|R. A. Lafferty||Nine Hundred Grandmothers||Review by Ann Cecil (PARSEC):
Most science fiction writers like most other writers have been influenced by and in turn (if they are good writers) have influenced others, both inside the field and outside of the field. You can see, for example, the influence of Campbell's golden age writers Heinlein, Sturgeon, van Vogt, et. al. in many places. But in all of this, I can point to two writers who stand outside, who aren't like anyone before them, and whom nobody has really tried to write like since: Cordwainer Smith and R.A. Lafferty. And of the two, Lafferty is the more sui generis. In Smith's case, you can see how Chinese story telling techniques influenced him; and you can see occasional stories influenced by him (such as Silverberg's great short work, "Nightwings"). But I can't think of anyone who even tries to write in a style similar to Lafferty's.
It's hard to pin down a description of his style. In some ways, it seems dreamlike and a bit out of control, but look closely, and you'll see that Lafferty has tight control over what he is doing. The stories can be surreal, though again that's often not quite right; in many cases, they are a few steps beyond that. Lafferty's work can't be nailed down to any genre or technique. And there are phrases that stay with you, either for their strangeness, their humor, or (usually) both:
"Hi, Robert," Homer said, "what's new today?"
"Nothing, Papa. Nothing ever happens here. Oh, yeah, there's a monster in the house. He looks kind of like you. He's killing Mama and eating her up." This is from "The Hole in the Corner".
Lafferty's approach to the universe was somewhat skewed and very much his own. He looked at things in a new, fresh way, and caused his readers to do the same (and often walk away scratching their heads). And this isn't only true of his fiction. (If you can find it, read his The Fall of Rome which is a history (though history very much in Lafferty's voice and style.) But perhaps the best way to both be fully immersed in Lafferty and to get a view of all that he can do is to pick up a collection of his short stories. Nine Hundred Grandmothers, his first collection, was originally released as an Ace Science Fiction Special in 1970. It remains a major and highly entertaining work of SF today.
The collection features 21 stories, on various subjects, in various modes all unmistakably Lafferty, some more or less surreal, absurd, or strange than others (though all certainly strange to some extent). All are enjoyable, and several are major works. There are too many stories for me to mention all of them, but I'll at least point out several of my favorites.
"Thus We Frustrate Charlemagne" is one of several stories that involve Epikt the Ktistec machine (though I defy anyone to try to fit those stories into any kind of consistent arc, since that was not something that concerned Lafferty). The group of scientists who work with Epikt have decided to change the past, such that Charlemagne will form a close friendship with Islam and science and literature will flower centuries earlier than it did. Meanwhile, the scientists, who know what the world around them is like, will watch for the changes. They don't see any changes, feel frustrated, and try again. But each time, even though they can't see it, the universe changes. It's both an amusing and insightful look into the historical process and into alternate history.
"Slow Tuesday Night" involves a future world where everyone lives at a breakneck pace. Fortunes are made and lost many times within a few hours. People meet, get married, and are divorced within the hour. Lafferty eases us into it, but once there he sweeps us along at breakneck pace. It's all unrealistic, of course, but it's such a fun ride while you're on it.
"The Six Fingers of Time" is a more serious story than many. A man wakes up with time moving much faster for him. Those around him seem to almost be standing still, and he's able to finish days worth of work before the others arrive. He learns to control it, and, after tiring of practical jokes (the story does indeed have some humor), he begins to use his abilities to learn. But there is a real force of evil in the world, one that tries to recruit him, which is what really gives the story its more serious focus.
Two stories involve the Cameroi, a planet full of people where laws can be made by any subgroup, the world president is chosen by lot, and no formal organizations exist. The reactions of human researchers on the planet are both amusing and interesting reflections on our own way of looking at the world.
Many of the stories feature strange inventions, often made out of the strangest (or silliest) thing and able to do bizarre things. In "Seven Day Terror" a young boy builds a "disappearer" out of a beer can and two pieces of red cardboard. In "Hog-Belly Honey," a man builds a machine capable of causing things that are not needed to disappear (and does things like make a man's beard vanish). Epikt the Ktistec machine is back in "Through Other Eyes" where a machine allows a scientist to view the world through other people's perspective, finding out just how different those perspectives are. (How many of us, as kids, wondered if when we looked at something and saw that it was red, if we indeed perceived this "red" the same as someone else looking at the same object. Or did they see what we'd call "blue" but use the name "red" since that's what they'd been taught to be the name. Lafferty starts there, but goes much farther.)
