Diary Reviews

PIERS ANTHONY – Chthon. Ballantine U6107; paperback original; 1st printing, 1967. Cover artist unknown. Berkley, paperback, 1975. Ace, paperback, 1987. Nominated in 1968 for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for Best Novel of 1967.

   Because of his love for the creature known as a minionette, Aton Five is sentenced to imprisonment in the underground caverns of Chthon, from which no escape is known. But the image of his nymph drives Aton to find a way out, no matter the consequences to his fellow inmates.

   He must find the key to his own behavior, buried in his memory, before he can fight his evil birthright and love normally. For the minionette he loves is his mother, for whom inversion of love is natural, but who sacrifices herself to swing the balance in his inner conflict. Chthon is more than a place, It is an intelligence seeking to use Aton to destroy man, but all it has seen before [has been] man’s unsanity.

   A story of love, and of cultural conflict, on many levels. The very structure of the novel demonstrates this, as it is told in flashbacks and flashforward parallel to — and symbolizing — Aton’s adventures in Chthon’s caverns. A highly effective way of presentation, as parts which are obscure [at first reading] will be clarified by continuing on, but the significance [of which] would be decreased if told in the usual chronological fashion.

   Hence the story is more than a tale of love; it is also one which requires time and effort [to reach the depth it offers].

Rating: *****

— June-July 1968.

CHESTER ANDERSON – The Butterfly Kid. Book #1 of the Greenwich Village trilogy (see below). Pyramid X-1730; 1st printing, December 1967 (cover by Gray Morrow). Gregg Press, hardcover, 1977. Pocket, paperback, 1980. Dover, softcover, 2019. Nominated for the Hugo award in 1968 as Best Novel of 1967.

   The Reality Pill is introduced to Greenwich Village by six-foot tall lobster aliens with crummy Lazlo Scott as their agent. Chester and his roommate Michael the Theodore Bear are first directly confronted withe potentialities of the pills when they meet Sean sitting on a park bench calmly making hallucinogenic butterflies come to life.

   Later they accidentally take the pills themselves, and the resulting riot and destruction convinces them that the Communists or aliens or whatever behind the plot must be stopped. They recruit a group of friendly hippies and set out for the reservoir to stop citywide pollution

   The appeal is that of the quietly wild hippy outlook on life as they go about saving the world. “Have you ever tried to talk a bunch of hippies into helping you save the world? Forget it, Next time I save the world, by starky, I’m going to do it solo. Faster that way, less work.”

   Lots of laughs, which is remarkable in science fiction., but the ending is obvious. It is not until page 166 that the method of defeating the aliens occurs to Chester, but then he has other things on his mind.

Rating: ****

— June 1968.


      The Greenwich Village trilogy –

1 The Butterfly Kid (1967) by Chester Anderson
2 The Unicorn Girl (1969) by Michael Kurland
3 The Probability Pad (1970) by T. A. Waters

HARLAN ELLISON “Pretty Maggie Moneyeyes.” Novelette. First appeared in Knight, May 1967. First collected in I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream (Pyramid, paperback original; 1st printing, April 1967; cover by Diane Dillon & Leo Dillon). Reprinted in Best SF: 1967, edited by Brian W. Aldiss & Harry Harrison (Berkley, paperback original, 1968), among others. Nominated in 1968 for both the Hugo and Nebula awards for 1967.

   The soul of a blue-eyed, dyed blonde scrabbling her way from poverty, is trapped in a Vegas slot machine, and Kostner is betrayed into playing one time too many. An accurate expression of life as typified by Las Vegas. (5)

— June 1968.

FRITZ LEIBER “Gonna Roll Those Bones.” Novelette. First appeared in Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison (Doubleday, hardcover, 1967; cover art by Diane Dillon and Leo Dillon). Reprinted in Nebula Award Stories Three, edited by Roger Zelazny (Doubleday, hardcover, 1968). Collected in The Best of Fritz Leiber (SF Book Club, hardcover; Ballantine, paperback, 1974). Won both the Hugo Award and Nebula Award in 1968 for Best Novelette for 1967.

   A poor iron miner with the “power” takes on the Devil, in skeletal form,at a gambling establishment’s dice table. Overwritten prose, not as effective for me as it should have been. (3)

— June 1968.


PHILIP K. DICK “Faith of Our Fathers.” Novelette. First appeared in Dangerous Visions, edited by Harlan Ellison (Doubleday, hardcover, 1967; cover art by Diane Dillon and Leo Dillon). Collected in The Best of Philip K. Dick (Del Rey, paperback, 1977). Nominated for the Hugo Award in 1968 for Best Novelette of 1967.

   A civil servant in Hanoi, which incidentally seems to have won the war, is given an anti-hallucinogen so that he can see the reality behind the television image of the Absolute Benefactor. But is it reality when people see twelve versions? Or is it God? Barely succeeds as a story. (3)

— June 1968.


ANNE McCAFFREY “Weyr Search.” Novella. Dragonriders of Pern #1. First appeared in Analog SF, October 1967, Reprinted in Nebula Award Stories Three, edited by Roger Zelazny (Doubleday, hardcover, 1968), among others. Nominated for the Nebula AwarD in 1968 for Best Novella of 1967. Winner of Hugo Award that year for that category.

