William F. Nolan’s Logan

This summer’s reading in preparation for Arcana was William F. Nolan’s Logan Trilogy. It was decidedly less time consuming than previous Arcana reading of Ambrose Bierce and Kathe Koja.

Logan’s Run and I go way back to 1977 when the Logan’s Run series was on tv. The young MarzAat was particularly impressed by the “Man Out of Time” which I see was written by Nolan and David Gerrold. However, it wasn’t that many years later I noticed its basic resemblance to T. L. Sherred’s “E for Effort” from 1948.

There is even a link to this blog’s name and Logan’s Run. The details would be boring to you and embarrassing to me.

However, it wasn’t until sometime in the 1980s I actually saw the movie and read Logan’s Run.

After we watched 1998’s Free Enterprise with its soon-to-be-30-years old hero dreaming of Logan, my wife told me the movie had a lot of fans.

I had no idea.

Low Res Scan: William F. Nolan’s Logan: A Trilogy, William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson, 1986.William F. Nolan's Logan

‘Cause I understand you’ve been running from the man

That goes by the name of the Sandman

— “Sandman”, America

 

It’s sex and drugs and a long party in the year 2072.

Sure, people still need jobs for a few hours a week. There’s those juvie punk scum hanging out in the Cathedral of Los Angeles. The occasional adult miscreant gets a trip a trip on the Hellcar to an Arctic prison.

It’s kind of a short life though ’cause when the crystal “flower” in your palm starts flashing it’s Lastday, and you’d better shuffle off to the Re-Live center to replay the greatest hits of your life before heading off to the Sleepshop.

Of course, there’s always a few people who don’t play by the rules and try to make a run for life beyond 21. It’s the dedicated gunslingers of Deep Sleep, the Sandmen, who take care of that problem.

When the details fade from Nolan and George Clayton Johnson’s Logan’s Run fade, you remember the frenetic pace and the impressionistic prose.

Just after you read Nolan and Johnson’s two page dedication to various authors, books, radio shows, comics, and movies, you know you’re in for something different.

This omnibus is only 384 pages long, so there’s no lallygagging. These novels are peak prose delivery systems.

Sandman Logan starts out his day listening to some citizen nattering on his lastday about how it all seemed to go rather quickly. But, but, he’s no runner scum!

Then, after he spends some unrewarding time in the hallucimill and stagroom, Logan’s off to waste one of those scums.

He’s been wondering when his lastday is and then finds out it’s today!

So, using some clues from the man he killed, Logan impulsively decides to look for the legendary Sanctuary for runners created by a man named Ballard.

And then we go on a careening narrative, enabled by a vast underground transportation network, that stays in North America. There’s the underwater city ruled by an AI, a crazy cyborg artist who has some lethal modeling sessions in mind for Logan and Jessica, the babe and fellow runner he picks up and bonds with via terror sex.

There’s a pass through a re-creation of the American Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg with robots.

And, warming my heart, three scenes set in South Dakota: a crèche outside of Rapid City, a vast computer system under the Crazy Horse Monument, and the ruins of Deadwood where, to escape the clutches of futuristic biker gang, Logan has to manfully — if painfully — pleasure six biker sluts and carve some flesh from Jessica.

Surely, the highest South Dakota content of any science fiction novel I’ve read! Maybe that’s because Nolan’s a Midwesterner from Kansas City.

That may account for making the teenager who started this whole don’t trust kill-anyone-over-21 business from Charleston, Missouri.

Throughout all this, Logan’s colleague and sort of friend, Francis, is in hot pursuit. And Logan knows Francis is smarter and tougher than he is.

Nolan, in this edition, puts in some of his own illustration for the novels.

He also has a long introduction detailing the genesis of his cultural hero, the man who runs from an authoritarian system. It started as an aside when he taught a class in science fiction at UCLA in 1963, and, from the beginning, 1967’s Logan’s Run was intended for the screen. Johnson assisted in writing the novel because selling a script based on an already existing novel was deemed easier.

Nolan talks about the life of his creation and its surprisingly varied spin offs as of 1986. (You can get a sense of that from the United Sandmen page.)

And Now I’ll Spoil the Rest of the Trilogy

You’d expect Logan’s World (1977) to be one of two things.

The brave runners who made it to Sanctuary, actually an abandoned space station off Mars, will return and liberate the people’s from Earth

or

The inhabitants of Argos station will create a new order in space.

Nolan does neither nor does he hit the reset button.

Logan returns to Earth six years after the events of Logan’s Run because the Sanctuary dream is dead. Ballard was unable to keep the supply ships coming and the colony died except for Logan, Jessica, and their son Jaq who return to Earth in a ship.

