Archive for Clifford D. Simak

GP in Paperback Parade

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on January 26, 2012 by Aaron

I’ve been sorely remiss in posting about correspondence I’ve had in the past year or so regarding Gnome Press.  Well… ‘sorely remiss’ is a kind of euphemism really.  Putting it succinctly, I’ve just been f***ing lazy.  Time to catch up and pay some dues.

A while back I bought the Armed Forces paperback issue of Pattern for Conquest from Morgan Wallace.  He was kind enough to enlighten me as to his GP interest.  He has all four Gnome paperback issues, and actually wrote a piece for Paperback Parade in 2005 outlining the history of the Gnome Press paperback dalliance.  Morgan sent me scans of his article and of the four GP paperback titles.  Here is first the piece and then his covers.

View this document on Scribd

Many thanks for these Morgan.  They are greatly appreciated and a fantastic addition here at the Odyssey.  They’ll make a permanent home over on the Trivia page.

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I can now put my finger on it…

Posted in Comparisons, Review with tags , , , on September 25, 2009 by Aaron

Something was bugging me while reading Cosmic Engineers.  I couldn’t work out what it really was, but during the course of reading it and then doing the Review I felt there was something missing in the book.  Something lacking that I didn’t have the experience to identify and bring to the light of day.

I’m reading The Mixed Men at present.  While reading (I’m about half-way through) it suddenly occurred to me what that something was.  It was something that was present in The Mixed Men and shone out so distinctly when I thought about Cosmic Engineers.  In a word: Character.  Or rather Characters.  Real ones.

Author of The Mixed Men, A.E. van Vogt dwells a lot in the minds of the principle characters.  We learn what they are thinking and why, a little of their history as people and what makes them tick.  This is totally absent in Cosmic Engineers.  With the possible exception of the revived female character whom we do learn a little about, the other characters are cardboard cut-outs.  No back story, we never learn what they are really thinking and as a result, I at least didn’t really care about them, or the story.  And this, I think,  was also part of the reason I was so critical of it.  I imagine if the characters involved were more substantial, if we got some more insight into their personalities and thoughts, then some of the more outlandish stuff may not have mattered so much.

Review: Cosmic Engineers

Posted in 1950, 1:No Launch, Review with tags , on September 19, 2009 by Aaron

Clifford D. Simak
1950

Clifford D. Simak’s novel City has the reputation of being one of the classic SF tales, and being in the Gnome Press stable, I’m looking forward to picking it up sometime (it’s one of the big ticket books, so I’ll have to save for while…).  As a result, I had high expectations of Cosmic Engineers.  Expectations which were sadly left unfulfilled.

Clifford D. Simak, according to Wikipedia began writing in the Space Opera but later developed his style to be more ‘pastoral’, which I guess means more considered, sensitive and sedate.  City (from what little I have read about it) appears to fall under the pastoral label, but Cosmic Engineers most definitely does not.

All Space Opera is ridiculous to a certain extent, that’s the nature of the beast and serious SF readers know this, can accept it and enjoy these tales for what they are.  A skill especially important for today’s reader when taking in tales from the Golden Age of Science Fiction.  Sadly though, it’s a skill that I suspect is dying out as the ‘pool’ of people who really understand the literary significance and cultural context of this period’s stories gets smaller and smaller.  I like to consider myself part of that pool despite being two generations  removed from that period – I’m thankful I spent my formative reading years (in the mid-late 1970s) enjoying books of that ilk.

Getting back to the book at hand, Cosmic Engineers is Space Opera of the particularly hard to stomach kind, even with reference to what I just talked about.  But before I lambast it too much, what was there to appreciate and enjoy??  I guess the biggest thing was the pace of the book.  Like most Space Opera the pace is rapid, and as I mentioned in the Review of Pattern for Conquest (a better book though with similar issues), I enjoy never having a dull moment.  Another positive was the start.  A newsman and photographer(!) doing the rounds of the solar system, diverted out to Pluto for a breaking story, encountering a derelict ship with a beautiful young woman in suspended animation.  Despite being in this state for about a thousand years, when they awaken her she tells them her brain has been active the whole time.  She’s been thinking for a millennium and in partial communication with some unknown intelligence.

Ok, great so far.  Sounds intriguing, where’s this tale going??

Our band of three make it to Pluto where they engage the assistance of  a genius scientist and a gung-ho spaceman.  Contact is established with the mysterious message-senders and our party finishes up at the edge of the universe where the ‘cosmic engineers’ enlist their help to stop two universes colliding. Which of course they do thereby saving each from total annihilation.

