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Old Tea Leaf Reviews 5: 1985 Locus Poll Best First Novel
james_nicoll
Cut for length



Best First Novel

1 The Wild Shore  Kim Stanley Robinson

        This is part one of the trilogy in which Robinson examines
three dissimilar futures for America. In this one, some unnamed agency
explodes atom-bombs at the center of about five thousand communities
in the US, notably hampering its economic development. The Soviets
are the dominant power and I believe the US has been embargoed for
some reason. To the young protagonist, the way the world is is
natural and the stories the geezers tell about the old days are
just folk tales.

        I liked this book and bear it great ill-will for leading me to
read the Mars series.

        Robinson is still a successful writer.

        This was published as part of Terry Carr's Ace Science Fiction
Specials series of the 1980s (The third such series but only the second
under Carr).


2 Neuromancer  William Gibson

        This is for many people the First Cyberpunk Novel. I remember
liking it at the time but all I remember about it now is the Rastafarian
space navy.

        Gibson is still a successful writer but his fiction is arguably
no longer SF.

        This was also an Ace Science Fiction Special.


3 Emergence  David R. Palmer

        This tells the story of a young superhuman girl and what she
did after the end of the world.

        If I was writing this a year ago, I'd say that Palmer had this
book and a second, notably inferior book and then nothing. The sequel
to EMERGENCE is being published in ANALOG so he is not a two-book wonder.


4 Green Eyes  Lucius Shepard

        I don't recall anything about this except I think there were
zombies.

        Shepard is still a successful writer.

        This was an Ace Science Fiction Special.


5 Them Bones  Howard Waldrop

        This is a rather melancholy book about an attempt alter to histor
and prevent WWIII. I remember it as well written but not entirely success

        Waldrop is still writing (although I believe he was recently
hospitalized) but at shorter lengths. This book and the extremely
atypical for Waldrop THE TEXAS/ISRAELI WAR are to my knowledge his
only novels to date.

        This was an Ace Science Fiction Special.


6 Valentina: Soul in Sapphire  Joseph H. Delaney and Marc Stiegler

        I believe this involved an AI of some sort but I don't
remember much about it.

        Delaney didn't publish many novels (and all of them in the
1980s) but his short story career continued until he died.

        Stiegler's career continued until at least the late 1990s but
I am unaware of any fiction by him after 1999.


7 The Riddle of the Wren  Charles de Lint

        If I read this, I then forget it.

        Charles de Lint is a successful fantasy author.


8 The Ceremonies  T. E. D. Klein

        I did not read this.

        I believe that he was writing short fiction at least until
the late 1990s but this was his only novel and the only other book-
length work that I am aware of was a collection.


9 Frontera  Lewis Shiner

        I know I read this but I am blanking on it.

        Shiner is still a successful authors, although I think he
might be classified as "magical realism" these days.


10 Procurator  Kirk Mitchell

        I think this is an alternate history in which Rome never fell
but I am not even sure that I read it.

        Mitchell is still getting published but I am not sure what
genres he works in.


11 Palimpsests  Carter Scholz and Glenn Harcourt

        This is another book that I know I read whose details are
lost to me just now.

        Scholz had another novel published in the early 21st
and has written a lot of short stories, the most recent as recently
as 2004.

        This is the only thing that I can find from Harcourt.

        This was an Ace Science Fiction Special.


12 The Alchemists  Geary Gravel

        I don't know anything about this book.

        Gravel seems to have been seduced by the seedy world of media
tie-in novels but I don't see anything by him after the late 1990s.


13 The Game Beyond  Melissa Scott

        I missed this. I really missed it: I thought her Silence Leigh
books were her first books.

        Scott was reasonably prolific in the 1980s and 1990s but I am
unaware of anything later than 2001.


14 Divine Endurance  Gwyneth Jones

        I did not see this. I am pretty sure that she was getting
published in the 1970s in the UK so this poll must only be for US
publication.

        Jones remains a successful author.


15 Elleander Morning  Jerry Yulsman

        This is an alternate history in which Hitler is murdered
long before his political career begins and as a result there is
no WWII.

        I have never heard of this or the author before now. He wrote
at least two novels under his own name and a number of adult novels
under pen named but he seems to be best known as a photographer.


16 Winter's Daughter  Charles Whitmore

        I am drawing a blank.


17 Demon-4  David Mace

        I did not see this.

