Archive for October, 2009
While I try and rebuild the blogs I was working on that were lost due to corruption of files by Microsoft Word (I’m guessing version 2002 is the main culprit) I’ll post some notes on Tomorrow Lies In Ambush, Bob Shaw’s first short story collection, issued in 1973, this being part two.
The Cosmic Cocktail Party is a little New Wave-ish, starting with the line A highball on the human reality vector. The founder of an African republic is in a ‘tank’ neither dead nor alive, and communication with him is needed for the incumbent party to win an election. Aliens make a simulacrum of a long dead UK Prime Minister and talk about the Galactic Social Congress. They have been controlling humans via mind to mind telepathic probing and the new computer consciousness cottons on to them. This I felt was one of the least enjoyable stories by Bob Shaw I’ve read, but then again that’s only a personal preference. I couldn’t get into it as I could with other stories of his and perhaps the New Wave-ish impression was responsible for that.
… And isles where good men lie. This is one of the longer stories in the collection. An endless caravan of alien spaceships are heading toward earth, landing every couple of ours, bringing with them large scaly monsters that the military of earth kill as soon as they land. Col John Fortune looks past this and reasons there must be a signal directing them to earth, as all the ships are automated. He starts to hunt for this signal with the intent of destroying it and stopping the alien ships from homing in on Earth. Although it is a race against time adventure story it is also a personal journey for the main protagonist, gaining new insights into himself and other people as a consequence of his actions.
The happiest day of your life is a brief short story only a few pages long. Its’ form is very traditional, get the reader hooked in, build the story and leave on a high. The backbone of the story is now a science fiction staple: quick learning, knowledge achieved and implanted in a short time. Shaw treats it realistically: it isn’t universal or free, children have to have a minimum IQ level and the parents have to be able to pay for it. The twist in the story is an emotional one rather than a revelatory one but it is satisfying nonetheless, and the impact of the story makes the reader think.
The Weapons of Isher II is a decent enough story and you can see that Shaw is tipping his hat to E A Van Vogt; even naming a character old Vogt. And it goes back further than that as the bulk of the plot revolves around an old fashioned gunfight straight out of the Old West, but brought up to date in the form of a sport that is controlled and regulated – only one of the contestants doesn’t want to bother about rules. So a showdown is arranged for Isher II, where the weapons have an inbuilt safety feature, which features in the dénouement to the story.
Pilot Plant. This story is close to novella length and is by far the longest and most complex story in this collection of stories. It was first published in New Worlds in 1966. I picked up a copy of New Worlds with this in it, purchased online quite cheaply. The story starts off with an airplane crash and the main character, Garnett distinctly hears a voice talking before a part of the plane crashes into him. This haunts him as he goes through his rehabilitation back to normal health. His suspicions grow as events lead him to believe that something major is going on when his orders for the special plane his company are working on – which caused the accident – are actively ignored and countermanded. While he develops a relationship with his nurse Garnett gets closer and closer to the cause behind the voice he had heard until finally all is revealed.
Telemart Three involves a husband who notes his wife is spending a lot of money and does something drastic to stop his wife from spending more money than they have. As a compromise he agrees to them getting a special television set called a Telemart Three, which can delivery products from adverts direct to the home (I wonder if this can come true; Bob Shaw did ‘invent’ Sky Plus systems in one of his novels – I’m almost positive it’s in The Peace Machine/Ground Zero Man where the main character rewinds so he can be sure of a news report he is seeing on the TV – and there are such things as 3D printers nowadays plus home shopping channels are entrenched). Ted Trymble is in for a nasty surprise when he tries to stop his wife from buying through the TV.
Invasion of Privacy is a fairly long story and rounds off the collection. A young boy sees dead people then he is rushed off to hospital with pneumonia. The father notices something odd about the place where his son said he saw people who were dead and decides to investigate. There he sees for himself people who are supposed to be dead and buried. In fear he causes the house to be burned down. In his mind the local Dr, Dr Pitman, becomes a suspect for mysterious and worrying goings on. There’s a touch of Invasion of The Body Snatchers about this story and also some similarity to themes Bob Shaw would expand in Fire Pattern. There’s a chance this could be considered to be part of the Fire Pattern Series, which includes a couple of stories involving The Prince. It was originally published in 1970; Fire Pattern appeared in hardback fourteen years later in 1984.
Overall the stories in this collection, Bob Shaw’s first, are rewarding, well thought out, and represent a good guide to the quality of stories that Shaw was putting out in the late sixties early seventies. There’s a wide range of subjects and themes and a variety in the length of the stories. If you want something to dip into there are short stories that last only a few pages, if you want something more intense and involving Pilot Plant, … And isles where good men lie and Invasion of Privacy are satisfyingly in-depth enough for most readers. Overall Tomorrow Lies I Ambush is a great collection.
