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Friday, April 19, 2019

#AtoZ Challenge: R is for Mack Reynolds

Today’s F and SF author is American Mack Reynolds - long gone, alas, but so prolific you can read for a long time before running out of his books.

I discovered Mack Reynolds through a book on a remainders table. I have always loved those tables. It’s where I found Lois McMaster Bujold’s Miles Vorkosigan for the first time. Robert E Howard’s Conan books with their Frank Frazetta covers. If I ever do a series about SF/F artists, he will certainly be there, with his book covers of Conan snarling at some monster from before the dawn of time, or challenging frost giants... Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game for $1.00. 

This is not the book I have! 

And for twenty five cents, there was this novella-length book called Time Gladiator by some guy called Mack Reynolds, of whom I had never heard. Dreadful title. Even more awful cover. I have no idea what made me pick it up, but I did. And opened it to the first page. And realised that this was not the garbage that the cover made it look like. The original title, by the way, was Sweet Dreams, Sweet Princes(see above, the original publication), probably not something the publishers could fit on to a cover. Well, it did have gladiators in it, sort of. In this book - and others in the series, which I haven’t read - there is no more war, but teams of fighters face off in the arena as champions instead. You can join a gladiator club at university- which the hero did, and found himself drafted to the team, and eventually discovered the truth about both governments. I was hooked very quickly, after a flip-through, and bought it. If I didn’t like it, I thought, it was only twenty-five cents. I did like it. 

I read whatever books of his I could get my hands on, and own an ebook of his short stories as well. He was so prolific it’s very difficult to have read all his work, or even all his short stories. Fortunately, a lot of his work is still in print, either in ebook or print. You can get them easily via the usual web sites - Book Depository and Amazon and such. 

I’m going to give you this link to his Wikipedia page, which lists all his works, because there are just too many to list here., or you can look it up here, on the Fantastic Fiction web site, which gives you blurbs and purchase links. But the Wikipedia page also gives you his biography and a fascinating one it is, too. His family was strongly Marxist and at the age of five, he asked, “Who is Comrade Jesus Christ?”

Did you know he wrote the very first Star Trek novel? His Mission to Horatius, and not James Blish’s Spock Must Die, was the first. It is the sort of thing you get as a question in a trivia quiz. People know about it, it just doesn’t get mentioned much, probably because it was a children’s book. A friend of mine has a copy, which must be worth a fortune by now. 

I have read nothing like all his books, there were so many, but I love what I have had a chance to read. Here are a couple. 

In Perchance To Dream a man lies in a box which gives you the only kind of time travel you can do - it places your awareness into a person living in the past. In this case, the person is the Roman hero Horatius, of “How Horatius Kept The Bridge” fame(one of Macauley’s Lays Of Ancient Rome), one of three Romans who defended the bridge to Rome against any enemy army till their guys had the chance to chop it down. Horatius knows, somehow, that there is a passenger in his brain...

There is another novel, whose title I have forgotten but whose story I haven’t. Look up the list on Fantastic Fiction, you’ll find it. It was written in the 1970s, but predicts a cashless economy. So, what do you do when you have been accused of a crime and the police can find you via your credit card transactions? And, of course, how else can you take public transport and buy supplies? 

He predicted the Internet(though so did Murray Leinster in the 1940s short story “A Logic Named Joe”). 

He had a “Common Europe” (Sound familiar?) and a universal basic income, which is something being discussed now, quite recently in Australia, though unlikely to happen soon. 

Look, just go and read his fiction, okay? It’s fabulous stuff and there is good reason why so many of his books are still available, King after his death. If you have read some of his work I haven’t mentioned - and goodness knows, that’s a lot of it! - mention it in the comments below. 


Stuart Nager said...

I've honestly never heard of him before. Once this AtoZ is over and things settle back, I'll see what my library has and order something. Thanks for the recommendation.

Sue Bursztynski said...

I hope you find lots of good stuff you enjoy. Cheers!

Jackie said...

wow, he sure did write a slew of books! Me, being a non-SF reader, haven't heard of him but I appreciate you sharing this author and stories regardless. His books sound really good and I may try some of his latest works. I hope you are having a wonderful Saturday and we'll see you tomorrow! Happy Easter! Jackie's Bookbytes Letter R

Sue Bursztynski said...

Not everyone has heard of him, but hopefully will find this post interesting enough to check him out. Alas, he has passed away, so no “latest work” to read. Perhaps better to look on Fantastic Fiction for some blurbs and choose something.

Jackie said...

I lived in Algiers for a time growing up so I downloaded a few of his black man's burden books from the Gutenberg library and Spaceman on a Spree. Will see how that goes.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Ooh, are they on Gutenberg? Must have a look. It’s amazing what is out of copyright.

Roland Clarke said...

I read SF avidly in my teens but never heard of Mack Reynolds - until now. Thanks Sue for introducing me.

Sue Bursztynski said...

Hi Roland! Hope you unearth some, Most of them are easily available on line and I checked out Jackie’s mention of Project Gutenberg, and sure enough, plenty of out of print Mack Reynolds! Free!