        As I recall, Mace has more than half a dozen SF novel but his SF
career hit a snag in the early 1990s (A snag that resembles parts of A Likely Story but without the mistresses [1]). He's still around, still
being published in various media (Includng scripting LIFE ON MARS)
and has a novel in the works.


1: I guess if you are a writer and you have to recapitulate a Westlake
novel, better A Likely Story than The Hook.



Palmer's Emergence, which I never heard of before just now, sounds like the kind of thing I might like, but I can't tell from your description if you thought it was any good. ("Better than his other book" is not an endorsement I know what to do with, since I never read the other one either.) Do you remember how you liked it?

- Ken

Never read the novel version, but I really liked the novella version.

T.E.D. Klein did have a second collection, all reprints, come out last year. Reassuring Tales was published by Subterranean and charitably collects Klein's "minor works." It took years to get to print as well.

Klein isn't so much a very slow writer as he is a non-writer at this point. He had a second novel contracted which he never delivered. Despite that, his reputation is still very high in horror circles; he was recently interviewed by Cemetery Dance, for example. Anything he might publish would gain instant significant attention in the horror community.

and charitably collects Klein's "minor works."

Charitably meaning they're not very good? By weird coincidence I just learned of the existence of Reassuring Tales this week and was thinking about tracking it down.

The Waldrop has the best explanation for the Book of Mormon I've ever read.

A lot of those are Ace Specials, aren't they? Green Eyes, The Wild Shore, Them Bones, Palimpsests. Terry Carr sure had taste. (Though that last was a dud.) I was about to drop SF in favor of a mostly non-fiction reading list. Who knew it was a false dawn.

Interesting. You liked Lucius Shepard? IDNK that.

Early Robinson: it's not so much that he stuck to what he knew, as that he knew what he didn't know. His later books suffer from losing track of that. (Though I liked the Mars trilogy much more than James.)


Doug M.

Neuromancer (Anonymous) Expand
10 Procurator Kirk Mitchell

I think this is an alternate history in which Rome never fell
but I am not even sure that I read it.

It is an alternate history where a Rome that never fell confronts terrorists in the Middle East.

_Psychic_ terrorists, mind you. I believe there's a sequel in which Aztecs are fought and a third ("Cry Republic!") where there's a civil war and it ends with the Good Emperor getting religion.

Bruce

Geary Gravel's The Alchemists and The Pathfinders are in my opinion excellent and are two of my favorite novels. His next two books are exceedingly light fun, and I didn't know he had written media tie-ins, but I don't imagine I'll bother looking for them.

As for Melissa Scott, I definitely hope she writes more, since I have found her work to be largely excellent.

I'm pretty sure Melissa is a regular guest at Gaylaxicon (she didn't attend when I chaired it in Toronto two years ago, but then again, we invited mostly Canadian guests), so she must be doing something to warrant attention.

Campbell Nominees for 1985

shsilver

2008-06-18 08:55 pm (UTC)

Bradley Denton
Geoffrey Landis
Elissa Malcolm
Ian McDonald
Melissa Scott
Lucius Shepard

Re: Campbell Nominees for 1985

shsilver

2008-06-18 09:15 pm (UTC)

I have no idea who Elissa Malcolm is and a quick google search doesn't turn anything up.

Winter's Daughter was a translation of a saga, and told therefore in somewhat stylized prose. The saga in question was one that arose in a future world recovering from nuclear war. I remember there was a frame, in which the translation was done by someone at a university in Africa -- the implication being that with the US and Europe devastated, countries that were once third-world rose to prominence. One detail that sticks in my mind was that the translator prefaced the text with the usual set of acknowledgements, and then said something like, "Much of what is good in this text comes from them. I invite their shared responsibility for any errors that remain."

I read it and enjoyed it when it came out, but that was long enough ago that I don't remember much more.

Charles Whitmore is the brother of Tom Whitmore, who is this year's Worldcon Fan GoH. Tom used to write reviews for Locus; this may well have had an influence on Winter's Daughter appearing on the list.

This was a landmark year in a lot ways, I think many of those were first novels for the authors, like the Gibson, Waldrop, Shiner, and the Shepherd.

The first wave of cyberpunk novels, sort of.

Weren't all of Carr's Ace SF Specials first novels? The Robinson was, too, at least.

