Archive for the Adventures in Science Fiction Series Category

Review: Journey to Infinity

Posted in 1951, 4:Stellar!, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Review with tags , on February 13, 2009 by Aaron

Martin Greenberg, editor
1951

The tag-line on the cover reads “Arranged as a Story of the Imaginative History of Mankind”  I like the concept.  The editor, Martin Greenberg came up with a great idea.  I don’t know if this had been done in literature before (probably), but certainly I hadn’t encountered it prior to my Gnome Press experience.  What he has done in this anthology is collect disparate stories from different authors and arranged them in a kind of timeline to illustrate that ‘imaginative history of mankind’ that is mentioned on the cover.  Brilliant.  He had done this previously apparently with the collections Men Against the Stars and Travellers of Space and also subsequently in The Robot and the Man, which collectively are known as the ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’.  To highlight this, in the foreword Greenberg makes a point of repeating the opening paragraph of the foreword in the first book of the series.

“This book was planned from the very beginning to be more than just a collection of interesting adventure stories.  It was organized around a central idea, one theme which moves logically from story to story.  By building upon this unifying theme, we who prepared this book sincerely believe, a new idea in science fiction anthologies has been developed – a science fiction anthology which, taken in its entirety, tells a complete story.”

As I mentioned, I like this idea a lot.  If you have been reading this blog, you know I have read Robot & Man.  The arrangement worked well in that book – tracing the development of robots from their conception to their ultimate destiny.

This collection boasts an impressive array of well known and quality authors, but I’m not going to dwell upon them or the stories too much.

The first story by A. Bertram Chandler is called “False Dawn” and is set in a pre-modern ‘human’ society that is technologically advance though in a slightly eccentric fashion – dirigibles and balloons are popular for air transport for example.  It somewhat brings to mind Fritz Lang’s vision for Metropolis, but without the tall buildings.  Also there is an accepted but mysterious civilization on the moon which is where the problems begin.  The earth-dwellers notice the city lights gradually disappearing from the moon.  A refugee rocket from the moon attempts to land in an area containing many natural volatiles and sets off a apparently world-wide conflagration culminating in a global flood.  You can see where this is going.  After rescuing what they could, the survivors eventually ground on land they call ‘Mount Arrak’.  That’s not the only near-homophone in the story.  The names of the characters are eerily familiar too.

This story set the book up nicely.  We then have the predictable Atlantis story, an all-too-brief retrospective interlude with a near-immortal character in the 1950s who has seen the rise and fall of humanity over thousands of years, and a 20th-century-man-battles-his-warlike-nature story before heading into more traditional SF fare.

In the final story, “Metamorphosite” by Eric Frank Russell, man has come full circle.  We’ve colonized the galaxy, incorporated other species into our galactic civilization and forgotten about our homeworld.  Meanwhile, the original Terrans back on Earth have evolved powers of telepathy and mind control and moved on from the war-like, militaristic and paranoid state of mind we know so well.  Mankind unknowingly discovers his ancestors and after a brief pursuit on man’s capital world, the Terran representative convinces the powers-that-be that they would be outmatched by the Terrans in any conflict by a demonstration of how different the by now two species are.

The common theme throughout the book is disaster and rebirth.  For mankind to avoid stagnation and decay, and to keep progressing, some kind of crisis needs to occur.  In story after story this is the case.  From the intercontinental war that destroys “Atlantis”, to the workers uprising that results in ill-prepared refugees blasting off for the stars in Jack Williamson’s “Breakdown”, to man rediscovering fear itself after generations of total domination during galactic conquest in “Barrier of Dread” by Judith Merril, mankind faces, overcomes and moves on from these setbacks.

These stories were all written in the ’40s and ’50s.  Once again the bugbear of now-outdated technological thinking raises it’s head.  Why an entrance would be described as “…heavy enough to withstand a howitzer…” at a time 1.5 million years in the future is a little hard to fathom these days.  However, this brings me back to the introduction.

Written by Fletcher Pratt, he raises a couple of good points before the stories get underway.  Regarding technology, he reminds us that H.G. Wells had air war being fought in hydrogen-filled balloons and points out that the precise details aren’t really important (the general idea and effects described by Mr Wells were apparently very accurate).  The awry extrapolation of the future existence or use of a certain technology shouldn’t be the focus, but instead the idea or concept behind it.  After all, the stories in the book are extrapolations of what might exist or what might come to pass, and are not meant to be accurate predictions.  For me, that’s where the fun and adventure are – in those ideas – not in the technical details that are so often derided by the critical modern reader.

In summary, the stories are good.  An enjoyable read that kept me wanting to move on to the next tale wondering to where mankind had progressed next.  I’m certainly looking forward to obtaining and reading the remaining books in this series.

Close Up: The Robot and the Man

Posted in 1953, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Close Up with tags , , on December 29, 2008 by Aaron

closeupI guess you could say this was my first foray into the unknown with Gnome Press.  I had read Hal Clement previously so I kind of knew what to expect, but all the authors in this collection by Martin Greenberg I wasn’t familiar with – I’d heard of some of them, but never read any of their work.  I’ll talk about the stories in the review post.

The book is in Near Fine condition, both the book and the dust jacket.  If it wasn’t for the odd stain on the book (see pics) then I think this would be Fine.  The dust jacket has wear and some tearing at the spine.  The boards and binding are in excellent condition, it sits nice and square as you can see.  I bought this off Robert at Mind Electric Books on eBay.  He’s a nice guy to deal with, I have gotten several books off him and I have never been disappointed.  You get exactly what he describes, all in Brodart jacket covers too. Nice.

I have to mention Ric Binkley.  He did quite a few covers for Gnome Press and many other publishers besides.  Some might think his art is a bit garish or awkward or something, but I love it.  For me, he has a special charm and I think his style fits the vintage of the stories very well.  He did the cover for this book of course, also Iceworld and the next book up, The Mixed Men.  Lets have a look at The Robot and the Man.

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robotman11 You can make out the staining on the front free endpaper, a little on the pastedown too.

Year: 1953
Paid: $45
Art: Ric Binkley
Quantity: 5000 copies
Binding: Tan boards with silver writing on brown cloth shelf back, no writing or design on the front board.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: Good shape.  The book itself would be fine if not for some staining on the free endpapers
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

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