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The Essential Eric Frank Russell

johnriley1uk

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The Essential Eric Frank Russell

4 Jan 2021 3:59PM   Views : 624 Unique : 390

I used to use a camera to make images of record, CD and book covers, but latterly I have found scanning to be much more convenient. It leads me into my thoughts on lockdown, where I have been doing much more reading again, which does mean I am always on the lookout for new books to read. A series is best, and I have been enjoying M C Beaton, having read now all the Hamish Macbeth books and now having just started the Agatha Raisin ones. Entertaining and witty and very well written.
I have always had favourite authors, so today a plug for a perennial favourite, the SF writer Eric Frank Russell, a LIverpudlian with a trans-atlantic style and a terrific sense of humour. EFRs first major breakthrough was his 1939 novel Sinister Barrier, which is fascinating in the way he assumes things that nowadays are commonplace. He doesn't explain them, he just names them and takes them as read. The curious effect of that is that the book does not date the same as we might expect. It is SF, but as always with EFR its genre is mixed, for example it might be an SF/Crime novel. I've scanned the covers from my hardback collection of what I feel is the Essential set of his novels. There are more, but these are the ones that might captivate a modern audience and leave it wanting more.

Sinister Barrier, the story of how we find we are property and how we break free from invisible masters.
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Three to Conquer is a USA-style detective novel with an SF basis and was strongly considered in 1963 as a BBC serial at the point where they instead decided to make Doctor Who. A very powerful story and very believable.
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Next of Kin, SF humour at its best as one human talks his way out of a war, pitting his brains against alien beaurocracy.
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The Great Explosion, another humorous feast of ideas of the state machine vs the individual, to the extreme discomfort of the beaurocrats.
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Wasp, a novel that at one point Neil Gaimon had an option on and actually started writing a script. After the twin towers though it was abandoned as the contents of this book were seen to be out of step with the general public mood. Fair enough, but the novel itself is a fine bit of writing about one man making mischief against a vast alien enemy, using his wits and.......well, read it and see!
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I think it's time for me to re-read my EFR collection and I suspect there's going to be plenty of time to do just that.

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Comments

FredColon Avatar
FredColon 3 3 United Kingdom
5 Jan 2021 11:57AM
Eric Frank Russell has always been one of my favourite authors -- his books can be read again and again with enjoyment [I must have re-read Wasp and Next of Kin a dozen times] - a good mixture of science fiction, action and wry, anti authority humour.

I thoroughly recommend his short story - "A Study in Still Life" for its continued relevance to life today.

Like you, I enjoy MC Beaton and am going through the Macbeth books in order (having read a few in isolation some time back). The TV adaptation of Agatha Raisin disappointed me somewhat - the characters on TV were nothing like those in my imagination.

On the pictorial front - the original covers of EFR's books (those shown, and those from memory of reading library books in my teens) are quite striking in their bold simplicity - almost minimalism. Sadly this is one aspect lost in my Kindle collection.
FredColon Avatar
FredColon 3 3 United Kingdom
5 Jan 2021 11:58AM
PS -- on a vaguely photo/film related front -- EFR's 'With a Strange Device' is a good read too.
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