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C.M. Kornbluth: The Life and Works of a Science Fiction Visionary Paperback – December 4, 2009
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The Amazon Book Review
Author interviews, book reviews, editors picks, and more. Read it now
"a highly recommendable book that is an excellent read"--Operaphile; "This book is an important contribution to our understanding of mid-twentieth-century sf...Rich has done an admirable job researching the man's life and times"--Science Fiction Studies; "outstanding...thoughtfully written, well-researched and fully annotated...indispensable"--Scientifiction; "a more thorough examination of Kornbluth is probably not possible"--Critical Mass.
About the Author
Mark Rich is the author of two short story collections, Across the Sky and Edge of Our Lives, and several books on toys and toy manufacturing, along with numerous articles on science fiction literature. He lives in Cashton, Wisconsin.
Top customer reviews
So it was with great anticipation I received this biography. The excitement lessened as I read it, though. To say Rich paints an unflatering picture of Pohl is to put it more than mildly. There seems to be a concerted effort at character assasination going on in the book.
Pohl has made no secret of his problems during the time he ran a writer's agency, how he went heavily into debt (not least from prioviding advances to writers who needed the money to keep working)and the years he spent paying the agency's debts off.
Mark Rich seems to have made a concerted effort to smear Pohl, intimating that Kornbkluth did all the heavy lifting in their collaborations and was consistently short-changed by Pohl in terms of credit and recompense. Yet at the same time he reports that Pohl consistently advanced monies to his friend Cyril, part of the pattern that created the financial problems in the first place. He also states flatly that Pohl shanghaied a Kornbluth memorial project, edging the writer's widow out and installing himself as editor, and took a nice fee from what was intended as a charity publication to benefit Kornbluth's children and wife - only one of a dozen similar charges of money-grubbing and backstabbing.
Strange that Pohl himself is nowhere in the volume answering these, exceeding strange in that he is both alive and still writing. It's also notable that while Pohl is condemned without a turn on the witness stand, Kornbluth is absolved of guilt for many documented breeches of trust and etiquette -
This is exhaustively researched and obviously a labour of love, the latter so much so that it's subject is near to canonized, which casts doubt on the work as a whole. As well, the book needed editing - first references to subjects are often scantily formed, only to be properly fleshed out later in the book, repetitions are rampant, and Rich has an awkward an jarring habit of using "may have", 'perhaps" and other wispy phrases when describing events; either you know that it happened, or you don't. They may have all gone to heaven in a little row boat, but unless you can document it, leave it out.
In sum - Kornbluth was an exceptional talent and an acerbic man who at tiumes drank heavily, married to an alcoholic, regarded as one of the upper echelon writer's in his field yet perpetually strugglin to put food on the table and pay rent. He also died tragiclaly young, with every indication that work as good or better than he had already produced was coming. The work we have guarantees his status and it's a damn shame we don't have more of it.
This book is a well-deserved one, but the author's insistence on grinding his axe and its lack of polish diminish it substantially.
The book is well referenced and many of the notes are just as interesting as the text itself. The cast of characters includes many of the big players of the Golden Age of science fiction. There are even fascinating glimpses of the early careers of writers such as [author:Robert Silverberg] and [author:Harlan Ellison]. But the focus of the book is on the life and career of Cyril Kornbluth. The analysis of his fiction is detailed and insightful, giving a complete picture of the development of a remarkable writer.
Much of the information comes from interviews with the people involved, or correspondence between the people involved. At times, it felt a little intrusive reading some of what must have been private mail. It is nevertheless fascinating and revealing.
The book does not paint a pretty picture of Frederik Pohl, which came as a surprise to me, considering their collaboration history as well as what Pohl had to say about Kornbluth in his memoir. In a similar vain, I was surprised with the portait painted of H. L. Gold. Despite complaints by authors who worked with Gold (including Isaac Asimov), he was a brilliant editor, if not the kindest of personalities.
This is clearly an important book for the history of science fiction and an outstanding biography of one of the Golden Age of science fiction's brightest lights. I highly recommend it to those inside the genre, and to those outside the genre who wonder what it is like to be an insider.
Pohl has responded to some of the most outrageous distortions of his career on his "Way the Future Was" blog [...].
This book is amateurish in every way, badly written, misinformed about facts, and mean spirited toward Fred Pohl.
As any sort of journalism, this book is a joke. The author never interviewed Pohl and it's difficult to tell where he got some of his ideas. Pohl has lived a long and fruitful life in which he admits he was often far from angelic in behavior, but he was also far from the person Rich paints here.
As much as I like Kornbluth's work, Rich's treatment of him is so idolizing it's hard to take.
The writing itself is amateurish. It's cloddish style stymies reading at every turn. I'm not sure how Rich got a piece of crap like this published, but Damon Knight's "The Futurians" (not without distortions of its own) and Pohl's "The Way the Future Was," a wonderfully nostalgic account of Pohl with a better portrait of Kornbluth, are both much better reads.
But skip this. If I hadn't bought it in a Kindle version, I would have thrown it against the wall after reading a few pages.