Sunday, January 26, 2014

Other Times, Other Worlds: Review

Other Times, Other Worlds is a science fiction short story collection by the very prolific John D. MacDonald.  Best known for his crime and suspense novels--particularly the Travis McGee series and The Executioners (adapted into the film Cape Fear)--MacDonald began his writing career in the pulps, selling widely across the genres: adventure stories, mysteries, westerns, sports stories....and science fiction.  In fact, selling so widely that he had to use multiple pseudonyms and sometimes had an entire magazine to himself under various names.  All of the stories in the collection first appeared in science fiction pulp magazines between 1948 and 1968 (inclusive).

These stories are sharp portrayals of the human condition. They highlight various social and psychological types and show men and women in all their strength and weakness.  And they range over near-future and far-future stories of life on Earth as well as investigating what life on other planets may be like.  Yet even when he discusses aliens, he is really turning the microscope on homo sapiens.  A few of the stories are dated--only by the lack of scientific knowledge to be had at the time they were written.  Transplant the characters to any suitable place and time and the commentary on who we are as a species is still as valid today as in the 1940s or the 1950s or the 1960s.

These are all engaging stories, but among my favorites:

"Dance of a New World"--in which Shane Brent is on a mission to convince a retired rocket pilot to sign up for a dangerous long-term journey only to discover that he might like a little danger himself.

"Ring Around the Redhead"--in which a man's innocence or guilt in a murder case hinges on the testimony of a stranger from another dimension.

"A Child Is Crying"--about a seven-year-old boy whose intelligence surpasses experts in all fields and who has the ability to predict the future.  But is that a good thing?

"Susceptibility"--Sean Malloy is sent to a colony on one of mankind's far-flung outposts to discover why the colonists aren't using all the high-tech gizmos provided for them.  The answer surprises him.

"Game for Blondes"--a lovely psychological twist on the good old scavenger hunt.

Four stars for an excellent collection.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I love the movie Cape Fear. Had no idea it was adapted from a book, let alone by this author.
Great review!