Who wouldn’t want to pick up and read this book with Frederik Pohl’s lukewarm endorsement on the cover? I cracked up at the marketing genius who thought this kind of statement would make a great book blurb for the cover. I wonder if Brunner was okay with the faint praise on his cover.
As far as this book goes, it is a traditional space opera where different factions are jockeying for supremacy in the galaxy. Then we have a new player on the scene and the humans have a new enemy.
Brunner’s style definitely evolved between the 50s the 70s.
From this sample, I’d say Frederik was being kind. This might be an early novel because I think Brunner had some SF works that were regarded as classics.
I totally believe the overall 1959 copyright … but this copy wasn’t physically printed in 1959 was it? That title font looks more like 1969.
I looked up the artist and was redirected to “Frank Kelly Freas”. Don’t you love it when publishers misspell their own clients’ names? I once owned a paperback whose spine proudly declared it to be the work of a certain George Heyer.
This particular Ace paperback printing is noted as 1967, so close.
Competent sci fi is hard!
I have books like this in my personal collection. Subject and physical condition (and sexual politics, if it comes up).Pages turning brown even. I gather that that’s paper with acid in and it eventually will dissolve the bookshelves as well. And maybe floorboards.
Meanwhile… maybe the pitch of blurb writing has shifted since that time. “Very competent” I suppose is slightly faint if it suggests that prose is functional not lyrical, but, well, prose is prose. “Very enjoyable” is highly positive, but a matter of taste, so you may not go for what Pohl goes for. Pohl was an editor and a literary agent; I presume not John Brunner’s agent, at least not then. What I mean is that if something was good or bad then he’d say so. I suppose also you might hold out for “Very meaningful”, if Pohl handed out that notice. On this occasion he did not.
ISFDB (Internet Speculative Fiction Database, search for ISFDB) says that Brunner published 4 novels in 1959 including this, one earlier (in 1951), and many short stories in the meantime. 4 novels in a year might be pushing it. Or he had a drawer full of unpublished ones. Reader, so did Jane Austen.
I would read anything by John Brunner, no matter how old or competent. Though his stuff does “date” a bit.
I’m very much with you.
Crushing vice? or crushing vise? Gotta keep those metaphors straight! I wonder how the plot would play today if the author switched one moneyed WASPish name for another?
“FREDERICK POHL, IF SCIENCE FICTION” — that seems odd. If science fiction what? Or “in [a publication named] Science Fiction?”
In a science fiction magazine named IF, merged with Galaxy SF in 1974. If you’re REALLY interested, there’s an archive of the whole run in Internet Archive.
Just looked at it – Gizmodo’s article on the subject appears to have overstated the case but there do seem to be some present.
Thanks for the explanation!
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Don’t be put off John Brunner by this “very competent” (…?) early example of his work. Try The Traveler in Black (1971), a strange, remarkable, and compelling book – one of my all-time favorite science fantasy reads. There’s nothing else quite like it. I live in hope that some entity (Netflix?) will adapt this as a series…perhaps with that raven-haired beauty Richard Armitage as the man with many names but only one nature, carrying a staff of curdled light…
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