   The traditions and ballads of Pern glorify the dragons and their masters, but the time of crisis is past, at least for the time being, and forgetfulness has come easily, A new Weyrwoman is needed for the dragon queen about to be hatched, and dragonmen venture forth to find a suitable girl.

   Well written, but there exists too much feeling of looking on from the outside, A sequel is definitely demanded. The map is of little use.

Rating: ***½

— June 1968.

ROBERT SILVERBERG “Hawksbill Station”. Novella. First appeared in Galaxy SF, August 1967. Reprinted in World’s Best Science Fiction: 1968, edited by Terry Carr & Donald A. Wollheim (Ace, paperback, 1967). First collected in The Reality Trip and Other Implausibilities (Ballantine, paperback, 1973). Expanded to the novel of the same title (Doubleday, hardcover, 1968). Nominated for both the Hugo and Nebula Awards in 1968 for Best Novella of 1967.

   Governments of the 21st Century have found Hawksbill Station, located two billions years in Earth’s past, an excellent spot for deported political agitators. Jim Barrett, with greatest seniority, is the acknowledged king whose kingdom is going completely insane. A crisis seems to form with the new arrival of Lew Hahn, who is strangely different.

   The ending is a letdown from what goes before, is perhaps too simple in comparison with the masterful construction that precedes. It could be the background for a much longer story.

Rating: ****

— June 1968.

ROGER ZELAZNY “Damnation Alley.” Novella. First appeared in Galaxy SF, October 1967. First collected in The Last Defender of Camelot (Pocket, 1980). Reprinted in Supertanks, edited by Martin H. Greenberg et al (Ace, 1987). Expanded into the novel of the same title (Putnam, hardcover, 1969). Nominated for a Hugo Award in Best Novella category (placed third). Film: 20th Century Fox, 1977, with Jan-Michael Vincent (as Tanner) and George Peppard.

   Damnation Alley is the cross-continent route from Los Angeles to Boston, some years after the Bomb. The plague has hit Boston, and Hell Tanner is one of the drivers sent out with the essential serum [they need]. Armored cars are necessary to avoid radioactivity, mutated monsters, and violent storms.

   Tanner is an ex-convict, a Hell’s Angel gangleader, who is forced into leading the caravan with the promise of a full pardon. It is his story, his changing reaction to the job he must do, with side glimpses into the resiliency of man. There is, of course, a tremendous build-up of tension and emotion as Boston gradually becomes reachable.

   Zelazny’s picture of a new world is both beautiful and horribly terrifying: do you believe that?

Rating: *****

— June 1968.


LARRY MADDOCK – The Golden Goddess Gambit. Agent from T.E.R.R.A #2. Ace G-620; paperback original, 1st printing, 1967. Cover art credited to Sergio Leone.

   An inscribed plaque found in ancient Crete indicates that the time-structure of pre-historic Earth is being tampered with, possibly by a member of Empire. Hannibal Fortune and Webley trace the plaque back 10,000 years to an island continent in the Atlantic, unrecorded in history. Kronos, the ruler of his own niche in time, is actually a renegade T.E.R.R..A. agent and has established his own religion, designed mainly to perpetuate his own lineage.

   Normi, the girl saved by Fortune from a mob, tells an interesting story of palace politics, which Kronos manipulated to achieve his reign. The beginning of the book is slow, however, and the ending is a muddled mess, hardly worth waiting for. Human breeding has its problems (pages 95-96), so it is doubtful that Kronos could have really affected history. Note that Fortune is taught swordsmanship by a man called d’Kammp.

Rating: **

— June 1968.

Bibliographic Update: Larry Maddock was the pen name of Jack Owen Jardine, who wrote a small number of SF novels and short stories under this and several other pseudonyms in the 1960s, including Howard L. Cory, in collaboration with his wife, Julie Ann Jardine .

         The Agent of T.E.R.R.A. series

1. The Flying Saucer Gambit (1966)
2. The Golden Goddess Gambit (1967)
3. The Emerald Elephant Gambit (1967)
4. The Time Trap Gambit (1969)

BRANT HOUSE – Servants of the Skull. Secret Agent X #2. Corinth CR126, paperback, 1966. Cover art by Robert Bonfil. First appeared in Secret Agent X, November 1934. [Brant House was a house name used by several writers; in this case the author was Emile C. Tepperman.]

   The Skull’s plan is to kidnap ten heavily insured businessmen, then force [their] life insurance companies to pay for their release, rather than have them viciously murdered, X manages to take the place of a notorious safe-cracker and enter he Skull’s secret underground hideaway, but the capture of Betty Dale forces him to reveal [himself. He escapes, then returns as a kidnap victim before the Skull’s identities are revealed in turn.]

   Tremendously exciting, with the plot moving forward every minute. There are flaws, of course, if you must look for them. The Skull’s “servants” are decidedly of a poor caliber; no wonder he keeps them locked up almost as prisoners. At one time, Secret Agent X, in distress, asks the Skull if all the secret panels and the maze of passages are necessary. [Here’s what I’m thinking.] Not for a sane man, but how can a man with the Skull’s ambitions be sane?

Rating: ***

— June 1968.


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