Those Who Watch by Robert Silverberg
There is a certain aptness in the fact that I penned this review for Robert Silverberg’s Those Who Watch on January 15, 2015. That day, you see, happened to be Silverberg’s 80th birthday, so my most sincere wishes for many more happy and healthy birthdays must go out to the man who has become, over the years, my favorite sci-fi author.
These days, of course, Silverberg is one of the most honored and respected writers in his chosen genre; a multiple winner of the Hugo and Nebula awards, not to mention a Science Fiction Grand Master. Hard to believe then that, back in 1959, Silverberg, facing a diminishing market for his work and chafing under the literary restrictions of the day, announced his retirement from the field. Since 1954, he’d already come out with some 15 sci-fi novels, plus ... Read More
Sandy FerberOn FanLit’s staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012)
SANDY FERBER is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough’s finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a “misspent youth” of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship — although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century — and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror… but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle “ferbs54.” Film Forum in Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club….
Those Who Watch by Robert Silverberg
Master of Life and Death by Robert Silverberg
Future Grand Master Robert Silverberg’s fifth sci-fi novel, Master of Life and Death, was originally released as one-half of one of those cute little “Ace doubles” (D-237, for all you collectors out there), back to back with James White’s The Secret Visitors. Published in 1957, this was one of “only” three novels that Silverberg would release that year (the others were The Dawning Light and The Shrouded Planet), a fairly paltry number, one might think, for this remarkably prolific author… until one realizes that he also came out with no fewer than 82 (!) short stories and novellas that year in the sci-fi vein, plus 19 “adult” stories. On average, that comes to around a story every three or four days, PL... Read More
Rivals of Weird Tales edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz & Martin H. Greenberg
From 1923 – ’54, over the course of 279 issues, the pulp publication known as Weird Tales helped to popularize macabre fantasy and outré horror fiction, ultimately becoming one of the most influential and anthologized magazines of the century, and introducing readers to a “Who’s Who” of American authors. I had previously read and reviewed no fewer than six large collections of tales culled from the pages of “the Unique Magazine,” and had loved them all. But Weird Tales, of course, was far from being the only pulp periodical on the newsstands back when, as amply demonstrated in the appropriately titled, 500-page anthology Rivals of Weird Tales. In this wonderfully entertaining, generous collection, editors Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz and Martin H. Greenberg (who had put... Read More
Dwellers in the Mirage by Abraham Merritt
After taking a brief respite — in the hardboiled yet outre crime thriller Seven Footprints to Satan — from the tales of adventurous fantasy at which he so excelled, Abraham Merritt returned in fine form with Dwellers in the Mirage (1932). In this terrific novel, Merritt revisits many of the themes and uses many of the ingredients that made his first novel, The Moon Pool, such an impressive success. Like that early work, Dwellers features a lost civilization (of the type grandfathered by the great H. Rider Haggard), battling priestesses, civil wars, and otherdimensional creatures (in the earlier book, a light creat... Read More
Judgment Night by C.L. Moore
Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, the foremost husband-and-wife writing team in sci-fi history, produced their novels and short stories under a plethora of pen names, as well as their own, and for the past half century it has been a sort of literary game to puzzle out which author was the primary contributor to any particular work. This has apparently been far from a simple task, as either writer was perfectly capable of picking up the other's thoughts in mid-paragraph and carrying on. Catherine Moore has said publicly that many stories for which she was the primary author were published under Kuttner's name for the simple reason that his word rate was higher than hers; this, despite the fact that Moore was a longer-established writer. (I suppose that unequal pay for equal work ... Read More
The Well of the Worlds by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore
Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's final science fiction novel, Mutant, was released in 1953. There would be sporadic short stories from the famous husband-and-wife writing team throughout the '50s, as well as a mystery series from Kuttner featuring psychoanalyst/detective Dr. Michael Gray, not to mention a superior sci-fi novel from Moore herself, Doomsday Morning, in 1957, but Mutant was, essentially, the last word, sci-fiwise, from the team. But Mutant is what's known as a "fix-up" novel, comprised of five short stories (in this case, mainly dating back to 1945) cobbled together to make a whole, so I suppose that we must call the team's Read More
The War in the Air by H.G. Wells
The War of the Worlds wasn't the only masterpiece that H.G. Wells wrote with the words "The War" in the title. The War in the Air, which came out 10 years later, in 1908, is surely a lesser-known title by this great author, but most certainly, in my humble opinion, a masterpiece nonetheless. In this prophetic book, Wells not only predicts World War I -- which wouldn't start for another six years -- but also prophesies how the advent of navigable balloons and heavier-than-air flying craft would make that war inevitable. Mind you, this book was written in 1907, only four years after the Wright Brothers' historic flights at Kitty Hawk, and two years BEFORE their airplane design was sold to the U.S. Army for military purposes. In The War in the Air, Wells also foresees ai... Read More
The Yellow God: An Idol of Africa by H. Rider Haggard
H. Rider Haggard's 33rd work of fiction out of an eventual 58, The Yellow God was first published in the U.S. in November 1908, and in Britain several months later. In this one, Haggard deals with one of his favorite subjects -- African adventure -- but puts a fresh spin on things. Thus, instead of Natal, Zululand, the Transvaal and Egypt, where the bulk of his African tales take place, The Yellow God transpires, for the most part, in what I gather is now northern Nigeria. And instead of big-game hunter Allan Quatermain (the protagonist of no less than 14 Haggard novels), here we are given Alan Vernon, an ex-Army colonel who, with his steadfast servant Jeekie, goes on a quest to find the legendary gold hordes of the undiscovered Asiki people. And, after braving a ha... Read More
The Haunter of the Ring & Other Tales by Robert E. Howard
A very long time ago, when I was still in high school, Texas-born Robert E. Howard was one of my favorite authors, and this reader could not get enough of him, whether it was via such legendary characters as Conan the Cimmerian, King Kull, Solomon Kane or Bran Mak Morn.
