Wednesday, August 8, 2012

John W Campbell, Jr (ed)'s "The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology": Annotated table of contents & review

Cover of The Astounding Science Fiction Anthology, edited by John W Campbell, Jr.
23 stories, all originally published in Astounding magazine.

Not only does it include 2 stories penned by Kuttner/Moore (neither of them anywhere near authors' best), it includes one of their fan fictions too - by William Tenn. This Tenn story must be among the best fanfic of the genre & a beautiful read on its own too.

And Simak's is probably the best immortality story I've read so far.

List below is generally in order I liked - best first, unread last. But I'd read many of these stories years back & have mostly forgotten; I'll probably reorder the list if I were to read all of them today.

Where I know of an online copy of a story, I include download link too. My rating appears in brackets (ABC; A = worth the time; C = don't bother). Where I have a separate post on a story, link on story title goes there.
  1. [novelette] Murray Leinster's "First Contact" (A); download text as part of a larger package or audio; May 1945: How to go about establishing trust with strangers when the cost of misplaced trust can be unacceptably high?
  2. [novelette] William Tenn's "Child's Play" (A); read online or download audio; March 1947: What if Kuttner & Moore retold "Frankenstein"?
  3. [novelette] Clifford D Simak's "Eternity Lost" (A); July 1949: A lawmaker considers himself above law...
  4. [novelette] James H Schmitz's "The Witches of Karres" (A); download from Baen CD or Internet Archive; December 1949: I've an impression what I'd read several years back was a novel; I'm not sure I've read this novelette version.

    It's a space opera, but features a community of supermen/women ("witches" of title) who have unusual mental abilities.
  5. [novelette] Isaac Asimov's "Nightfall" (A); download text/audio; September 1941: On a world orbiting a sun in a system of 6 suns, all suns never set except once in several thousand years. How would the natives react to darkness they're completely unfamiliar with.

    I personally read its novel version before this shorter version. While the later half of novel is useless bloat, I liked first half of it corresponding to original short story far better than the shorter version itself.
  6. [novelette] Eric Frank Russell's "Late Night Final" (A); December 1948: A variant of "... And Then There Were None" (download), but with a very different ending.
  7. [novelette] L Sprague de Camp's "The Exalted" (A); download; November 1940: I remember I'd loved this when I first read it. A funny piece about the adventures of a nutty professor & his uplifted bear.
  8. [ss] H B Fyfe's "Protected Species" (A); March 1951: Arrogant humans are humbled. 
  9. [ss] Lester del Rey's "Over the Top" (A); download as part of a larger package; November 1949: Men go to war, unless distracted!
  10. [ss] John Pierce's "Invariant" (A); April 1944: Serious consequences of rejuvenation treatment... 
  11. [ss] Murray Leinster's "Historical Note" (A); read online; February 1951: What if personal flying machines become a reality? Story is extremely satirical of communist Soviet Union.
  12. [non-fact] W K Lessing's "Meihemin Ce Klasrum" (as by Dolton Edwards) (A); download; September 1946; humor: A plan to turn written English into a phonetic language.
  13. [novelette] Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "When the Bough Breaks" (as by Lewis Padgett) (B); download as part of a larger package; November 1944: A baby is a superman - the first of the new race "homo superior", causing much anguish & heartburn in his parents.
  14. [novelette] Robert Heinlein's "Blowups Happen" (B); download; September 1940: It'll be safer if nuclear power plants were located in space rather than on earth. I don't recollect how it proposed to get the power generated in space down to earth.
  15. [ss] Jack Williamson's "Hindsight" (B); download; May 1940: Time travel cannot change significant history!
  16. [novelette] A E van Vogt's "Vault of the Beast" (B); August 1940: I don't remember much of it. Something about an alien (invader?) from another dimension trapped in a vault on Mars & some human getting involved in removing the resulting threat to humanity.
  17. [novella] Henry Kuttner & C L Moore's "Clash by Night" (as by Lawrence O'Donnell) (B); March 1943: Description of a war in a society where countries don't keep militaries, but hire the services of independent military companies for both attack & defense! Set on Venus.
  18. [novelette] Eric Frank Russell's "Hobbyist" (B); September 1947: A stranded spaceman on an alien planet hasn't realized he's actually met god!
  19. [novelette] T L Sherred's "E For Effort" (B); May 1947: Using a past-viewer to abolish war! 
  20. [novella] H Beam Piper's "Last Enemy" (B); download; August 1950: An adventure to rescue a damsel in distress, involving travel across the "levels" of "paratime" "sectors" & some space travel. Took me almost a week to finish it.
  21. [ss] Kris Neville's "Cold War" (B); October 1949: US military superiority is a double-edged sword...
  22. [novelette] Theodore Sturgeon's "Thunder and Roses" (B); download; November 1947: Finding hope for humanity in an angry world...
  23. [ss] William T Powers' "Meteor" (C); September 1950: Very confused, & to me pointless & boring, description of a meteor scare involving earth & Mars.

Fact sheet.

First published: 1952.
Related: The stories edited by John Campbell for Astounding/Analog.