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Sunday, October 28, 2018

British Library SF Classics

Lost Mars. The Golden Age of the Red Planet, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35240-6, 5 April 2018, 224pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
These ten short stories from the golden age of science fiction feature classic SF writers including H.G. Wells, Ray Bradbury and J.G. Ballard, as well as lesser-known writers from the genre. An antique shop owner gets a glimpse of the red planet through an intriguing artefact. A Martian's wife contemplates the possibility of life on Earth. A resident of Venus describes his travels across the two alien planets. From an arid desert to an advanced society far superior to that of Earth, portrayals of Mars have differed radically in their attempt to uncover the truth about our neighbouring planet. Since the 1880s, writers of science fiction have delighted in speculating on what life on Mars might look like and what might happen should we make contact with the planet's inhabitants. In these stories, they reveal much about how we understand our place in the universe. Lost Mars: The Golden Age of the Red Planet is the first volume in the British Library Science Fiction Classics series.

Moonrise. The Golden age of Lunar Adventures, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library 978-0712-35275-8, 5 April 2018, 224pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
Featuring twelve stories by a roster of classic SF authors including Arthur C. Clarke, H.G. Wells and John Wyndham. Before the Apollo 11 mission succeeded in landing on the Moon in 1969, writers and visionaries were fascinated by how we might get there and what we might find. The Greeks and Romans speculated about the Moon almost two thousand years before H.G. Wells or Jules Verne wrote about it, but interest peaked from the late 1800s when the prospect of lunar travel became more viable. This anthology presents twelve short stories from the most popular magazines of the golden age of SF including The Strand Magazine, Astounding Science Fiction and Amazing Stories and features classic SF writers as well as lesser-known writers for dedicated fans of the genre to discover. Moonrise: The Golden Age of Lunar Exploration is the second volume in the British Library Science Fiction Classics series.

Four-Sided Triangle by William F. Temple
British Library 978-0712-35231-4, 12 July 2018, 256pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
''The idea was too big for the mind to grasp in all its implications at the first attempt. But when you did get a grip on it, just to let the imagination rove with the possibilities!'' Science is on the verge of a revolution. A cutting-edge new replication process is invented, and any matter can be reproduced-Shakespeare's signature, works of art, even . . . a human being? When a brilliant scientist believes that this perfect replication process offers the solution to an excruciating love triangle, the limits of the new technology are tested and impossible questions of identity and originality threaten to tear apart the best-laid plans of paradise.

Shoot at the Moon by William F. Temple
British Library 978-0712-35256-7, 6 September 2018, 240pp, £8.99. Cover by Chesley Bonestell
The Endeavour has made rocket ship history. With its automatic pilot and artificial gravity, anyone is qualified to fly to the moon. But the scientists who designed it did not envision the hidden dangers of lunar exploration. Nor did they foresee the kind of violence that could erupt among the five mismatched crew members in a lonely space capsule. The Endeavours captain, Franz Brunel of the British Space Service, has to contend with the many perils that await him on the surface of the moon. Soon a murderer is among them. This unjustly neglected novel from 1966 has not been reprinted in over fifty years. With its appearance as a British Library Science Fiction Classic, contemporary readers have the chance to enjoy Temples unusual blend of traditional SF with a darkly ironic tone. Featuring cover art by the legendary Science Fiction artist Chesley Bonestell.

The Tide Went Out by Charles Eric Maine
British Library 978-0712-35237-6, 26 January 2019, 256pp, £8.99.
When London journalist Philip Wade learns that his article on nuclear weapons testing has been censored by the British government, he is prompted to investigate the truth that lies behind it.
    Philip's search leads to a mysterious job offer in a newly-formed government department, and he soon realises the lasting damage that the nuclear tests have caused. The country is rife with uncertainty and distrust - then the water levels start to drop.
    This gripping apocalyptic novel, originally published in 1958, asks pertinent questions about censorship and the potential for violence in the face of disappearing resources. The Tide Went Out outlines the horrors that arise when we are forced to ask the question: `what happens when the water runs out?'

The Darkest of Nights by Charles Eric Maine
British Library 978-0712-35218-5, 14 February 2019, 256pp, £8.99.
A vicious plague has broken out in China and spread to Japan. The world governments look on callously, until the shadow of the Hueste virus begins to sweep across the rest of the globe. The pandemic draws nearer to Britain; shelters are hastily constructed across the country, but for whom? As the death toll booms and the populace finds themselves sacrificed for the sake of the elite, the cry for revolution rings out amidst the sirens.
    Maine's savage portrayal of society on the brink of ruin is a cruel forerunner of a more pessimistic science fiction of the 1960s.
    This subversive novel shows that even the heroes may succumb to brutality as the world descends into a desperate scramble for the last shred of what it means to be human: survival.

Menace of the Machine, ed. Mike Ashley
British Library ISBN 978-0712-35242-0, 11 April 2019, 312pp, £8.99.
Technological advance is never straightforward. A man is murdered by an automaton built for chess. A computer system designed to arbitrate justice develops a taste for iron-fisted, fatal rulings. An AI governing what we now know as an internet wreaks havoc on society after removing all forms of censorship.
    Assembled with parts from the late 19th century to the 1960s, this new collection of classic stories warns of the possible threats, both comic and severe, of a world in which human and machine live side by side.
    A delightfully, and worryingly, prescient selection for today's world in which robotic coexistence is passing with each day from speculation to reality.

The End of the World and Other Catastrophes, ed/ Mike Ashley
British Library ISBN 978-0712-35273-4, 16 May 2019, 256pp, £8.99.
Sound the sirens! The end is here, and it comes in many forms in this new collection of apocalyptic short stories from the classic age of science fiction. Join humanity on the brink of destruction in 13 doom-laden visions from the 1890s to the 1960s, featuring rare tales from the Library's vaults.
    Tales of plague seizing an over-polluted capital, a world engulfed in absolute darkness by some cosmic disaster, and of poignant dreams of a silent planet after the last echoes of humanity have died away.
    Extreme climate change, nuclear annihilation, comet strike; calamities self-inflicted and from beyond the steer of humankind vie to deal the last blow in this countdown from the first whisper of possible extinction to the Earth's final sunrise.

(* Originally published 21 May 2018.)

1 comment:

  1. I think they missed one. "Optimism for the future: welcome to the world of tomorrow".

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