But, if Sanctuary is dead, so is the old order, brought down by Ballard in an heroic and suicidal act.

The creature comforts of the old days are gone. Society has collapsed, and ex-Sandmen run petty kingdoms and gangs.

This is a dark and nasty story in a dark and nasty world. Jaq is killed. Jessica is taken as a sex slave by one scavenger gang, the Borgia Riders.

Logan puts on the old Sandman uniform and straps on his Gun (and it’s always called the Gun because it has all sorts of interesting bullets and capabilities) to get Jessica back.

Logan can be pretty ruthless and vicious in the quest for his babe. This quest will again take him to South Dakota where ex-Sandman Gant has taken up in the ruins of the destroyed computer, the Thinker, that organized the old world.

Flashbacks to the youth of Logan 3, a bid of odd typography, and Logan showing his charisma when leading resistance to Gant’s plan get the Thinker running again follow

The novel ends with Gant dead and the Crazy Horse Monument trashed. Logan and Jessica will lead the Wilderness People in the Black Dakotas in creating a new order.

So you would expect Logan’s Search (1980) to describe the adventure in creating that new order.

Except it goes into a completely different and odd direction.

Oh, it starts out with the Wilderness People in Old Washington (presumably Washington D.C.). Jessica is pregnant again and another group of survivors offer to trade food for medical supplies left in Old Chicago.

Logan goes off to take a look.

And gets captured by aliens.

And they decide to send him to an alternate Earth where the “computerized death system” has stabilized due to some “dark force”. Our Logan is to go to that world, impersonate its Logan, and destroy that system.

And he’s got 14 days to do it or be trapped on that alternate Earth.

We got a little globe hopping in Logan’s World with flashbacks to young Logan, but we get a lot in the third novel: Africa, Moscow, Monte Carlo, Jamaica, and

Egypt where this world’s Francis and Logan are to be made gods — though there is a little trouble after Logan foolishly looks up this world’s Jessica and gets accused of dealing drugs. (In the first world, tobacco was on the forbidden list.)

And, of course, Logan trashes another world order.

And those aliens are kind of voyeuristic cenobites.

These books are fun and a very quick read. How many trilogies today can you casually burn through in five days?

 

More reviews of fantastic fiction are indexed by title and author/editor.

 

Breaking News! There’s another Logan story as of this year, “Logan’s Mission”. I suspect I may find it in the dealer’s room at Arcana.

 

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“The Strange High House in the Mist”

And, while I work on writing up some new reviews, we return to the Lovecraft series.

Raw Feed (2005): “The Strange High House in the Mist”, H. P. Lovecraft, 1926.Dagon and Other Macabre Tales

This story has a peculiar tone and feel to it, rather unlike any other Lovecraft I can think of.

To be sure, it makes references to Lovecraft’s Dunsanian tales, the Elder Ones of the Cthulhu stories as well as a mention of Kingsport. The titular Terrible Old Man of the same story even shows up.

But the story is an odd mixture of dreamy longing to escape reality that is found in the Dunsanian tales mixed with unease and horror. You come away not knowing what you’re to think about the college professor, feeling burdened by his humdrum family and life, who climbs a hill above Kingsport to visit a terribly ancient and strange house whose only door opens on the second story and above a cliff over the sea.

The man meets the gods there, gets hints of something terrible that is not allowed to visit the house, and returns and becomes a solid citizen — dull, unimaginative, utterly uninterested in the house that once fascinated him so much. It is as if, in his visits with the gods of other worlds in that strange house, he left the vital, imaginative spark of his life there. Continue reading ““The Strange High House in the Mist””

Oath of Fealty

The Jerry Pournelle series concludes with one of my favorite Niven and Pournelle collaborations, and, I think a book of some political prescience.

The desire to retreat from crime and social chaos is still with us: gated communities and billionaires buying bolt holes in New Zealand, and survivalist compounds in South Dakota.

And Alphabet’s plans for its workers sounds like a return to feudalism which, of course, is what this book is about.

This is the only work of Niven’s or Pournelle’s to appear in David Pringle’s Science Fiction: The 100 Best Novels (1985).

Pringle exhibits a bit of snark in his capsule review of the novel when he says

 . . . memories of J. G. Ballard’s High-Rise intrude; but that is a novel which Niven and Pournelle are unlikely to have read.

I suspect that’s true of Pournelle, but Niven’s essay, “The Words in Science Fiction“, hints at fairly broad tastes in the genre.

This was the next novel Niven and Pournelle started after The Mote in God’s Eye, but it was put aside for other novels.

For the 2008 edition, they wrote an introduction, but I have not read it.

If you go to Pournelle’s website and patiently read the search results for “Oath of Fealty”, you’ll find many references to people still thinking about an urban arcology as a shelter in turbulent times.

