Short Stories Read – The Fantastic Universe Omnibus part 2

I finished reading this one (see last week for the first part) a few days ago.

The Fantastic Universe Omnibus edited by Hans Stefan Santesson, Prentice-Hall 1960 hardcover, science-fantasy short story anthology, 19 stories, 270 pages, introduction by Lester del Rey

“A Way of Life” (1956) by Robert Bloch

“In Lonely Lands” (1959) by Harlan Ellison

“Fall of Knight” (1958) by A. Bertram Chandler

“Sit by the Fire” (1958) by Sasha Miller [as by Myrle Benedict]

“A Thing of Custom” (1957) by L. Sprague de Camp

“Exile from Space” (1956) by Judith Merril

“Mex” (1957) by Laurence M. Janifer [as by Larry M. Harris]

“The Amazing Mrs. Mimms” (1958) by David C. Knight

“My Father, the Cat” (1957) by Henry Slesar

“Title Fight” (1956) by William Campbell Gault

“The Golden Pyramid” (1956) by Sam Moskowitz

“The Robot Who Wanted to Know” (1958) by Harry Harrison [as by Felix Boyd]

“Road to Nightfall” (1958) by Robert Silverberg

“The Velvet Glove” (1956) by Harry Harrison

“The Day Will Come… (1956) by Hans Stefan Santesson [as by Vithaldas H. O’Quinn]

As are all anthologies, this is a mixed bag, and there are a lot of stories involving robots, which I didn’t expect, having never seen an issue of the digest. Overall, I enjoyed most of the stories though I disliked or skipped three of them, but that’s not a bad average. An interesting anthology of it’s time.

As an addition, I found out about this anthology through the Black Gate blog, in particular this article: The Art of Things To Come Part II in which it was featured. Things to Come was the pamphlet sent by the Science Fiction Book Club to members every other month showing upcoming club selections. Here’s the page for this one:

The Fantastic Universe Omnibus, featured in the
September-October 1960 issue of Things to Come. Art by Virgil Finlay

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04-28 Short Stories Read: sf

Reading from a 1960 an anthology this week, and in the weeks to come.

The Fantastic Universe Omnibus edited by Hans Stefan Santesson, Prentice-Hall 1960 hardcover, science-fantasy short story anthology, 19 stories, 270 pages, introduction by Lester del Rey. Here’s the first half I read. The rest will be next week.

Introduction (The Fantastic Universe Omnibus) (1960) essay by Lester del Rey

Introduction (The Fantastic Universe Omnibus)  (1960)  essay by Hans Stefan Santesson

“First Law” (1956) by Isaac Asimov

“She Only Goes Out at Night” (1956) by William Tenn

“The Pacifist”  [Tales from the White Hart] (1956) by Arthur C. Clarke

“The Bounty Hunter” (1958) by Avram Davidson

“The Muted Horn” (1957) by Dorothy Salisbury Davis

As an addition, I found out about this anthology through the Black Gate blog, in particular this article: The Art of Things To Come Part II in which it was featured. Things to Come was the pamphlet sent by the Science Fiction Book Club to members every other month showing upcoming club selections. Here’s the page for this one:

The Fantastic Universe Omnibus, featured in the
September-October 1960 issue of Things to Come. Art by Virgil Finlay

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Happy Birthday, Barbara!

Today is Barbara’s mumble-mumble-th birthday. She says she doesn’t feel older than yesterday. Her plan is to stay inside on this blustery day and read a book by David Baldacci she just got from the library. We have no special plans, other than a nice home meal followed by her favorite from Nothing Bundt Cakes, which was picked up yesterday.

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Earth Day

Happy Earth Day to everyone!

earth day logoI hope your day is filled with trees, shrubs, and plants of all kinds on this day. Here in Portland, Oregon it’s sunny with a high of 72°. Here are some pictures from our garden. Click on each to enlarge.

