Friday, April 20, 2012
27. Spectrum I edited by Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest
The problem is that it could be argued that a lot of these stories fell into some of the very criticisms levied against science fiction (Amis admits this as much). They are often about the exploration of a concept rather than a good story. There are a couple of really good reads though. The best story (in terms of actual narrative) is John Berryman's Special Flightabout a freight ship making a standard, but in this case a rushed and unplanned emergency trip to the moon. It's really quite a tense story, but focuses so much on the technical aspects. It was written in '39, which is kind of amazing, and was probably really exciting to engineers who understood air flight and loved to speculate about how that would operate in space. There is also a hilarious Robert Sheckley story about an offworlder who comes to earth to find love. Another great concept was from Frederik Pohl's the Midas Touch about a future society where consumption and poverty were reversed and the lower down on the social and economic scale you were, the more you had to consume, with ration books and everything. Very prescient, given the obese state of our lower classes today.
So all in all a mixed bag with some gems here and there. But overall, this book gives you a feeling of the positive and imaginative spirit of those early sci-fi writers. These people are enjoying themselves and so are their readers.