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Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories
Philip José Farmer
Subterranean Press, 375 pages

Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories
Philip José Farmer
Philip José Farmer was born in 1918 in North Terre Haute, Indiana. He attended Bradley University, receiving a BA in English in 1950. His novella The Lovers, published in Startling Stories, won a Hugo Award in 1953. He won another in 1968 for the story "Riders of the Purple Wage," which was written for the Dangerous Visions series, and a third in 1972 for the first novel of the Riverworld series, To Your Scattered Bodies Go. Farmer has written also under a number of pseudonyms, the best known being Kilgore Trout.

Philip José Farmer Website
ISFDB Bibliography
SF Site Review: Pearls from Peoria
SF Site Review: The Best of Philip José Farmer
SF Site Review: The Riverworld Saga
SF Site Review: Nothing Burns in Hell

Past Feature Reviews
A review by Nathan Brazil

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"It was difficult to get most Americans, remote from the coast, to fully comprehend that they were as endangered as those living next to the oil stream. They had been told again and again, via the mass media, that starvation from lack of food and of oxygen might result. But this was too vast a concept for most Americans to visualise."
The foreword for this collection, "Philip José Farmer On The Road to the Emerald City" by Christopher Paul Carey, states that "Farmer's words glitter in the dreamer's mind like Dorothy's magic shoes, glinting in the brilliant sunlight of Oz." It is a fine and honest appraisal of what's on offer. The combination of Subterranean Press and Philip José Farmer is a terrific example of how well publishing can work when a publisher is blessed with the brains to spot a good thing. In this case, several good things plucked from the dimly lit corners of Farmer's career. Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories is a compilation reprinted from the pages of Farmerphile, a quarterly magazine dedicated to the author's works. So anyone expecting brand new stories may be disappointed. Happily, this is the only disappointment here. The book is well presented, including a scattering of black and white illustrations throughout, from various artists, many of which perfectly compliment their stories. The collection itself comprises intentionally obscure examples of Farmer's work, including rare short stories, a novel beginning, non-fiction, and a complete eco-novel.

Chief among the offerings is the title piece, which is an intense story about an ecological disaster, whose time has come around again. Up from the Bottomless Pit presents an alternate 70s nightmare, set in a world where demand for oil has become so great, that oil companies abandon caution in their efforts to extract more of the black gold. The result is a hole in the ocean floor, from which gushes an all but unstoppable torrent of crude oil. This quickly creates a deadly danger to life on Earth, as the vast slick spreads out, and begins to affect our fragile ecology. Some of the concepts here, and certainly the characterisation, are of their time. Others are way ahead of the curve, quality writing that delivers lessons which still have relevance. It is very easy to see a point in our not too distant future, where Big Oil's rampant greed takes that one step too far, and as a result cannot control what happens. As always with Farmer stories, the plots are well drawn, and the key scenes driven home with the cold sharpness of a stiletto. Some parts of Up from the Bottomless Pit are quite harrowing, yet delivered in such an economical fashion as to shame authors who prefer a more gratuitous approach. Farmer's technique reveals he had the foresight and ability to adopt a less is more strategy, long before anyone had even thought of the phrase.

One point I must make clear is that Up from the Bottomless Pit and Other Stories is not strictly science fiction. In fact, almost all of the works presented here fall into the category of Farmer's mainstream speculative fiction. Every story has something to say, even if one or two show their age. "The Essence of the Poison," "The Face That Launched a Thousand Eggs," "The Light-Hog Incident" and "I Still Live!" are all titles to entice the reader into Farmer's intricate thought processes. New readers should not start here, as this is not the best introduction to Farmer, or the best he has to offer. What it is, is a quirky collection of the author's more oddball works, and as such is well worth adding to your bookshelf.

Copyright © 2008 Nathan Brazil

Nathan Brazil
If Nathan Brazil were dyslexic, he'd be the dog of the Well world. In reality, he's an English bloke who lives on an island, reading, writing and throwing chips to the seagulls. Drop by his web site at www.inkdigital.org.


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