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Short Stories Read: Apr 21

Six stories this week, the remainder of the stories in this anthology:

Continiuum 1 cvr“Shaka!” by Chad Oliver
“The Armagedon Tapes, Tape 1” by Thomas Scortia
“Prelude To A Crystal Song” by Anne McCaffrey
“The Dark of the June” by Gene Wolfe
“The Children’s Crusade” by Edgar Pangborn
“The Night of the Storm” by Dean R. Koontz

Of these, the McCaffrey and Koontz are the best. The former is the beginning of the authors’ Crystal Singer novel, which I read a long time ago and have on the shelf. I may reread it now.

The Koontz story, with robot protagonists, is new to me and I enjoyed it. I’m not sure if it was turned into a longer work than the four parts in this and the other three anthologies in this Continuum anthology series.

Overall I’d rate this set of 8 stories at just above average, with four of them quite good, two (the Scortia and Pangborn) below average and the remaining two average. The concept of a four volume continuing anthology series like this is unique, I think.

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Reading Tintin

Sometime in the Seventies I went into the Brentano’s book store in South Coast Plaza to browse. [Brentano’s was an American bookstore chain owned by Macmillan in the 1970s and early 1980s with numerous locations in the United States, including three stores in Southern California: in Westwood Village, Beverly Hills, and Costa Mesa’s South Coast Plaza.]

Among the things I bought that day were several of the Tintin books. The Adventures of Tintin is a series of 24 (23 completed and 1 unfinished) graphic albums created by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi, who wrote under the pen name Hergé. (his initials spelled backwards as pronounced in French). The series was one of the most popular European comics of the 20th century.

tintin the complete companionI read them, really enjoyed them, and bought the remaining books (23 in all) and read and reread them many times over the years. During late 2020 and in January and February 2021, I decided to reread the series again, since the stories are simple fun and the artwork very good.

When I went to the shelf to pull the first couple of books, I realized I also have companion volumes, and decided to read those along with the stories. The first one I read was Tintin The Complete Companion by Michael Farr. In addition to a biographical chapter on Hergé himself, it contains a chapter on each book with extensive background on the plot and inspiration for various elements of the story.

The next reference book I read, actually skimming as a lot of the information was already in the first one, was Tintin and the World of Hergé by Benoit Peeters, which added much additional information.

I’m a fan of companion books like these, which add a lot of information about the author of a series, as well as insights into the characters, publishing history, plots and subsidiary information.

Naturally, along with these I read several of the books themselves, here are just four of them:

The entire series of softcover Adventures of Tintin is available as a boxed set.

These are wonderful books.

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Short Stories Read Apr. 14

Two stories this week:
“Stations of the Nightmare, part 1” by Phillip José Farmer
“My Own, My Native Land” by Poul Anderson

Continiuum 1 cvrBoth of these, the first two stories in the book, came from Continuum 1 edited by Roger Elwood, Berkley Medallion Books 1974 mass market paperback science fiction anthology, first of four. The concept here is that there would be four anthologies, numbered 1-4, with the same authors each writing four standalone but connected stories over the four volumes.

“Stations of the Nightmare, part 1” by Phillip José Farmer is about a man who, out hunting in wooded farming country, sees and shoots at something that explodes in yellow powderish globules, which he inhales. He is dramatically changed.

“My Own, My Native Land” by Poul Anderson is about a boy of fifteen and an experienced adult explorer who attempt to salvage items from a crashed airship on the planet Eridani. This story, I’m told, is the first of six to be gathered in Anderson’s New America, an Anderson novel with which I am unfamiliar but I have ordered a copy.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the other three volumes, and while I could find them, I have too much else to read to bother. These were good, though, and I’ll finish reading the rest of the anthology (see next week).

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The Water Room by Christopher Fowler

Water Room 1

my copy

The Water Room by Christopher Fowler, 2004 mystery, 2nd book in the Peculiar Crimes Unit series featuring Bryant & May

I really like this series. The London setting is interesting, and the history fascinating, and the characters really shine.

