Best 1971 Adventures (7)

By: Joshua Glenn
September 26, 2016

One in a series of 10 posts identifying Josh Glenn’s favorite 1971 adventure novels. Happy 45th anniversary!



M. John Harrison’s science fantasy adventure The Pastel City.

In the distant future, a medieval-style way of life has risen from the ashes of civilization. There is a barbarian Queen of the North; and, ruling over Viriconium, the ever-changing Pastel City, a beautiful Queen of the South. Scavengers scour the ruins for power blades, energy cannons, and airboats. When news comes that the North plans to deploy scavenged alien automata against the South, a brooding poet-warrior, Lord tergeus-Cormis, travels with a mercenary, Birkin Grif, in search of a mad dwarf who is expert in ancient weaponry. The adventurers encounter mechanical birds, brain eaters, and a wizard of sorts; and they discover that a complex, lethal technology from the past lives on. This is an affectionate, but also sardonic reimagining of the fantasy genre — nothing is resolved, things get murkier instead of more clear, heroes are unheroic.

Fun fact: Harrison’s Viriconium series — it includes A Storm of Wings (1980), In Viriconium (1982), and the story collection Viriconium Nights (1985) — has been aptly described as “fantasy without the magic and science fiction without the ‘future’.” PS: John Christopher’s YA Sword of the Spirits trilogy, which could be described the same way, began publication in 1970.


Let me know if I’ve missed any 1971 adventures that you particularly admire.