I think all of Jones' work earlier than Divine Endurance was YA published under the pseudonym Ann Halam; it may not have come over to the US yet, or Locus etc. may not have known of the connection.

Divine Endurance was certainly published in Britain as her first novel and sold to me as such. I'd not heard of her before. I don't know if she'd already written the Halams, I certainly read them later.

Valentina: Soul in Sapphire Joseph H. Delaney and Marc Stiegler

I believe this involved an AI of some sort but I don't
remember much about it.


I'm pretty sure this is a fixup, because I have vague memories of there being a series of Valentina stories in Analog. I remember them as being mildly amusing, but not enough for me to bother picking up the book.

Right. Three shorts, actually. At the time, I thought of them as being an update on Hoyle's classic "A for Andromeda". Wait, that's not right. The 'Andromeda' update was . . . um . . . 'An X-Tee Named Stanley'? The Sapphire storied were neat, rather than good, and also around the time that particular magazine lost me as a regular reader. Didn't Cramer have a regular column in Analog then?

I've read The Wild Shore, Neuromancer (albeit just a few months ago for bookgroup), and Emergence. I've read other books by Robinson (I liked the Mars books!), Palmer, Shepard, Waldrop (shorts), de Lint, Shiner, Scott, and Jones.

8 The Ceremonies T. E. D. Klein

Finally, a book on this list I've read (although I've read the novella/short story version of some of these stories, like The Wild Shore).

I remember it being very good right up until the climactic tentacle rape scene.

More books I recognise, though still onyl read two of them: Neuromancer and Frontera. Rereading the first recently it was interesting to rediscover how good it is, once you can get over Gibson's understanding of computers. The second was interesting in that it was such a completely average cyberpunk novel.

My big problem with Gibson is his writing style. I had to really force myself through the first few chapters of Neuromancer and then it became easier.

David Mace used to be local to me when I lived in Lancaster. He used to give me rides to Preston to the SF group there sometimes. The last time I spoke to him -- which is some time ago -- he was trying to break into the more lucerative field of technothrillers.

Oh, and I've read five of these and other books by two of those authors. It seems to me as if 1985 was a good year for first novels, but I think what it was is that it's the year Interstellar Master Traders opened and I could suddenly buy US SF books off the shelf, and also start to get recommendations of the "If you liked that you should try this..." kind for the first time ever. I wouldn't have bought either Them Bones or The Wild Shore if not for that.

I think in 1985 we saw the Terry Carr effect, Terry had an eye for talent and it shows in his relaunch of the Ace specials.

These are almost all, that I know of, paperback originals.

What is the break point for the great shift to hard covers again?

1996 is the year the mass-market distribution system went smash, with distributors buying each other and laying off drivers left and right.

So my theory would be that the big shift would be to trade paperback for first novels in the year or two after that, and to hardcovers probably about 1999.

Howard Waldrop also wrote _A Dozen Tough Jobs_ (1989), which at 135 pages should qualify as a novel.

More recently, he wrote _A Better World's in Birth_ (2003), but that was only 49 pages (novella? novelette?).

Man this was a good year!

I've read Robinson's Mars trilogy but not this (Red great, Green good, Blue tedious). From what I gather about his work I'd prefer his earlier novels to the later ones.

I really like Gibson, so have read most of his novels bar the last two. Neuromancer is pretty good, although out of that trilogy I prefer Mona Lisa Overdrive.

I've not read that Shepard but have read the Green Jaguar story collection and have somewhere Life During Wartime. I really like his work, and wish more of it was easily available in the UK.

That goes double for Waldrop. I've read several of his shorts in various Year's Bests but never an actual book by him, whether one of the two novels or a collection.

From the single story I've read from Lewis Shiner I really should make an effort to track down more stuff by him. I know he's put a whole bunch of stuff on the net for free, I should really check him out.

http://www.lewisshiner.com/liberation/index.htm

I think I was too young for Scholz the first time I read him (in the New Legends anthology is I recall), I should give him a second chance.

I've only recently found out about Jones' work. The Aleutian trilogy sounds interesting, and I know she's working on a Space Opera that's set in the same setting as The Fulcrum and which I liked a lot, but for most of this decade she's being working on some Arthurian derivative cycle which holds no interest for me at all.

Bold as Love etc. are actually excellent.

If you are thinking Arthurian derivative as 'Lancelot in armor' they are not that at all.

It is actually rock and roll fairly near future post collapse green technology and politics.