Science Fiction Though the Decades

Monday, November 2, 2015

1968: The Future Makers (Haining, Peter)

Distinguished authors: token rather than significant stories (3/5)

You know when collections highlight well-known authors on the cover to get people interested in the content, only to find that the best stories are by none of the popular authors? This collection is a little bit like that as ALL the stories are by popular authors: Leinster, Asimov, Sturgeon, Bradbury, Heinlein, Clarke, Sheckley, and Aldiss. The hitch? All stories are early examples of each author’s work and sometimes even the first published story. In the eyes of the reviewers from yesteryear, all these stories may have been great, but I feel that only half of them have aged well. Where Leinster’s story was reputed to be “one of the funniest stories to ever appear in Science Fiction” (11), I felt it was simple slapstick humor more than anything. It would have been an interesting collection if it were compiled solely of first publications, but it’s a bit scattered; even the lengths are uneven with Aldiss’s novella taking up half of the book.

The Fourth Dimensional Demonstrator (short story, 1935) – Murray Leinster (2/5)
Three things are on Pete Davidson’s mind: his possible inheritance from his scientific experimenting uncle, his sociable fiancée named Daisy Manners, and his fiancée’s pet kangaroo names Arthur. When his late uncle’s servant, Thomas, shows Pete the pride and joy of his uncle’s laboratory, Pete has something else on his mind. When the machine seemingly replicates a burnt match, Pete first puts in coins, then cash, and jewelry. His luck runs out, totally, when Daisy, Arthur, and the feds arrive simultaneously. 14 pages

The Weapon Too Dreadful to Use (short story, 1939) – Isaac Asimov (2/5)
Karl, from invading Earth, is the son of a man high in the councils of the Planetary President while Antil, from suppressed Venus, is the hereditary noble for the planet’s largest tribe. Together as friends, they enter the museum/tomb of Ash-taz-zor, they discover a hidden door that houses a Venusian relic of, according to Antil’s translation, unimaginable power; thus they leave as future enemies. When the time comes for their head-to-head, Karl gives Earth a fair yet vague warning; Antil, however, is ready for a fight. 18 pages

Abreaction (short story, 1939) – Theodore Sturgeon (3/5)
A man on a bulldozer knows one tacitly—his job. Letting his hands and feet guide, his body knows what to do while he doesn’t even recall his own name. in the conflict of his existence, he feels that everything is familiar, as if he remembers forgetting before. Just then, he’s ethereally transported from an artificial sight into that of a desert where a shiny-clothed man informs him of his long-ago curious past. Trying to help, he allows the bulldozing man to remember. 13 pages

The Piper (short story, 1943) – Ray Bradbury (4/5)
Kerec is thought to be thelast Martian alive, according to the Jovian overlords who have conquered and colonized Mars. Returning to Mars in some official capacity, Kerec is eager to rediscover his roots in the physicality of his planet. As he plays his flute, a sympathetic echo reaches him; intrigued, he follows its source to a cave where the devolved Martians eke out a so-called existence. He also sees that they’re drawn to his music as much as the Jovians are, which may be a benefit to himself and his kinfolk. 17 pages

Columbus was a Dope (short story, 1947) – Robert Heinlein (3/5)
Appleby is the chief engineer for Earth’s first interstellar voyage named Pegasus. While chatting with a steel merchant and a precision instrument supplier, Appleby remains firm in his belief that the project is worthy and noble even though it’ll be sixty years long. Perhaps it’s the copious alcohol clouding the steel merchant’s judgment, but the argument steers toward Columbus sailing to the New World and all it applies to: part progress, willpower, and adventure; and part stupidity mixed with the spirit of mankind. 5 pages

Castaway (short story, 1947) – Arthur C. Clarke (4/5)
Cast from the sun—its fiery home—a single denizen is placed in the cold cosmic void away from the tight atoms and warm pressure of the sun. Luckily, he lands in the atmosphere of the watery planet not too distant from the sun, where he lies atop the unfamiliar density of water awaiting some form of familiar life. Just over the water making way across the ocean, a military plane spots on its radar a curious huge shape in the water. They near to investigate but watch the web-like mass slowly dissolve. 8 pages

The Hour of Battle (short story, 1953) – Robert Sheckley (4/5)
Upon mankind’s first meeting with the telepathic aliens on their home planet, Richard Everest was there in person. His first thoughts were of alarm but quickly polarized into friendliness; his shipmate recognized the trouble and flew immediately back to Earth. That was years ago and now humankind has a ring of defense near Mars’ orbit awaiting with telepathic detectors—infallible—,guns pointed outward—deadly—,and each manned by three humans—bored, curious, and still bored. Their “what if” scenarios are all too interesting. 7 pages

Equator (novella, 1958) – Brian Aldiss (3/5)

After generations of crossing space from Alpha Centauri, the Rosks have approached Earth practically begging for a place to settle; a base on the moon and part of Sumatra are chosen for them to inhabit. Ap II Dowl is the dictator of the newly founded colony who no one trusts—neither human nor Rosk. Murray is a man recruited to sneak to the Rosk’s moon base, only his small band of men is attacked by the aliens. The repercussions shake Murray as he finds himself in a case of double-sided espionage on Sumatra. 82 pages

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