Reading this anthology brought me back to the days when I first discovered science fiction, and realized that I loved it.
The last anthology that Rob Serling put together before his death, it focuses more on ‘hard’ sci-fi than Twilight Zone fans might expect, but still contains a healthy dose of the dark and the weird.
They by Robert A. Heinlein: what if a paranoid schizophrenic’s most out-there conspiracy theories were true?
Fifteen Miles by Ben Bova: an astronaut finds personal redemption through a daring rescue on the moon.
Dolphin’s Way by Gordon R. Dickson: I’d read this one before, and it made an impression. Aliens make first contact – but not with us.
The Royal Opera House by Carl Jacobi: A mysterious artifact may help some old folks thwart the developers who are scheduled to demolish the titular structure. Sweetly nostalgic.
Special Aptitude by Theodore Sturgeon: a ‘classic’ tale of heroic astronauts – except that the narrator is a jerk, and the underdog the real hero.
The Underdweller by William F. Nolan: This story is quite similar to the episode of Star Trek, “Miri.” It was written 3 years earlier (1963).
I’m in Marsport without Hilda by Isaac Asimov: Yes, it’s Asimov, but this story is the most badly dated and weakest of the bunch.
A Nice Shady Place by Dennis Etchison: It’s kind of amazing how this piece captures the feel of an era… just its little, insignificant details. It feels like a 1960’s period piece, but it’s actually supposed to be contemporary to 1963. Good writing. And a spooky tale of pod-people-esque evil at a summer camp.
Construction Shack by Clifford D. Simak: I’d read this one before too. The first manned mission to Pluto discovers the blueprints for the solar system, left behind by unknown builders.
A Little Journey by Ray Bradbury: It’s Ray Bradbury. Yes. I love him. But this story of a old woman scammed by a company that claims they have a rocket ship to take their clients to meet God is a bit too religious for me.
The Visible Man by Gardner R. Dozois: In the future, criminals are punished by means of a mental block that makes it impossible for them to see any other living being. This makes survival difficult, even if a prisoner manages to escape. Interesting story, twist ending.
Mister Magister by Thomas F. Monteleone: Very powerful, very short story about morality. A travelling carny comes to town, and sets up a shooting gallery…
What Johnny Did on His Summer Vacation by Joe Haldeman and Robert Thurston: This one didn’t work very well for me. Not a bad idea, but not that well executed. In the future, jobs are scarce, and school teachers are more likely than not to be murdered.
Little Old Miss Macbeth by Fritz Leiber: A weird and eerie vignette of a depopulated world, where each city may have only one resident… or none.