Friday, February 1, 2008

"The Best of Henry Kuttner" aka "The Last Mimzy Stories" (collection): Annotated table of contents & review

Cover of the short story collection titled The Best of Henry KuttnerRay Bradbury promises us in his guest introduction that his guru's stories don't preach political opinions of any kinds; enjoy unadulterated & pure sci-fi. Well, actually the collection has stories with political elements, but generally the collection is apolitical.

Table of contents below (17 stories) is not in order they appear in the collection. They are order of my liking (best first). My rating is in brackets (ABC: A = worth your time; C = don't bother).

Table of contents (best first).

  1. "The Twonky" (as by Lewis Padgett) (A); Astounding, September 1942; science fiction, humor: An audio player that can do your dishes, read & change your mind, stop you from doing naughty things, ...!
  2. "Mimsy Were the Borogoves" (as by Lewis Padgett) (A); Astounding, February 1943; science fiction: Cognitive processes impossible to human adults can be taught to very young children.
  3. "Or Else" (A); Amazing Stories, August/September 1953; non-genre, humor: An ageless story about men giving unsolicited advise to others without understanding the other party's circumstances.
  4. "The Proud Robot" (A); Astounding, October 1943; with C L Moore; science fiction, humor: Hilarious story about a robot in love with itself. Touches on some contemporary themes - video use in a way that annoys content owners, DRM (yes - in a 1943 story!), frivolous patents - but in a manner technologically irrelevant to current times (except last issue - patents).
  5. "Exit the Professor" (A); With C L Moore, sometimes as by Lewis Padgett; Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1947; fantasy, humor: Radiation exposure has given a family the powers of gods themselves.
  6. "Absalom" (A); Startling Stories, Fall 1946; non-genre: Theme is the similar to "Mimsy Were the Borogoves": generation gap - kids can & will do things their parents cannot, often bringing grief to parents. But this is a rather dark story - father cannot understand his son's ambitions, son won't be held back by his father. Each is prepared to hurt the other.
  7. "Cold War" (with C L Moore) (A); Thrilling Wonder Stories, October 1949; fantasy, humor: It doesn't pay to blackmail supermen to do your bidding!
  8. "Nothing But Gingerbread Left" (A); Astounding, January 1943; science fiction, humor: A musical super weapon - for use by US against Germany in World War II. Need to read it with suspended credulity, but good fun.
  9. "Housing Problem" (A); Charm, October 1944; fantasy: What if your tenants paid rent in "luck" rather than in cash?
  10. "What You Need" (as by Lewis Padgett) (A); Astounding, October 1945; science fiction: Inventor of a future-viewer is silently shaping the world's future!
  11. "The Misguided Halo" (B); Unknown, August 1939; fantasy, humor: An angel has mistakenly granted sainthood on an ordinary man. Now the man must sin to get rid of the unwanted sainthood!
  12. "The Voice of the Lobster" (B); Thrilling Wonder Stories, February 1950: A space opera. A conman's adventures on different worlds & in a spaceship.
  13. "The Iron Standard" (as by Lewis Padgett) (B); Astounding, December 1943; non-genre: Jolting a static civilization out of its slumber. I think someone will dispute my calling it "non-genre"; see opening para of its article.
  14. "The Big Night" (as by Hudson Hastings) (B); Thrilling Wonder Stories, June 1947: A space opera with a high philosophy content - technology change can be very painful for some who refuse to let go of the old.
  15. "Endowment Policy" (B); Astounding, August 1943; science fiction: Security forces stop a man from tinkering with history by time-traveling to past, & changing a crucial event, that would have made him a despot! Much of the story is building anticipation. I might have liked it more if it was substantially shorter.
  16. "Two-Handed Engine" (B); F&SF, August 1955; science fiction: The idea of sin has survival value! Rather dark future dystopia story.
  17. "A Gnome There Was" (C); Unknown, October 1941; fantasy: A children's story, if there is such a genre. Adventures of a man who fell into under-earth world of gnomes, was made a gnome & made to live among them, & his daring escape with not so pleasant consequences. Has elements of humor & horror; all parents may not be comfortable handing this story out to their kids.


  1. Stories published as Lewis Padgett are jointly written by both Henry Kuttner & his wife C L Moore.
  2. This book has also been published under the alternative title "The Last Mimzy Stories".

See also.

  1. "The Best of C L Moore": Features "Vintage Season", one of the Kuttner/Moore joint stories, plus many solo stories of Moore before her marriage to Kuttner.