Archive for Martin Greenberg

Close Up II: Men Against the Stars

Posted in 1950, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Close Up, Comparisons with tags , on June 4, 2009 by Aaron

closeupMartin Greenberg, editor
1950

A little bit against my better judgment, I bought another copy of Men Against the Stars.  The attractions were price, condition and second state jacket.  The price was good – only $16, the condition of the book itself is NF and the jacket is VG (with a proviso), so I have both states of the jacket now.  I’ll compare the two books briefly here.  Click the pics to step through to larger images.
MATS01The newer copy is on the left.  You can see it’s a bit brighter and has much less wear.  That strange cracky/flaky wear I mentioned in the initial Close Up is evident on this jacket too, but to a much lesser extent.  I’ve been thinking about that and I suspect it might be a result of such a black-ink-loaded jacket.
With the jacket off, we can really see a difference.
MATS02Apologies for the inconsistency, but the newer acquisition is on the right here now.  It’s very obvious that the spine is much cleaner and it’s a little difficult to tell, but the boards are a lot sharper and in like new condition.
The other major area of interest is the second state of the jacket.
MATS03You just need to check out the vintage of the titles promoted on the back to determine which is which here.  Interestingly, you can see Gnome Press relocated sometime between the printing of these jackets.  Note that unusual wear on the older jacket.
Just a couple of other areas of interest on the more recent copy, a quick peek inside reveals that the pages and, more particularly, the free endpapers and paste-downs are very clean.  No marking at all and only a little discoloration.
MATS05In the original Close Up I pointed out and commented on the spotting on the edges of the block.  There is absolutely none here.  Very nice.  The last thing I want to look at is the tape on the inside of the jacket.
MATS04Someone has applied reinforcing tape to the wrap- around on the spine.  This is invisible externally, but it does bug me that it’s there.  I hope that over time it’s not detrimental.  It could be special book tape.  I would like to remove it and if anyone has some advice on that it would be appreciated.
All in all, I think it was worth getting this copy.

Review: Men Against the Stars

Posted in 1950, 5:COSMIC!, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Review with tags , on May 20, 2009 by Aaron

Martin Greenberg, editor
1950

My high expectations of Martin Greenberg’s ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ continues to be met.  Published in 1950, this is the very first in the six volume series, and the best of the four I have read so far.  I haven’t reviewed the 1953 installment The Robot and the Man yet, but you can read the Reviews for 1951’s Journey to Infinity and All About the Future from ’55.  I also have Travelers of Space sitting in the library waiting for me.  I’ll get around to it.  Come to think of it, I’m going to make a promise here in writing, I will read again and Review ‘Robot & Man’ before I get into ‘Travelers’.  There.  It’s been too long and I must do it.

As I have always done in the Reviews for these books, I mention the concept behind them, and because this book is the very first I’ll go into it in a little more depth.  Gnome Press co-founder and editor of the series, Martin Greenberg, came up with the idea of a collection of short stories that reflected a certain set of ideas or progression of ideas.  From the perspective of the modern SF reader, this is nothing new.  It could even be considered ‘old hat’ with themed collections for everything imaginable, from SF crime to gay vampires.   However, it was new 60 years ago and this particular book represents perhaps the very first published ‘theme anthology’ in SF history.  This is a view reinforced by Eshbach:

Probably Marty’s [Martin Greenberg’s] greatest contribution to the SF field (other than Gnome Press itself) was his concept of theme anthologies which began with Men Against the Stars.  So far as I have been able to determine, this and the others that followed were the first collections of this nature to appear, setting a pattern for future anthologists.  These were the most successful of Gnome Press books, their sales figures only approached by Asimov’s Foundation stories.

Eshbach, p 210

I’ve reproduced here both the Foreword by Greenberg and the Introduction by science writer and space commentator Willy Ley.  The Foreword sets the tone not only for this book but for it’s companions to follow, and is an excellent guide on how to read this collection – not just as a simple collection of stories, but in a broader sense as a progression of themes, ideas and issues that future spacefarers might have to consider, be challenged by and eventually surmount.

Ley gives us an excellent ‘in a nutshell’ history of the rocket and a glimpse into a possible future with regards to our first steps to the moon and beyond.  It is really a fascinating piece.  Here they are.  Enjoy.

