Friday, 24 February 2017

Empty Despair

There's something about the cover and author's note for this upcoming book, all about getting rid of everything and living in an empty howling void of whiteness, that makes me think it's more a cry for help than an advice manual. Where does he go to the toilet? In the box? In any case, it seems as though the cover should probably be more like this:

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Beached Statue

 Ever since Planet of the Apes, a disaster-wrecked Statue of Liberty has been used frequently in movies and on their posters to symbolise ruined America.



It's a cliche that started in literature, and actually goes back to 1887: the oldest occurrence I've read is in J. A. Mitchell's novella The Last American, which featured illustrations like these...

 ..and which, along with Planet of the Apes, led to numerous book, pulp magazine and comic covers featuring Liberty in various states of disrepair and repurposing.

Now that a horrific deluge of utterly unoriginal post-apocalyptic self-published fiction has been unleashed by Amazon, it seems only fitting that these books without new ideas should also feature covers to match.

It's mildly unfair to include Warday here, in that it was first published in the 1980s by a respectable firm, but Streiber abandoned his career as a writer of obvious fiction in order to become a wildly disreputable purveyor of alien-abduction bullshit and plagiarist, so fuck him.

Sunday, 12 February 2017

Swedish Beauties

Oh, great, now I have to learn Swedish.

Until last week I was unaware of the work of publisher Novellix, a small Swedish outfit which regularly publishes individual novellas and stories by a mix of modern and classic authors, both Scandinavian and otherwise. Their books are beautifully designed, and in their size and scope remind me of the output of Readux. (And sometimes sets of four are available in slipcases.)

I mean, look at these:

(It should also be noted that you can never go wrong reading Hjalmar Söderberg, some of whose wonderful work has been translated into English)

Fortunately, they have just decided to test the water with English-language work, producing four novellas/stories in gorgeous new editions.

These four were designed by Lisa Bengtsson, using artwork by Jennie Ekström.  I'm not sure who to credit for the other beautiful books above because of the whole Swedishlessness I suffer, but whoever they are, they're doing damn fine work.

(With thanks to Creative Review, who first drew these books to my attention.)

Thursday, 26 January 2017

One Good and Many Bad from Military SF

A popular sub-genre of science fiction is military SF. It is, as are many things, mostly awful. There are occasional startling exceptions however. I recently read Joe McDermott's The Fortress at the End of Time, from Tor, which is being marketed as military SF, and though this is true, it is true in a way that happily subverts any expectations or cliches.

The book, also quite short in a genre which encourages bloats and endless sequels, is a perceptively written first-person confession by a young officer assigned to one of the worst postings imaginable: a boring station in orbit around an ignored planet on the edge of subsistence. The plot concerns the implacable hostility of bureacracy, frustrating attempts to combat the sexual abuse of female soldiers, and attempts to stay uncorrupted in an economy based almost entirely on bribes, favours and patronage. The hero is a stolidly well-meaning but also somewhat priggish and naive man, very well drawn. Though the setting is military, there are no battles and no aliens. McDermott is also imaginative and rigorous in his future physics, and the book is a delight. Even the cover is nice: a lonely figure in a uniform looking out over a nearly dead world. There should be more like this.

To contrast this book with the competition, this is what military SF is normally like, as exemplified by the output of reliably ugly Baen Books (see more on them here and at the end of here), which publishes books for people who just want battles, spaceships with big guns, and aliens that are either dead, comical or in possession of enormous breasts.