The Road to Mars

Cover image from isfdb.org

The Road to Mars: A Post-Modem Novel by Eric Idle
Pantheon Books, 1999
Price I paid: Some Amazon funny-money

What makes humans bark?
Is the funny bone funny?
What is the algebra of comedy?
Did the sitcom originate with the ape?

Carlton is an android (a 4.5 Bowie Artificial Intelligence Robot) who works for Alex and Lewis, two comedians from the twenty-second century who travel the outer vaudeville circuit of the solar system known ironically as the Road to Mars. His problem is that although as a computer he cannot understand irony, he is attempting to write a thesis about comedy, its place in evolution, and whether it can ever be cured. And he is also studying the comedians of the late twentieth century (including obscure and esoteric acts such as Monty Python’s Flying Circus) in his search for the comedy gene.

In the meantime, while auditioning for a gig on the Princess Di (a solar cruise ship), his two employers inadvertently offend the fabulous diva Brenda Woolley and become involved in a terrorist plot against Mars, the home of Showbiz.

Can Carlton prevent Alex and Lewis from losing their gigs, help them overcome the love thing, and finally understand the meaning of comedy in the universe? Will a robot ever really be able to do stand-up? As Einstein might have said, nothing in the universe can travel faster than the speed of laughter.

from the jacket flap
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The Godmakers

The Godmakers by Don Pendleton
Pinnacle Books, 1974
Originally published in 1970
Price I paid: none

Patrick Honor was possessed by PPS, Psychic Power Sources, which led him, even though he could not understand them. Beyond understanding was feeling, beyond feeling was knowing. Patrick Honor knew only that he had to go on.

He had to explore the unknown, to escape his body, to travel to the root octave of the Ninth Parallax. And he had to find Octavia, the unearthly beauty who beckoned him from another world.

There was so much to learn. What was the real power source? Was it sex, or science, or…love? What was the meaning of the number nine? Why was the President of the United States going to die on June 15, 1975?

Eighty-one days, exactly, after Patrick Honor’s death!

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Dare

Dare by Philip José Farmer
Ballantine books, 1965
Price I paid: $1 or 2, can’t remember

Jack Cage lived on the planet Dare. He knew that he was human, and that he was the oldest son of a wealthy human farmer. But he hardly dared admit to himself, let alone to his family, the keen interest he felt in the ‘native’ inhabitants of Dare—those spectacularly beautiful humanoid creatures whose magnficent hair, growing clear down to the base of the spine, had given them their name of “horstel.”

It was death for any human to consort with any horstel after they became adult. For the humans of Dare still lived by the standards and mores of three hundred years before when they had been mysteriously whisked away from Earth and brought to this new planet.

Except that Jack Cage suspected this was no mystery to the horstels…

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“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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