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Well, it’s about time we get into the stories that make up this anthology.  The title of this tome is of course ‘Men Against the Stars’ and it really is.  Contained therein are stories of men.  Men who face challenges from the first flight around the moon until the rejuvination of a stagnating Mother Earth by her children from the stars.  Men who face problems ranging from public resistance, to mutiny, to economics, to politics, to time and even being locked out.  All in the quest to push succeeding generations further from home.  There are twelve tales, and I’m not going to address them all, I’ll just pull out  three or four to talk about.

I’m not going to touch on the opening and closing stories, suffice to say they are well chosen and represent very suitable, natural ways to begin and end this collection.  Nor will I mention the penultimate tale ‘Bridle and Saddle’ with which Foundation fans should be very familiar, and for which reason I didn’t read.  A not-well-known fact about that story though; ‘Bridle and Saddle’ in this volume is the very first occasion an Asimov story was in published in book form.

The second and title story “Men Against the Stars’ by Manly Wade Wellman describes the courage, daring and mortal sacrifice of the men who rode the very unreliable rockets to Mars from their base on the moon.  By taking chances with dodgy technology, the tale invokes the character of such long-haul aviation pioneers such as Lindbergh, Kingsford-Smith, Earhart and Batten.  The principal action takes place on the moon, but the main thread of the story is punctuated by short vignettes of the crews that are making the Mars shot, often immediately before their spectacular demise in transit.  As I mentioned, this is the title story and also provides the beating heart of this anthology.

A.E. van Vogt’s ‘Far Centaurus’ is a familiar tale along the lines of Starman’s Quest.  Space travel is much safer now, and four men set out for the distant stars on a centuries-long journey in stasis only to be overtaken by technology long before arriving.  Greeted at their destination, they discover a civilization that has passed them by.  It’s an interesting situation to ponder…

Hal Clement is renowned for his hard science fiction.  He performs up to his considerable reputation here with ‘Cold Front’.  Men attempt to forge a trading relationship selling global climate control to a newly discovered alien civilization.  They do this on a planet with extremely complex weather patterns that aren’t fully understood by the non-natives.  Their poor grasp of the situation and subsequent embarrassment however, leads to another opportunity that is adroitly taken advantage of – testimony to the wiles of inter-species human traders.  Clement is at his best – some extremely convincing (if somewhat dated) speculation on cause and effect in planetary and solar meteorology here.

Having not long completed Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten World, I was amused that his installment was about fugitives from piracy, crash-landing on a planet dominated by… flowers.  ‘The Plants’ tells us of how three parties – fugitives, pirates and semi-sentient flowers – interact after an almost-bungled heist.

Some very, very famous names from early science fiction are represented here.  Asimov, Clement, Leinster, Hubbard, van Vogt and Padgett make up about half of the contributors.

If you are a SF fan, especially of classic SF, this book should be in your collection.  It’s not expensive, you could pick up a resonable copy (if you can find one) for much less than $50.  I’m going to make a prediction: In the fullness of time, this book will become a real sought-after and valuable collectors item.  I guess given enough time anything will be, but what I mean is though maybe not in the league of Gnome titles such as Asimov’s and Heinlein’s, it will certainly be elevated far above the obscurity it is in now.  This book represents a genuine piece of SF publishing history.  Aside from that, it is a fantastic collection.  From Edd Cartier’s magnificent cover art to the full circle arrived at in the final story by L. Ron Hubbard, I can find very little negative to say, and that’s really saying something for a bunch of twelve very early SF tales.

If you appreciate SF, if you have an interest in SF history, you need this book.

Close Up: Men Against the Stars

Posted in 1950, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Close Up with tags , , on May 10, 2009 by Aaron

closeupMartin Greenberg, editor
1950

Fantastic cover. This is one of my favorites. It’s a shame it’s not in better condition, but nevertheless, it’s a pleasure to have a copy. There are numerous little issues with the book, which we will examine presently. The book does have significance as it is the first of the very successful ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ which was the brainchild of Gnome Press co-founder and series editor Martin Greenberg, but I’ll talk a bit more about that in the Review. This volume was issued in two printings according to Eshbach.  5000 in the first run and 3000 in the second.  I have reason to suspect that there are two states to this jacket.  Though the fact that there were two printings is a strong indication anyway.  I’m trying to get that confirmed, but I’m sure that the jacket on this is a first state.  You will see why later.  Right now, let’s take a closer look.


