SF Masterworks is a series of classics that deserve to be in print and kept there, rather than languishing as OP titles. They were published monthly by Millennium, which is an imprint of the Orion Publishing Group, a UK publisher whose other imprints include Dolphin, Orion Media, Phoenix and Victor Gollancz. Below you'll find an overview of the series so far, with cover/title links to the SF Site reviews (where applicable) along with synopses of those titles yet to be reviewed (cover images are linked to larger images). They are in reverse order of release, with the newest ones on the left. It is a companion series for their Fantasy Masterworks line.
|Orion SF Masterworks|
"The future is a grim place in which the declining human population wanders, drugged and lulled by electronic bliss. It's a world without art, reading and children, a world where people would rather burn themselves alive than endure. Even Spofforth, the most perfect machine ever created, cannot bear it and seeks only that which he cannot have - to cease to be. But there is hope for the future in the passion and joy that a man and woman discover in love and in books, hope even for Spofforth. A haunting novel, reverberating with anguish but also celebrating love and the magic of a dream. "
"Walter M. Miller Jr is best remembered as the author of A Canticle for Leibowitz, universally recognized as one of the greatest novels of modern SF. But as well as writing that deeply felt and eloquent book, he produced many shorter works of fiction of stunning originality and power. His profound interest in religion and his innate literary gifts combined perfectly in the production of such works as 'The Darfstellar', for which he won a Hugo in 1955, 'Conditionally Human', 'I, Dreamer' and 'The Big Hunger', all of which are included in this brilliant and essential collection. "
reviewed by Georges T. Dodds
Red Schuhart is a "stalker" (perhaps better translated as a "scout"), a veteran scavenger and black market dealer of the bizarre technological wonders to be found in the Zones. These areas, where the physics of matter are warped in mysterious and dangerous ways, are thought to be the trash piles of aliens who dropped by for a picnic and didn't clean up after themselves. Schuhart lives a criminal/outsider's life in the frontier city near the zone trying to support his wife and strangely mutated child.
"The Sumner family can read the signs: the droughts and floods, the blighted crops, the shortages, the rampant diseases and plagues, and, above all, the increasing sterility all point to one thing. Their isolated farm in the Appalachian Mountains gives them the ideal place to survive the coming breakdown, and their wealth and know-how gives them the means. Men and women must clone themselves for humanity to survive. But what then?"
reviewed by Charlene Brusso
The military gear of the near-future setting hasn't moved too far from the basics. Assault weapons cable into backpack processors which project range data onto helmet-mounted screens. Army-issue amphetamines have been replaced by fast-acting combat drugs like "samurai" that can make any soldier feel like Superman. The twist is the existence of Psicorps, a project born of New Age philosophy and more than a little Cold War paranoia. Psicorps' job is to identify and exploit potential psychic ability in Army recruits.
"Rama is a vast alien spacecraft that enters the Solar System, a perfect cylinder some fifty kilometres long, spinning rapidly, racing through space, Rama is a technological marvel, a mysterious and deeply enigmatic alien artifact. It is Mankind's first visitor from the stars and must be investigated..."
"Fifty men and women set out in the twenty-third century from Earth aboard an interstellar craft to travel to a planet some thirty light-years away. The ship will approach the speed of light and so (as Einstein predicted) subjective time on board will slow and so the journey of several decades will be of much shorter duration for the crew. But the ship's deceleration system is irreparably damaged when it hits a cloud of interstellar dust and acceleration continues toward light speed, tau zero. Soon the ship is speeding through galaxies and eons are passing on board the ship in the blink of an eye ..."
reviewed by Martin Lewis
In this universe of empirical theology, a small group of colonists wait on an alien planet. They do not know why. They all believe that as soon as the final colonist joins them they will at last discover why they have been sent there. This is not to be. Just like the Telephone Hygiene Officers in Douglas Adam's Hitchhiker's Guide, the reader is left with a nagging feeling they have simply been selected for this mission because no-one else wants them.
