The subtitle of this book is ‘A collection of the best science fiction stories’. If we remove the words ‘the best’, then I would agree.
These stories are fairly old, the collection was first published in 1952. Styles change, ideas change, society moves on. Most of this is irretrievably bad with some stories that poke their heads above the gutter like rats before a foray to the bins.
I’ll give you an idea of what we’re dealing with:
‘Not to be opened’ by Roger Flint Young is a ridiculous story about an ego being sent from the future to build weapons to defeat a future dictator. I really don’t know how this was ever published. Much of the narrative concerns manufacturing, logistics and the transport of mechanical parts. Honestly, it’s like the author sat down, put pen to paper and handed it in to the printers. I can’t believe there was an editor involved let alone any editing by the author himself.
‘The Santa Claus Planet’ by Frank M Robinson is about a planet of primitives, a game of capitalist brinkmanship and has a pay-off line that makes no sense. Just awful.
‘The Mindworm’ by Cyril Kornbluth is not a terrible tale but displays an old-fashioned carelessly sexist and racist attitude that would not pass muster today. The story is of a boy affected by radiation who feeds off extremes of emotional stress from others, killing them in the process.
Another story that is not irredeemably dreadful is ‘Process’ by A.E. van Vogt. It tells the story of survival on the fittest on a grand scale It is an allegory of the cold war and environmental destruction.
‘Trespass’ by Paul Anderson and Gordon Dickson is inventive and amusing. It features a time-traveller with an odd but endearing manner of speech trying to fight for his rights to move historical artefacts through time.
The final story, ‘Two Face’ by Frank Belknap Long felt like an insult. I’d be ashamed if I wrote anything that bad.
I suspect that few people will feel the need to hunt out this book after reading this review but, if you are curious, I will happily let you have my copy.