Friday, 29 December 2017

The 2017 Big Long List of the Books, Graphic Novels and Comics I Read This Year

Below is a list of the books, graphic novels and comics I read over the course of 2017, in pretty much the order in which I read them – aside from the periodical comics, which I read monthly, or bimonthly, or on whichever bizarre schedule their respective publishers and creators chose to issue them.


In years past I've assembled top tens or even twenties of the best books/graphic novels/comics I read over the preceding twelve months, but I didn't do that last year and I shan't be doing it this year either. Instead, I'll simply note in passing that out of everything I read in 2017, probably the best things were Paul Auster's The Music of Chance, Joe Haldeman's The Forever War (the book which this year reignited my fervour for SF), John Varley's The Ophiuchi Hotline, Alastair Reynolds' Diamond Dogs, M. John Harrison's Light, and Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds' The Medusa Chronicles. Four of those I wrote about in 2017 (follow their relevant links in the list); the other two, Light and The Medusa Chronicles, both extraordinary books in their own ways, I might get round to writing about at some point. Happy New Year!


Novels, Graphic Novels, Comics
A Gun for Sale by Graham Greene (Heinemann, 1936/1960)
War of Kings Omnibus by Dan Abnett, Andy Lanning, Paul Pelletier et al (Marvel, 2016)
King-Cat Comix #76 by John Porcelain (King-Cat, 2016)
The Music of Chance by Paul Auster (Faber, 1991)
Paul Auster's City of Glass by Paul Karasik and David Mazzucchelli (Avon, 1994) (reread)
Libby's Dad by Eleanor Davis (Retrofit, 2016)
Elseworld's Finest: Supergirl & Batgirl by Barbara Kesel and Matt Haley (DC, 1998) (reread)
Justice Vols 1–3 by Jim Krueger, Doug Braithwaite and Alex Ross (DC, 2006) (reread)
"Churchill's Men", "St. Ethelberga and the Angel of Death" and "The Terrorists" by Michael Gilbert
Various David Mazzucchelli short stories in various anthologies
Ghoulash by Sam Hiti (LaLuz, 2006)
Ghoulash 2 by Sam Hiti (LaLuz, 2009)
Thanos: The Infinity Revelation by Jim Starlin (Marvel, 2014)
Thanos Vs. Hulk by Jim Starlin (Marvel, 2014)
The Mother's Mouth by Dash Shaw (Alternative, 2006) (reread... I think)
Batman: Year One Deluxe Edition by Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli (DC, 2005) (reread)
The Infinity Entity by Jim Starlin and Alan Davis (Marvel, 2016)
Thanos: The Infinity Finale by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim (Marvel, 2016)
Our Mother by Luke Howard (Retrofit, 2016)
The Thanos Quest by Jim Starlin and Ron Lim (Marvel, 1990) (reread)
Diary Comics by Dustin Harbin (Koyama, 2015)
Melody by Sylvie Rancourt (Drawn & Quarterly, 2015)
The Forever War by Joe Haldeman (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1975)
Kramers Ergot 9 by various (Fantagraphics, 2016)
JLA: Rock of Ages by Grant Morrison and Howard Porter (DC, 1998) (reread)
The Belfry by Gabriel Hardman (Image, 2017)
Light by M. John Harrison (Gollancz, 2002)
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2017)
The Voyeurs by Gabrielle Bell (Uncivilized, 2012)
(Most of) Galactic North by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2006)
The Medusa Chronicles by Stephen Baxter and Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2016)
Revenger by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2016)
The Centauri Device (novella) by M. John Harrison (F&SF, January 1974)
Diamond Dogs, Turquoise Days by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2003)
Mindbridge by Joe Haldeman (Futura/Orbit, 1977)
Revelation Space by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2000)
The Ophiuchi Hotline by John Varley (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1978)
Vague Tales by Eric Haven (Fantagraphics, 2017)
Nova by Samuel R. Delany (Sphere, 1971)
In the Ocean of the Night by Gregory Benford (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1978)
The Kurdles by Robert Goodin (Fantagraphics, 2015)
400 Billion Stars by Paul J. McAuley (Gollancz, 1988)
The Infinity Gauntlet by Jim Starlin, George Perez and Ron Lim (Marvel, 1991) (reread)
The Night of the Trolls, in Bolo by Keith Laumer (Millington, 1977)
3001: The Final Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke (Voyager, 1997) (possibly a reread; I can't actually recall if I've read it before)
Chasm City by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2001)
Night Passage by Alastair Reynolds, plus other stories in Infinite Stars (Titan, 2017)
Crickets #6 by Sammy Harkham (Fantagraphics, 2017)
Redemption Ark by Alastair Reynolds (Gollancz, 2002)
Various P. M. Hubbard short stories (F&SF, 1953–1969)
The Gritterman by Orlando Weeks (Particular, 2017)
Tarantula by Alexis Ziritt and Fabian Rangel Jr. (AdHouse, 2017)
In the Hall of the Martian Kings by John Varley (Sidgwick & Jackson, 1978)
The World of Ptavvs by Larry Niven (Orbit, 1978)


