My husband and I recently went to London to visit my family and decided to do our version of a Literary London tour (I say “our version” but I have no idea whether a Literary London tour exists. If it doesn’t, surely it should.*). After hours of intense google searches and finagling to see more, we narrowed our outings to bookstores that either specialized in used books or science fiction. Among others we ended up going to Any Amount of Books, Book Mongers, and Forbidden Planet (a.k.a the best place on Earth). Posts for the books I got at Book Mongers and Forbidden Planet will be coming soon!
During our month long trip I learned two things about buying books abroad.
1) It can get heavy. Over the baggage limit heavy. This may lead to judgemental glares from flight attendants and possibly having to choose between your month supply of clothes and six month supply of books. Cruel world.
2) The exchange rate and cost of living was not built in your favor, actually it was built in spite of it. That used book you just bought for six pounds? That’s the price of a new book in Los Angeles, dummy.
But it was all in the name of reading.
And all was good in the world.
We chose to go to Any Amount of Books first after finding out they have a bin of used books that are one pound (around $1.50) each or five for four pounds. After shedding a single tear we went inside to skim through the science fiction section and found the most popular author was Lloyd Biggle Jr, classic forefather he is. My husband unknowingly picked up a copy of The Still, Small Voice of Trumpets (1968) that he will probably never set eyes upon again while I cannot wait to absorb it. This treasure was only $1.50 but I would have paid more for the cover and title alone.
Biggle Jr is the mind behind science fiction staples like the Interplanetary Relations Bureau and Cultural Survey which both make an appearance in this novel. Jeff Forzon is an agent of the IPR bureau where the motto is “Democracy imposed from without is the severest form of tyranny”. When Jeff is sent to the planet Gurnil to introduce it’s inhabitants to democracy in the hopes of eventually inducting them into the galactic federation, he is met with beings more interested in art than politics, perfectly content continuing the monarchical system they have been under for the past four hundred years. So Forzon is set with the challenging obstacle of aiding change in this species with the introduction of a single innovation that will change their planet.
Coming in at just 206 pages this is a short one, I’ll save this read for an afternoon in with tea and Ravi Shankur.
I could only find one snippet of a good quote but me thinks it’s a good’un.
“Beauty he loved for its own sake; ugliness, which more often than not was a form of inverted beauty, fascinated him. Life offered far too little of either, and far too much appalling mediocrity, which he thought hideous.”
We also picked up a copy of The Alien Way (1965), a first contact story with a twist- the aliens (called Ruml) that come into contact with Earth are not amorphous drones but creatures of culture, with a community and infrastructure as defined as the ones we are familiar with today. The plot follows a human who has a mental connection to the leader of the Ruml who plans on invading Earth. This allows him to know every plan that is contrived but will it be enough to prevent the downfall of humankind?
Ah, the questions science fiction asks are endless. This book carries a shroud of mystery online so I could barely find more than a brief synopsis on it, and being that this is the first book I have picked up of Gordon R Dickson it makes me itch to think how good of a story could be waiting between these pages.
*I just checked, they do exist.