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Beachheads IN SPACE

October 3, 2012

The Book: Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Stories:

“The Blinding Shadows” – Donald Wandrei

“Repetition” – A.E. Van Vogt

“Metamorphosite” – Eric Frank Russell

“To People a New World” – Nelson Bond

“The Years Draw Nigh” – Lester Del Ray (read in a different book, but featured in this one as well)

“Breeds There a Man…?” – Isaac Asimov

“And the Walls Came Tumbling Down..” – John Wyndham

The Evaluation: Worth having!  There are a lot of fascinating ideas in this book, and even a few well written stories. I remembered about half of them, which is a pretty darn good ratio.

The Cover: Cover by Richard Powers. And, like so many of his, it’s excellent. It has a really awesome spaceship on the cover, and an outpost on a hill, and is very lovely science-fictiony in general. Awesome.

Etc.: This is the second and last short story wrap up wherein all the stories of a volume are linked, as I am now moving to a new model of reading books of short stories when that volume was originally published, and blogging it as a volume.

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Administrative Notes

September 30, 2012

Well, I’m back. I went away for a while because, frankly, this project stopped being fun. Instead, I read more contemporary fiction, including Game of Thrones, though not any of the books that follow it yet, and watching lots and lots of Star Trek TNG.

In the interest of making this blog fun for me again, I am instituting the following changes:

  1. Short stories: I will no longer blog each short story separately. It was tedious and driving me crazy (I’m looking at you, Ray Bradbury). Instead, I will blog collections of short stories based on the year the collection was published. I will miss out on some of the chronological, evolution of sci-fi stuff this way, but it will greatly enhance my interest in blogging.
  2. Science: I will still do general science commentary, but will not try to be super scientific about it. I’m a well informed lay person, not an expert, and have no interest in being an expert in anything except science fiction paperbacks before 1970, the field I make my living in, and my other hobbies.
  3. No, that’s about it. Two changes to note. I think that will make things better.

Alrighty then. That’s that. What have you been reading lately?

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NSF: “The Pumpernickel” by Ray Bradbury

February 20, 2012

The Book: “The Pumpernickel” by Ray Bradbury.   Originally published in Collier’s in May, 1951, the story was read in Long after Midnight published by Bantam in 1978.

The Setting: Small town Earth.

The Story: Bread reminds an old man of a happy time in his life.

The Science: Old people get a bit carried away by memory. This is not science fiction.

The Reaction: Another Bradbury vignette. Ho hum.

The Cover: Still not thrilled by it.

Next Up: Sands of Mars by Arthur C. Clarke.

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“Here There be Tygers” by Ray Bradbury

February 15, 2012

The Book: “Here There be Tygers” by Ray Bradbury. The story was first published in the anthology New Tales of Space and Time  in 1951. The edition read is in R is for Rocket, published by Bantam Books in 1978.

The Setting: A planet far far away.

The Story: Prospecting space men find a planet which provides them with all their wants and desires, unless it’s threatened…

The Science: Sentient planets? Or at least reactionary eco-systems? Eh, why not?

The Reaction: Like so much of Bradbury, it’s vivid and fun to read. And, in this case, classic. So many others have ripped this idea off – paradise with a bite.

The Cover:Still not impressed. 

Next Up: “The Pumpernickel” by Ray Bradbury

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“And the Walls Came Tumbling Down…” by John Wyndham

February 10, 2012

The Book: “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down…” by John Wyndham. Originally published in Startling Stories, May 1951. The version read was in Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Setting: Earth, the desert, maybe in the Southwest US.

The Story: Invisible silicate life forms land in the desert and investigate.

The Science: It’s interesting to read stories written from non-human points of view. Particularly when the life forms in question break at individualized frequencies. I’m a little unclear as to which noises are destroying these life forms, but it’s cute.  Cute idea.

The Reaction: Cute idea, but I had a little trouble following the story. I get that the reader was supposed to put together a lot of the pieces on the way, but it was a kind of a difficult puzzle, and I’m not sure I got enough pieces to complete the picture.

The Cover: Still awesome. 

Next Up: “Here There be Tygers” by Ray Bradbury.

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“Breeds There a Man…?” by Isaac Asimov

February 4, 2012

The Book: “Breeds There a Man…?” by Isaac Asimov. Originally published in Astounding, June 1951. The version read was in Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Setting: Contemporary Earth.

The Story: A scientist on the edge of a breakthrough becomes relentlessly suicidal. Because of aliens?

The Science: Well. Huh. So the scientist in question invents a force-field. And it works. The story doesn’t much go into why, and frankly I’m getting a bit bored trying to be scientific in this science section. I’m a pretty well informed lay person, so I can hoot and holler when stuff is just ridiculous, but some folks, like Asimov, make the explicit stuff seem pretty plausible.

The Reaction: A good story. The idea that humans are the experiment of some other force is a pretty old one. Actually, isn’t that the idea behind a lot of major religions…?

The Cover: Still a truly lovely cover. 

Next Up: “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down…” by John Wyndham

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“West Wind” by Murray Leinster.

January 30, 2012

The Book: “West Wind” by Murray Leinster. Originally published by Astounding Science Fiction in March, 1948, the edition read was in 3 in 1: Three Science-Fiction Novels, (by which they mean somewhat longer short stories) edited by Leo Margulies, published by Pyramid Books (F-899) in 1963.


The Setting:  Some alternate Earth, most likely.

The Story: A journalist stays behind when a province is evacuated to allow a neighboring country to take it over. He is, not surprisingly, captured and treated as an enemy agent.

The Science: The story ends with one side of the conflict becoming suddenly, horribly ill from radiation. Turns out, the wind blows west, and one country released radioactive uranium dust into the wind, causing the other forces to die. Radioactive dust causes the enemy army to die, literally, overnight. I’m not sure about the timeline and the ability to focus the dust the story claims, but acute radiation exposure sure can cause death.

The Reaction: I spent the whole story feeling like I had read it before, which is possible. The main character is a little, shall we say, hammy? There’s a thing about coffee in the story which seemed pretty cheap to me. But it’s okay.  Just like the previous story from this volume, I was feeling the whole WWII vibe pretty strongly here.

The Cover: Cover art by EMSH. This cover is pretty cool. We’ve got three different species all trying to fix a space thing, and they’re all in specialized spacesuits. Different from a lot of other cover art I’ve seen and I like it.

Next Up: “Breeds There a Man…?” by Isaac Asimov