Raw Feed (1998): Oath of Fealty, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 1981.Oath of Fealty

This book was certainly shorter and better than the last Niven and Pournelle collaboration I read, Footfall.

It also stands as the most explicit endorsement of feudalism, a theme which appears in much of Pournelle’s solo work, particularly the John Christian Falkenberg series and a type of corporate feudalism of this novel also shows up in Pournelle’s High Justice (another title seemingly derived from medieval law) and, in a milder, more implicit way in Pournelle’s collaboration with Charles Sheffield, Higher Education.

The title derives from the medieval feudal oath between vassal and lord, and the novel’s plot of Todos Santos fighting for legal and economic independence from LA broadly reflects similar struggles between towns and medieval lords. [Yes, I’m aware that some medievalists argue that feudalism never existed. I just don’t accept the argument.]

That independence is never truly achieved. Indeed, Los Angeles’ reliance on Todos Santos (an emerging economic and social unit like the medieval towns) economically is used as leverage against the city. Continue reading “Oath of Fealty”

The Massacre of Mankind

Before reading Stephen Baxter’s The Massacre of Mankind, the sequel to H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds, I decided to read Wells’ novel again after 21 years.

I’m glad I did.

My initial claim, that English civilization is destroyed in the course of a long weekend, is glib and deceptive. The novel does not take place over a bank holiday weekend, and English civilization is, of course, not destroyed. The narrator of the book presents a history for a nation that still survives. However, the main action of the novel does occur starting Friday, when the Martians first use the Heat Ray, and goes through Monday when the Martians attack London. British society dissolves into a mob temporarily.

I’d also forgotten that part of the book is taken from the unnamed narrator’s brother, Frank. It is Frank that flees London when the Martians approach and whose experiences provide the memorable line: “It was the beginning of the rout of civilization, of the massacre of mankind.”

And this time I picked up on the apprehension, what we might term “post-traumatic stress disorder” the narrator is left with at the end of the story. Of man, the unnamed narrator says about the invasion:

 . . . it has robbed us of that serene confidence in the future which is the most fruitful source of decadence …

But the scars of memory are not just on general humanity. The narrator says he no longer loves to look at the night sky.

Looking at London, he no longer sees it the same:

I go to London and see the busy multitudes in Fleet Street and the Strand, and it comes across my mind that they are but the ghosts of the past, haunting the streets that I have seen silent and wretched, going to and fro, phantasms in a dead city, the mockery of life in a galvanised body.

I also wonder if the flooding from streams and rivers caused by the Martian red weed were partially inspired by Richard Jefferies’ After London and its giant lake in central England after the fall of industrial civilization.

This one came from NetGalley, and, of course, I jumped at the chance to review it.

Review: The Massacre of Mankind, Stephen Baxter, 2017.Massacre of Mankind

You still ain’t seeing it clearly. The Martians, you know, would say they are doing us a favor. Lifting us up, as if we made a chimp smart as a college professor. And who’s to say, by their lights, they are wrong? And – pain? What of it? You clever-clogs keep telling me the Martians are above us mere mortals. Perhaps, with their heads detached from their bodies, they are above pain as above pleasure. And what need they care about the pain they inflict on us? And more’n we care about the pain of the animal in the slaughterhouse – or the tree we cut down. To recoil from this is hypocritical – d’ye see?

That’s Bert Cook, merely called “the artilleryman” in Walter Jenkins’ Narratives of the Martian Wars. Jenkins is the man we know as the unnamed narrator of H. G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Cook isn’t the only one to complain Jenkins misrepresented him in his account of the 1907 Martian invasion. That’s the year Baxter, after consulting the astronomical clues in Wells’ story and Wells scholars, places the time of Wells’ novel.

Julie Elphinstone, the narrator of this novel and a reporter presenting us a history of the Second Martian War, isn’t too pleased with Jenkins’ depiction of her either, but at least she got a name and ended up married, briefly, to Jenkins’ brother, the Frank who supplies the London detail in Wells’ novel. Continue reading “The Massacre of Mankind”

Footfall

The Jerry Pournelle series continues. This one is another collaboration with Larry Niven and another review probably colored by the circumstances I read a book under.

Raw Feed (1998): Footfall, Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle, 1985.Footfall

I found this novel overly long for its subject but not long enough to get into any pleasing, interesting detail.

Next to Fallen Angels, co-written with Michael Flynn, this is the worst Niven and Pournelle novel I’ve read.

Niven and Pournelle provide an interesting rationale while the alien Fithp try to invade Earth: they’re a young race who acquired space travel from the Predecessors, aliens who first evolved intelligence on the Fithp homeworld and then destroyed themselves. Thus the Fithp aren’t too bright or, at least, don’t think of any other option than to invade a planet instead of exploiting space.

