Sunday, March 6, 2016

Book Review: New Writings in SF-13

Book Review: 'New Writings in SF-13'
edited by John Carnell

2 / 5 Stars

‘New Writings in SF-13’ (190 pp) was published by Corgi Books (UK) in 1968. The cover artwork – by Josh Kirby – is one of the ugliest I’ve ever seen on a sci-fi book.

All of the stories in this anthology were written exclusively for this volume, and - as might be expected for an anthology written in 1968 - many studiously adopt the New Wave aesthetic. 

My brief summaries of the stories:

The Divided House, by John Rackham (the pseudonym used by John Phillifent): The crew of a starship returns from a relativistic journey to discover that society on Earth has changed greatly, and not for the better…....a readable, if not markedly innovative, tale.

Public Service, by Sydney J. Bounds: in the densely populated cities of the future, fires require destructive measures to control…..a bit too destructive, it seems…….. One of the better stories in the anthology.

The Ferryman on the River, by David Kyle: would-be suicides get a reprieve from an unusual individual. Overwrought and unconvincing.

Testament, by Vincent King: an astronaut experiences First Contact, at a distance. This story suffers from an overload of New Wave prose contrivances.

The Macbeth Expiation, by M. John Harrison: an early-career tale from Harrison; the story is overly earnest in its efforts to relate psychological angst and emotional despair among the members of an Away Team.

Representative, by David Rome: a middle-aged insurance executive becomes aware of an alien invasion. Clever tale with a ‘Twilight Zone’ -style approach to the theme of Paranoia in the Suburbs.

The Beach, by John Baxter: after mankind has suffered a global nervous breakdown, a survivor wanders the abandoned streets of a seaside resort. While showing obvious signs of being influenced by J. G. Ballard’s prose, this story has an atmospheric, offbeat quality that makes it a worthy read in its own right.

The City, Dying, by Eddy C. Bertin: an early-career tale from prolific writer Bertin. The plot deals with a man’s efforts to rebel against a dystopian regime. The story is textbook example of New Wave prose affectations, such as the use of single-word, ALL CAPS paragraphs; text aligned in different patterns (including vertically); and stream-of-consciousness passages rendered in any of five different fonts. Needless to say, ‘The City, Dying’ is barely coherent.

Summing up, while I can’t say that ‘New Writings in SF-13’ is a must-have, it’s no worse, and probably marginally better, than a lot of the original content anthologies churned out in the New Wave era.

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