The Palace of Eternity by Bob Shaw (Ace Books, 1969), The Faded Sun: Kesrith by C. J. Cherryh (DAW, 1978), and A Small Colonial War
by Robert Frezza (Del Rey/Ballantine, 1990). Covers by Diane Dillon and Leo Dillon, Gino D’Achille, and Stephen Hickman
I’ve been enjoying James Davis Nicoll’s recent gaming articles at Black Gate, shotgun surveys of the best and worst of vintage role role playing. They’re quick reads, and if you have any nostalgia (or curiosity) at all about RPGs of the 80s and 90s, I think you’ll enjoy them.
I’ve also been enjoying his regular book column at Tor.com, for much the same reason. James is an entertaining writer, but he also has an uncanny knack for highlighting some fascinating vintage SF, a lot of which is new to me.
Take his July 2 article “Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction,” which showcases novels from 1969-1989 by Bob Shaw, C.J. Cherryh, Joe Haldeman, David Drake, and Robert Frezza. You gotta admit that’s an interesting angle on classic SF. Here’s a tasty excerpt.
[Click the images for doomed versions.]
Back covers of The Palace of Eternity, The Faded Sun: Kesrith, and A Small Colonial War
Armies sacrificed for no obvious purpose and meaningless wars are not entirely unknown in speculative fiction. Here are five examples from that golden age of such stories, the Vietnam War era, and its literary aftermath.
The Palace of Eternity by Bob Shaw (1969)
Advanced civilizations are rare and short-lived. Hard luck for humanity that they share the Milky Way with the Pythsyccans, who, aside from their curious lack of Bussard ramjets, are otherwise the equals of humans and for reasons unexplained, implacably hostile to the human species. Mack Travener threw himself into the war effort—then, embittered over the futility of the conflict, tried to reinvent himself as a civilian mechanic on the backwater world Mnemosyne.
His efforts to put the war behind him are doomed; while conventional interstellar craft cannot approach the debris-shrouded planet, the war most certainly can. Mnesmosyne’s artists will be pushed aside so the planet can better serve the war effort. Mack himself will be drafted into a central role in the human-Pythsyccan conflict… but first he will die.
Some of James’s more interesting recent articles include:
Read the complete text of “Five Doomed Armies in Science Fiction” at Tor.com here.