Just found and bought Bob Shaw’s The Ceres Solution in hardback via Alibris for quite a good price. The standard UK shipping was a reasonable £2.79. Considering that this novel has either not appeared in other book searches or been quite rare and expensive – even for SF book club editions let alone the original Gollancz edition – I’m happy with this purchase. It’s coming from the USA so, at that price for postage, it might arrive next year, or it will arrive just in time to be delayed by the UK postal strike. 🙂
While I try and rebuild the blogs I was working on that were lost due to corruption of files by Microsoft Word (I’m guessing version 2002 is the main culprit) I’ll post some notes on Tomorrow Lies In Ambush, Bob Shaw’s first short story collection, issued in 1973.
I’ll split it into two, this being the first part covering 5 stories. The further 6 stories will be covered in part two. (Oops, 4 now and 7 later; totally blindsided by The Cosmic Cocktail Party.) I want to ensure there are at least semi-regular blog posts here and that it doesn’t go dead for months at a time. I also want to ensure that blog posts aren’t too long. I’m not a fan of really long posts. I lose interest in them quite quickly. The equivalent of a couple of pages, under a thousand words, is a fine median methinks.
I recently received the hardback edition of this collection. I got the paperback edition and read the stories therein way back in the eighties. By the late eighties early nineties I had as much of Shaw’s output as was available. My copy of the paperback was signed by Bob Shaw, the first of his books that I bought that had his signature on them; I’ve bought a few hardbacks since that he signed. This one says it is ‘To Joan, with best wishes,’ but if I convince myself the ‘a’ is an ‘h’. …
Call me Dumbo is a short story where the dénouement arrives about two thirds of the way through. The rest of the story deals with the reaction of the character to the revelation, culminating in a calculated decision. The classic short story is to leave the reader with the twist at the end of the story, but Bob Shaw takes it a little further for a change. An idyllic setting is slowly deconstructed as the main character feels there is something wrong and investigates further to find the truth. Shaw does a good job of setting the story up and the execution is very well crafted. The pacing of this story is also pretty good although the characters – by definition and a little by necessity to the plot – are not as completely as fully drawn as could be.
Repeat Performance still sticks with me even after all the years since first reading it. This story is told in the first person and has a movie going theme. There’s a bit of Last Action Hero in this, with characters coming off the movie screen into real life, but Shaw puts in the Science Fiction twist – plus this was published long before Last Action Hero entered Production Hell let alone left it to become a movie. Cinema owner Jim is experiencing strange goings on at his cinema, with power outages and strange smells. Local reporter Bill Simpson thinks the aliens have landed.
What time do you call this? is a brief story with more than a touch of humour. Humour in stories was one of Bob Shaw’s specialities and something he did very well. A man planning a robbery is interrupted by a scientist from an alternate reality. Seeing an opportunity to use the other dimension as an escape route the robber goes ahead with the robbery with unexpected results. In truth if people think about it while reading the story the ending may be deduced but there are enough possibilities laid down by Shaw during the story to keep the reader guessing. This is a good little story with some neatly developed characters. That is quite an achievement considering the story is only a few pages long, and one of the shortest in the book.
Communication involves a computer salesman who makes a career – nay an art form – out of not selling computers; that is until a man literally knocks on his door and buys a computer for cash. But curiosity gets the better of him and he tracks down the man to see what he is really up to. The answer is a scam but the scam soon turns into something more real. I really enjoyed this story but felt a little let down by the ending. I don’t feel that it gelled properly, and there weren’t enough clues within the text of the story to point towards it as an ending.
Here endeth part the first.
I got the hardback edition of Tomorrow Lies in Ambush by Bob Shaw today. The package was littered with stamps – well over twenty. There was very little room for anything else. And they weren’t small UK sized stamps either, they were big stamps. In fact you could call it a herd of Elephants as that was the animal that was on most of the stamps. I wasn’t expecting it for another two weeks or so. When I ordered it there was a note saying delivery would be between forty and fifty days. In the end it took around thirty. Excluding postage it was one of the more cheaper hardbacks by Bob Shaw I’ve bought; a good bargain considering it’s from 1973, is rare and sells for three figures in the UK.
It actually arrived on Saturday but I missed the post and yesterday was some sort of Holiday. (I think.) There was no post delivery but there were collections; I don’t know if the Post Offices were closed or not as I didn’t go near any. All other shops and businesses were as normal. Well most. The book is in great condition and I may refresh my memory by going through a few stories. My paperback edition of this, bought years and years ago, is signed by Bob Shaw.
Wurd, although I think I got the first letter wrong, is acting up again. Honestly I don’t know why I bother with it. I have Office 2007 on one laptop and Office 2007 but retaining Word 2002 on my other laptop. I use this program for drafting my blogs about Bob Shaw. I’ve got three or four pieces in progress; various unorganised thoughts and jottings for each book. I tinker with them on a regular basis until one is ready for putting online. Today I go to open one of them and it causes Word to crash; thereafter the file is unreadable by Word. The others turn out to be the same so I have to start them all over again. I’ve had this problem before with Word but it seems to be more prevalent in Word 2002. Not that versions matter as Word 2007 wont open the files either. I can’t remember word for word what is in the documents but I do know Ship of Strangers was almost finished. Now I have to start them all over again: there is something to be said for typewriters.