Monday, July 11, 2011

On the Vacation Circuit: Clifford D. Simak, H. Rider Haggard, & Other Genre Writers

Hommage à Seurat by Jonathan Burton
It's hot! 

Crank the air conditioning up and thank God for summer reading.  Old paperbacks, rescued out-of-print books, and Anything Genre can help you transcend the mugginess of July for a few hours.

Here's a list of what I'm reading for fun. 

Clifford D. Simak's Ring around the Sun.  So you never heard of Clifford D. Simak?  

He's one of my favorite American science fiction writers. A journalist by profession, Simak (1904-1988) won three Hugo awards, a Nebula, and was named the third Grand Master by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America for his "pastoral" science fiction, which emphasizes humanity, rural areas, and the ecosystem rather than technology.

In 2009 I "rediscovered" his lost classic, They Walked like Men.  A wisecracking journalist discovers that aliens are taking over the earth--by buying real estate.  It's a witty and scary premise.

I picked up Ring around the Sun at random, and it is similar to They Walk--but mutants are at work rather than aliens.  Their inventions of the Forever car, Forever house, everlasting razors and everlasting light bulbs are destroying business or saving the world, depending on your point of view. The hero, Jay Vickers, a writer, embarks on a quest to rediscover his childhood after a friend (who turns out to be a mutant) advises it.  Chased by xenophobes and persecuted for a murder he didn't commit, he manages to visit another world and...

I'm still reading.

H. Rider Haggard's Allan Quatermain.  H. Rider Haggard (1856-1925) lived in Africa for six years and wrote 34 adventure novels. His fans included Robert Louis Stevenson, Kipling and Orwell. Allan Quatermain, the hunter hero of several of Haggard's novels and short stories, first appears in King Solomon's Mines (known to many through the Stewart Granger-Deborah Kerr movie).   Using the map of a dying treasure hunter, Allan and his two friends, Charles Good and Sir Henry, search in Africa for Sir Henry's brother, who had journeyed to find the legendary diamonds of King Solomon's Mines.

King Solomon's Mines made Haggard's fortune, and he wrote the sequel, Allan Quatermain, in two months.   Three years after his adventure, Allan Quatermain, now over 60, invites his two friends travel to Africa again.

"...for years and years I have heard rumors of a great white race which is supposed to have its home somewhere up in this direction, and I mind to see if there is any truth in them. If you fellows like to come, well and good; it not, I'll go alone."

It's very exciting and plot-oriented--not particularly well-written, but  it doesn't matter, because it's pure entertainment, and some of the landscape descriptions are actually inspiring.  In the first 100 pages,  Allan and his group come upon a Scottish mission near the gorgeous Mt. Kenia.  The garden is the most beautiful they've seen, a mix of English and African flowers.   But when Flossie, the daughter, goes out on the hills with her nurse and some servants to find a rare lily, she is kidnapped by the Masai, who are mysteriously pursuing the Quatermain party.  Only the brilliant strategy of Umslopogaas, a former Zulu general and brilliant hunter, ensures Flossie's rescue.

Haggard wrote several sequels to this novel and they are great fun.

You can also find his books free at Project Gutenberg.

And I'm happy to take recommendations for other summer books!


Susan D said...

The picture! What is the picture? I love it.

Frisbee said...

Susan, I found this on the internet when I typed in "summer reading." It's Hommage à Seurat by Jonathan Burton, an English illustrator who lives in France.

raych said...

'Anything Genre' has become my favorite genre. You go sit in the corner and wait, incisive explorations of the ties that bond us to each other and this world, etc. I will have killer bugs, please.

Ellen said...

Yes I like that picture very much. I've had my students as a group describe Seurat's La Grande Jatte, but now I think I'll bring along a print out of this to amuse and stimulate talk. Thank you,


Frisbee said...

Killer bugs! Well, there ARE ants in Clifford D. Simak's City (which is mainly about talking dogs).

I'll put the artist's name in the caption so everybody can see it.