I liken reading this story to a discovering train wreck from the caboose end.  While walking down the tracks we find the end of a train.  The final carriage is nice, it looks good.  However, the further up the tracks we walk the less organized things become – paint flaking off here, a wheel dislodged there – until eventually the devastation we encounter is truly alarming.  The front of the train is smashed beyond redemption and the machinery of the business end is strewn all over the place.

So maybe I’m being a little dramatic and perhaps it’s not quite that bad, but you get the picture.  We’re talking time travel, universes in collision, using ultra advanced mathematics to break off mini-universe ‘sand-boxes’ (to use a modern expression), fourth and fifth dimensions, the mysterious area between universes…  It’s all just so mind-bogglingly bizarre, outlandish and 224 pages is hopelessly inadequate for stuff of this magnitude and it’s all just given cursory treatment besides.  Wow, I am being a bit rough.

I always have rose-tinted glasses on when I read Gnome Press books and I really, really wanted to enjoy this story.  I tried, and tried hard too.  Unfortunately my effort remained unrewarded.

Great cover though.

Close Up: Cosmic Engineers

Posted in 1950, Close Up with tags , , on July 22, 2009 by Aaron

closeupClifford D. Simak
1950

I was looking forward to receiving this.  Picked up as an add-on to my eBay purchase of Pattern for Conquest, posted after ‘Conquest’ and received before.  I expect ‘Conquest’ will arrive in the next day or two.  I expected this copy to be in Fine condition and was initially very pleased when I managed to finish unwrapping it.  It was packaged very well – like one of those trick gifts where you keep unwrapping until finally you realize there’s nothing there.  Qdos to Peter for superb packaging. My first impression was very, very good.  But I have to say my joy was tempered somewhat.  I feel I have to downgrade my initial estimation (and the sellers claim) to Near Fine.  Why??  Have a close look and see if you can detect why.  The answer will come at the end.
You can see it’s in fantastic condition.  Absolutely beautiful cover art by classic pulp artist Edd Cartier.  With garments off it looks equally good.
Beautiful cloth binding – the very desirable Currey priority ‘A’.  Much more attractive than the tan colored boards of the ‘B’ binding.  I just love the rocket stamped on the front there.  Super.  From the top and bottom it looks great too.
Very, very little discoloration to the block.  Inside is nice and white too.  Practically no wear to the edges of the boards also.  If we take a close in view of the head and tail, you might detect the issue that the jacket has.
The pinkish color on the leading edge in the tail view is a reflection and not coloration or wear on the jacket.  The head and tail of the binding shows a small amount of bruising.  The problem I mentioned earlier might be visible here to someone with a keen eye.  Can you pick it up??  No??  Then have a look at this:
See it now??  Blue ink.  The jacket has been touched up along most edges.  I must admit, it’s a pretty good job – all but invisible to a casual inspection.  I wonder when it was done??  I’m really going to highlight it now.
I took this pic under the most unflattering lighting.  It really is visible now.  Again, the leading edge of the jacket shows a reflection and not wear.  I must get some proper strobes sometimes so I can avoid that.  Anyway, the touch-ups on the jacket kind of disappointed me, but even so it’s still in great condition.
The back is very nice, a little soiling from shelf-wear, but no problem.

Year: 1950
Paid: $98
Art: Edd Cartier
Quantity: 6000 copies.  5000 in hardcover, 1000 paperback armed forces issues.
Binding: Currey priority ‘A’.  Blue cloth with stamped yellow spine and front board lettering with rocket motif.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Despite the ink application, at $98 this is a great price for a copy in this condition.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

And a couple more…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on July 15, 2009 by Aaron

Just sealed the deal for a copy of Clifford D. Simak‘s Cosmic Engineers – first binding and in Fine condition for $98.  This is from the same chap whom I got ‘Pattern for Conquest’ from.  If the condition is anything like that (and he assured me it was) then I have another fantastic book heading my way.

Also I picked up another copy of ‘Space Lawyer’ from a dealer in New Zealand for $27.  It was difficult to tell from the pic, but it looks in pretty much the same condition as the copy I already have.

In another New Zealand purchase, I have the acquisition of a copy of Shambleau and others by C.L. Moore for less than $40 in progress.  It looks to be in VG+ condition, another excellent buy.