A Pair of SF Penguins

I stopped into Twice Sold Tales today to check up on their excellent SF collection. Strangely, while I was there I cracked open Greg Bear’s book Darwin’s Radio (I was thinking of re-reading it) and the page I turned to described the characters getting off I-5 at Denny Way and heading up to Capitol Hill. Weird, because Twice Sold Tales is at the corner of Denny and Harvard on Capitol Hill.

I didn’t buy that one but I did pick up a couple of Penguin Science Fiction titles, neither of which I’m hugely interested in. But they’re Penguins, and they’re in great shape, so I was more or less unable to resist. The only Penguin SF I own otherwise is the batch of Olaf Stapledons (Last and First Man & Last Man in London, Star Maker and Sirius). Blish-tdajIn Germany I had five or six others that I found at the marvelous Open Door Bookshop in Rome — the best non-UK cache of Penguins I’ve ever found, hidden away in a little side street in Trastevere — but those books didn’t survive the cull for our move back to the States, unfortunately.

First up in today’s haul was James Blish’s The Day After Judgement. I’ve read A Case of Conscience and Fallen Star, and I like Blish’s work well enough. This one seems a bit more magicky than sciency, which isn’t normally my thing — but it’s short, and for all I know I’ll love it.

Next was Deathworld, by Harry Harrison. Not sure what to make of this one — I’ve never been too interested in Harrison’s books, but I’ll give it a try. In any case what really seals the deal here is the author photo, which should by all rights be a classic:

Deathworld-back

He looks like Cory Doctorow at the proctologist’s office, or at an NSA convention, or something. Right? How was that author photo a good idea?

Browsing used bookstores is making me realize the one reason I really miss having a smartphone. (I had one for about two years, Deathworldbut gave it to my son a few months ago because I sort of prefer a dumbphone instead. I felt a little too plugged in, a little too internetted — though two hundred years from now when we’re all posthuman with embedded neural-comm interfaces I’ll gladly hop on.) It would be super-useful to be able to check the Seattle Public Library’s online catalog when I’m browsing for used books. I was choosing between Damien Broderick’s nonfiction compilation of writers’ speculations on the far future Year Million, and Greg Egan’s Quarantine; and I figured the library would carry the second but not the first. So I bought Year Million, which of course the library carries, and left behind Quarantine, which of course they don’t. I don’t regret getting Year Million — it looks fascinating, with contributions from Rudy Rucker, Gregory Benford, George Zebrowski, and a bunch of other interesting folks on how things will shake out in AD 1,000,000. But Quarantine seemed intriguing enough that I hope it’s still there on the shelves the next time I go.

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