Started but Nowhere Near Finished
A Legacy of Spies by John le Carre (Viking, 2017)

Started in 2016 but Still Nowhere Near Bloody Finished
Found in the Street by Patricia Highsmith (Heinemann, 1986)

Periodical Comics
East of West by Jonathan Hickman and Nick Dragotta (Image)
The Black Monday Murders by Jonathan Hickman and Tomm Coker (Image)
The Dying and the Dead by Jonathan Hickman and Ryan Bodenheim (Image)
Kill or Be Killed by Ed Brubaker and Sean Phillips (Image)
Secret Empire by Nick Spencer and various (Marvel)
All New Guardians of the Galaxy by Gerry Duggan and Aaron Kuder (Marvel)
Lazarus/Lazarus X+66 by Greg Rucka, Michael Lark and various (Image)
The Old Guard by Greg Rucka and Leandro Fernandez (Image)
The Visitor: How and Why He Stayed by Mike Mignola and Paul Grist (Dark Horse)
The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard (Image)
Paper Girls by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (Image)
Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples (Image)
Stray Bullets by David Lapham (Image)
Injection by Warren Ellis and Declan Shalvey (Image)
The Wild Storm by Warren Ellis and Jon Davis-Hunt (DC)
Curse Words by Charles Soule and Ryan Browne (Image)
Mage: The Hero Denied by Matt Wagner (Image)
Maestros by Steve Skroce (Image)
Aliens: Dead Orbit by James Stokoe (Dark Horse)
Punisher: The Platoon by Garth Ennis and Goran Parlov (Marvel)
Dark Nights: Metal by Scott Snyder and various (DC)

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

2017: The Final Science Fiction Odyssey


The year is fast disappearing on me – on all of us I suppose, although being somewhat of a solipsist I'll confess I'm not entirely convinced there is an 'us' – so I'd best get my skates on if I want to cobble together any kind of coda to my 2017 science fiction book-collecting odyssey. And it will have to be a coda rather than a full-blown conclusion; unfortunately – or maybe fortunately, if anyone besides myself is unfortunate enough to be reading this, which, as I say, I have my doubts about – pressures of work (in a good way; I might return to that in the new year) prevent me from embarking on the kind of exhaustive account that has characterised previous instalments in my chronicles of my SF-collecting odyssey. Instead, on this last leg, rather than detailing every bookshop I've visited, I'll simply summarise some of the better scores of recent months, in particular two huge hauls – plus a more modest one – of paperbacks from London.


