It’s all about marketing…and I’m the “mark”

‘Stormtrack’ by James Sutherland (1974)

I confess, I’m a sucker when it comes to anything with Harlan Ellison’s name on it. Growing up as a teen on what I like to call the ABC’s (Asimov, Bradbury, Clarke) of science fiction it wasn’t until I discovered Harlan Ellison that my reading path took a real turn into new areas. Over the decades since, I’ve always found him to be entertaining and never disagreed with the various position he takes – and if you know anything about Ellison he stands up for his beliefs and is not shy in telling the world what he thinks. The intros/prefaces and background pieces Ellison writes are often as entertaining as his actual work.

So some weeks back when I was browsing the sci-fi section of a local used bookstore I was surprised to find this book and learn Ellison had lent his name to a series of novels by up-and-coming authors. But when I read it this past weekend I wasn’t impressed. It’s not that it was bad in any way that I as an average reader (or amateur/pretend critic who mostly only knows what he likes) could explain. It’s just that it wasn’t very good at grabbing my attention or making me want to find out what happens next. What is basically a 188 page hard science/mystery/action novel set in the not-so-distant future (1996) doesn’t turn into “sci-fi” (or speculative fiction – excuse me Harlan) until page 162.

There was one other recently read novel where sci-fi was only part of the story that was (for me) a real page turner – ‘The Eskimo Invasion’ by Hayden Howard. It’s an interesting exploration of an over-populated, dystopian future with what may be an alien/outsider influence. I recommend it.

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About Marcus

Who me? Introverted, neurotic, self-absorbed, increasingly cynical observer of human nature and part time social critic in hiding. Most of my life spent avoiding growing up. The naive idealistic passions of youth have evolved into the eclectic eccentricities of adulthood. Northeast Florida small-town native, related to people I can't relate to. Simultaneously my own best friend and worst enemy. Politically and spiritually unaffiliated, my personal ideologies put me all over the map or off it completely.
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4 Responses to It’s all about marketing…and I’m the “mark”

  1. Joachim Boaz says:

    I’ve never heard of this author…. I always get suspicious when another author “discovers” someone. As you point out, marketing, marketing, marketing…. But then again, Pohl picked up The Female Man (Russ’s controversial work) when no one else would…

    • Marcus says:

      I believe Ellison was connected with Sutherland via the Clarion Writers Workshop. Sutherland was one of the authors with a story slotted into Ellison’s infamously unpublished ‘The Last Dangerous Visions’. Nothing dangerous or visionary about this book.

  2. I’ve been scouring the internet for someone else who’s read ‘The Eskimo Invasion,’ so I could get their thoughts on it. I’m trying to read and write a review for every novel ever nominated for the Hugo or Nebula, and I sort of figured that would be the only reason someone would read this book. I didn’t much like it, and it seems like it stands at odds with the great science fiction being written at that time, ‘Lord of Light’ was written in the same year for one example. It does have a couple of interesting ideas but it seems like only a die hard fan of science fiction will ever pick this book up again. I really don’t like to just bash on a book, especially one as old as this one, what about it did you like?

    • Marcus says:

      James – For me, ‘The Eskimo Invasion’ was more of a page-turning, action/adventure/spy story set in a dystopic future than anything I would describe as science fiction. (although the sci-fi part of the story does eventually come along) Primarily because I found myself wanting to know what happened next I really enjoyed it. I had noticed this book on the shelf at one of my favorite used bookstores during several visits and curiosity finally overcame my not wanting to take a chance on reading something by a (still) unknown author.

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