Robert Silverberg’s Deep Space anthology aims to distance science fiction from its terrestrial roots, where stories on Earth tend to feel dated due to the progress scientific advancement. Composed of eight stories set in deep space, these stories aim to probe the “inexhaustible treasure trove of virtually unbound possibility” (8) which lay in the “uncharted and all-encompassing realm of infinity known as deep space” (8).
I had read this anthology five years ago and kept it on my shelves because I gave it a 4-of-5 rating, yet I couldn’t recall any of the stories in the collection. To refresh my memory and rediscover the wonders of stories set in deep space, I read some of the stories like the first time yet others beckoned a distant memory like a forgotten flavor or familiar tune. There aren’t any out-right duds in this collection, where Silverberg’s own story is among the weakest and Chad Oliver with the best.
Chad Oliver: Blood’s a Rover (1952 - novella) – 4/5 – With a great machine guiding the fate of mankind and his galaxy, Conan Lang is an Agent who abides by its directives. He is sent to a planet named Sirius Ten to lift the underdeveloped humanoids there by planting fertile seeds of fruits and corrupted seeds of the resulting agricultural society. Only a pawn in the greater game, his wizened age brings about questions which only the machine can answer. 60 pages
Jack Vance: Noise (1952 - shortstory) – 4/5 – Howard Evens has been rescued from solitude on a planet with his lifeboat as shelter. His existence on the planet is characterized by the passage of untimed days, the revolutions of a number of suns with varying colors, and the wispy figures which haunt his vision. Alone, besides his visions of specters and villages, rescue was once his hope, not his fate. 17 pages
Harlan Ellison: Life Hutch (1956 - shortstory) – 4/5 – His ship disabled and knocked out early in the fleet’s battle with an alien space flotilla, Terrence seeks shelter in an asteroid’s “life hutch” where he’ll await rescue, but the robotic attendant strikes him down as he enters. The smallest movement beckons the brutal force of the robot even after three days. His broken ribs make him suffer, awaiting death on the floor listening to the bussing of the robot’s circuitry. 15 pages
Damon Knight: Ticket to Anywhere (1952 - novelette) – 3/5 – Falk is a stowaway on a frigid freighter bound for the surface of Mars. Convinced that the world was going to pits and everyone with an “analogue program” was going to become a maniac, Falk looks to the alien relic on Mars—an interstellar transportation system. The hollow cuboid of topaz diamond has been testes but deemed unreliable, yet it’s still Falk’s desire to travel the stars alone. 32 pages
Robert Silverberg: The Sixth Palace (1965 - shortstory) – 3/5 – Bolzano stole a computer and gave it to Lipescu for the sole reason of loading as much information onto the machine as possible. With this hoard of answers, Lipescu steadies himself to approach the robotic guardian of a fabulous treasure which many have died in front of. After answering eighteen questions flawlessly, he is killed, so Balzano’s turn is next, where he answers with Zen-like detachment. The gate opens, the treasure is his… 15 pages
Gordon R. Dickson: Lulungomeena (1954 - novelette) – 4/5 – The conflictual Kid accuses his elder of dishonesty about his history of gambling and, more painstakingly, about his home of Lulungameena. To intermediate, a Dorsai man places himself between the two but concedes the mediator position to a visitor to the asteroid where they are on their ten year stay—a naturally honest member of the Hixabrod species. This conflict may tear them apart or resolve it all together. 24 pages
Terry Carr: The Dance of the Changer and the Three (1968 - shortstory) – 3/5 – The distant planet of Loarra is filled with exotic metals which Earth-based company Unicentral would really like to take advantage of. Loarra is also home to an energy-based lifeform whose pulses of light and color can be filtered for a sort of translation. The mediator/translator for the mining expedition recants a famous Loarra tale of sacrifice and avenging, yet also tells how the company lost forty-two of its men. 21 pages
A.E. van Vogt: Far Centaurus (1944 - shortstory) – 4/5 – In 2180, the first interstellar ship leaves Earth for Alpha Centauri with four men aboard with each using “Eternity”, which keeps them in stasis for scores of years at a time. But one man has perished within fifty years of the 500-year journey. The group psychology shifts even though each man awakes by himself for a period of less than a day. On arrival, radio signals are detected and an escort is sent. Their hosts are generous yet unwilling. 28 pages