Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Adventures on Other Planets

Donald A. Wollheim (editor) Adventures on Other Planets (1955)
The cover alone was difficult to resist, even without the promise of short stories by three of my all-time favourite science-fiction authors, and Robert Moore Williams whose King of the Fourth Planet I recently enjoyed above and beyond expectation; although that said, it's a slim volume so there's probably not much to add beyond that I enjoyed it.

I read Simak's Ogre in a collection back in March, and although I still find it faintly bewildering, it's nevertheless enjoyable and full of typically nutty ideas, and in this context serves to illustrate the sheer poetry of Simak's prose; which isn't to say that it's necessarily sandwiched between clunkers so much as that the collection allows one to appreciate how Simak's writing might almost be deemed a genre in its own right.

Murray Leinster's Assignment on Pasik is a little underwhelming I suppose, but Robert Moore Williams' contribution - presumably the short which was expanded as the aforementioned King of the Fourth Planet - more than compensates as a vaguely philosophical take on van Vogt; and van Vogt's own heavily sculpted The Rull gives sufficient cause to confirm that Damon Knight was talking out of his arse; and Roger Dee's The Obligation is also decent.

Science-fiction as a genre has an unfortunate reputation of tending to peddle the same old crap over and over, particularly work of this vintage, and this collection is as good a refutation of the argument as any. Sure, there are spaceships and aliens and intrepid Earth people setting foot on other planets, but once we're past those basics, there's some truly screwy, unpredictable shit going on in this one.

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