Beautiful.  This was the sixth book from Gnome Press and definitely the best cover up to that time.  The title of the compilation and the art combine so well.  Actually, I would venture to suggest that artist Edd Cartier has elevated this up among the very best covers produced by Gnome Press, along with maybe Ric Binkley’s ‘Robots Have No Tails’, ‘The Survivors’ by Wally Wood and ‘I, Robot’ also by Cartier.

Fawning aside, we can see some issues very plainly.  Numerous chips off the cover and cracking along all edges.  There is a little rubbing to the cover too.  We’ll have a closer look at the chipping soon.  Once we remove the garments we can see that this book hasn’t been cared for in the past.  Soiling of the cloth shelf back is evident with some wear staining which is clearly visible at the tail of the spine.

The boards are nice and clean though.  There are a couple of nice details that deserve a closer look.Nice impression of a couple of stars there, and at the bottom of the spine…

..you can see an impression of the men going up against them.  Lovely.  Unfortunately, the wear and soiling is also quite visible here.  It looks more like dirt than anything, I wonder if this could be cleaned.  Anyone have any ideas??
There is some dust-spotting on the edges of the block as you can see below.

Actually, I’m not sure whether it’s dust or foxing.  In any event, it’s only evident on the edges of the paper, internally the pages are quite nice.  No age browning at all.  The spine sits nice and square despite being a bit on the loose side.

The head and tail of the spine show wear consistent with the overall impression of the dust jacket – general edge wear and a bit of splitting.

Which leads us to have a closer look at the worst instances of the chipping and splitting.

You can see a significant chip off the rear edge of the spine and what looks like flaking of the cover rather than wear.  This is evident on all four edges of the dust jacket.

It seems to be a rather unusual type of wear.  I wonder if it is brought about by a special set of circumstances.  Anyway, the top front corner has a loose piece there.Looks like a bit of moisture has gotten in at some point too.  You can see the front paste-down is a bit mottled and darkened.  This is true on the rear paste-down too, and both exhibit a bit of foxing.A price is written on the front free end-paper.  I wonder when… It’s the same price that the book originally cost.  I mentioned earlier about this being a first state jacket.  I’m pretty sure this is true as the GP books promoted for sale on the rear of the jacket all precede this one.  The two that are advertised as ‘forthcoming’ are the two immediately after this.As you can see, the back is quite clean though there is a bit of rubbing apparent in the area at the top right.

Year: 1950
Paid: $30
Art: Edd Cartier
Quantity: Two printings according to Eshbach – initially 5000, second printing 3000 copies.
Binding: Slate grey boards and purple cloth shelf back. Silver lettering to spine. Nice spaceship and stars imprinting on the cloth.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition
Comments: I just love the cover.  A significant book and well worth the $30 price for mine.  Pity about the poor condition of the cloth spine though.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

New Arrivals

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , , , , on May 7, 2009 by Aaron

Three books that I’d been looking forward to receiving were waiting when I got home from work today.  ‘Travelers of Space’ (along with a copy of the more unusual blue dust jacket), ‘Men Against the Stars’ and ‘Five Science Fiction Novels’.  All edited by Martin Greenberg and were about in the condition that I expected, perhaps a little less so.  Close Ups forthcoming of course.  Packed in was a copy of the dust jacket for ‘Children of the Atom’, but I just don’t know if it’s better than my version or not.  Hard to tell.
The Review of ‘The Forgotten Planet’ will be up presently.

More on the way…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on April 29, 2009 by Aaron

Yesterday I paid and today they were posted.  Two more of the ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ collections that I have grown to love so much.  Travelers of Space and the first in the series Men Against the Stars along with the anthology Five Science Fiction Novels.  All edited by Gnome Press co-founder, Martin Greenberg.  In addition, packed in with them is a dust jacket for Children of the Atom and the uncommon blue version of the jacket for ‘Travelers’.  Men against the Stars has sensational cover art by Edd Cartier too.  I am certainly looking forward to receiving them maybe sometime next week.  It’s always a nevous wait.  I hope they are in good as condition as they seemed to be in the photos I saw.  Not that they were perfect, but they weren’t too shabby either.  Come to think of it, I never made sure to check out the back of the books… Here’s hoping.

Review: All About the Future

Posted in 1955, 4:Stellar!, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Review with tags , , on April 24, 2009 by Aaron

Martin Greenberg, editor
1955

This is the third book of the ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’ that I’ve read.  I haven’t gotten around to reviewing The Robot and the Man yet, but Journey to Infinity I have.  I have to say I am really enjoying the books in this series and I’m really looking forward to getting my hands on the others.  I’ll probably repeat this in all the reviews for these books, but Greenberg’s theme idea is a winner.  Slightly different from the other two I have read – collections tracing the history of mankind and the history of the development of the robot – these stories are each a different take on the kinds of cultures we might see in the future.

