Retrospeculative View, 1982

Some of the short fiction of 1982:

Fire Watch, by Connie Willis, which won the Hugo Award (1983) and the Nebula Award for best novelette.

A Letter from the Clearys, by Connie Willis, which won the Nebula Award for best short story

The Wife’s Story, by Ursula K. Le Guin

Burning Chrome, by William Gibsonanalog_june_1982

Another Orphan, by John Kessel, which won the Nebula Award for best novella

Souls, by Joanna Russ, which won the Hugo Award (1983) for best novella

Melancholy Elephants, by Spider Robinson, which won the Hugo Award (1983) for best short story


Movies and TV from 1982:

Blade Runner, a classic Science fiction moviebased on PK Dick’snovel Do Android’s Dream of Electric Sheep? Although I enjoyed PKD’s creativity (much of which did not appear in the film version), I thought the movie was more cohesive, and I enjoyed it more than the book.Blade_Runner_movie_poster

E.T. The Extraterrestrial. This had some wonderful scenes; a good movie for young viewers, although there is a bit too much Hollywood and Spielberg for my tastes.

The Road Warrior. Interesting, but a bit overblown.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Ham actors — Ricardo Montalban and William Shatner — trying to outdo each other.

Knight Rider, broadcast on NBC, staring David Hasselhoff as Michael Knight, a crime fighter with a car as a partner; the car, KITT (Knight Industries Two Thousand), is an AI machine, and pretty much indestructible. I never managed to watch more than a few minutes of an episode, but it lasted four years so it must have had a following…


Some of the notable novels of 1982:

Foundation’s Edge, by Isaac Asimov, which won the Hugo Award (1983). I would have preferred that the Foundation series ended with the completion of the original trilogy, but Foundation’s Edge is decent genre fiction.

Fevre Dream, by George R.R. Martin, a novel that has been described as a mixture of Bram Stoker and Mark Twain. It is a vampire story set in the 1850s on the Mississippi River. I’m not a fan of vampire books and I haven’t read Fevre Dream, but I’ve read many good reviews.Sword_and_Citadel

The Sword of the Lictor, by Gene Wolfe. This is the third part of The Book of the New Sun, Wolfe’s extraordinary four-part epic, which is now available in two books (Shadow & Claw and Sword & Citadel). See my comments within Restrospeculative View, 1980 for more (specifically the Retrospeculative novel of the year).

Rudy Rucker’s Software, which won the inaugural Philip K. Dick Award (for original paperback publication). Software is the first in a four-book cyberpunk series, the Ware Tetrology.

The Making of the Representative for Planet 8, by Doris Lessing, the fourth book in her Canopus in Argos series. The book recounts the plight of a planet incapacitated by an ice-age. I read the book years ago and I’ll have to revisit the novel someday soon so that I can provide a more in-depth review.

No Enemy But Time, by Michael Bishop, which won the Nebula Award. The premise was interesting, but a bit odd. A black man, John (aka Joshua), time-travels to the Pleistocene era and falls in love with a pre-historic woman, Helen, who bears his daughter. Helen dies, and John and his daughter are whisked back to the future in an incongruous deus ex machina story-thread. The novel is a bit dated and didn’t work for me.

The Transfiguration of Timothy Archer, by Philip K. Dick. I’ve read quite a few PKD novels, but this isn’t one of them, and I’ll probably never get around to it. I appreciate his imagination, but not necessarily his prose style. The Transfiguration of Timothy Archer is commonly cited as one of the best by his fans; if you enjoyed his other works, you’ll probably appreciate this novel too.

Helliconia Spring, by Brian Aldiss, which won the BSFA Award and the John W. Campbell Award. This is the first of a trilogy of books (the other two were Helliconia Summer (1983) and Helliconia Winter (1985)). The science of the planet during its different seasons is described at great length in the books; unfortunately, that is about all I recall (I don’t even remember if I read all three books).

Michael Shea’s Nifft the Lean, which won the World Fantasy Award, and consists of four stand-alone, but linked, novellas (Come Then Mortal We Will Seek Her Soul, Pearls of the Vampire Queen, Fishing on the Demon Sea, and The Goddess in Glass). Nifft the Lean is  interesting Sword & Sorcery: a couple of the tales have a tendency to drag if read for plot alone, but it is the mood of the tales, and the descriptions of the setting, that provide an enjoyable reading experience.

