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[Here is Rosemary Benton's article for April 1961. She asked if she could do Zenna Henderson's compilation of The People stories, none of which she had previously read; I hadn't picked up the book since I have the stories in magazine form. I thought it a smashing idea since it would give us all a fresh insight on Henderson's works. I've been vindicated...(the Editor)]

In my quest to break my bookshelf under the weight of my science fiction, horror and fantasy collections, this month I picked up noted author Zenna Henderson's latest publication. To anyone who frequents Fantasy and Science Fiction and Galaxy, Zenna Henderson and her alien race, the People, should not be unknown to you. Pilgrimage: the Book of the People contains Ararat (1952), Gilead (1954), Pottage (1955), Wilderness (1956), Captivity (1958) and Jordan (1959), all tied together through an overarching narrative that tells the story of a human observing the People. As each one of the People takes their turn recounting their time on Earth, the book progresses along such themes as self-discovery, selflessness for the betterment of community, and the definition of home and belonging.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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In my last piece, I discussed how magazines can be better experiences than books because the variety mitigates uneven quality. A good book lasts longer than a magazine, but a bad book lasts longer than eternity.

I try to read a new book every month. With the decline of the science fiction digest, the novel seems to be taking its place as the medium of choice for new material. March's book was The Door Through Space, by new(ish) author, Marion Zimmer Bradley.

I try not to let personal factors sway me when assessing the value of fiction, but I'm only human. On the positive side, I was pleased to find a book by a woman author; on the other hand, Bradley is a weird occultist a la L. Ron Hubbard. Let's just call the two factors mutually balancing, and I'll review the book on its merits.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Less than a generation ago, Adolf Hitler made eugenics -- the selective breeding of humans for desired traits -- a dirty word. But what if a race of bona-fide supermen were created through the direct manipulation of DNA and presented as a fait accompli? What would be the moral ramifications, and how would the "normals" react? James Blish's attempts to tackle these questions in his new book, Titans' Daughter.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Action! Adventure! A physicist/swashbuckler pitting his wits against the most dangerous planets in the universe!

This is a new book? Well...

(see more at Galactic Journey!)
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Sometimes, I just don't get it.

The December 1960 Fantasy and Science Fiction is almost completely devoted to one short novel, Rogue Moon, by Algis Budrys. I like Budrys, and F&SF is generally my favorite magazine, so I've been looking forward to this book since it was advertised last month.

To all accounts, it is a masterpiece (and by "to all accounts", I mean according to the buzz in the local science fiction circles). The premise is certainly exciting: there is an alien structure on the moon, an amorphous multi-dimensional thing, that kills all who enter it. To facilitate its exploration, the navy utilizes a matter transporter that disassembles one's molecules in one place and reconstructs them elsewhere. Volunteers are sent from Earth to their certain death to push a few more feet into the deadly extraterrestrial maze.

Of course, the transporter doesn't actually send anyone anywhere; it destroys the original and creates a copy that thinks it is the original. In fact, it's possible to make multiple copies of a person, and that is what is done: one copy goes to the moon to die, while the other stays on Earth to live on. It turns out that the two copies have a limited degree of telepathic contact for a short time, so the Earthbound copy can report on what his moonbound copy experiences.

The project's main hurdle is that it takes a special kind of person to experience one's own death and not go insane. How, indeed, to find such a person to unlock the riddles of the maze?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey)
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There are few folks who have taken greater advantage of the Silver Age of science fiction (i.e. the Post-War boom and bust of the digests) than Robert Sheckley. As of last month, the fellow had already published four collections of his works. The beneficiaries of this production are Bob's pocketbook...and every reader who gets hands on his stuff. Sheckley's mastery of the science fiction short story, whether straight, humorous, cynical, or downright horrific, is legendary.

Now, Notions: Unlimited, Sheckley's fourth collection, just came out in June. Moreover, I'd had reason to believe that November would be a month of slim pickings for new fiction. Imagine my surprise (and delight!) at finding yet another Sheckley collection on sale.

This one, Store of Infinity, may be my favorite of them all.

(see the review at Galactic Journey!)
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Is dumbed-down science fiction a gateway or an embarrassment?

I commonly hear the complaint that our genre, namely science fiction and fantasy, is not taken seriously. Despite the contributions of such luminaries as Ted Sturgeon, Zenna Henderson, Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, etc., our field is generally considered to comprise purely low-brow fare.

Is it really a surprise? When is the last time you watched an accurate science fiction movie? How often do lurid pictures of steel-brassiere clad women grace the covers of our magazines, regardless of the content therein? How distinguishable are these covers from those of the comic books?

Things are getting better, I think. The number of science fiction magazines has dwindled to a manageable half-dozen or so, and in a sort of literary Darwinism, their stories are of superior caliber (generally). Every month, several genre books are published; some of them really push the envelope both in writing and subject matter.

Which is why it's disappointing when I come across a throwback like Robert Buckner's Starfire, published this month by "Permabook."

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Ted Sturgeon wrote a book about sex.

It appears that Sturgeon has always wanted to write "a decent book about sex,"--how it affects our society, not the act itself. At least, that's what Sturgeon says in the post-script of his strange new novel, Venus Plus X. Well, it is a decent book (pun intended), and Sturgeon has a lot to say about sex and the relations of the genders in its 160 pages. Some of it is told, some of it is shown; the end result is a fiction-buffered sermon not unlike the kind Heinlein likes to concoct.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Readers of my column know of my affection for Bob Sheckley's work. A fellow lanzmann, he has turned out a regular stream of excellent short stories over the past decade. He's already published four collections, and they are all worth getting.

But though Sheckley gets an A for his shorter works, his novel-writing talents earn him, at best, a B-. He's written two thus far, both of them novelizations of serials. One was the tepid adventure, Timekiller. The other, The Status Civilization, was serialized in Amazing earlier this year. It just came out in book form; I'll let my readers tell me if it's been substantially changed.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)


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