Review: Classic Science Fiction, Volume 3

Classic Science Fiction, Volume 3Classic Science Fiction, Volume 3

I enjoyed this collection far more than Volume 2, even though both collections are from roughly the same time period, and each has a story about insects and a story about the Sun.

WARNING: SPOILER DRAGONS AHEAD
The Spoiler DragonThe Spoiler DragonThe Spoiler Dragon
WE CAN EVEN SPOIL SEVENTY-YEAR-OLD STORIES

N Day by Philip Latham (1946) — An astronomer at a solar observatory thinks the Sun is about to go nova, and tells everyone that the Earth will be destroyed in three days. He still spends about half a day obsessing over his career future, and even after that he spends time meeting with a university president and reading crank letters. He doesn’t go on a hedonistic rampage, or spend his last days with family, or try to make peace with his deity. My interpretation of the story’s ending is that he’s just gone crazy, and there is no impending nova.

The Figure by Edward Grendon (1947) — Some scientists are working on a type of time machine that can reach forward in time and snag an object, kind of like fishing into the future. They are in a hurry, because the army wants them to work on another project: figuring out why, after the US atomic bomb tests and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, insects in the area became larger, more aggressive, and more numerous. The scientists activate the machine, and it brings back a statue of a beetle in a victory pose. My take on the story is that they brought back a piece of ironic hipster art, and now they’re going to blanket the planet in DDT for no reason.

Brightside Crossing by Alan Nourse (1951) — A team attempts the first bright-side land crossing of Mercury. A few of the story’s scientific details about Mercury are dated, but I really enjoyed the characters. The tale is told by the failed expedition’s lone survivor, to a man who’s about to lead another attempt. When the new leader hears about the reckless things one team member did to speed the crossing, he says something like ‘aha, there’s your mistake, you had a man like that on your team.’ The survivor tells him no, that guy was right, the team was behind schedule and going to die. He tries repeatedly to convince the leader to abandon his attempt, telling him that it’s impossible to survive. The new leader cannot be persuaded to quit, but the ending shocked me: the survivor volunteers to join.

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11 comments

  1. Sue Bridgwater · · Reply

    Reblogged this on Skorn.

  2. I think I remember “Bright side Crossing.”

    1. I thought the story was interesting enough that I looked up the author. He has a couple of short story collections, so I might give one a shot.

  3. I remember Brightside Crossing also. Alan Nourse wrote some novels, too, like ‘Raiders from the Rings’ and ‘Star Surgeon’. I really liked his stuff back in the day.

    1. I’ve loaded up on classic stuff recently, but once I get through some of it, I’ll keep Nourse in mind.

  4. Brightside Crossing does sound intriguing. Even though it’s dated, old timey science does have a certain internal consistency, which can make for a pretty fun read.

    1. It’s an interesting story, for sure. I think you could update the science without any change to the storyline, and people who hadn’t recently read up on Mercury might not even notice the minor inaccuracies in the current version.

  5. I’m fond of Nourse’s black plague novel, The Fourth Horseman. He was a medical doctor, and I think he did a monthly medical column for some magazine (Good Housekeeping?) Other than that, I’ve only read his The Blade Runner (which, apart from the title, has nothing to do with the movie).

    1. Funny that contributing the title to Blade Runner might be the thing he’s most famous for.

  6. […] collection is at least as good as volume 3, probably even […]

  7. […] didn’t enjoy this volume as much as Volume 3 or Volume […]

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