Donald Kingsbury’s Courtship Rite, which won the Compton Crook Award for Best First Novel. I haven’t read it, but I found a nice, short blurb at Jo Walton’s Revisiting the Hugos (1983): “It’s about a lost colony on a planet where there’s very little to eat except other people, and it’s a sweet love story about evolutionary fitness and cannibalism. It’s quite unforgettable, and exactly the kind of thing that should be nominated, and I’d have been quite happy for it to have won” (the Hugo). I’ll try to remember to read this sometime and come back to update this post.

And my choice for the Retrospeculative novel of 1982 is…

Hitsuji o Meguru Bōken, by Haruki Murakami, which won the Noma Literary Prize (Noma Bungei Shinjin Shō). I can’t read Japanese, but I’m assuming the novel was at least as good as the translation into English (A Wild Sheep Chase, Alfred Birnbaum, 1991). It may be a strange way of documenting things, but I like to acknowledge a novel when it was first published, no matter what language it was written in.A_Wild_Sheep_Chase_cover

As in many Murakami novels, the protagonist, who is never named, is thirty-something and is separated from a woman; in this case, he is newly divorced. He has formed a business partnership with a friend; together, they run a moderately successful advertising/public relations firm.

The protagonist is approached by an industrialist known as the Boss, a former war criminal who escaped justice and has the aura of a mob boss. The Boss uses an intimidating gentleman (who has a degree from Stanford) to convince people to help him. The Boss is dying and is attempting to gain spiritual powers: he ‘insists’ that the protagonist must find a legendary, spiritual sheep; a sheep with a black star on its back. The Boss saw a picture of the sheep in a corporate newsletter produced by the protagonist. The picture was taken on a snowy, rural mountain, and the protagonist sets off to locate the animal; a wild sheep chase.

Other characters in the novel include the Rat, the Sheep Professor, a manic-depressive man who wears a sheep costume, and the protagonist’s new girlfriend who has “…a pair of the most bewitching, perfectly formed ears.”

Among other things, the novel oozes modern Japan. It also manages to convey the atmosphere of the jazz-bar scene in California: it is dappled with the mood of a Raymond Chandler and/or Dashiell Hammett novel. Sherlock Holmes is mentioned (several times), as is Moby Dick and Frederick Nietzsche; the book is part mystery and part metaphysical-fantasy, stitched together with the warp and woof of postmodernism.

It is not my favourite Murakami novel, but it is excellent speculative fiction and not a bad place to begin perusing Murakami’s oeuvre. Murakami also wrote a sequel, Dansu Dansu Dansu in1988 (English trans., Dance Dance Dance, 1994), but I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much. I heartily recommend Murakami’s The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, Kafka on the Shore, and Hardboiled Wonderland and the End of the World, which are all readily available in trade paperback.


The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

I’m busy preparing my Retrospective View for 1968, but I haven’t read one of the most significant novels from the year (Stand on Zanzibar); so, while I’m reading it (it might take me a couple of weeks), I’m going to re-post a few reviews I made on my other blog (I suppose I’m being rather lazy, but I’ve posted quite a few reviews there that are ‘speculative’ in nature).

Haruki Murakami has become one of my favorite authors; he isn’t for everyone’s tastes, but The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle feels like a book he was working toward for years. Most of his usual themes are present, as is his ubiquitous protagonist-type; the lonely, thirty-something male, who allows outside influences to guide him through life.

Wind-Up_Bird_ChronicleIn this novel, Toru Okada loses his job, his cat, and his wife; he searches for the latter two, and opens his world to an extraordinary array of characters, stories, and situations.

There are several threads within the frame of the narrative, some of which remain unresolved to the satisfaction of some reviewers; however, I found the novel eminently satisfying. I’ve encountered many complaints about extensive cuts in the translation from Japanese to English, and counter-claims (some from the translators) that the Japanese edition was poorly edited and required ‘trimming.’ I can’t read Japanese, so I can’t compare the editions; however, I thoroughly enjoyed the English version and I suspect that many of the problems that readers had with ‘discontinuity’ were not a result of the translation; rather, the sense of discontinuity is a trademark of Haruki Murakami’s surreal craft.

There are frustrating sections, and disturbing scenes and moods, but there is a prevailing atmosphere of hope within the beat of its metaphysical heart.

The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle won the prestigious Yomiuri Prize (1995) for Literature: the recipient receives a million Japanese yen and an inkstone (the prize was awarded by Oe Kenzaburo, one of Murakami’s harshest critics).

Highly recommended.

Haruki Murakami has several other exceptional novels (e.g.: Kafka on the Shore, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World, and A Wild Sheep Chase), and I’ll get around to separate reviews of them some day…

If you’re interested, have a look at the author’s site