Bryant and May is a series of crime fiction/mystery novels by English novelist Christopher Fowler. The series follows Arthur Bryant and John May, two detectives who are part of the Peculiar Crimes Unit, a fictional unit in London. The series is set between World War II and present times and often includes flashbacks to earlier times when an incident from the detectives’ past is relevant. Fowler frequently includes London landmarks like St. Paul’s Cathedral into the series. The series is also known as the Peculiar Crimes Unit.

Fowler began his Bryant and May Mysteries series in 2003 with Full Dark House. The series is currently ongoing. See the list below.

I bought the first book in the series, Full Dark House (2003), years ago and read it soon after, then let the next few sit on the shelf. Finally, during a clean-and-organize of my book area I got around to reading this one. Why did I wait so long?

Water Room 2From the publisher’s website:

How can an elderly recluse drown in a chair in her otherwise dry basement? That’s what John May and Arthur Bryant of London’s Peculiar Crimes Unit set out to discover in a city rife with shady real estate developers, racist threats, dodgy academicians, and someone dangerously obsessed with Egyptian mythology. Linking them all is an evil lurking in London’s vast and forgotten underground river system—a killer with the eerie ability to strike anywhere, anytime, without leaving a clue. It’s a subterranean case of secrets, lies, and multiple murder that defies not only the law, but reason itself. Can Bryant and May bring a killer to the surface and stop the dark tide of murder before it pulls them under, too?

Fowler’s books are unlike anything else I’ve read in the mystery genre, and well worth the reading time. The amount of historical information stirred into the books, which are (mostly, usually) part of the investigation and solution are a lot of what I enjoy, as well as the humor sprinkled in. But most importantly, it’s Bryant and May solving the crime in their very own way. Wonderful stuff.

The author says on his blog: Water Room 3
“For each reader who discovers something they like inside the covers, there’s someone who can’t be persuaded to touch them; their preconceptions run too deep.

That’s fine. You can’t please everyone and some of the volumes in the series are pretty esoteric and densely plotted. I wanted to attempt every imaginable type of crime story except the most common one; the grim ultra-violent procedural. Both ‘Oranges & Lemons’ and the upcoming ‘London Bridge is Falling Down’ are more like 1970s adventures than 1930s whodunnits.”

The Christopher Fowler’s Bryant and May books in publication order (which is the same as their chronological order):

Full Dark House  (2003)
The Water Room (2004)
Seventy-Seven Clocks  (2005)
Ten Second Staircase  (2006)
White Corridor  (2007)
The Victoria Vanishes  (2008)
Bryant & May on the Loose  (2009)
Off the Rails  (2010)
The Memory of Blood  (2011)
The Invisible Code  (2012)
The Bleeding Heart  (2014)
The Secret Santa  (2015)
The Burning Man  (2015)
London’s Glory (ss) (2015)
Strange Tide  (2016)
Wild Chamber  (2017)
Hall of Mirrors  (2018)
England’s Finest  (2019)
The Lonely Hour ( 2019)
Oranges and Lemons (2020)
London Bridge is Falling Down (coming Dec. 2021)

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Reading a Series

As I’m sure is true for most mystery readers, many of the books I read are part of a series. It often seems that’s about all we see when we look at book listings and reviews. But these series create a question, and a problem: how to read them.

Some series, such as those by William Kent Kruger and Louise Penny, I’ve read from the beginning, when the first book was published, and happily continued on as each new book came out. But many, many other series, old and newer, exist prior to my discovering them. Once I find an interesting new-to-me series, what do I do?  More to the point here, what do YOU do? 

It seems there are several options:

  • Read the first book in the series, which is usually the first one published.
  • Read whichever book in the series that initially got my attention.
  • Read the first book with the intention to keep reading the series occasionally.
  • Read the first book with the intention to read the series, book after book, straight through.

Most of the time I find myself trying to read a series in order, and read one and then, after reading something else, come back to the series and read the next one. It takes a long time to get through a series that way, and if the writer is active, they can sometimes outpace my reading of their books. Here are two series I’m currently reading, one now and then, as examples:

The Rivers of London series, which now includes a short story collection, Tales From The Folly.


the Rivers of London series

I’ve read the first two books, and intend to keep reading, but there are so many other books in the Read Right Away stack…

Chron St Mary spines

the Chronicles of St. Mary’s, Headline edition

The Chronicles of St. Mary’s is a wonderful series of novels, (the recent edition published by Headline is shown) and now a short story collection, The Long and the Short of It , (Night Shade Books). I read, again, the first two before being tempted away by something else. I’m planning on continuing on with these soon.