I’ll touch on the stories in a moment, but first I just want to mention the Foreword and the Introduction.  The foreword is written by editor Martin Greenberg in which he outlines the purpose of the collection and gives a brief intro to each story.  This is a very important part of the book because it really focuses your mind on the themes and issues to take note of.  It sets the book up nicely because without it, this would be too easy to read as just a collection of pretty good science fiction short stories.  The introduction written by Robert Heinlein is special.  Actually there are two intros, the other by Isaac Asimov.  What I’m going to do here is reproduce the intro by Mr Heinlein for you to enjoy.  It’s a fascinating glimpse into how the Great Man’s mind was working back then, how he used the present to think about a science fiction future, and how he saw the ‘real’ future from the perspective of 1955.  He has a stab at predicting some things that will come to pass  (prediction #4; The United States will never engage in a preventative war), and lists a few he thinks will probably never happen.  It’s 11 pages, but this is a must-read for Heinlein fans, science fiction fans (particularly classic sf) and fans of ’50s nostalgia in general. So here it is, ‘Where To?’ by Robert Heinlein.  Enjoy.

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If you are a bit concerned about me breaking the back of this book over a scanner, don’t be.  I held the book open carefully and photographed it.  I have also made the assumption that reproducing this here isn’t a big problem.  If I’m incorrect in that, someone advise me please.

Well, on to the stories.  As I said, I’m not going to spend a lot of space analyzing every one, but I’ll let you know a little about each.

‘The Midas Plague’ by Frederick Pohl tells us about a society, that because of the excess of production, assigns ‘consumption quotas’ to citizens.  One newly married individual hits on a brilliant but illegal and subversive idea to meet and exceed his consumption needs, reduce his quotas and move up the social scale.

The operations of an ultra-secret governmental security force is the subject of ‘Un-Man’ by Poul Anderson.  Working to secure the position of a world government in the face of shadowy interests actively working against them, this organisation of clones is hard pressed to maintain stability.

Theodore Sturgeon’s ‘Granny Won’t Knit’ is an unusual tale of blossoming psi-powers in an very conservative and conformist society.  Exposed skin is considered offensive in this male-dominance and rigidly structured civilisation.

‘Natural State’ describes the transformation of a city-dwelling media star into a ‘mudfoot’ – the technology-independent people living in the wasteland outside the walled cities.  Written by Damon Knight, the story culminates in the eventual collapse of the city-states at the hands of their more naturalistic neighbors.

In ‘Hobo God’, Malcolm Jameson tells the tale of how an unwitting and unwilling astronaut becomes an unwitting and unwilling god to the native population after his mission fails on Mars.

Walter M. Miller Jr’s ‘Blood Bank’ is set it a far, far future where the current civilisation on Earth is a dark enigma to the rest of the galaxy.  Disgraced because of a tragic encounter with a mercy ship of Terran origin, a former interstellar patrol commander is determined to unravel the mystery whatever the cost.

As I mentioned earlier, some ideas regarding society and civilisation permeates the book.  Themes such as consumerism, world government and ultra-conservatism are commented on in the various stories, perhaps not directly but Martin Greenberg has constructed the book and chosen the tales well.

I enjoyed ‘Un-Man’ the most.  It’s the longest in the collection and feels surprisingly contemporary, as if it was written recently and not 50-odd years ago.  The others by comparison feel a little dated.  This isn’t neccessarily a negative on their part, but rather testimony to the strength and style in Poul Anderson’s writing in this case.  The others vary in quality for me, but in general a very enjoyable collection, especially in the light that Greenberg’s introduction throws upon it.  I have to recommend this book if only for the introduction by Heinlein.  Perhaps the editor and authors didn’t know all about the future back then, but when considered from our point of view today, I think they indeed knew more about the future than they were given credit for.

Close Up: All About the Future

Posted in 1955, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Close Up with tags , , on April 1, 2009 by Aaron

closeupMartin Greenberg, editor
1955

Another in the ‘Adventures in Science Fiction Series’.  This Close Up should be fairly straight forward as there is only two real points of contrary comment, we’ll get to those presently.  The first thing we always look at is the cover, and that is the major source of coolness about this publication.  Fantastic design and great images of science fiction from 1955.  Cover artist Ed Emshwiller is renowned for his prolific and high quality work.

