10 Best Adventures of 1975
June 10, 2015
Forty years ago, the following 10 adventures — selected from my Best Seventies Adventure list — were first serialized or published in book form. They’re my favorite adventures published that year.
Note that 1975 is, according to my unique periodization schema, the second year of the cultural “decade” know as the Nineteen-Seventies. The transition away from the previous era (the Nineteen-Sixties) begins to gain steam….
In no particular order…
- J.G. Ballard’s atavistic adventure High-Rise. An ultra-modern apartment block in London populated by well-to-do yuppies who rarely leave the premises gradually becomes a self-sustaining vertical city. At which point social relations between different groups of tenants worsen; they stratify into three castes — depending on which floor you live on. A new social order emerges, one in which “all life within the high-rise revolved around three obsessions — security, food and sex.” Sardonic inversion of the atavistic sub-genre.
- Joanna Russ’s science fiction adventure The Female Man. A postmodernist romp whose protagonist, named Joanna (like the author, one of the most outspoken feminists in science fiction), seeks equality by rejecting women’s dependence on men. She and three other women from parallel worlds (or science fiction sub-genres, if you will — a utopian future, a dystopian future, and an alternative-history present) cross over into each other’s existences. In doing so, each of them is confronted by her own unexamined assumptions about what it means to be a woman. An underground classic.
- Samuel R. Delany’s science fiction adventure Dhalgren. A postmodernist nexus between Joyce’s Ulysses and Panter’s Dal Tokyo, Dhalgren is set in an isolated city in the American Midwest — where some kind of catastrophe has happened. The Kid, an amnesiac, bisexual, possibly schizophrenic drifter, explores this damaged city, and interacts with its citizens: an Orpheus figure wandering through a surrealist, bewildering underworld of sorts. The Kid’s only hope of making sense of his experiences is to become an author… of the book we’re reading, or at least a version of it. Fun fact: The plot’s form is a Moebius strip. William Gibson has referred to Dhalgren as “A riddle that was never meant to be solved.”
- Vera Chapman’s Arthurian fantasy adventure The Green Knight. Considered one of the more interesting expansions of the original Arthur story, the protagonist of The Green Knight is Vivian, teenage grand-niece of Morgan le Fay. (Rather like Eilonwy, from Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain series, Vivian is also an enchantress-in-training.) She is married off to the Green Knight — about whom we’ve heard from the poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Gawain’s nephew, a second-generation member of the Court at Camelot, also gets involved. But is the Green Knight the villainous character we assume him to be? Fun fact: Chapman was one of the first women to matriculate as a full member of Oxford University, where she founded the first Tolkien Society.
- 1975. Len Deighton’s espionage adventure Yesterday’s Spy. Thirty years after WWII, Steve Champion, hero and wily leader of an anti-Nazi intelligence group which operated in occupied France during the war, is up to something. His former second-in-command, the novel’s unnamed narrator, is tasked with the unenviable job of figuring out what it is.
- Jack Higgins’s WWII commando adventure The Eagle Has Landed. An IRA operative and team of disgraced — because they’re too kind-hearted, and anti-Nazi — German commandos are recruited to infiltrate an English village, where Winston Churchill is going to spend a weekend. Their objective is to kidnap him and smuggle him out of the country. Fun fact: Adapted in 1976 as a movie starring Michael Caine, Donald Sutherland, and Robert Duvall.
- Edward Abbey’s anarchistic adventure The Monkey Wrench Gang. Four ecologically minded misfits team up to use sabotage (bulldozers and trains) as way of protesting environmentally damaging activities in the American Southwest. The Monkeywrench Gang despise liberals — particularly the Sierra Club. Fun fact: The book, which is funny and exciting, inspired the formation of the direct-action environmentalist group Earth First!
- Brian Garfield’s espionage adventure Hopscotch. An American intelligence operative — faced with retirement from active duty — decides to pit himself against former friends and foes alike. He writes an exposé, and mails chapters of it to major intelligence agencies around the world — and in so doing, forces his colleagues at the CIA to catch him (if they can). Fun fact: By the author of the (much less enjoyable or interesting) Death Wish atavistic vigilante adventures. Adapted into the comedic 1980 movie of the same title, one of Walter Mathau’s best performances (IMHO).
- Michael Crichton’s crime adventure The Great Train Robbery. In this fictionalized account of the real-life robbery of an English train in 1855, cracksman Edward Pierce and screwsman Robert Agar, his accomplice, meticulously plan their caper. Among other preparations, they must spring a “snakesman” nicknamed Clean Willy from the high-security Newgate Prison — but will Clean Willy turn nose on them, to the crushers? Fun fact: In 1979, Crichton directed the movie adaptation of the book — which featured a very amusing Sean Connery as Pierce and Donald Sutherland as Agar.
- S.E. Hinton’s YA adventure Rumble Fish. Fourteen-year-old Rusty James, who drinks and smokes and instigates rumbles in his hometown of Tulsa, Okla., is nostalgic for the good old days of street gangs… back when his older brother, The Motorcycle Boy, was leader of the pack. (The book is set several years after the events of Hinton’s The Outsiders — in the early ’70s.) Motorcycle Boy, however, doesn’t feel the same way. A dreamy, slightly unhinged book that is less action-packed, but more interesting than The Outsiders. Fun fact: Adapted to film and directed by Francis Ford Coppola in 1983 — with Matt Dillon, Mickey Rourke, and Dennis Hopper.
Let me know if I’ve missed any 1975 adventures that you particularly admire.
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