The two huge hauls came from two locales practically next door to each other: Skoob Books in the Brunswick Centre and the most recent Paperback & Pulp Book Fair, which took place at the Royal National Hotel on 29 October. The former I happened to stop in at during an excursion to London to discover they'd just got in a big SF collection; among other things I secured paperback firsts of Bruce Sterling's Schismatrix (a book that was very high up on my list of wants), John Varley's Wizard, Ian Watson's debut novel The Embedding, Gregory Benford's Against Infinity, plus various Haldemans (notably two parts of the Worlds trilogy, the third part of which I already had in hardback), a first printing of James Herbert's The Rats (not strictly SF, but I couldn't resist it; once upon a time I had a lot of time for Herbert) and a fair number of Larry Nivens and Jerry Pournelles.


I secured more Nivens and Pournelles at the Paperback & Pulp Book Fair – including a signed Ballantine first of The Long Arm of Gil Hamilton, a steal at two quid – and at the location of the more modest haul, Any Amount of Books on Charing Cross Road, where I also nabbed paperback firsts of Gordon R. Dickson's Dorsai trilogy and a bunch of Stephen Baxters, which make a nice set with a signed paperback first of Baxter's debut novel, Raft, I'd previously bought online. As for the Paperback & Pulp Fair itself, that offered up among other things first paperback editions of Bob Shaw's Orbitsville, Algis Budrys' Rogue Moon and Gordon R. Dickson's Necromancer, all of which I was keen to try, plus Orson Scott Card's Ender's Game, Kim Stanley Robinson's Icehenge, Anne McCaffrey's Restoree, a couple of Ursula Le Guins, and more besides.


And all of that's without getting into the SF I've picked up in Lewes and Brighton and one or two other places over the past few months – too many books to detail here, although I will just mention three by James Tiptree, Jr., alias Alice Sheldon, an author I was guided towards by Book Glutton and subsequently came across paperback first editions of her two novels in Lewes and Leigh-on-Sea and was given a collection of her short stories. I've only read a couple of the stories so far, but on the basis of those I'll certainly be reading more.


And with that, my 2017 SF odyssey is done – and so, more than likely, is my 2017 blogging, although I may manage to post a big long list of the books and comics I read before the year is out. Merry Christmas. (Not that there is anyone out there to wish Merry Christmas to...)

Tuesday, 28 November 2017

P. M. Hubbard Short Stories in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, 1953–1969

Cult British suspense author P. M. Hubbard published just fourteen short stories in his lifetime – a smaller number even than his published novels, of which there are eighteen (including his two children's novels). Appearing in a variety of magazines and anthologies across twenty-five years, to date the stories remain uncollected, and anyone interested in reading them must seek out the original publications in which they appeared – not a straightforward task by any means (more on one aspect of why shortly), although I haven't let that deter me from getting hold of ten of them, chiefly the seven that were published in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. By and large that's involved strokes of good fortune in secondhand bookshops and at book fairs (notably London's Paperback & Pulp Book Fair), but for the three earliest Hubbard F&SF tales, all of which were published in the 1950s, I had to resort to downloading PDFs of the issues (from here).

As there doesn't seem to be much online about those seven F&SF stories – apart from my own post on "The Golden Brick" that is – I thought I'd write something about them – a niche endeavour, I realise, that serves little purpose other than to interest myself and possibly Hubbard's already niche readership, but then surely that's what blogging is all about.


The first Hubbard story to appear in F&SF – and his earliest known story – was actually a reprint, having previously been published in an issue of the weekly Punch sometime in December 1952. The very short "Manuscript Found in a Vacuum" (US F&SF Vol. 5 No. 2, August 1953, cover by Jack Coggins illustrating Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Climbing Wave") is atypical Hubbard, a wry, verbose take on vintage space opera that's mildly amusing in its own way but fairly inconsequential as regards the author's wider canon, with little evidence of the intensity of Hubbard's later work.


Much more Hubbardesque is his second short, "Botany Bay" (US F&SF Vol. 8 No. 2, February 1955, cover by Kelly Freas), which deploys his "poet's sense of concise beauty", as the story's introduction has it ("the narrow strip of tarmac reflected like water the tremendous sultry glow that lay across the tops of the hills", for example), with hints of his propensity for obliqueness and allusion ("he had a look on his face that needs describing, but isn't easy to describe – not adequately... a look of longing, a sort of shocking hunger, but so overlaid with hopelessness that the impression was one of complete passivity") in service of a story in which a motorist stops at a petrol station and encounters a victim of possible extraterrestrial interference of some kind.


