“Nightmare Number Three”

“Nightmare Number Three” by Stephen Vincent Benét
from The Metal Smile, ed. Damon Knight
Belmont Science Fiction, 1968
Originally published in The New Yorker, July 27, 1935
Price I paid: none

“DO NOT FOLD, BEND, OR MUTILATE”

marked the beginning of our cybernetic society. How will it end?

The varied answers to that question have proved to be fertile ground for some of the greatest science fiction imaginations. But perhaps we shouldn’t look too closely into the future of cybernetics. It may be that the survival capacity of the thinking machine is greater than that of its maker…

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How Much for Just the Planet?

How Much for Just the Planet? by John M. Ford
Pocket Books, 1987
Price I paid: Either one or two bucks, I don’t remember

Dilithium. In crystalline form, the most valuable mineral in the galaxy. It powers the Federation’s starships…and the Klingon Empire’s battlecruisers. Now on a small, out-0f-the-way planet named Direidi, the greatest fortune in dilithium crystals ever seen has been found.

Under the terms of the Organian Peace Treaty, the planet will go to the side best able to develop the planet and its resources. Each side will contest the prize with the prime of its fleet. For the Federation—Captain James T. Kirk and the starship Enterprise. For the Klingons—Captain Kaden vestai-Oparai and the Fire Blossom.

Only the Direidians are writing their own script for the contest—a script that propels the crew of the Enterprise into their strangest adventure yet!

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The Time Traders

Source: isfdb,org

The Time Traders by Andre Norton
Baen Books, 2000
Originally published by The World Publishing Company, 1958
Price I paid: none (library book)

DRAFTED INTO THE ARMY OF TIME

Intelligence agents have uncovered something which seems beyond belief, but the evidence is incontrovertible: the USA’s greatest adversary on the world stage is sending its agents back through time! And someone or something unknown to our history is presenting them with technologies—and weapons—far beyond our most advanced science. We have only one option: create time-transfer technology ourselves, find the opposition’s ancient source…and take it down.

When small-time criminal Ross Murdock and Apache rancher Travis Fox stumble separately onto America’s secret time travel project, Operation Retrograde, they are faced with a challenge greater than either could have imagined possible. Their mere presence means they know too much to go free. But Murdock and Fox have a thirst for adventure, and Operation Retrograde offers that in spades.

Both men will become time agents, finding reserves of inner heroism they had never expected. Their journeys will take the battle to the enemy, from ancient Britain to prehistoric America, and finally to the farthest reaches of interstellar space….

(Note: This description is from the omnibus edition I read and therefore includes material referring to the second novel, Galactic Derelict. —Thomas)

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The Day of the Triffids

Richard Powers’s cover from the 1964 Crest Edition | isdfb.org

The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham
Audible, 2009 (audiobook version)
RosettaBooks, 2000 (eBook version)
Originally published by Michael Joseph, 1951
Price I paid: $2.99 (audiobook), I don’t remember (ebook)

Bill Masen, bandages over his wounded eyes, misses the most spectacular meteorite shower England has ever seen. Removing his bandages the next morning, he finds masses of sightless people wandering the city. He soon meets Josella, another lucky person who has retained her sight, and together they leave the city, aware that the safe, familiar world they knew a mere 24 hours before is gone forever. But to survive in this post-apocalyptic world, one must survive the Triffids, strange plants that years before began appearing all over the world. The Triffids can grow to over seven feet tall, pull their roots from the ground to walk, and kill a man with one quick lash of their poisonous stingers. With society in shambles, they are now poised to prey on humankind. Wyndham chillingly anticipates bio-warfare and mass destruction, 50 years before their realization, in this prescient account of Cold War paranoia.

From the audible.com publisher’s summary
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The Big Jump

The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett
Ace Books, 1967
Originally published in Space Stories, February 1953
Price I paid: $1.25

“A good story, with a very good characterization and flashes of an almost Merritteque poetry…

“The story concerns itself with THE BIG JUMP from this system to another sun—Barnard’s Star. The first expedition returned: one man alive, the others missing, and that one man dying of some ghastly sort of radiation sickness.

“Comyn, tough space-bum, sets out to find what happened to Paul Rogers, close friend of his…eventually making the second Big Jump himself. What he finds at the end is not only a brilliant science fiction gimmick, but good, solid writing.”

