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6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction

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Interior artwork by David Stone Contents: The Blast • by Stuart Cloete Coventry (Future History) • by Robert A. Heinlein The Other World • by Murray Leinster Barrier • by Anthony Boucher Surface Tension (Pantropy) • by James Blish Maturity • by Theodore Sturgeon First Printing – January, 1954 Second printing – October, 1955 Third printing – October, 1956


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Interior artwork by David Stone Contents: The Blast • by Stuart Cloete Coventry (Future History) • by Robert A. Heinlein The Other World • by Murray Leinster Barrier • by Anthony Boucher Surface Tension (Pantropy) • by James Blish Maturity • by Theodore Sturgeon First Printing – January, 1954 Second printing – October, 1955 Third printing – October, 1956

37 review for 6 Great Short Novels of Science Fiction

  1. 4 out of 5

    Johan Haneveld

    The editor of this collection has a name that would not be out of place in any of the novellas contained in this volume. Groff Conklin has a nice ring to it. The other review of this collection on Goodreads is quite critical but I enjoyed it. But then I didn't expect anything groundbreaking. These stories are almost all of them from the late '40's - smack in the middle of the golden age of SF, and in my opinion they do what these kind of tales do best: tell rollicking tales of adventure, with in The editor of this collection has a name that would not be out of place in any of the novellas contained in this volume. Groff Conklin has a nice ring to it. The other review of this collection on Goodreads is quite critical but I enjoyed it. But then I didn't expect anything groundbreaking. These stories are almost all of them from the late '40's - smack in the middle of the golden age of SF, and in my opinion they do what these kind of tales do best: tell rollicking tales of adventure, with interesting speculation on some scientific principles but with the main purpose to entertain their readers. And entertain me they did. True, as a modern reader I had to choose to ignore the sexism and racism that is sometimes present here (racism mainly in the fact that non-white people don't seem to exist), but that's par for the course in these kind of collections. The main offender in this respect is the opening story 'The blast', where a sole survivor of a nuclear war holes up in New York until his cosy existence is disturbed at last. There was little originality here, but I liked the matter of fact way the blast and its consequences were described and the (maybe a little too gleeful) descriptions of an overgrown city, complete with exotic wildlife and giant mutations. It may be cheesy, but I love it. Robert Heinlein adds a story set in his future history, after a second revolution. A young man rebels against the in his eyes stiffling rules of the enlightened society he is a part of and chooses to be exciled to a reservation outside of the governments control. Here he finds no rugged anarchism but corruption. It's well told, I thought, with the main character having to examine his preconceptions. 'The other world' by Murray Leinster is an old school adventure story. Not plausible in its science but in its battles and narrow escapes very enjoyable. I had to think of the later movie 'Stargate' a bit, as here there are old egyptians too taking slaves for themselves. Luckily the protagonists all have specialisations that come in handy - a bit too convenient, but taken as an adventure this was a good read. Anthony Boucher has a fun time travel adventure, and also a future in stasis, where the time traveler protagonist ends up. He becomes a part of a movement to bring more diversity of thought to society, but finds other time travelers may not have good intentions. Again a lot of fun to be had and a lot of imagination in the descriptions of the other time travelers. 'Surface tension' by James Blish is a classic and deservedly so. A tale of exploration set in a puddle - I thought this could as well be set on earth as on another planet, seeing as how the 'alien life' in the puddle consists of earthly critters like paramecium, ameubas and rotifers. But I quite enjoyed the exploits of the small protagonists against barriers that we don't even notice because of our size. A fun read. Theodor Sturgeon finishes the collection with a psychological tale, where the ditzy childlike Robin, who is highly gifted but not very responsible, is treated with hormones to mature a little. But meddling in another persons hormones has unforeseen consequences and Robins development soon goes beyond anything other human beings experience. A fascinating tale about creativity, giftedness and themes like that. Readers who acknowledge that these stories are seventy years old or more, so not really modern in themes or style, will find this an entertaining read.