Flash forward more years than I’d care to admit, and one day I realized that I hadn’t read a book of Howard’s in all that intervening time. Sure, I’d run across the occasional story of his now and then; when your tastes run to vintage pulp fiction, as do mine, and you read a lot of old anthologies and Best of Weird Tales collections, the man is practically unavoidable. But an entire book devoted to Howard … it had been eons, for me.
Thus, the collection entitled The Haunter of the Ri... Read More
Nobody’s Home by Tim Powers
Tim Powers’ fourth novel, The Anubis Gates, was such a perfectly crafted, fully self-contained work that I doubt very much if any of his legion of fans could have reasonably expected a sequel. Released originally in 1983, the book has gone on to become a classic of sorts in both the “steampunk” and “secret histories” fantasy subgenres, deservedly earning itself both the Philip K. Dick Award and a pride of place in Jones & Newman’s Horror: 100 Best Books. Showcasing Powers’ gift of seemingly limitless imagination combined with a staggering amount of historical research, the novel was a true dazzler; as I enthused after my initial read, its “way-out plot manages to conflate the brainwashed ‘ka’ of Lord Byron, a body-hopping werewolf, an underground criminal society headed... Read More
To Live Again by Robert Silverberg
By the time Robert Silverberg released To Live Again in 1969, he had already come out with no less than three dozen science-fiction novels and several hundred short stories, all in a period of only 15 years! The amazingly prolific author had entered a more mature and literate phase in his writing career in 1967, starting with his remarkable novel Thorns, and by 1969 was on some kind of a genuine roll. Just one of six sci-fi novels that Silverberg came out with that year (including the Nebula-winning Nightwings and my personal favorite of this author so far, Downward to the Earth), To Live Again initially appeared as a Doubleday hardcover and, surprisingly, was NOT nominated for a Hugo or Nebula award. To t... Read More
Seven Footprints to Satan by Abraham Merritt
Readers of Abraham Merritt's first four novels — The Moon Pool, The Metal Monster, The Face in the Abyss and The Ship of Ishtar — may feel a little surprised as they get into his fifth, Seven Footprints to Satan. Whereas those earlier fantasy masterpieces featured exotic locales such as the Pacific islands, the Himalayas and Peru; extravagant purple prose, dense with hyperadjectival descriptions; and living light creatures, metallic sentient cubes, a lost semi-reptilian race and battling gods, Seven Footprints to Satan Read More
FU MANCHU by Sax Rohmer
The FU MANCHU novels that English author Sax Rohmer wrote over the course of nearly half a century are much beloved today, although their notoriously un-P.C. content has made them the subject of dispute for many years. It has been a while since I have read the 13-book series, and have decided to place all my old thoughts on these books in one place for the FanLit reader who may not be familiar with these works. This overview, by no means in depth, can serve as your one-stop shopping destination for all things Fu. There remains one book, an anthology of short Fu Manchu stories, that I will deal with elsewhere. But here are the 13 novels in the main series, and my quick thoughts on each of them:
The Insidious Dr. Fu Manchu (aka The Mystery of Dr. Fu Manchu) (1913)
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The Haunting of Toby Jugg by Dennis Wheatley
Although English author Dennis Wheatley wrote a total of 55 novels before his death in 1977, his reputation today, I have a feeling, rests largely on the nine novels that he wrote dealing with the supernatural and the “black arts.” And if Wheatley’s name is not a familiar one to you, it is really no great wonder, as not too many of those 55 titles – mainly in the adventure/thriller genre – are in print today, and it would surprise me if you could walk into your local Barnes & Noble and purchase one. And yet, here’s a cautionary notice to all hugely popular modern-day authors, who may think their fame is of a permanent nature (are you listening, Stephen King?): For many decades, Wheatley was one of Britain’s biggest-selling authors (second only to Agatha Christie), who dependably sold 50 million books a year,... Read More
The Time Axis by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore
Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's sole novel of 1948, The Mask of Circe, was a very way-out excursion in the fantasy realm, and in early 1949, the pair followed up with an equally way-out piece of hard sci-fi. The Time Axis, which initially appeared in the January '49 issue of "Startling Stories," finds science fiction's foremost husband-and-wife writing team (my apologies to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm!) at the top of their game, but perhaps giving their seemingly limitless imagination too free a rein. The book is well paced, finely and at times humorously written, exciting and colorful, but ultimately, unfortunately, not fully satisfying.
The story here concerns the "nekron," a shadowy whatz... Read More