My Car Quest

September 28, 2020

Book Review: Car Sinister – A Science Fiction Anthology

Book Review by Wallace Wyss –

Title: Car Sinister
Edited by: Robert Silverberg, Martin Harry Greenburg and Joseph D. Olander
ISBN 10: 0380453932 / ISBN 13: 9780380453931
Binding: Paperback
Pages: 255
Originally published: 1979
Price: $30 to $129 (varies as to condition)

Ya gotta admit yer faithful correspondent must be hard up for books to review if he buys a book from eBay that’s been out of print for at least 30 years. But there’s a reason. I’m writing an anthology of fiction short stories centered on cars and need to see what’s out there.

Car Sinister

I found precious little. Car Sinister, as you can almost guess by the dated cover art, dates back to 1979 and is an anthology of reprinted sci-fi stories culled from the previous two decades. One critic pointed out that every story is written by a man but I figure that’s OK because only men would know things like what makes a 4-wheel drift different than a two wheel drift?

You have to admit, reading it from a perspective of 2020, it does give you a preview of cars, roads, traffic, etc. we can expect in the next 30-40 years. The authors include some of the greats of sci-fi: Roger Zelazny, Avram Davidson, Frank Herbert, Harlan Ellison, George R. R. Martin, and many more.

Some of the themes are repeated, such as Roger Zelazny’s two, each of which pits a stoical, solo man against a machine. His first story sounds like Stephen King’s Christine, about a car that’s possessed, hunting down people and other cars. So this story about an autonomous car was written about 40 years before the first such cars are being tested in today’s world.

Now as to what sex cars are, that question is addressed by Gene Wolfe’s “Car Sinister”, where the car is definitely female. A man takes his sports car into a shop for servicing. Come to find out his car gets what you would get if you take a mare for stud service and few months later gives birth to a replacement car (which happens in the horse world–I’m in it).

Some of the stories are about personalities, which I feel is more pertinent to fiction. I say the best stories are not about the car per se but its creator or owner.

In Harry Harrison’s “The Greatest Car in the World,” an automotive engineer from Detroit to Italy visits Italy and finds on his childhood hero, a once famous race car driver, who had become a sick old man. Eventually he makes friends with Signor Bellini who sells him his last creation and the hero drives off with plans to start up production again. This story is one of the best examples where the hero is in love with the car, which sounds Ferrari-ish.

George R.R. Martin’s story’s intro describes him as “one of sf’s brightest young stars”, they were right as he was the future author of “The Game of Thrones”. In his futuristic story, there’s hover type cars but old cars with tires are still allowed his protagonist is delighted to find an old Edsel on the road. Then he smashes into it and destroys it, only to find its a ghost car that’s been roaming this deserted highway for 40 years, having accident after accident.

A similar story by Frank Herbert with Mary Celeste in the title is about time when drivers drive 150 mph on the highway and old timers lose their nerve and have to stop driving. Frank Herbert later had big hit with Dune.

On Goodreads.com they praise the book, saying “The car is man’s most personalized machine: for teenagers it is a rite of passage and a statement of freedom; for adults it is a reflection of success, taste, and hopes; and for an entire culture it is a great and industrious mode of transportation – driving, perhaps, on the road of destruction. And the automobile – thrilling, honking, speeding, never-shattering – haunts us with the dark possibility that when our age of motoring innocence is over, we may no longer be the masters.”

Ironically, the head man at Tesla, Elon Musk, has made predictions that the robots could take over, and yet he’s among the leaders in building robot cars, held back only by archaic regulations.

I am full of admiration for these writers who accurately predicted what was to come, but I didn’t find too many stories about guys who would do anything to get the car of their dreams. So this book I think is slanted more toward sci-fi fans than car fans, I’d say I’ll be aiming at stories that are more about the cars but I also do some predicting of what’s to come, for instance when internal combustion cars are outlawed, which is already happening part of the time on select days in the nice parts of some European cities..

I’m recommending this book for sci-fi fans, not car fans and am open to suggestions of other anthologies of automotive fiction that you out there enjoyed, no matter how old they are. (And I hope they are not all $30!)

Let us know what you think in the Comments.

Wallace Wyss

 
 
THE AUTHOR: Wallace Wyss is completing an anthology of 30 fictional car stories, all with a twist. He can be reached at photojournalistpro2@gmail.com.

 
 
 
 
 
 

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Book Review: Car Sinister - A Science Fiction Anthology
Article Name
Book Review: Car Sinister - A Science Fiction Anthology
Description
I am full of admiration for writers who accurately predicted what was to come, but I didn't find too many stories about guys who would do anything to get the car of their dreams.
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Comments

  1. Jonah Christensen says

    Looks interesting. I’d definitely buy this, something to indulge over during the pandemic.

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