Labyrinths, sixties horror and the maker of moons: books read (#SFWApro)

donpunchatzTHE MAN IN THE MAZE is a late-sixties novel by Robert Silverberg (cover by Don Punchatz, all rights reside with current holder) focusing on a tormented loner hiding in a deadly alien labyrinth (if anyone needs some dungeon traps for a D&D game, this isn’t a bad source). The reason: A botched first contact has rendered him a non-stop empathic broadcaster so people near him feel his doubts, fears, resentments, like it or not. Now, though an expedition has arrived to drag him out because his psi-curse is the only way to communicate with an alien invader — and if he doesn’t want to come, too bad. Very good in most ways, but man, this is the kind of book that female specfic fans justifiably rant about. The women have no role other than to relieve men’s sexual tension, or at the end to sit and wonder why their guy would go off to the stars instead of staying and getting his sexual tension relieved. So while I still liked it, YMMV.

SIXTIES SHOCKERS: A Critical Filmography of Horror Cinema, 1960-1969 by Mark Clark and BP Van Sloan is a McFarland book I picked up at Dragoncon a couple of years ago and only now got to. The authors do a solid job covering everything horror or horror-ish released in America from homegrown crap to giallo to Mexican Wrestler films to some of the more supernatural-themed sword-and-sandal adventures from Italy. Interesting even if I don’t always agree with their recommendations, and I’m glad they cast as wide a net as possible rather than obsessing over genre boundaries (some of the inclusions make me scratch my head, but I still prefer inclusive). Annoyingly, this reveals one time-travel film I completely missed (1963’s 50,000 BC (Before Clothing) which makes me wish I’d read it sooner.

The GREAT SHORT NOVELS OF ADULT FANTASY in Lin Carter’s Adult Fantasy collection is a quartet of primarily 19th century stuff, with only the Harold Shea adventure Wall of Serpents dating after 1900. The Anatole France and William Morris stories didn’t work for me as well as on first reading, simply because I’m not as much a medievalist as I was back then (both are certainly readable though). Next to Wall, Robert Chambers’ Maker of Moons is the best, with a federal agent and his friends hunting for a Chinese sorcerer who can manufacture synthetic gold, and thereby destabilize the world economy. Unfortunately “best” is a comparative measure here — Chambers always feels like a dry run for later, better writers. Some of his stuff is pre-Lovecraftian, here he’s like a forerunner of A. Merritt, but the fantasy elements remain earthbound. And very Orientalist, though conveniently the lost Chinese city Chambers refers to but never shows has conveniently produced a white girl the hero can marry without any miscegenation risk (technically she’s mixed-race herself, but that’s not how she’s presented).

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