Even more Hubbardian is his third short work, "Lion" (US F&SF Vol. 10 No. 3, March 1956, cover by Nicholas Solovioff illustrating Poul Anderson's "Superstition"). One of three Hubbard shorts – the others being "Special Consent" and "The House" – which might reasonably be described as dystopian or perhaps more accurately post-apocalyptic in nature – although in each case, in true Hubbard fashion, the apocalypse itself is never properly defined – it follows a regressed couple as they gather rushes in an overgrown landscape near a bronze lion statue whilst discussing their more intelligent forebears. Initially I thought that statue and the river the story locates it nearby might be one of the ones in Trafalgar Square up from the Thames, but after further investigation I believe it to be the Maiwand Lion, which stands near the River Kennet in Reading, where Hubbard was born. Anyway, Hubbard's evocative handling of the setting is typical of him, and there's a deliciously distressing twist in the tale that I shan't spoil.


The fourth Hubbard short, "The Golden Brick", I've already written about at length, but arriving at it in this essay does give me the opportunity to expand on one of the difficulties of collecting Hubbard's F&SF stories if you're based in the UK. The main source of info about Hubbard and his work is the excellent The Worlds of P. M. Hubbard, but while its bibliography does note which issues of F&SF his stories appeared in, it only gives the American numbers and dates. Here in the UK, for the first half of the 1960s a British version of F&SF was published that used the same stories as its American counterpart but not in the corresponding issues (they tended to lag behind by a number of months). So while in the US "The Golden Brick" appeared in F&SF Vol. 24 No. 1, January 1963 (cover by Ed Emsh illustrating Mack Reynolds' "Speakeasy"), in the UK it was in Vol. 4 No. 6, May 1963. In addition, in the case of "The Golden Brick", the US edition boasts a page-and-a-half introduction comparing Hubbard favourably to M. R. James and incorporating a self-penned bio ("My first novel (a thriller of sorts) just accepted for publication this autumn. Married, three children, two grandchildren. Like making things with my hands, planting and tending trees, swimming, sailing. Have cottage in Cornwall. Expect to die early in 1965, but I may crawl away over the sea yet...") that in the edited-down UK edition intro is brutally excised in its entirety.


The American intro to Hubbard's fifth short, "Special Consent" (US F&SF Vol. 24 No. 4, October 1963, cover by Chesley Bonestell), is also curtailed in the British edition (UK F&SF Vol. 5 No. 4, March 1964), although nowhere near as savagely. In this second short dystopia, Hubbard paints a scenario where women have risen to dominance after men propelled the planet back to the stone age by unleashing "the Fire". There are some interesting ideas present, but the gabby exposition – not a typical Hubbard trait – and the officious nature of the matriarchal society depicted seem to me somehow off.


A more familiar and authentic slice of Hubbard comes with his sixth short, "The Shepherd of Esdon Pen" (US F&SF Vol. 26 No. 2, February 1964, cover by Jack Guagham illustrating S. S. Johnson's "The House by the Crab Apple Tree"/UK F&SF Vol. 5 No. 7, June 1964), in which Hubbard spends a good deal of the story's length vividly establishing the ancient chalk upland surroundings and the social and religious milieu in order to deliver a tale of escalating dread centring on the eponymous horn-headed pagan herder, a carving of whom can be seen in the local church and whose serpent-like staff figures at the story's climax.


