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Galactic Empires, Volume Two by Brian W.…

Galactic Empires, Volume Two (1976)

by Brian W. Aldiss (Editor)

Other authors: Poul Anderson (Contributor), James Blish (Contributor), Fredric Brown (Contributor), Algis Budrys (Contributor), Avram Davidson (Contributor)7 more, Roger Dee (Contributor), Gardner F. Fox (Contributor), Harry Harrison (Contributor), John D. Macdonald (Contributor), Mack Reynolds (Contributor), A. E. van Vogt (Contributor), F. L. Wallace (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Galactic Empires (2)

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This two-part anthology was Brian Aldiss's attempt to give an overview of the "galactic empire" story, those sweeping tales of the rise and fall of great interstellar civilizations. He gives a selection of stories from across the history of sf, but unfortunately the conclusion one reaches is that the galactic empire story is a bit rubbish. Many of the stories come across as subpar Star Wars, with men being manly men and women being sexual objects, and the fate of empires being decided because a lot of people have too much testosterone and someone met a convenient "wizard". "The Rebel of Valkyr" by Alfred Coppel (this is the story that contains the woman on the cover of Volume I with the amazing gravity-defying breasts) is the worst offender, most of it being taken up by barbarians posturing at one another. It's got a robot in it, but it's otherwise indistinguishable from a really bad fantasy story. "The Star Plunderer" by Poul Anderson, "Escape to Chaos" by John D. MacDonald, and "Tonight the Stars Revolt!" by Gardner F. Fox run along similarly unenjoyable lines.

Also common (and commonly poor) are stories with twist endings, which typically go one of two ways 1) humans think they're colonizing, but they're really being colonized! or 2) the big evil aliens we will meet in space... are actually humans! There are numerous offenders along these lines: "The Possessed" by Arthur C. Clarke, "Protected Species" by H. B. Fyfe, "All the Way Back" by Michael Shaara, "We're Civilized!" by Mark Clifton and Alex Aposolides, "Concealment" by A. E. van Vogt, "Down the River" by Mack Reynolds, "The Bounty Hunter" by Avram Davidson, "Not Yet the End" by Fredric Brown, and "Big Ancestory" by F. L. Wallace. I don't why sf authors are obsessed with the twist ending, but if they're going to use it so much, it would behoove them to learn to use it well. It's usually heavy-handed and obvious, and the stories nothing more than a vehicle for it. There is one story that uses it to excellent effect: "Final Encounter" by Harry Harrison, where the surprise isn't obvious, yet can still be figured out, and actually makes a thematic point that works with the rest of the story.

And indeed, there are a few gems in these collections, but they are usually stories that subvert the idea of the galactic empire (or have nothing to do with it, making one wonder why Aldiss selected them for the collection): R. A. Lafferty's "Been a Long Time" is an amusing explication of the infinite-monkeys-infinite-typewriters idea. Cordwainer Smith's "The Crime and Glory of Commander Suzdal" is so mad it has to be brilliant. Idris Seabright's "Brightness Falls from the Air" is a melancholy vignette about those stomped beneath the heel of empire. Clifford Simak's "Immigrant" provides some social commentary about climbing the social ladder, delivered in an interesting way. And James Blish's "Beep" is a clever idea that actually has a decent story attached to deliver it, unlike, say "Planting Time" by P. Adams and Charles Nightingale (which is a somewhat interesting idea that someone forgot to attach any story to). Of course, the best tale in the collection is the one I had already read many times going in: Isaac Asimov's original "Foundation". Overall, though, it was a slog to get through these books more often than not. Aldiss's strange choices in selection and organization don't help much, and neither do his dull introductions.
  Stevil2001 | May 9, 2008 |
I purchased this collection because of the long piece by John D. MacDonald. It surprised me. I knew the man was good, but I had no idea he could be as imaginative as this story; in fact, I had to start it over twice to keep track of his plot. As a satisfying story, however, it didn't quite cut it. Much better is the shorter story at the back of the book about the hundreds of species of humans found throughout the galaxy, planted by the Master Race. they tract down where the home world of said master race is and they finally got their answers. ( )
  andyray | Apr 8, 2008 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Aldiss, Brian W.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Anderson, PoulContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Blish, JamesContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Brown, FredricContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Budrys, AlgisContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Davidson, AvramContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dee, RogerContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Fox, Gardner F.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Harrison, HarryContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Macdonald, John D.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Reynolds, MackContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
van Vogt, A. E.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Wallace, F. L.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Jeschke, WolfgangPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nagel, HeinzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stapledon, OlafEpiloguesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thole, KarelCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
v. 2. Escape to chaos / John D. Macdonald --
Concealment / A.E. van Vogt --
To civilize / Algis Budrys --
Beep / James Blish --
Down the river / Mack Reynolds --
The Bounty hunter / Avram Davidson --
Not yet the end / Fredric Brown --
Tonight the stars revolt! / Gardner F. Fox --
Final encounter / Harry Harrison --
Lord of a thousand suns / Poul Anderson --
Big ancestor / F.L. Wallace --
The Interlopers / Roger Dee.
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