1977 Pocket Books paperback. Foil cover by Harry Bennett
On Episode 328 of The Coode Street Podcast, my recent audio addiction, Jonathan Strahan asked his co-host Gary K. Wolfe if there was some book of value, “or simply that you loved when you were a younger reader,” that he wished he could bring modern attention to.
If you know Jonathan and Gary, you appreciate that’s precisely the kind of question that could fill an hour-long episode all on its own. But Gary provided what I thought was a remarkably cogent and focused reply, all the more remarkable for its brevity. After noting that “When you get to be my age, a younger reader covers a span of decades,” and paying homage to Andre Norton’s Cat’s Eye and Star Man Son, Gary called out a long-forgotten SF novel from 1976.
One of the classic one-off science fiction novels, I think from maybe 40 some years ago now, was Cecelia Holland’s Floating Worlds, a historical novelist using her historical imagination to construct a pretty powerful solar system space opera. I’ve not re-read that in a long time. I’d like new people to look at that and see if, hey, was I right? Was this as good as I thought it was?
Although Floating Worlds is a neglected classic here in the US — its last paperback printing was in 1979 from Pocket Books — it has a much richer history in the UK, with eight print versions and an e-book edition between 1976 and 2014.
[Click the images for bigger versions.]
1979 Pocket Books paperback. Cover artist unknown
Floating Worlds is Cecelia Holland’s sole SF novel. However, she has written produced two notable works of fantasy, The Angel and the Sword (Forge, 2000) and Dragon Heart (Tor, 2015).
Gary also mentioned Michael Swanwick’s The Iron Dragon’s Daughter, which
Seemed odd, and even eccentric… with its mix of fantasy, classical worlds. science fiction, steampunk. Now that’s almost a convention, everybody’s doing that sort of thing.
Here’s a few of the UK editions of Floating Worlds.
1978 Sphere paperback (Melvyn Grant) and 2011 Gollancz SF Masterworks (Dominic Harman)
This is one of the many fascinating things about the Coode Street Podcast. The hosts are entertaining, opinionated, and highly knowledgeable, and they throw out a constant stream of fascinating recommendations and reminisces about major novels, both acknowledged classics and neglected masterworks. If you’re looking for something to stir your interest and get you excited about books, I can’t recommend it highly enough.