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The Dark Side of the Earth by Alfred Bester
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The Dark Side of the Earth (edition 1964)

by Alfred Bester

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264565,956 (3.59)7
Member:selfnoise
Title:The Dark Side of the Earth
Authors:Alfred Bester
Info:Signet Books
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:sf, short stories, read 2005

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The Dark Side of the Earth by Alfred Bester

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Showing 5 of 5
In retrospective, I recall this collection as curious and original. Maybe it is not at the superb level of his longer works (which are between my favorite books), but it gave me a bit more of Bester and his kinky ideas. ( )
  ivan.frade | Sep 4, 2015 |
Some of the stories in this collection of short stories might appear old-fashioned or missing real technological trends. The quality of writing, though, shines through undimmed. ( )
  TimCTaylor | Feb 28, 2012 |
I'm not sure exactly when these stories were published (the copyright year is 1964 so sometime before that I suppose) but they hold up a whole lot better than most 50s and 60s SF. They all display Bester's madcap inventiveness and odd sense of humour. As one of the other reviewers has noted, they are more style than substance, but that doesn't detract from their enjoyment at all - my little plot summaries do little justice to their inventiveness.

1) Time is the Traitor: 4/5
John Strapp is paid millions to take tough decisions. However he is a troubled man with a dark secret and his associates decide to hire someone to become his friend, hoping they can discover what that secret is.

2) The Men Who Murdered Mohammed: 3/5
A provocatively titled story which is a whirligig of a tale about a brilliant scientist who invents a time machine which he intends to use to take revenge upon his cheating wife. Funny too.

3) Out of This World: 4/5
New York, 1954 – a young executive hopes to pursue a liaison with a woman who he talks to when she calls the wrong number. But when they try to meet up, they discover that there’s something strange going on.

4) The Pi Man: 3/5
Another frantic, bizarre story about a man who is compelled to compensate for the randomness in the world around him in order to create patterns. I really don’t think I can do justice to this story by trying to describe itis

5) The Flowered Thundermug: 4/5
500 years after nuclear holocaust devastated the Earth in the 1950s, civilization has been rebuilt on the culture and social pattern seen in surviving Hollywood movies. An expert in antique art objects is called in by a group of super-rich collectors – someone is stealing valuable antiques (Automatic grill-waffler, Double-bell black-faced alarm clock, Hemp outdoor ‘Welcome’ mat, 18x30, etc.) and they need his help in figuring out where he will strike next. Except the identity of the thief turns out to be more surprising than anybody expects. Another utterly madcap, hilarious story.

6) Will You Wait: 4/5
Selling ones soul to the devil is just not as straightforward a process as it used to be, what with the involvement of agents, contract lawyers and the dark one constantly being in meetings. Very droll.

7) They Don’t Make Life Like They Used To: 4/5
5 years since human life was wiped out, the last woman on Earth lives in New York, roving around the city looking for items to decorate her apartment that will match her decor. One day she runs into the last surviving man on Earth, who is making his way across the country searching for a TV repairman. Meanwhile something very strange is happening beneath the ruins of the city. A tour de force of whimsy, satire and poignancy. ( )
  iftyzaidi | Dec 23, 2010 |
Bester was a great stylist, a much better prose writer than most of his contemporaries in the mid-20th-century American sf magazine scene.

This is evident in his classic novels, and also to an extent in the stories in this collection. But though some of these stories are long on style, they're also short on story.

'Time is the Traitor' is a great piece of writing let down by its story; perhaps it would have been better as a 'slice of life' with no attempt at a plot. On balance, I liked it. After all, style over substance is better than neither style nor substance.

'The Pi Man' is 90% style and 10% incomprehensible goings on. 'The Flowered Thundermug' was an OK idea extended well beyond its ability to amuse. Some other stories are 'ideas' with plots and characters. The slight 'Out of this World' feels so conventional it may have been written for a slick magazine, or could even have started as a treatment for a Twilight Zone episode. Annoyingly, this edition (Pan, 1969) doesn't tell where the stories were first published, and the Internet SF database doesn't know about any appearances before this book.

The highlight of the collection is the final story, 'They Don't Make Life Like They Used To', a post-apocalypse comedy about the last girl on Earth meeting the last man on Earth after five years of solitude; by this time they're both a little weird. She spends her time shopping and decorating her apartment, ignoring the obvious warning signs that bad things are going on in the world -- in other words carrying on the sort of life that led to the apocalypse in the first place. I especially loved his account of how he's been spending the last five years. Did Elvis ever read this? ( )
1 vote PhileasHannay | Jun 28, 2009 |
The second (chronologically) collection of Bester's short stories, after Starburst. Bester has a way with pulp SF stories... like lesser authors he uses a strong, sometimes overpowering concept, and hammers it into the reader. But Bester's clockwork stories flash with wit, style and glimpses of literary brilliance. A fun, brief collection for a slow weekend. ( )
  selfnoise | Nov 21, 2005 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Alfred Besterprimary authorall editionscalculated
D'Achille, GinoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Phillipps, W. F.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To my Father who bought me the model yacht and my Mother who took me to the boat pond
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