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Best SF Three by Edmund Crispin

Best SF Three

by Edmund Crispin (Editor)

Other authors: Fredric Brown (Contributor), Kelley Edwards (Contributor), Tom Godwin (Contributor), Zenna Henderson (Contributor), Damon Knight (Contributor)6 more, Murray Leinster (Contributor), Lion Miller (Contributor), H. Beam Piper (Contributor), Michael Shaara (Contributor), Cordwainer Smith (Contributor), Jack Vance (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Best SF (3)

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Now here's a thing. This was part of a series of sf anthologies issued by Faber & Faber in the 1960s, and they treated them as samplers for the genre - to the extent that the anthologies each went through a number of impressions. 'Best sf three' was first published in 1958; my copy is the third impresssion, published in 1962! Can you imagine that happening now?

The stories were interesting. There were some lacklustre ones, especially with the benefit of hindsight. Michael Shaara's 'Grenville's planet' was so-so. Kelley Edwards' 'Counterspy' in particular was all about tracking down a spy in a nuclear power plant. But the technology seems outdated now, and there was no examination of what made the spy a spy in the first place - he was just a bad man in a black hat, and when he was apprehended, the story ended. Murray Leinster's contribution was 'The Wabbler', about a smart missile (a smart underwater mine, actually). This was odd; in the time the story was published, the assumption was that a future technologically advanced device with self-volition would of necessity have a degree of artificial intelligence and a sense of purpose and destiny, even if that destiny was to explode. Now we achieve this with far fewer moving parts and a cruise missile has no more sense of its destiny than my toaster.

I was feeling a bit dubious about this re-read by this point, but then I hit paydirt - 'Food to all flesh' by Zenna Henderson and 'He walked around the horses' by H. Beam Piper. This latter enthused me with its early 19th-century European setting and its very keen grasp of the history and politics of the time (not to mention the big joke at the end).

And then I came to Tom Godwin's 'The Cold Equations'.

This is a classic story, one which I knew well and which every sf fan should know and - well, 'love' isn't quite the right word. Anyone who hasn't read it should go and find a copy NOW and come back later. But I hadn't read it in ten years or more, and in that time I've suffered no little personal loss in my life. So I was not only admiring the way it was written, the economical prose which told the story and sketched out the whole society without any info-dumping, but as the story drew to its close and the stowaway girl was facing death, much to my surprise I found myself close to tears - and this from a fifty-year old pulp sf story! Truly a classic.

Other stories - 'The gift of gab' by Jack Vance, 'Four in one' by Damon Knight and 'The game of rat and dragon' by Cordwainer Smith - stood up equally well and had not aged exceptionally badly. And the anthology ends with Frederic Brown's short-short, 'Answer'. Overall, then, a palpable hit! ( )
2 vote RobertDay | Jul 19, 2009 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Crispin, EdmundEditorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, FredricContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Edwards, KelleyContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Godwin, TomContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Henderson, ZennaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Knight, DamonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Leinster, MurrayContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Miller, LionContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Piper, H. BeamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shaara, MichaelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Smith, CordwainerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Vance, JackContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bacon, C.W.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Curl, PeterCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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