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Astounding Tales of Space and Time by John…

Astounding Tales of Space and Time

by John W. Campbell

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I love the title of this collection of short stories. I only wish the stories were so astounding. There are seven stories in this collection as follows:

• Hobbyist • (1947) • novelette by Eric Frank Russell
• Hindsight • (1940) • shortstory by Jack Williamson
• Thunder and Roses • (1947) • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
• E for Effort • (1947) • novella by T. L. Sherred
• Late Night Final • (1948) • novelette by Eric Frank Russell
• Protected Species • (1951) • shortstory by H. B. Fyfe
• Historical Note • (1951) • shortstory by Murray Leinster

Each of these stories was originally published in Astounding Science Fiction magazine from 1940 to 1951. I was hoping I could say there really aren't any complete clunkers in this collection, which perhaps IS astounding, but the final short story by Murray Leinster struck me as a real dud. The only really good pieces are "Thunder and Roses" by Theodore Sturgeon and T. L. Sherred's "E for Effort", and Eric Frank Russell's "Late Night Final" which fill the middle of the book. I enjoyed each of the stories for what they were and this was a pleasant diversion into "Golden Age" science fiction pulp stories.

Of course these are dated stories, but I would probably have eaten this stuff up in my teen tears. Even a weaker story, such as the over 70 year old "Hindsight," by Jack Williamson was entertaining on a basic level. It is a rather silly solar system battle story, with asteroid pirates vs. Earth and full of nonsensical technobabble such as "achronic transmission beams" and "nonelectro-magnetic waves of the subelectronic order" which must have sounded foolish even in 1940, but still, there is a nugget of a good story buried within where a man must determine where his loyalties lie, and where fate nonetheless leads him. Among the other stories, "Hobbyist" by Eric Frank Russell was a somewhat bland spin (while trying very hard not to be with a sort of smart-alecky protagonist) on a lost space explorer encountering something akin to God. Russell scored two stories in this collection and the second story, "Late Night Final" I thought was a fair bit better. It is an anti-war story first published in December 1948. You can practically smell the spit and polish leather of the jackboots in the opening scene of a planetary invasion. I like the way it plays out.

Of the better stories, I found the premise of Sturgeon's "Thunder and Roses" pretty intriguing. The story opens in an American military base sometime after the country has been nearly vaporized by an Atomic strike. Our viewpoint character, Pete Mawser, wonders if he is the last sane man living. He tells us that in this war America did not launch a return atomic missile barrage. What would be the sense of completely wiping humans from the earth? An interesting, almost heretical viewpoint for 1947 cold war America! A pop singer celebrity visits the base and her quest is to make certain that no one does launch whatever missiles may remain, which would be sufficient to completely sterilize the planet. Pete comes around to her way of thinking by the end of the story. "Protected Species" was also pretty good, one of those old fashioned twist stories about humans encountering what may or may not be a sentient species when space colonization of other solar systems was just beginning. I liked it.

The longest story in this collection by far, taking up more than a quarter of the book, and also my clear favorite, was "E for Effort" by T. L. Sherred. The story developed in ways I didn't expect at all and seems far ahead of its time (1947) in its sensibilities. A Mexican-American engineer has developed an advanced radio type device that can actually see through time and be tuned and moved to view images (but not sound). In doing so the engineer and his partner repeatedly see that real history varies from what people are allowed to believe. The men embark on a plan to use it to make war obsolete. This story is really a true classic of golden age science fiction in my opinion. 3+ stars ( )
  RBeffa | Jul 4, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Campbell, John W.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lehr, PaulCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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