I could go on. As I look down the titles in the table of contents and come across story names, I find things I could say about each. In many cases, I could get very enthusiastic ("that was the great one where ... !"). But I won't. Instead, I'll just recommend that you go out, if you haven't discovered him already, and discover the joys and wonders of R.A. ||Paperback|
|R. A. Lafferty||Past Master||Paperback|
|Marc Laidlaw||Kalifornia||With a breakneck pace and a wonk's sense of humor, Laidlaw ( Neon Lotus ) neatly satirizes our postmodern society in this wild, almost hallucinatory novel. In the future U.S.A. that is the book's setting, flat-screen entertainment has evolved into full virtual-reality experience; stars are "wired" to transmit from their senses directly to their worshipful audiences, who are themselves wired to receive more channels than a cable box. The Figueroas were the nation's favorite wire family before tragedy shattered their show; now only Poppy, the elder Figueroa daughter, remains on the air with her own production. During the taping of an episode to mark the bicentennial of California's statehood, her newborn child Calafia is kidnapped, and when all else fails it falls to Poppy's hitherto aimless brother Sandy to venture into the quarantined "Holy City' to rescue the baby--who, as the first person to be born wired, may have powers that neither Poppy nor Sandy expects. Laidlaw plays fast and loose with his premises, but it works: we're never quite sure how much of a wire star's life is shown, where the line between reality and fantasy is drawn, if it exists at all. Laidlaw's future is far from believable, but as a satirical extrapolation from our media-saturated times, the narrative drives its points home. A quick, enjoyable romp full of surprising twists and enlivened by an incisive wit.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc.||Hardcover|
|Kathryn Lance||Pandora's Genes||In this absorbing and unique novel, Kathryn Lance asks how far the folly of mankind can go, how much science can be substituted for nature before the imbalance proves disastrous. In a world of the future, great machines lie rusting as their fuel has finally run out and humanity faces the possibility of extinction as altered strands of DNA run rampant through the gene pool. Several forces emerge, each hoping to be humanity's saving grace, but which one will ultimately save the world? The Principal: a brilliant leader fighting to keep a tide of savagery from decimating social structures. The religious cultists: operating on an anti-science platform, promising to rebuild society according to an older, pure model free of the technology that proved to be mankind's downfall. The Garden: a group of female scientists who live cloistered lives, searching for genetic solutions to the world's problems. Two young lovers are caught in a situation they cannot control, desperate to find a way to be together forever. --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.||Paperback|
|Simon Lang||Hopeship (Skipjack #3)||Skipjack||The crew of a floating hospital cruising the galaxy on missions of mercy face their gravest emergency when a murderer begins stalking the ship--and all the evidence points to Second Officer Dao Marik.||Paperback|
|Simon Lang||Timeslide (Skipjack #2)||Skipjack||In search of rare historical data, the crew of the USS Skipjack go back in time to observe Earth during World War II and the planet Eisernon on the eve of its devastating One-Day War.||Paperback|
|Simon Lang||Trumpets Of Tagan (Skipjack #1)||Skipjack||When the only child of the empire's heir is kidnapped, the U.S.S. Skipjack's captain must act fast, especially when he discovers that the child's alien father is his second officer.||Paperback|
|John Lange||Binary||Michael Crichton writing as John Lange.||Paperback|
|David Langford||The Space Eater||Ken Jackin has defeated death forty-six times thanks to the extraordinary phenomenon called Anomalous Physics, but now he has his most difficult mission: stop the experiments on a runaway space colony. In order to get into the colony Ken and his lovely and seductive partner, Rossa Corman, must die and be reborn again. Together they have surpassed death in order to save humanity and must face the most dangerous peril they have ever experienced. The clock is ticking as Ken and Rossi scramble to save the very core of the universe from being destroyed. Can they do it in time? --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.||Paperback|
|Sterling E Lanier||The Unforsaken Hiero|
|Glen A. Larson, Robert Thurston||The Young Warriors (Battlestar Galactica, Book 4)||Battlestar Galactica||On a routine reconnaissance mission, Starbuck crashlands on a world where the Cylons have wiped out most of the adult population, leaving tribes of children in charge. It's Lord of the Flies meets The Guns of Navarone as Starbuck leads the children in a daring raid to free their father from the Cylons. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.||Paperback|
|Kurd Lasswitz, Erich Lasswitz (ed.), Hans H. Rudnick (trans.)||Two planets. Auf zwei Planeten.|
|Keith Laumer||A Trace of Memory||Cover by Bob Layzell. Armchair fiction presents the best in classic science fiction novels. “A Trace of Memory” takes you all the way from Stonehenge to outer space. When a man named Legion signed on as a soldier of fortune he did not expect to wind up as the master of a private island. Nor did he expect to cower in the ancient Druid pits…nor fight for his life in the great hall at Okk-Hamiloth, on a planet many galaxies away. The author, Keith Laumer was one of the science fiction world’s master storytellers. Here he sweeps you through the far reaches of time and the vastness of outer space in this novel of retribution. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||A Plague of Demons||When John Bravais was sent on a secret mission to observe a war in North Africa he found out more than it was safe for him to know—even after he had secretly been surgically transformed so that he was as strong as a Bolo tank, and nearly as tough: Wolf-like aliens, invisible to the ordinary eye, were harvesting the brains of the fallen fighters! Bravais might have become the Ultimate Warrior, but still he was only one man against A Plague of Demons. --This text refers to the Kindle Edition edition.||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||Rogue Bolo||Bolo||The saga of the first completely automated bolos --- and perhaps the beginning of the end for the human race.||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||Star Treasure||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||The Stars Must Wait||Cover by Laurence Schwinger||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||Worlds of the Imperium||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||Judson's Eden||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||Retief Unbound (Jaime Retief Series #10)||Retief||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||End as a Hero||A Powerful Science Fiction Novel by Keith Laumer Author of Star Colony. The One Man With The Power To Save Earth Must Die!||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||Star Colony||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer||The Breaking Earth||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer, Eric Flint (ed.)||Legions of Space||Two complete novels, and a host of novelettes fill a large volume by the master of science fiction adventure. In the first novel, A Trace of Memory, a drifter named Legion is hired by a millionaire who claims to be centuries old, but has nearly complete amnesia, only to remember that something is hunting for him. Legion gets more than he bargained for when he finds himself and his employer on a prehistoric starship hurtling into the unknown. In planet run, Laumer joins forces with SF legend Gordon R. Dickson in a novel of two ancient heroes who are going to risk their lives for a chance to solve the mystery of the last unexplored planet in the sector of the galaxy. Plus four short novels of exciting interstellar action and adventure. With an introduction by Joel Rosenberg, author of the best-selling "Guardians of the Flame" series||Paperback|
|Keith Laumer, Gary Cooley||The Great Time Machine Hoax||Paperback|