Saturday, May 24, 2008

Aaron's Book of the Week :: VALIS by Philip K. Dick

VALISThe Book of the Week is VALIS by Philip K. Dick. This is in tribute to the cover artist, John Berkey, who passed away recently at the age of 75.

Published in 1981, VALIS is a paperback original by Philip K. Dick, one of the few science fiction authors whose talents have been widely (albeit posthumously) acknowledged by academe and the mainstream review press. You will see many more Philip K. Dick books in future BOTW's. Printed only a year before his death, VALIS is representative of Dick's late work, which combines science fiction with a surreal and mystical examination of religion and metaphysics. The protagonist of VALIS, Horselover Fat, undergoes a series of bizarre visions and occurrences that Dick claimed to have actually experienced, prompting many readers to speculate to what degree Dick's later works were pharmaceutically enhanced.

John Berkey was among the leading science fiction illustrators for decades, painting countless pieces of cover art and developing artwork on films such as Star Wars and King Kong. Outside of SF, he is perhaps best known as the artist behind the "Old Elvis" postage stamp. The cover of VALIS is my personal favorite of the many John Berkey covers in my collection, but he was better known for his knack for painting large spaceships. Next week's BOTW will be an example of Berkey's spaceships, the cover art for an underappreciated first contact story.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Aaron's Book of the Week :: Tales of the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke

Tales of the White HartCompleting our tribute to the late Arthur C. Clarke, the Book of the Week is Tales of the White Hart by Arthur C. Clarke. This is a paperback original, published in 1957, cover art by Richard Powers.

Tales of the White Hart reflects Sir Arthur's lighter side, a collection of tall tales related by the patrons of the White Hart tavern. It is one of the most successful examples of the "space bar" subgenre, bizarre science fiction or fantasy stories swapped by the regulars of a particular pub, almost always to comic effect. (As Tales of the White Hart demonstrates, this subgenre long predates the space bar scene in the original Star Wars film.) My personal favorite space bar collections will appear in future BOTW's, but first we will pay tribute to an outstanding science fiction artist who passed away last week.