A review of C. M. Kornbluth by Mark Rich

I posted this review on Goodreads, LibraryThing and Amazon as always, but I thought it was an important enough book to post it here to:

A wonderful romp through Golden Age fandom!

What a terrific book! I’ve long been an admirer of Cyril Kornbluth’s fiction, having read His Share of Glory: The Complete Short Science Fiction of C.M. Kornbluth in the past. And I’ve also learned bits and pieces of Kornbluth’s life through both Isaac Asimov and Frederik Pohl’s autobiographies. But this book gets into the details and does so in a remarkably impressive way. The book is as much about the development of science fiction from its Golden Age through the late 1950s, and a fascinating development it is.

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.