Just as good is "The House", Hubbard's ninth short story overall and his last to appear in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (US F&SF Vol. 36 No. 4, April 1969, cover by Bert Tanner illustrating Gregory Benford's "Deeper Than the Darkness"). The third Hubbard post-apocalyptic tale, it shares with "The Shepherd of Esdon Pen" a kind of excavatory epilogue, as a man and his wife try to erect a home and start a new life on their government-allotted square mile of overgrown rubble – all that remains of North London – but find that the going is far harder than they expected. Transplanting a characteristically Hubbardian sense of a sullen rurality to a keenly rendered shattered cityscape ("fairly fine rubble, pretty wet in winter and thickly grown with scrub and the larger annuals, broken by coppices of hazel and alder"), the accruing details – the scarcity of glass, silent birds that might be deaf, the backbreaking work of shifting by hand the "infernal jigsaw" of masonry to find "a reasonably stable and compact surface" to fill in and then level up – build into a convincing portrait of English stoicism in the face of catastrophe.


Of the seven F&SF stories, I would say "Lion", "The Golden Brick", "The Shepherd of Esdon Pen" and "The House" are all approaching prime Hubbard and are well worth tracking down; the other three perhaps less so. In addition, F&SF ran three Hubbard poems, and these too are worth a read (again, they can be downloaded here). Both "Free Flight" (US F&SF Vol. 10 No. 4, April 1956, cover by Chesley Bonestell) and "Air Space Violated" (US F&SF Vol. 15 No. 5, November 1958, cover by Pederson) deal to a degree with man's efforts to escape his earthly shackles, but my favourite I think is "Nobody Hunts Witches" (US F&SF Vol. 8 No. 5, May 1955, cover by Stanley Meltzoff). It brought a smile to my face when I first read it, and in that spirit I hope I'll be forgiven for including it in full below.


Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Science Fiction Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s

Ever since I established Existential Ennui's first permanent page, Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s, five years ago, the bulk of the dust jackets I've added to the gallery have wrapped books of a crime or spy fiction bent – those being the genres I've been most interested in, and accordingly have collected the most of, for most of those five years (and even before that). But right from the get-go I've included dust jackets from books from other genres (and indeed no genre at all) besides, notably science fiction. Among my earliest additions to the page was Roy Sanford's wrapper for the 1951 Rupert Hart-Davis first edition of Ray Bradbury's The Silver Locusts (alias The Martian Chronicles) – one of my most prized books – alongside John Rowland's jacket for the 1957 Heinemann edition of Nevil Shute's On the Beach and Donald Green's one for the 1959 Constable edition of Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon.

With my recently reignited fervour for SF, I thought it high time I added some more science fiction jackets to the gallery. Most of the SF I've been picking up over the past eight months or so has either hailed from the 1970s onwards or been paperbacks – or both – but I have acquired a handful of hardback firsts from the '50s and '60s as well, plus there are one or two other books I've had in my possession for longer than that which, for whatever reason, I haven't got round to adding to the page. Such as this one:


A British first edition of Poul Anderson's Brain Wave, published by Heinemann in 1955. This was one of the first books I bought when I moved down to Lewes from London nine years ago and got seriously into book collecting, acquired from Lewes' Bow Windows Bookshop for a tenner – on reflection something of a bargain, even given its damaged – but still complete – dust jacket; the cheapest comparable copy I can see online at present is listed for over £100. That jacket is by Eric Mudge-Marriott, whose work also appears on, among others, the 1954 Cassell edition of (John) Ross Macdonald's Experience with Evil (alias Meet Me at the Morgue), the 1955 Heinemann edition of David Duncan's Dark Dominion, and the 1965 Cassell edition of William Haggard's The Hard Sell (a copy of which I have in the loft somewhere).


A more recent acquisition from Bow Windows is this British first edition/second impression of Ray Bradbury's early short story collection The Golden Apples of the Sun, published by Rupert Hart-Davis in 1953. Boasting among its tales an all-time Bradbury classic, "The Sound of Thunder", the book's dust jacket is by Bradbury's longtime artistic collaborator, American designer Joe Mugnaini, who also designed the differing jacket of the 1953 US Doubleday edition, as well as this:


The 1959 Hart-Davis edition of The Day It Rained Forever, a 1962 second impression/ex-library copy of which I acquired for a couple of quid from Jamie Sturgeon at the last but one Lewes Book Fair. I bought a bunch of SF off Jamie at the most recent Lewes Book Fair in October too, including this:


A first edition of Jonathan Burke's intriguing Pursuit Through Time, published by Ward, Lock in 1956. Sadly there's no art credit for the dust jacket (the style looks very familiar to me but I can't place it) so I've added it to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s under 'Designer Unknown'.