  2. 5 out of 5

    TrumanCoyote

    A sizable disappointment. When I found this, at a bargain store for a quarter, I thought I was gonna be in for a considerable treat. I mean, just look at the names! And compiled by legendary anthologist Conklin (the only guy I've ever seen named Groff btw). But the first story ("The Blast") was just awful...mannered and desultory, it bore the stench of the literary slummer throughout, although I suppose it didn't become truly ridiculous until the Injuns showed up toward the end. The Heinlein ("Co A sizable disappointment. When I found this, at a bargain store for a quarter, I thought I was gonna be in for a considerable treat. I mean, just look at the names! And compiled by legendary anthologist Conklin (the only guy I've ever seen named Groff btw). But the first story ("The Blast") was just awful...mannered and desultory, it bore the stench of the literary slummer throughout, although I suppose it didn't become truly ridiculous until the Injuns showed up toward the end. The Heinlein ("Coventry") was pretty lame too, with a clapboard setting and situation and a most cornball resolution indeed. Then Leinster (in "The Other World") milked Sinister Barrier for 100 pages, shooting em up with similar relish; apparently a white hat was all you needed in those days to go from being Nazi to hero. "Barrier" by Boucher at least wasn't as bad as the others, but it really didn't do much, and wasn't really too huge a step up from some Saturday matinee serial. "Surface Tension" was pretty good, and of course nicely droll throughout, although I must say I wouldn't have considered it to be Hall of Fame material (had I not already known that it held a place in that anthology). The best of the lot was the last one, "Maturity" by Theodore Sturgeon, although even that one wasn't quite satisfying. It seemed like it wasn't long enough or something. Which is rather ironic, given Conklin's silly introduction wherein he lauds the novelette/novella length as being peculiarly well-suited to science fiction. Apparently he was unacquainted with the vast number of great short stories and novels in the field; then again, maybe it was just a matter of the pitch he happened to be making at the time. At any rate, his characterizations of the stories themselves remind me of Mark Twain's dictum to fans of Fenimore Cooper to the effect that perhaps praisers of a man's work should actually take the time to read what they're praising first, just to make sure that it all will jibe. In particular, Conklin describing the Cloete story as vivid and claiming it possesses a sense of immediacy is just stupefying. I suppose that, all things considered, this book was worth about a quarter...just barely. But was it worth the cover price of 35 cents 60 years ago? Not even close.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Lewis Szymanski

    A better off forgotten collection of pulp sci-fi from the '50s. Some of them work as action-adventure stories if you don't think about them too much. Maturity by Theodore Sturgeon is the only cerebral one, but the ending seemed rushed. Coventry by Heinlein was pretty lame. I think he was trying to make fun of Ayn Rand. Bob Heinlein was a man that never learned that he never learned how to tell a joke. I can't really recommend this book or any of the stories in it. A better off forgotten collection of pulp sci-fi from the '50s. Some of them work as action-adventure stories if you don't think about them too much. Maturity by Theodore Sturgeon is the only cerebral one, but the ending seemed rushed. Coventry by Heinlein was pretty lame. I think he was trying to make fun of Ayn Rand. Bob Heinlein was a man that never learned that he never learned how to tell a joke. I can't really recommend this book or any of the stories in it.

  4. 4 out of 5

    SciFiOne

    Dell book D9

  5. 5 out of 5

    Bill

  6. 5 out of 5

    Aaron

  7. 5 out of 5

    Ron Lasner

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mark Ricard

  9. 5 out of 5

    Richard

  10. 5 out of 5

    William Oarlock

  11. 4 out of 5

    Laurelyn Anne

  12. 5 out of 5

    Lucas Ciccarelli

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kevin Kern

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jared

  15. 4 out of 5

    Hilliary

  16. 5 out of 5

    Jefferson Ballard

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jim

  18. 5 out of 5

    Elishay

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    Eric Moss

  20. 4 out of 5

    Abbey

  21. 5 out of 5

    Pearce Hansen

  22. 5 out of 5

    Luke

  23. 4 out of 5

    K. Axel

  24. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

  25. 5 out of 5

    Robert DuPuy

  26. 4 out of 5

    H.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Steve

  28. 5 out of 5

    Deb

  29. 5 out of 5

    Pearl

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

  31. 4 out of 5

    Midu Hadi

  32. 4 out of 5

    James Tallett

  33. 5 out of 5

    Robert

  34. 5 out of 5

    Brian Enters

  35. 4 out of 5

    Michael Joseph Schumann

  36. 4 out of 5

    Elise Loomis

  37. 5 out of 5

    Caffeine Focus

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