a new facility was badly needed.  I’m just bemoaning the fact that it’s gone, the place that I loved so much.  The place where books like Starman Jones and Journey to Jupiter became touchstones of my lifelong love of science fiction literature.

I’ve gotten (more British English, got, for you AE speakers..) quite a bit off track here.  Why have I spent some space rambling about stuff not related to Mel & Rover?  Books like this and those I’ve mentioned bring back treasured reading memories.  Despite my younger brother turning 40 in September last year, I still just love well written juvenile SF, and this particular book falls into that category for me.  There is a real skill writing in this style.  Heinlein was an absolute master at it.  To be able to connect to the young reader, to make you feel as a youngster that this really could be you.  The protagonist in these tales thinks and reacts to fantastic situations in ways that you yourself could imagine or relate to, or aspire to from the point of view of the young reader looking up to teenage maturity.  It’s a skill I fear is disappearing, or at least, no longer viable as the young reader these days (are there any?) is so much more sophisticated and cannot relate to a time when the telephone for example, was a household fixture in the same way as refrigerators or toilets are.  Of course, there’s a tried and true formula for writing YA novels which I’ll touch on later, but I can’t really think of any decent modern YA or juvenile SF around at the moment.  Paolo Bacigalupi’s Ship Breaker is probably the best example I’ve read recently.  The Hunger Games also springs to mind.  But they’re just not the same.  Or maybe I’m somewhat blinded because I’m older now and fall prey to nostalgia.  I’m getting off track again…

What this reinforces to me, and the reason I give this a Stellar! rating, is that if you enjoy YA SF then you’ll enjoy this.

But what about the author William Morrison?  Joseph Samachson (William Morrison was a pseudonym) was a biochemist and besides writing in that capacity, of interest to us he wrote for comics and magazines, and this was apparently his one and only novel.  A pity.  You can learn more about him on wikipedia or check out his bibliography on the ISFDB.

Finally I might start talking about this book now!! Mel is a teenager whom we meet while he’s stowed away about a thousand miles above Earth’s surface, accelerating into a journey to Mars.  He ventures forth, meets fellow stowaway Rover, gets in (and out) trouble, joins the circus and all the while is uncovering a murderous plot against him.  That’s it!!  In true YA fashion the story is as straight as an arrow.  I would just like to elaborate on some aspects of the book.

First, the science, or aspects of the science.  Mr Morrison tries to keep everything grounded in reality, but of course this is the reality of the 1950s, so many ideas are of course dated.  One example is when Mel & Rover are in transit between Earth and Mars.  Mel sends a message ahead to his father’s business partner, Mr Armstrong.  When no reply is forthcoming, it’s assumed that Mr Armstrong is traveling and won’t get the message until he returns home.  Reasonable assumption 60-odd years ago, but today I can get email or messages on my iPhone from anywhere worldwide instantly wherever I might be.  Mel’s human race are a part of a system-wide civilization, inter-planetary travel is routine, yet they can’t receive messages because they aren’t home??  Hmmm…  But, being the die-hard golden-age scientific fiction aficionados we are, we accept these things.

In terms of the hard science that keeps the book grounded (excuse the pun, you’ll see why in a moment..), Mr Morrison employs gravity in several different ways.  There are several examples throughout the book, in fact, I felt he could (or should) have found other devices to showcase his skills in illustrating his grasp of literary hard science. Before I mention a couple of gravitational examples, one non-gravitational example he did use (also on more than one occasion..) was the thin Martian atmosphere – distance didn’t significantly diminish clarity.

With regards to gravity, he used a couple of very interesting examples.  One was when Mel and his circus employer/friend, Bolam the strongman were in a taxi.  Mel becomes frustrated at the lack of speed.  When they hit a low or high spot in the road, the cab’s wheels left the ground to spin uselessly.  Bolam comments that there are some advantages to higher gravity such as that on Earth.  Mel wonders why not just make the vehicles heavier to simulate a higher G?  Bolam responds that it would be a waste of precious materials and power.  They also encounter the necessity to remove a lot of speed to negotiate corners.  Bolam explains that due to the low gravity that applying hard braking easily capsizes the vehicle going around the corner or leads to spinning out. “Accidents of that kind are fifty times as frequent here as on Earth, although it’s true they’re less serious when they do happen.”

Mars has apparently just the right gravity for circus-style acrobatics.  The Moon allows prodigious leaps, but everything is performed much too slowly to engage the audience.  Earth’s gravity allows for fast and exciting routines, but the higher gravity raises the risks of injury.  Mars in comparison offers the large leaps yet the one third G means that the potential for injury is greatly reduced while still providing an engaging performance for the punters.

As I mentioned earlier, the plot is crystal clear and there are no side issues or significant deviations.  We’re with Mel the whole way.  It’s well paced and the book maintained my interest consistently by keeping the action up.   These things are typical (and important) for a juvenile novel, and there’s still a bit of a twist at the end to keep things interesting.  If I had one gripe about the story it’s that we never get a satisfactory resolution for Rover.  Why was he stowing away en route to Mars?  He was the number two character in the book after all… I felt there was a story there to be told.  Perhaps William Morrison planned to explore Rover a bit further in a subsequent volume.

This is clean, innocent fun, and any fan of golden age YA fare will absolutely enjoy this.  I really wish that Mr Morrison took Mel and Rover on further escapades around the solar system.  An interplanetary circus would have been the perfect vehicle for some simple adventure.

More free books online…

Posted in eBooks with tags , on February 16, 2012 by Aaron

I just spend some time trawling Project Gutenberg for Gnome Press books.  I uncovered The Vortex Blaster and Invaders from the Infinite which now appear on the Gnome Press books online For FREE page.  While cruising around there searching different authors, I found there are many GP contributors available.  As we know, quite a few GP books were ‘fix-ups’ or cobbled-together short stories to render novel length publications.  Many of these short stories are available on Project Gutenberg as stand-alone parts of serialized tales like they were originally published in the pulps.