Tuesday, 22 November 2016

2017 Reading Group Challenges - 12 + 4 (Science Fiction or Bust)

Yesterday I highlighted the books I plan to read to finish off 2016. Today I'm going to show the books I plan to read as my 2017 12 + 4  Reading Group Challenge. As you can see from the title of this post, they will all be Science Fiction novels. What I've been doing the past few days is listing all the books I currently have on my book shelves that I haven't read yet and breaking them down by certain genres and then by when they were initially published. (Yes, yes, I'm a list - making geek! I've never hidden that fact. I think one of the endearing qualities that my lovely wife admires in me is my list - making habits. At least that's what I keep telling myself)

At any rate, the Science Fiction books I've selected for my 12 + 4 Challenge are those that were published the earliest. I have other Science Fiction books, but they will make up one of my Individual Challenges (more to follow on that in later posts). You'll find this list consists of books published as early as the late 1800's up to the early 1970's and it will feature some of the Classic Science Fiction writers, I believe anyway. So without further comment, here is my 12 + 4 Challenge list (I doubt if it will change, unless I purchase a book that fits the category and was written earlier than 1971)

2017 12 + 4 Reading Group Challenge List

1. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells (1895).
2. The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells (1897). I've had this book since at least 2010 (that's what shows on my Goodreads list, but I think that's when I started adding books, so it was probably a few years before). I've read The War of the Worlds 3 or 4 times but for some reason I don't think I've ever read either of these stories by Wells. It's about time I did.

"Together in one volume, The Time Machine and The Invisible Man are masterpieces of irony and imaginative vision. The Time Machine conveys the Time Traveller into the far distant future and an extraordinary world. There, stranded on a slowly dying Earth, he discovers two bizarre races, the effete Eloi and subterranean Morlocks - a haunting portrayal of Darwin's evolutionary theory carried to a terrible conclusion. The Invisible Man is the fascinating tale of a brash young scientist who, experimenting with himself, becomes invisible and then criminally insane, trapped in the terror of his own creation."

3. The Secret People by John Wyndham (1935). John Wyndham has long been one of my favourite Science Fiction authors. I've read Day of the Triffids, The Chrysalids, The Kraken Wakes and others of his stories many times. In the past couple of years, I discovered others of his books, Plan for Chaos, which was published posthumously in 2009, and more recently, The Secret People, which he published in 1935 under the pseudonym John Benyon. I found this book at the April Rotary Club Books Sale. It will be interesting to see what his style was like in this earlier writing.

"The planners of the world's greatest engineering feat - the flooding of part of the Sahara desert - knew nothing of the life which teemed below their New Sea. But for the accident which plunged Mark Sunnet and his girl - friend into a cavernous world, nothing would have been known of the catastrophe which now threatened the survivors of an ancient race. Their struggle against doom, and Mark's fight for survival, is the theme of this fascinating story."

4. Quest Beyond the Stars by Edmund Hamilton (1942). I discovered this book at one of our old local used book stores, ABC Books, in early 2012. Unfortunately, the store went out of business shortly after that. I pray the other used book stores remain for a long time to come. Anyway, this book was one of a series, the Captain Future series, the 9th book in the series. I haven't read any others of the series so if I enjoy this a lot, I may have to find more.

"Mercury is slowly dying. Each year its air grows thinner. Each month thousands of broken Mercurians are ordered to leave their planet.
They have only one hope. Captain Future, the Solar System's most daring agent, has promised to restore their world - a next to impossible task.
The solution lies beyond the stars...at the very core of the universe where no man has ventured before. There, in the shadow of doom, Captain Future meets the mightiest of all evil beings - creatures he may not live to describe..."

5. Sixth Column by Robert Heinlein (1949). Heinlein is another of my favourite Science Fiction writers. He was just a great story teller. I've enjoyed many of his books; The Puppet Masters, Starship Troopers, Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Friday, etc. This year I will be reading two others of his earlier books.