"Mesklin is a vast, inhospitable, disc-shaped planet, so cold that its oceans are liquid methane and its snows are frozen ammonia. It is a world spinning dizzyingly, a world where gravity can be a crushing 700 times greater than Earth's, a world too hostile for human explorers. But the planet holds secrets of inestimable value, and an unmanned probe that has crashed close to one of its poles must be recovered. Only the Mesklinites, the small creatures so bizarrely adapted to their harsh environment can help. And so Barlennan, the resourceful and courageous captain of the Mesklinite ship Bree, sets out on an heroic and appalling journey into the terrible unknown ... "
reviewed by Jakob Schmidt
In a future world where the cure for cancer had the unfortunate side-effect of increasing the speed of ageing rapidly, children must become adults within a few years after birth. Genetically engineered viruses that transfer knowledge are used to cut childhood as short as possible. But Milena Shibush turns out to be immune. Learning things the hard way, she's also not bound by the social conformity spread by the omnipresent viruses. When Milena meets the outsider master-singer Rolfa, she falls in love with the strange, genetically engineered creature.
reviewed by Trent Walters
Louis Wu on his 200th birthday is bored, having done all he wants to do in Known Space. A Puppeteer, a two-headed tripod with clawed hooves, ensnares Wu's curiosity on a job that will take him out of the known world. The Puppeteer recruits a Kzin, a five-hundred pound feline alien named Speaker-to-Animals, by insulting it. Teela Brown, another human but bred genetically lucky, also signs on after learning that her love, Wu, is going and that humanity's hope for survival hinges on a new starship that the Puppeteers will give Wu and Brown upon completing their mission to a place the Puppeteer is cryptic about.
"Imagine what it would be like if you could tell what the innermost thoughts and feelings of those around you were. Imagine if, as you reached middle age, you lost that ability. What would it do to you to be like everyone else? "
"World War III is raging - or so the millions of people crammed in their underground tanks believe. For fiteen years, subterranean humanity has been fed on daily broadcasts of a never-ending nuclear destruction, sustained by a belief in the all powerful Protector. Now someone has gone to the surface and found no destruction, no war. The authorities have been telling a massive lie. Now the search begins to find out why. "
reviewed by Cindy Lynn Speer
In the future (or what was, at the time, the future -- it's actually the 1990s), the United States has become a matriarchal society. Nichol, the lovely and beloved First Lady and her husband, the der Alte (President) run government policy. Every four years, the people believe that they get to choose a new husband for Nichol, but in truth he is a Simulacra, an android figurehead that a group of men hide behind. Nichol will do anything to stay in power, and in truth, she is a huge force in people's lives.
"One man must make a journey across a once colonised alien planet. Abandoned by man when it was discovered that the species there were actually sentient, the planet is now a place of mystery. A mystery that obsesses the lone traveller Gundersen and takes him on a long trek to attempt to share the religious rebirthing of the aliens. A journey that offers redemption from guilt and sin. This is one of Silverbergs most intense novels and draws heavily on Conrad's Heart of Darkness. It puts the reader at the heart of the experience and forces them to ask what they would do in the circumstances. "
reviewed by Martin Lewis
We are introduced to grocer Vic, his wife Margo, her brother Ragle and their aspirational neighbours, the Blacks. All are sketched with impressive economy before the book settles in on its protagonist, Ragle Gumm. He earns his living by winning the prize for a competition in his local newspaper, a game which consists of picking the right square from a grid of 1208. He plays every day and, in two and a half years, has been wrong only eight times. This has made him a local celebrity and provides him with an ample income, yet the stress of being constantly right is taking its toll on him.
by Frederik Pohl & Cyril M. Kornbluth
"The ad man sets his sights on the gravy train that is Venus: unconquered and waiting to be populated by Earth's capitalist-driven consumers. "
reviewed by Robert Francis
Jherek Carnelian is one of the last humans alive on Earth. He lives at the End of Time, and the people of his world have the power to instantly fulfill their every whim, thanks to millennia-old technologies. So why does Mrs. Amelia Underwood, reluctant time traveler and model citizen of Victorian England, stubbornly refuse to fall in love with him?
reviewed by Alma A. Hromic
If the world of written science fiction were ever to be translated into the language of visual art, Philip K. Dick would probably be Salvador Dali. His vision does not depend on Picassoesque transformations of the familiar into the grotesque so much as a jumbling of the familiar into sometimes deeply disturbing new combinations, whose disturbing aspect is not attenuated but rather accentuated by their very familiarity.
reviewed by Sam Ashurst
After two encounters with radiation combine to create a freak reaction in his body, Scott Carey begins to shrink. Stuck in a cellar, fighting off an ever growing spider, Carey remembers his life before, and during, the change, discovering that he has many regrets.
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