—Inside

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The Penetrator #17: Demented Empire

The Penetrator #17: Demented Empire by Lionel Derrick
Pinnacle Books, 1976
Price I paid: 50¢

A crime and swindle operation syndicate has set up a weapons warehouse in Florida.

Five senior citizens are dead. They were conned out of their life’s savings on phony land deals and made the mistake of complaining. This mob is also distributing wholesale weaponry, ammunition, and drugs to any thief or psycho with money. Tony Rossi of La Cosa Nostra asks his old friend, Mark Hardin, to smash the Florida operation. And Mark is forced to help the Mafia against their non-Sicilian opponents because of their threat to innocent people!

Join the Penetrator as he wreaks havoc on organized crime: fighting from Florida to Guatemala to bust up the most insidious drug, gun, and swindle operation ever to threaten our national security!

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Grease

Grease by Ron de Christoforo
Pocket Books, 1978
Price I paid: It’s complicated, but less than a buck

GREASE IS FOR LOVERS

It’s the story of Sandy and Zuko, dance contests, graduation, drive-ins, and wishing the summer would never end; of fighting and thinking they mean it when all they really care about is making up.

GREASE IS FOR SWINGERS!

It’s the story of The Thunderbirds and The Pink Ladies, Greased Lightnin’, gang rumbles, Thunder Road, Rydell High, and the Class of ’59.

GREASE IS FOREVER!

Most of all, it’s the story of how great it can be to go with someone who’s crazy about you. Even if it’s a while before everyone knows it…even before you’re sure about it yourself.

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Bug Jack Barron

Bug Jack Barron by Norman Spinrad
Doubleday, 1983
Originally serialized in New Worlds, 1967-1968
Price I paid: $7

“Bugged…Then go bug Jack Barron!” cries the vidphone announcer every Wednesday night to the more than 100 million viewers watching Barron’s call-in show. And bug him they do. If there’s a gripe to air, an injustice to rectify, a cause to consider, Jack Barron will listen to it—if you can get through his gauntlet of screeners—and straight to the top, then and there, on the air. Whether it be a business bigwig or the President himself, no one is “out” when Jack Barron calls. Not with the entire nation watching. And no one is safe when Jack gets really bugged…

But the powers-that-be know they have nothing to really fear from Jack Barron. Jack used to be a hothead radical leader back in the sixties, but he gave up the poverty-stricken life of the activist to enter show biz. Now, as the country’s biggest celebrity, Jack’s not about to blow his goldmine job by skewering some biggie on the air. He may slip in a few well-placed barbs, but he’ll always make time for a convincing rebuttal from the other side.

Until one night Jack runs a show on multi-billionaire Benedict Howards’ Foundation for Human Immortality, a privately owned cryogenic “freeze now, live later” project—a show that might endanger the Foundation’s chance at a federally-sanctioned monopoly. Howards is no man to cross. One of the richest and most powerful men in America, he is ruthless in getting what—and whom—he wants. And now he wants Jack Barron.

Much to Jack’s surprise, Howards tries to buy him off when he could more easily have crushed his career. Suspicious, Jack finds his long-suppressed activist instincts aroused. Soon he uncovers hints of sinister activities by the Foundation—missing children, unexplained deaths—and when Howards tries to use Jack’s continuing love for his ex-wife, Sara, to get at him, the billionaire finds he’s taken on more than he bargained for. This is no vidphone entertainer worried about his job. This is the old firebrand Jack Barron. And when Jack Barron’s bugged, heads roll.

Warning: Sexual content and language may be offensive to some readers.

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“Short in the Chest”

“Short in the Chest” by Idris Seabright
from The Metal Smile, ed. Damon Knight
Belmont Science Fiction, 1968
Originally published in Fantastic Universe, July 1954
Price I paid: none

“DO NOT FOLD, BEND, OR MUTILATE”

marked the beginning of our cybernetic society. How will it end?

The varied answers to that question have proved to be fertile ground for some of the greatest science fiction imaginations. But perhaps we shouldn’t look too closely into the future of cybernetics. It may be that the survival capacity of the thinking machine is greater than that of its maker…

Continue reading ““Short in the Chest””