"One by one, the Free Nations had fallen, until America stood alone against the World. Then, as researchers toiled desperately to complete work on a weapon that might yet turn the tide of battle, she too fell.
Now, though scattered resistance flares throughout our continent, the only real hope resides in a mountain redoubt where six men work in secret on a plan to rock the planet..."

6. Ballroom of the Skies by John D. MacDonald (1952). I've recently been reading MacDonald's Travis McGee mystery series. I was surprised recently, while rooting through the Science Fiction section at 2nd Page Books, to discover this early Science Fiction novel.

"Have you ever stopped to wonder why the world is eternally war-torn? Why men of good will, seeking only peace, are driven relentlessly to further disaster?
In Ballroom of the Skies, John D. MacDonald suggests a strange and monstrous explanation. He pictures an intricate and totally convincing future society, where India rules the globe, and everyone chases the mighty rupee. The First Atomic War has just ended, and already the Second is clearly building.
People shrug. War is man's nature, they think. And that's what Dake Lorin thought until he became aware of the aliens living among us - and discovered their sinister purpose."

7. City by Clifford D. Simak (1952). This is my only re-read. I initially read this novel during my university days; I believe it was one of the books in my Science Fiction novel course. I recall it being a fantastic story, but I want to refresh that memory. I've recently read The Werewolf Principle, another of Simak's books and enjoyed it very much.

"Simak's City is a series of connected stories, a series of legends, myths, and campfire stories told by Dogs about the end of human civilisation, centring on the Webster family, who, among their other accomplishments, designed the ships that took Men to the stars and gave Dogs the gift of speech and robots to be their hands."

8. The Demolished Man by Alfred Bester (1953). This was one of those books that I think I first saw listed in the back of another I'd read and when I googled it, liked what I'd read about it. I found this copy, basically brand new, at the Nov 2015 Rotary Club book sale. It was fated that I should read it.

"In 2301 A.D., guns are only museum pieces and benign telepaths sweep the minds of the populace to detect crimes before they happen. In 2301 A.D., homicide is virtually impossible - but one man is about to change that.
In this classic Science Fiction novel, the first to win the prestigious Hugo Award, a psychopathic business magnate devises the ultimate scheme to eliminate the competition and destroy the order of his society. Hurtling from the orgies of a future aristocracy to a deep space game preserve, and across densely realised subculture of psychic doctors, grifters, and police, The Demolished Man is a masterpiece of high-tech suspense, set in a world in which everything has changed except for the ancient instinct for murder."

9. The Door into Summer by Robert Heinlein (1957). As you've already guessed, this is the second Heinlein story of my challenge.

"On the enlightened planet Earth, it is no longer necessary to kill an enemy to get rid of him. It's just a matter of the 'long sleep' - a freezing process that keeps him in suspended animation for as long as necessary; a month, a year, a century. This is the story of a victim of the 'long sleep', a man who awakens in the future bent on revenge and finds himself trapped by the passage of time."

10. Time out of Joint by Philip K. Dick (1959). I've read many of Dick's unique novels in my time, starting back during my university days. The Man in the High Castle is one of my favourites, but I've also enjoyed Dr. Bloodmoney, Ubik, etc. I found this book, one of two I'll try in this challenge, at the Bookdealer in London ON back in 2013.

"Ragle Gumm was his name. He lived at his brother-in-laws house and people thought the way he earned his living was peculiar. You see he had a mathematical genius which he used to solve complicated puzzles appearing in each day's newspaper.
Then, almost imperceptibly, one day his equations took over and started changing the natural order of things, until he, and everybody around him, was caught in a spinning, incredible vortex of fear, hate, greed and lust in a world where time was out of joint."

11. Time is the Simplest Thing by Clifford D. Simak (1961). This is the 2nd Simak book I'll read for my 2017 challenge. I found it at Nearly New Books in August of this year.

"After the ambitious lunar landings of the Seventies, man found himself barred from the outer reaches  of space. It was then a whole new breed of space explorers - The Telepaths - were developed. Blaine was one of Earth's top telepathic explorers - a man capable of projecting his mind millions of years beyond time and space. But when that awesome alien creature from another dimension penetrated his brain, Blaine turned against the world and himself."