Lovely cover.  However, the two small issues appears when we open the book.  First, it has been price-clipped.

And second, there is some dealer’s scribblings on the front free end-paper.

Nothing I’m overly concerned about.  The dust jacket is worn, especially at the corners.

As you can see it’s in darn good condition apart from that damned jacket.  It’s a shame.  If we whip the gear off we can appreciate the great condition on the book itself.

Just some very slight bumping at the top and the bottom of the spine, but absolutely no external markings.  Nice.

That darned dust jacket again.  You can see the quite obvious wear down the edge there.

I’ve just started reading it.  One of the introductions (there are two) is by Robert Heinlein and makes for extremely interesting reading and well worth doing so.  I wonder if anyone would have any objection to me reproducing it on this blog??

Year: 1955
Paid: $32
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Quantity: 5000 copies
Binding: Grey boards with orange cloth shelf back.  Silver lettering to spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition
Comments: Worn jacket, price-clipped and small dealers inscription mar this otherwise nice book.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Confirmation

Posted in Comparisons with tags , , on March 30, 2009 by Aaron

I’ve recently been in contact with a fellow Gnome Press collector – Christophe Burg.  It’s been great to share thoughts with a like mind.  Christophe has a signed copy of Travelers of Space and kindly sent me an image of the signature in that book for comparison with the signature I have in my copy of Journey to Infinity.  Comparison below.

They certainly look the same to me.  I raised the question in the Close Up of ‘Journey’ and it’s great to have someone out there come up with an answer.  I have some additional tidbits of information from him, and these will come up in the future once I get around to the books concerned.  Many thanks Christophe, much appreciated and stay in touch.

Close Up: Journey to Infinity

Posted in 1951, Adventures in Science Fiction Series, Close Up with tags , , on February 15, 2009 by Aaron

closeupMartin Greenberg, editor
1951

We saw what it looked like on the inside, so to speak, now for what the external appearance amounts to.  First, a bit of provenance.  This copy I have was previously owned by Charles Miller (the ‘Miller’ in Underwood-Miller Publishing) apparently.  I was told this by the chap I purchased it off, he actually bought it out of Miller’s library.  The nice Art Deco-ish cover art is by Edd Cartier and represents well the structure of the book which I talked about in the review.

There is what looks like sunning down the spine, but I’m not entirely sure whether it is or not.  Perhaps someone out there can confirm that.  One of the features of this book is that it has been inscribed by the editor Martin Greenberg.  Now, I don’t know about you, but I am very unsure if this is Mr Greenberg’s signature.  It says “To Jack with much affection ??”

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Admittedly it could be.  I can stretch my imagination to that possibility with no effort at all, but it certainly doesn’t obviously say “Martin Greenberg”.  Not to me at least anyway.  Again, I would greatly appreciate any confirmation on this particular point.

The top and bottom of the book look great.

_mg_8752_mg_8751

It’s nice and clean and sits square.  No lean in the spine.  Great.  You can see on the bottom, however, that there has been a bit of chipping along the boards (I’ve highlighted the bottom front corner there).

_mg_8753_mg_8754

Close up, the extremities of the spine look good.  Dust jacket nice, Fine in fact.  This is not a first state jacket though, on the back are listed books which appear subsequent to this.

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This book was published in 1951 and you can see heading the list is The Robot and The Man, a 1953 publication.  The rear of the jacket also looks great as you can see.  If we take it off, we are able to see the nice binding with attractive silver lettering.

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It’s the small touches that make the difference.  Have a closer look at the lettering and the fabric on the front board:

_mg_8757

See the symbol for infinity above the Gnome Press lettering and the man reaching for the stars??  Beautiful.

Year: 1951
Paid: $60
Art: Edd Cartier
Quantity: 5000 copies in the first printing, 2500 in the second according to Eshbach.
Binding: Olive boards with silver lettering on green cloth shelf back.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated on copyright page.  I’m not sure which printing my copy is from, but it does have a second state dust jacket if that’s any indication.  See the General Info page for more details.
Comments: Super. I was very tempted to go Fine, but that chipping on the bottom of the boards makes me think otherwise.  Reluctantly, I think Near Fine is more appropriate.  I would appreciate input from anyone who might have any insight into the sunning issue and especially the inscription: is it actually Greenberg’s signature and who is Jack??
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

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.