Also from the most recent Lewes Book Fair, from a different dealer, came this British first of Andre Norton's Catseye, published by Gollancz in 1962 (and once owned by a Prof. Spratt, according to the ex libris stamp on its endpaper). The wrapper is by Alan Breese, who created jackets for over a dozen Gollancz editions of Andre Norton books throughout the 1960s.


Lastly, from where I'm not quite sure – it's a recent-ish acquisition but I can't recall where from – a first edition/second impression of James Blish's A Life for the Stars, published by Faber in 1966 (originally 1964), dust jacket by Robert MacLean, who I believe was an American artist and children's book illustrator. Bizarrely, this is actually the second copy of the Faber edition I've owned; I did have a third impression but I've no idea what I did with it, hence why I bought this second impression from... somewhere... that and the fact that I also own Faber first/seconds of the other three novels in Blish's Cities in Flight sequence (which have rather different dust jacket designs). Anyway, I've added this and all the other SF wrappers in this post to Beautiful British Book Jacket Design of the 1950s and 1960s under their relevant designers (where known), all of whom are new to the gallery.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Peril for the Guy by John Kennett, a Lewes Bonfire Book Bargain

Guy Fawkes Night, or Bonfire as it's known locally, is a big deal here in Lewes. Each November the 5th (or, as it is this year, the 4th; Bonfire never takes place on a Sunday) thousands line the streets to witness the six bonfire societies – whose memberships number in the many hundreds – and visiting societies from across Sussex parade around the town in a cavalcade of flames and firecrackers, costumes and pageantry, tableaux (the term for the huge, topical – often controversially so – papier-mache effigies the societies build and then blow up) and centuries-old tradition, culminating in the ritual exploding of the Pope and subsequent firework displays at six fire sites dotted around town.

How apposite, then, that in a Lewes charity shop I should come across this:


A first edition of Peril for the Guy by John Kennett, published by Brockhampton Press in 1955, dust jacket and interior illustrations by Stuart Boyle (who also illustrated Evelyn Waugh's The Loved One, and whose daughter Catherine Brighton is herself an illustrator). A children's adventure novel about young Kim Hunter and his four friends – the 'Black Circle' Gang – who set out to collect 'pennies for the guy' but wind up falling foul of the sinister Colonel Hugo Cannon, I suppose its main claim to fame these days is that it became a Children's Film Foundation production the year after publication, directed by James Hill, starring Fraser Hines – later of Doctor Who and Emmerdale – and now available to view in its entirety on the BFI website.


Kennett didn't write that film adaptation, but he did write or edit around fifty other books for children – history and biography as well as fiction – including two sequels to Peril for Guy: Walk into Peril, 1957, and Peril All the Way, 1959. He was also a teacher at Knebworth County Primary School in Hertfordshire, a former pupil of which establishment recalls that mention of the film adaptation of Peril for the Guy was for some reason taboo.


Whatever objections Kennett may have had to the film, they evidently didn't prevent him from signing this copy of the novel on its front free endpaper in the same year the adaptation was released:


How this first of Peril for the Guy – the only signed copy I know of, and an uncommon book in either its 1955 Brockhampton Press edition or its 1973 White Lion reissue – wound up in a Lewes charity shop I couldn't say; the curious religious bookmark that was slipped inside its pages might be a clue, or more likely the inscription on the reverse of the front endpaper:


To a Robert from his Auntie Eve and Uncle Dennis on the occasion of his twelfth birthday. One to ponder over the weekend, perhaps, as Lewes once more bursts into flames.