12. The Super Barbarians by John Brunner (1962). Brunner is another of those writers who has written some of my favourites of the Science Fiction genre; Stand on Zanzibar, The Sheep Look Up, The Shockwave Rider. The Super Barbarians was one of his earlier efforts and is one of 2 Brunner novels to make my list.

"The Acre was the only part of an entire world where Earthmen were allowed to live as they pleased and as they were accustomed. For elsewhere on Quallavarra, humanity was forced into servitude by the Vorra, The Super Barbarians who had somehow managed to conquer space.
But within the Acre, the underling Terrestrials had cooked up a neat method of keeping their conquerors from stamping them out altogether. They had uncovered a diabolical Earth secret that the Vorra couldn't abide - and yet couldn't do without."

The Alternates

Alt 1. The Crack in Space by Philip K. Dick (1966). My second Dick novel and it sounds interesting. I found this at Nearly New Books in Oct 2015 in basically mint condition.

"In The Crack in Space, a repairman discovers that a hole in a faulty Jifi-scuttle leads to a parallel world. Jim Briskin, campaigning to be the first black president of the United Space, thinks alter-Earth is the solution to the chronic overpopulation that has seventy million people cryogenically frozen; Tito Cravelli, a shadowy private detective, wants to know how Dr. Lurton Sands is hiding his mistress there; billionaire mutant George Walt wants to make the empty world all his own. But when the other earth turns out to be inhabited, everything changes."

Alt 2. Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock (1969). I have only previously read one book by Michael Moorcock, The Warlord of the Air, and remember enjoying it very much. I've since purchased a copy of it for a re-read. I found this book at Russell Books in Victoria in 2014. It was one of those listed in the back of another I'd read.

"Karl was one of those awkward and intense boys who could never quite fit in. As he grew up, his adolescence took him through a succession of clumsy love affairs, fads and fetishes, each one a little more esoteric than the last... culminating in obsessions with living psychology and dead languages. His quest for Truth turns distinctively messianic when he takes the opportunity to travel back to the days of Christ in an uncomfortable time machine. Here in Palestine, this amateur mystic-cum-problem-boy gets irrevocable caught up in momentous events that will affect Judeo-Christian civilisation for two millenniums."

Alt 3. The Wrong End of Time by John Brunner (1971). This is my second Brunner novel. I'm not actually sure where I bought it, as, for some reason, I never annotated my lists... Egad!!

"The time is the future. The place, an America so isolated by fear that it is cut off from the rest of the world by a massive defence system. (Ed Note.. Hmm, does that sound possible?) Into this armed barricaded state comes a young Russian scientist bearing a strange - and almost unbelievable story.
Superior, intelligent life - of a far higher order than any on earth - has been detected near the planet Pluto. Immune themselves by virtue of their far greater intelligence these Aliens are about to destroy the planet Earth."

Alt 4. Vermilion Sands by J.G. Ballard (1971). Over the years, I've read quite a few of Ballard's works; The Drowned World, The Wind from Nowhere, The Crystal World, High-Rise, Crash, Hello America, etc. He is, to say the least, unique, sometimes weirdly unique. I currently have 3 of his books awaiting my attention; this one being the oldest. I found this at Allison the Bookman in North Bay On in 2014.

"Vermilion Sands embodies the languid decay of a tawdry dream. A desert resort designed to fulfil the most exotic whims of the sated rich, it now moulders in sleazy dilapidation, a haven for the remittance men of the artistic world, an for the human lampreys that prey upon them. It is a lair for malice an madness; a place where sensitive pigments paint portraits for their masters in a grotesque parody of art; where poets press the buttons of mechanical versifiers; where sculptures grow like funguses, and plants respond to music; where psycho sensitive houses are driven mad by their owners' neuroses; where love and affection, and even lust, are effete madrigals played in a minor and discordant key."

Now that might be the way to finish off this challenge.

So there  you go, my 12 + 4 Challenge. Over the next few days (maybe weeks), I'll go through my other challenges. First to find a place to put these.. I guess my night stand will need to be reorganised.

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