Monday, June 22, 2020

Bookshelf Traveling for Insane Times No. 14

I am participating in the Bookshelf Traveling For Insane Times meme, hosted by Judith at Reader in the Wilderness. Judith's latest Bookshelf Traveling post is here. Later than I had planned, but that is OK.

Today I am returning to the bookshelf from last week's post. Last week I focused on the Women Crime Writers boxed set and a couple of other titles. This week I am focusing on the American Science Fiction boxed set.

If you click on the image of the shelf, you will be able to read more of the titles.

So, today, more about American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s, Gary K. Wolfe, editor.

The first volume contains four novel published from 1953-1956:

Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth / The Space Merchants
Theodore Sturgeon / More Than Human
Leigh Brackett / The Long Tomorrow
Richard Matheson / The Shrinking Man

The second volume contains four novel published from 1956-1958:

Robert Heinlein / Double Star
Alfred Bester / The Stars My Destination
James Blish / A Case of Conscience
Algis Budrys / Who?
Fritz Leiber / The Big Time

For my bookshelf traveling post this week I had planned to give an overview of the nine books that are included in these volumes, just brief synopses, giving some idea of each book. Although I have read some of the authors back in my youth, I really did not know what to expect with these books, so I wanted to do this as much to educate myself as anything else.

I had varying amounts of luck in finding what I wanted so this is a mix of very short notes on the books and a few longer descriptions. There is a very nice companion web site for the boxed set, with appreciations of each book by well-known authors and a cover gallery.

Leigh Brackett's The Long Tomorrow sounds like the perfect book for me: a post-apocalyptic tale about the world after a global war. However, it is also a coming of age novel and unlike most of Leigh Brackett's other novels, from what I have read.

Here are Jo Walton's thoughts on the book at, including spoilers at the end.

Who? by Algis Budrys also is the epitome of a novel I should enjoy, a Cold War sci-fi/espionage novel. See this review at Speculiction or see Tim Powers' Appreciation of the novel at the Library of America site.

This is part of the description for Robert A. Heinlein's Double Star at Goodreads...
One minute, down and out actor Lorenzo Smythe was — as usual — in a bar, drinking away his troubles as he watched his career go down the tubes. Then a space pilot bought him a drink, and the next thing Smythe knew, he was shanghaied to Mars.
Suddenly he found himself agreeing to the most difficult role of his career: impersonating an important politician who had been kidnapped. 

In The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson...
Scott Carey is condemned to shrink smaller and smaller by his exposure to a cloud of radioactive spray (after ingesting some insecticide). This book was adapted to film as The Incredible Shrinking Man in 1957.

For More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon, I am using a description from Wikipedia:
The novel concerns the coming together of six extraordinary people with strange powers who are able to "blesh" (a portmanteau of "blend" and "mesh") their abilities together. In this way, they are able to act as one organism. They progress toward a mature gestalt consciousness, called the homo gestalt, the next step in the human evolution.
I remember enjoying short stories by Theodore Sturgeon when I was younger, and possibly I read some of his novels. I look forward to trying this book.

The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl & C. M. Kornbluth
Description at the Library of America site:
Mitch, a professional ad man in a world governed by feuding mega-corporations, is handed a big account promoting a new colony on uninhabitable Venus. But as he takes a step up the career ladder, the world as he knows it falls out from under him: why is everyone suddenly out to get him? And who is he really working for?
The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester
I found every review that I read on this book very confusing, but I am still eager to read it. This is the description at the Library of America site:
A celebrated tale of betrayal and revenge set in a nightmarish future, in which telepathic "jaunting" has become the preferred mode of transportation. "The perfect cyberpunk novel," says Neil Gaiman.
The Big Time by Fritz Leiber
This was another book where every review that I read was confusing, so again I will go with the description at the Library of America site:
Set in "The Place," a bar and bordello in the backwater of the stream of spacetime, Leiber's 1958 novel explores the implications of a vast "Change War," an endless cosmic struggle in which two shadowy antagonists dart in and out of history in a contest to control the course of destiny.
A Case of Conscience by James Blish
This is part of the description at Goodreads...
Father Ruiz-Sanchez is a dedicated man—a priest who is also a scientist, and a scientist who is also a human being. He has found no insoluble conflicts in his beliefs or his ethics . . . until he is sent to Lithia. There he comes upon a race of aliens who are admirable in every way except for their total reliance on cold reason; they are incapable of faith or belief.


pattinase (abbott) said...

I am not sure that I have a single science fiction book in my possession. Perhaps a Ray Bradbury lurks somewhere. I will look for one.

Rick Robinson said...

I’ve read all but one of them, the Blish, and for the most part have liked them. I read DOUBLE STAR when it was serialized in Astounding SF, it’s a good Heinlein. The Strugeon is probably his best.

Margot Kinberg said...

You've got quite a collection of science fiction, Tracy! I'm impressed. I'll have to tell my husband about some of these novels and collections. He's a science fiction fan, and I know he'll be interested.

TracyK said...

Patti, it has been a long time since I read anything by Ray Bradbury. Back in my twenties I read some, and sometime since I started blogging I read a mystery he wrote. Which was very good.

TracyK said...

I am glad to hear that you liked most of the books, Rick. I did read that a lot of these were serialized first. I thought I had read more Heinlein, but now I think maybe I only read short stories. The Sturgeon book does sound very good.

TracyK said...

Margot, I agree, this is quite a collection. Now I have to read some of them.

Carl V. Anderson said...

The Big Time is a different sort of story, to be sure, but when I read it years ago I really liked it. Liked the character of Greta Forzane so much that I often use her name in video games where there is character creation. I found her dialogue very entertaining, at least from what I remember.

I've read The Stars My Destination at least three times. Really like that book despite some issues it has with the time it was written and the treatment of women. It is such an interesting story and I can see why it is a classic that people still want to read.

Haven't read any of the rest, though I do have several of them on my shelves.

Love the Richard Powers covers on the boxed set.

TracyK said...

Carl, thanks for your thoughts on The Big Time. That was the only one in the set that I wasn't too sure about. It is about time travel, and I do like that.

I have read The Demolished Man by Bester, and liked that, so I think I will like The Stars My Destination.

The covers are very nice. And all the books are so short it should be easy to read them all eventually.

Jack Deighton said...

I may have read the Heinlein many years ago but can't remember, though in general I didn't usually take to his novels. I'm pretty sure I've not read the Fritz Leiber book, nor The Shrinking Man.
The rest I remember fondly but the only one I've read at all recently is The Long Tomorrow. I liked it, with some reservations. I posted about it on my blog at

TracyK said...

Jack, Thanks for the link to your review of The Long Tomorrow. I enjoyed reading it and you noted some important points. Since I read a lot of old mysteries, I often encounter novels that either portray women or ethnic groups poorly, and mostly I don't worry about it, unless it is just too hard to take. So it doesn't surprise me that the author left some groups out of the story. Interesting, though, and something I might not have noticed had you not pointed it out.

col2910 said...

Tracy, I hope you like these books, but I don't think they are my preferred reading genre. I did enjoy dabbling when I was younger, mainly with Ray Bradbury.

TracyK said...

Col, science fiction, new or old, will never replace mystery and crime fiction for me, but I do enjoy it occasionally. I especially like science fiction blended with crime fiction.