Linked in this Friday's Forgotten Books roundup. Bonfire photos © Rachel Day. 

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

2017: Science Fiction Odyssey Three

I suppose really this post should be titled '2017: Science Fiction Odyssey Six' or something, given that besides two prior similarly-titled posts on my continuing science fiction book collecting odyssey, '2017: A Science Fiction Odyssey' and '2017: Odyssey to... Bookshops in Worthing, Leigh-on-Sea and Tunbridge Wells', I've done SF-book-collecting-odyssey posts centring on the Isle of WightBrighton and the Lewes Book Fair. But Arthur C. Clarke only wrote four books in his series – I've been riffing on the titles of Clarke's 'Space Odyssey' novels, you see – and I'd already ballsed up the numbering by not making the Isle of Wight post the second part of the odyssey, so '2017: Science Fiction Odyssey Three' it is.


And the odyssey this time takes in Littlehampton, Worthing (again), Brighton (again), Tonbridge and Sydenham, all of which I've trekked to in search of secondhand SF over the past month or so. A warning: anyone expecting picturesque (unlikely in the cases of Worthing and Sydenham I know, but anyway) shots of those far-flung locales is likely to be sorely disappointed; as in previous odyssey posts, this one will largely consist of photographs of my hand holding books outside – and mostly obscuring, helpfully – secondhand bookshops, so depending on your mileage for partially obscured secondhand bookshops/books/hands, you may want to stop reading now.


My first stop on this leg of the odyssey was the coastal town of Littlehampton, about an hour from Lewes (where I live) by car or indeed by train, which was how I travelled on this occasion. I ventured there drawn by the Fireside Bookshop, which relocated to Littlehampton from the Lake District a couple of years ago and which I'd been meaning to visit ever since I learned of that relocation. Situated in a small arcade at the far end of the high street from the train station, it's an attractive shop with a diverse stock arranged around one large and one smaller room, but though its (largely paperback) fiction section in the main room stretches the length of its front windows, when I visited there wasn't much in the way of science fiction on offer. However, the owner had just bought in an SF collection, and although he hadn't yet catalogued it all, he did have a few bits behind the counter. After a look through the two small proffered piles I selected this:


A pristine first edition of Greg Bear's alien invasion/end of the world epic The Forge of God, published in hardback by Gollancz in 1987, dust jacket illustration by John Harris. That'll do nicely.


Heading back towards Lewes I stopped off at Worthing in order to have another look for SF in Badger's Books. The box of SF paperbacks I found before was still there, and this time I plucked from it three paperback firsts of early novels by Ian WatsonThe Martian Inca (Granada/Panther, 1978, cover illustration by Peter Gudynas), Alien Embassy (Granada/Panther, 1979) and Miracle Visitors (Granada/Panther, 1980) – and two paperback firsts of novels by Bob Shaw: Ground Zero Man (Corgi, 1976) and The Ceres Solution (Granada, 1983). However, as I was paying for those, I spied in the shelf of signed books running high up along one wall in the first room a Peter F. Hamilton book, which on closer inspection turned out to be this:


A copy of the signed, limited, numbered, slipcased edition of The Temporal Void, published by Macmillan in 2008, dust jacket and box illustration by Jim Burns. The second in Hamilton's Void Trilogy, it's the sequel to 2007's The Dreaming Void, a first edition of which I'd found in the Lewes Book Centre not long before. Splendid.


Living in Lewes as I do, it's not unusual for me to buy books in nearby Brighton; but it is unusual for me to take a picture of whichever books I've bought outside whichever bookshop I've bought them in – which is precisely what I did one sunny Saturday early in September (when I was ostensibly in Brighton for my friend – and Brit comics/dinosaur art superstar – Steve White's stag do) at Colin Page Antiquarian Books (which, sadly, will be closing down quite soon, passing trade apparently not being enough to justify the cost of keeping a shop in the centre of Brighton) after buying some SF paperbacks from the table outside the shop, so I figured I might as well include that picture in this post. On the top is a 1982 New English Library first paperback edition of Search for the Sun!, the first novel in Colin Kapp's Cageworld series, cover illustration by Gerald Grace; then a 1979 Hamlyn paperback first of Healer, the debut novel by F. Paul Wilson (who recently wrote the foreword to a book I project edited, The Art of the Pulps); and a 1969 Coronet paperback first of SF anthology Seven Trips Through Time and Space, edited by Groff Conklin and featuring stories by among others Larry Niven and Cordwainer Smith.