But we don’t learn anything more about the Predecessors, really get into the dissension in the Fithp ranks, or learn a lot that much about the Fithp given the time spent on them other than they are herd animals who are used to fighting until a foe unconditionally surrenders for their whole herd.

Nor do we get, a lá Niven and Pournelle’s Lucifer’s Hammer, neat description of meteor devastation. [I suspect they thought they’d already written that story in Lucifer’s Hammer.] Most of it occurs off stage as does the combat in Kansas and its eventual nuking. Continue reading “Footfall”

Higher Education

The Jerry Pournelle series continues with a collaboration with Charles Sheffield. This is an expansion of their story of the same name in Future Quartet and part of the Jupiter series from Tor. That was an attempt to resurrect, in the 1990s, the tradition of the Robert A. Heinlein juvenile novel. All the Jupiter books were unrelated in their stories.

Raw Feed (1997): Higher Education, Charles Sheffield and Jerry Pournelle, 1996.Higer Education

This book was a pleasant if not great read and, I suspect, a great deal like Robert Heinlein’s juvenile novels of which I’ve only read Starship Troopers and, a long time ago, The Rolling Stones. [In fact, I may have read that before Robert Silverberg’s Revolt on Alpha C, but it was the latter novel which gave me a taste for science fiction.]

It’s the story of a youth learning adult responsibilities and a lot of math and science – the authors deliver some good minor science lessons in passing including one on why rings around planets can’t be solid.

The plot of corporate espionage and sabotage (I liked that the saboteur was allegedly from the Black Hills) was, if my memory is correct, added from the novella of the same name. In the short story, protagonist Rick Luban finishes training and his employer tries to recruit him for training Earthside. The novel ends with a similar pitch but after more training.

The main flaw is, given the supposedly even more decadent, ignorant, and violent schools of the future, Rick Luban and the other delinquents of his school seem way too tame in their behavior and lack of profanity (perhaps toned down for a juvenile reader?) to be the problem children of tomorrow. They seem like problem children of the fifties. Continue reading “Higher Education”

Future Quartet

The Jerry Pournelle series continues with his involvement in a project that included Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, and Charles Sheffield.

Raw Feed (1995): Future Quartet: Earth in the Year 2042: A Four-Part Invention, eds. Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, Charles Sheffield, 1994.Future Quartet

Introduction”, Charles Sheffield — The origins of the project and its assignment to Ben Bova, Frederik Pohl, Jerry Pournelle, and Charles Sheffield to provide perspectives ranging utopian to dystopian. There is also an interesting list of technologies and sociopolitcal events and problems not considered by futurists of 50 years ago.

2042:  A Cautiously Pessimistic View”, Ben Bova — Bova’s futuristic speculations related in fictional form as an address by Chiblum C. Lee, Chairman of the World Council. Bova postulates a world of climate change from global warming (desertification and famine), cheap energy (fusion and solar power satellites), aquaculture, and deep-sea mining where space is starting to be exploited. However, it is also a world of over ten billion people with a large gap between rich and poor countries. Lee proposes taxing rich countries to better the lot of poor countries. (The old foreign aid scheme which doesn’t work now because poor countries are poor through internal political and social problems and nothing else.) He realizes that the rich countries must see this to be in their self-interest, that coercion will not work and that vested interest will resist change. Nothing real new here. I thought Bova was more conservative and had faith in free markets as the tool to enrichments.  This is a scenario of bigger foreign aid.

The Kingdom Come”, Ben Bova — An alright story narrated in first person and a take-off on Bova’s “2042:  A Cautiously Pessimistic View” before it in the anthology. It involves protagonist Salvatore Passalacqua from the grim inner city of Philadelphia and his prostitute girlfriend (an unrequited love). Both don’t legally exist, and both get involved in a plot to take World Chairman Lee hostage. This is a pretty standard sf tale of a poor, violent future urban America with only a few points of interest. First, Passalacqua is a electronics genius. Second, the terrorists kidnapping Lee are not entirely bad. They want the World Council to depose dictators in their own countries, but the World Council refuses to interfere with nations’ internal affairs. Third, the Controllers are accused of all sorts of things throughout the story but seem to be a branch of the Controllers who help certain individuals out of poverty via education. Lastly, Passalacqua rejects a world of interconnectedness, a world where the poor can be helped and things changed. In a plot contrary to the usual poor-person-accidentally-given-the-chance-at-betterment–and-taking-it plot, he rejects his chance at education and returns to die in Philadelphia (it’s presumed). His girlfriend takes her chance, though, and studies law. Continue reading “Future Quartet”