 I’m reading the short story collection now and enjoying it immensely.

One more, this time no image, is Christopher Fowler’s Bryant & May series, Again, the short story collection London’s Glory got me headed back to reading the series.

So, how do you manage your series reading? Are you a read-em-straight-through person, or now-and-then, or what?

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FFB: Five Against Venus by Philip Latham

Five Against Venus  by Philip Lathen (pseudonym of Robert S. Richardson), Winston Science Fiction 1952, third in series. Cover by Virgil Finlay.

This one is for the 10-year-old in you.

As a kid I was able to find some of the Winston Science Fiction books at the city library. I loved them. They’re now available in ebook format, and I’ve purchased several to read on my iPad tablet. This is the third in the series.

5 Against Venus cvrFive Against Venus, written by Philip Latham, is a science-fiction novel first published in the United States in 1952 by the John C. Winston Company. Philip Latham was the nom de plume of Robert S. Richardson, a professional astronomer who also provided technical assistance on movies such as Destination Moon.

This is one of the thirty-five juvenile novels that comprise the Winston Science Fiction set, which novels were published in the 1950s for a readership of teenage boys. The typical protagonist in these books was a boy in his late teens who was proficient in the art of electronics, a hobby that was easily available to the readers. In this novel, Bruce Robinson differs from that pattern in having no special skill, only a knowledge of astronomy.

Plot Summary (from Wikipedia):

“After another boring day at Los Angeles High School, Bruce Robinson is delighted to hear that his long-unemployed father, Paul Robinson, has found a job – on the moon. A short time later the Robinson family boards the rocketship that will take them to meet the deep-space ship Sirius, which will take them to the moon. But as they approach the disc-shaped deep-space ship they see that, instead of Sirius, they will be riding the Aurora to the moon.

Once the Robinsons have boarded the Aurora and settled in, Bruce meets Jim Gregor, who shows him the ship’s controls. Bruce and Gregor then join the engineer and the captain (neither man is named in the story) in the cargo hold to move some boxes. When one of the boxes breaks open and reveals a strange-looking machine, the captain warns Bruce never to tell anyone what he saw.

With the ship under way, Bruce develops a hunch that something has gone wrong. He sees that an emergency light has come on and informs Gregor. The pilot discovers that the ship’s engines have been over-running and that the ship is on a course that will pass close to Venus (in the 1950 movie Rocketship X-M the over-running of the engines takes the lunar-bound ship to Mars). With insufficient propellant to return to Earth, Gregor attempts to make an emergency landing on a mountainside and dies in the crash. Prior to the crash, the captain and the engineer bail out in a rocket-propelled lifeboat.

Little more than shaken up in the crash, Bruce and his father recover supplies from the wrecked spaceship. The supplies include, to their astonishment, a pair of carbines and boxes of ammunition. Finding a cave next to a waterfall near the wreck, they move in and set up camp.

On several occasions Bruce hears a soft rustling and on others he hears a ringing in his ears and feels heat on his face. The other members of the family have similar experiences and they dismiss them as part of getting acclimatized to an alien environment. With their supply of canned food running low, Paul and Bruce go hunting, assuming that Venusian animal life would be edible. They follow the stream coming out of their waterfall and soon find what appears to be an artificial enclosure woven from vines using trees as supports. Inside the improvised corral they encounter a creature similar to Diplodocus, but with a tame demeanor. They drive the docile creature toward their cave, intending to butcher it when they arrive, but change their decision and keep it as a pet after it saves Frank from a carnivorous plant.”

The story continues, but you get the idea. There are man-sized vampire bats… Originally aimed at the Fifties young reading audience, these are quick fun reading. This is one of the weaker books in the series, but I still enjoyed it. 

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