While Brighton is for me a frequent destination, Tonbridge, in Kent, about an hour's drive north from Lewes, isn't (I've probably been there a handful of times, one of which I only have a dim recollection of as it involved drunken boating on the Medway with my friend Mike). But on a whim I motored there in order to have a mooch around the excellently-named Mr. Books, which I'd been meaning to check out for a while, and especially so since it reopened under new management in August. A bijou one-room split-level affair, the shop's hardback fiction section up the back didn't hold anything of interest for me, but the paperback fiction section down the front, with its shelf of film tie-ins, was another matter entirely:


On the top there is a first edition/first printing of Michael Crichton's original Westworld screenplay, published straight to paperback by Bantam in 1974. Quite a rare book – especially so in the UK – it includes 32 pages of stills and behind-the-scenes shots and an enlightening essay by Crichton about the tribulations of making the film, worth the price of admission alone – which in my case was three quid, significantly less than first printings usually go for.

Underneath that is a 1947 first Penguin paperback edition of Graham Greene's travelogue The Lawless Roads (I do still buy non-SF books, y'know); a 1978 Paradise Press paperback first of Bob Balaban's making-of memoir Close Encounters of the Third Kind Diary – another rare book, later reissued by Titan as Spielberg, Truffaut and Me (which is the edition I read it in when I worked at Titan); a 1950 Cherry Tree Books paperback first of Edward Woodward's Dead Man's Plaything – an incredibly rare book (there's not a single copy for sale online) which I bought because I wondered whether the author might be the Edward Woodward, who would have been 20 when it was published; a 1970 Pan first paperback edition of Kingsley 'Robert Markham' Amis' Bond novel Colonel Sun; a 2004 Gollancz first paperback printing of Alastair Reynolds' Absolution Gap, the final part of his central Revelation Space universe trilogy and, weirdly, the one book I was hoping I might find when I decided to make the journey to Tonbridge (and lo and behold, serendipitously, there it was, hidden behind some other SF paperbacks, almost as if it was waiting for me...); and a 1993 HarperCollins first paperback printing of Kim Stanley Robinson's Red Mars.


Not a bad haul. But Tonbridge wasn't done with me yet, because on the way back to the car I had a look in the local Oxfam Books and emerged with a 1980 Orbit/Futura paperback first of Larry Niven's short story collection Convergent Series, cover illustration by Peter Jones; a 2008 Gollancz paperback of Greg Egan's Diaspora; and a 2002 US Baen hardback first edition/fist printing of Andre Norton's Warlock, which collects the three Forerunner novels Storm over Warlock (1960), Ordeal in Otherwhere (1964) and Forerunner Foray (1973).


Lastly on this leg of the odyssey, Sydenham, and the Kirkdale Bookshop, which I swung by one Sunday when I was up at my folks' for the weekend (they live in nearby Beckenham). A browse through the first edition bookcases and (mostly paperback) SF section in the secondhand basement produced a 1962 Corgi paperback first of Planet of the Dreamers (alias Wine of the Dreamers), the first SF novel by crime writer John D. MacDonald, cover art by Josh Kirby; a 1976 Orbit paperback of Larry Niven's Protector; a 1981 Orbit paperback of Jerry Pournelle's Future History; and a 1967 Hodder hardback first of Edmund Cooper's A Far Sunset – a scarce edition that one, especially so in its jacket.

The odyssey, inevitably, continues...

NB: Linked in this week's Friday's Forgotten Books roundup.