Collision Course, by Robert Silverberg / Nemesis from Terra, by Leigh Brackett

This was an Ace Double from 1961, combining a Robert Silverberg novel (expanded from an earlier version published in 1959) with the Leigh Brackett novel that won the 1945 Retro Hugo. Of the latter, I wrote at the time:

Second paragraph of third chapter:

Mayo McCall watched the men running back and forth below. Quite calmly she reached out and closed the switch that controlled her testing beam — the ray that spanned the head of the drift and checked every carload of dull red rock for Fallonite content, the chemically amorphous substance that was already beginning to revolutionize the Terran plastic industry.

Fairly standard but well executed pulp planetary romance / space opera, with desert Mars, swampy Venus and our hero overcoming evil Earth industrialists and perhaps a bit of commentary on colonialism as well. Brackett is one of two women in this category, and the only one to get a solo listing. You can get the original pulp version here and buy a later book version here.

The second paragraph of the third chapter of Collision Course is:

Bernard lay sprawled in his vibrochair, cradling a volume of Yeats on his lap while the shoulder-lamp wriggled unhappily in its attempt to keep the beam focussed on the page no matter how Bernard might alter his position. A flask of rare brandy, twenty years old, imported from one of the Procyon worlds, was within easy reach. Bernard had his drink, his music, his poetry, his warmth. What better way, he asked himself, to relax after spending two hours trying to pound the essentials of sociometrics into the heads of an obtuse clump of sophomores?

It’s early but very competent Silverberg, a new wrinkle on the Cosmic Duel theme where humanity and one group of aliens are competing for control of our galaxy and a godlike force intervenes to force a settlement. Particularly entertaining in that the humans in Team Earth don’t get on with each other at all. Needless to say, no women characters appear except in flashbacks.

You can get Collision Course separately here, and the Ace Double here.

This was the SF book that had lingered longest unread on my shelves. Next on that pile is Major Matt Mason: Moon Mission by George S. Elrick (if I can find it).

World’s Fair 1992, by Robert Silverberg

Second paragraph of third chapter:

“Where do we place our orders?”

A somewhat unexpected YA novel from Robert Silverberg, who I did not realise had written for that group of readers (but he has written so many books in many genres and sub-genres, and I should not have been surprised). It’s about our young hero who is brought to stay on the largest space station in history as a prize in an essay competition. it’s very reminiscent of Heinlein’s juveniles – there are intelligent but alien Martians, and an expedition to Pluto – but I was interested in the character of Claude Regan, the visionary billionaire who funds the space station and other projects; if the book had been written today, we’d see him as a portrayal of Elon Musk, and I wonder if Musk read this book (he’d have been 11 when it came out in 1982). Not spectacular, but an inter4esting snapshot of the time. You can get it here.

This was both the top unread book on my shelf acquired in 2016, and the sf book that had lingered longest unread. The next books respectively on those piles are Mermaids and Other Mysteries of the Deep, by Elizabeth Bear, and Atlantis Fallen, by C.E. Murphy.

The Shape of Sex to Come, ed. Douglas Hill

Second paragraph of third story (“Coming-of-Age Day”, by A.K. Jorgensson):

But you got some funny answers.

A 1978 anthology from Pan, including stories by Robert Silverberg, Thomas M. Disch, A.K. Jorgensson, Anne McCaffrey, Brian Aldiss, Hilary Bailey, John Sladek and Michael Moorcock. I’m afraid that despite the stellar array of authors and the potentially interesting subject matter, this is not a great collection; several of the stories depend on a rather rapey concept of consent, the Aldiss contribution is frankly incomprehensible (I see that this is its only publication apart from its original appearance in F&SF) and the Moorcock is an excerpt from Dancers at the End of Time that I already have in two different editions. Hilary Bailey’s “Sisters” is the best of these, and it’s more about bio weapons than sex. You can get it here.

This was the shortest unread book that I acquired in 2016 on my shelves. Next on that pile is The Shape of Irish History, by A.T.Q. Stewart.