Saturday, January 12, 2013


I finished reading SPACE ODYSSEYS yesterday. It's an anthology of science fiction short stories edited by British sf author Brian W. Aldiss. The paperback edition  which I read (pictured above) was published in April 1978. The sub-heading tells it all: A New Look at Yesterday's Futures. Aldiss selected fifteen classic stories, almost all of which were originally published during the Golden Age of magazine science fiction, that is, the 1940s and 1950s with one entry from the '30s and a couple from the '60s. All the heavy hitters are represented here: Poul Anderson, Isaac Asimov, Alfred Bester, Leigh Brackett, Arthur C. Clark, Walter M. Miller Jr., E.E. Smith and James Tiptree Jr., to name a few. Like almost every anthology ever published, the stories here are a mixed bag. Some are good, some aren't. Here's my scorecard.
The best: THE LAKE OF THE GONE FOREVER by Leigh Brackett, TIME IS THE TRAITOR by Alfred Bester and STRANGE EXODUS by Robert Abernathy.
The good: THE SENTINEL by Arthur C. Clarke (basis for 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY and a story I've read before), REASON by Isaac Asimov, THE IMPOSSIBLE PLANET by Philip K. Dick, and THE UNFINISHED by Frank Belknap Long.
The okay: TO EACH HIS STAR by Bryce Walton.
The incomplete: GALACTIC PATROL by E.E.Smith (this "story" is comprised of excerpts from two longer Lensman novels by Smith and shouldn't be judged against shorter, complete works).
The tie-goes-to-the-runner: THE EMPRESS OF MARS by Ross Rocklynne and STAR SHIP by Poul Anderson are both interplanetary swords-and-blasters adventures that are good but very, very similar in style and execution.
The bad: AND I AWOKE AND FOUND ME HERE ON THE COLD HILL'S SIDE by James Tiptree Jr., I'M GOING TO GET YOU by F.M. Busby, THE BIG HUNGER by Walter M. Miller, Jr., and NIGHT WATCH by James Inglis. All of these stories are experimental in nature and don't really feature a protagonist or any real linear narrative in which something happens. They're the kind of stories I don't care for, in any genre.
Still I liked more stories (eleven) than I disliked (four) in this collection and that's a pretty good batting average.

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