Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Story Time

Science Fiction Omnibus: edited by Groff Conklin, containing the following stories: "A Subway Named Mobius" by A.J. Deutsch; "The Colour Out of Space" by H.P. Lovecraft; "The Star Dummy" by Anthony Boucher; "Homo Sol" by Isaac Asimov; "Kaleidoscope" by Ray Bradbury; "Plague" by Murray Leinster; "Test Piece" by Eric Frank Russell; "Spectator Sport" by John D. MacDonald; "The Weapon" by Fredric Brown; "History Lesson" by Arthur C. Clarke; and "Instinct" by Lester Del Rey (Collected 1956): Enjoyable, idiosyncratic anthology of mostly 1940's and 1950's science fiction from the once ubiquitous and always good Groff Conklin.

The two most-anthologized stories here are the Lovecraft and Bradbury offerings. John D. MacDonald, best known for his Travis Magee mystery novels, was also a prolific science-fiction writer in the 1950's, and his short-short story anticipates virtual reality in a startling and prescient way. Somewhat bizarrely, the Boucher story anticipates Alf! The rest of the stories are solid, with the Arthur Clarke offering probably having the funniest ending, as Venusians make some extremely wrong conclusions about the now-extinct Earth society based on one surviving film strip. Recommended.

 

Selected Stories of Philip K. Dick: edited and with an introduction by Jonathan Lethem; containing the following stories: "Beyond Lies the Wub"; "Roog"; "Paycheck"; "Second Variety"; "Impostor"; "The King of the Elves"; "Adjustment Team"; "Foster, You're Dead!"; "Upon the Dull Earth"; "Autofac"; "The Minority Report"; "The Days of Perky Pat"; "Precious Artifact"; "A Game of Unchance"; "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale"; "Faith of Our Fathers"; "The Electric Ant"; "A Little Something for Us Tempunauts"; "The Exit Door Leads In"; "Rautavaara's Case"; "I Hope I Shall Arrive Soon" (aka "Frozen Journey") (Collected 2002):

Any Dick short-story collection will be pretty good, as he wrote very few stinkers during his prolific career. Lethem leans a bit too much towards the science-fictional here, including one truly minor story ("The Exit Door Leads In", an unusually defeatist story, even for Dick) and excluding two of Dick's best horror stories, the stunning "The Father Thing", which I'd nominate as at least one of the 20 scariest stories ever written in English, and the creepily droll "The Cookie Lady", a Dickian exercise in dark Bradburyian whimsy.

I'd also have included Dick's hilarious 1950's story in which Scientology has become the world's leading religion. If you keep score of these things, pretty much every Dick short story ever adapted into a movie is represented here ("Paycheck"; "Second Variety" (as Screamers and its sequels) ; "Impostor"; "Adjustment Team" (as The Adjustment Bureau); "The Minority Report" and "We Can Remember It for You Wholesale" (twice as Total Recall)). Highly recommended, though the collection may whet your appetite for a more comprehensive survey of Dick's writing. Thankfully, he's pretty much entirely in print.

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