BooksOfTheMoon

Star Songs of An Old Primate

By James Tiptree Jr.

Rating: 4 stars

This was a great collection of stories by Tiptree. As well as shorts, there is a novella, A Momentary Taste of Being which starts off like a normal colonisation tale, with a ship looking for planets to colonise to relieve pressure from an Earth creaking at the seams, but becomes something much darker.

Houston, Houston Do you read? is a story that’s stayed with me for some time after reading, telling the story of three astronauts who get bumped forward in time by a few hundred years and the world they return to, while Her Smoke Rose Up Forever, shows flash points in the protagonists life as he is forced to relive them again and again…

These stories do show Tiptree at her finest, and while The Psychologist Who Wouldn’t do Awful Things to Rats may not be the most subtle of pieces, it’s still an excellent story in an excellent collection.

Book details

ISBN: 9780345254177
Publisher: Del Rey
Year of publication: 1979

Starry Rift

By James Tiptree Jr.

Rating: 5 stars

This is a collection of three novellas set in the same shared future history, with linking narration between them. All three stories describe stories around the edge of a Federation containing both Humans and aliens, at an area of space where stars are rare, and has something of a frontier feel to it.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book but am struggling to say much about it. Although the technology Tiptree describes has dated, the characters and their interactions and motivations have not and prove to be a strong attraction. You feel for and with all of them and even the alien couple in the linking narration are warm and engaging.

It’s often said that Tiptree’s literary strength was in her short stories, and this book does nothing to disprove that hypothesis.

Book details

ISBN: 9780747400899
Publisher: Sphere
Year of publication: 1986

Warm Worlds and Otherwise

By James Tiptree Jr.

Rating: 4 stars

This is a collection of short stories by an author that Robert Silverberg in the introduction couldn’t believe was female, claiming that there was “something ineluctably masculine about Tiptreeā€™s writing”. It’s easy to mock with hindsight, but although James Tiptree Jr is the pen name of Alice Sheldon and there was a degree of feminist tones to some stories here, most notably in The Women Men Don’t See, I see little to suggest gender in these stories.

Of the collection, a few didn’t do anything for me at all. The comic story All the Kinds of Yes about an alien who comes to Earth and ends up with a group of hippies was mildly amusing but no more. Amberjack just confused me and On the Last Afternoon was awfully bleak. But in here, we’ve got the aforementioned The Women Men Don’t See, the wonderful Hugo-winning The Girl Who Was Plugged In, about a girl who ends up “driving” a beautiful meat-puppet into the world of the rich and famous. Love is the Plan the Plan is Death is a great piece of writing that gets us inside the heads of an alien and Fault is a nice little story about a man forced to experience time at a different rate to the rest of us.

There were definitely more hits than misses here and I’ll definitely look out for more Tiptree.

Book details

ISBN: 9780345243805
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Year of publication: 1975

Up the Walls of the World

By James Tiptree Jr.

Rating: 4 stars

A small group of military personnel are experimenting with telepathy and accidentally get in contact with an alien race called the Tyrenni. Their world is under threat from a giant being destroying whole solar systems, and they realise that their only hope of survival is to take over their human contacts.

This was a great book. I’ve heard people say that Tiptree’s novels aren’t as good as her[1:] short stories, then I’d love to read some of those, since this book was amazing. Her characters were sketches but detailed ones, all sympathetic, the descriptions of the alien world and civilisation were vivid. Well worth reading.

[1:] Yes, her: James Tiptree Jr was the pen name of Alice B. Sheldon

Book details

ISBN: 9780441854714
Publisher: Ace
Year of publication: 1978

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