Sunday, January 18, 2015

Alpha 2: Review

In the 1970s Robert Silverberg edited a series of short stories and Alpha 2 (1971) is the second in this series which collects a roster of science fiction's best fiction from old masters and then new writers. Alpha 2 includes such well-known names as Poul Anderson, J. G. Ballard, Philip K. Dick, C. M. Kornbluth, Cordwainer Smith, and Jack Vance. Less recognizable--to me, at any rate--are Algis Budrys, Wyman Guin, Gerald Jonas, and Wilma Shore, although I'm quite sure I've read Shore's "Good-bye Amanda Jean" before. It seems to me a story suitable to a collection under the Hitchcock name, but I cannot find evidence that this is where I found it first. An interesting collection with the usual amount of terrific stories mixed with the not-so-great. ★★

A brief look at the stories:
"Call Me Joe" by Poul Anderson. Given the incredibly harsh conditions on Jupiter, if humans are ever to investigate the planet it will have to be by proxy. But robotic equipment just doesn't give the same interpretations that a human visitor might. Anderson comes up with an ingenious way in which humanity could experience Jupiter "first hand" and an interesting twist on what might happen if our proxy developed a mind of his own...

"Goodbye Amanda Jean" by Wilma Shore: This is a very creepy tale. No explanations given--we don't know if other animals have gone extinct and that drives the rather unusual hunting season described in the story. But we can only hope that the story is not in any way prophetic.

"A Man of the Renaissance" by Wyman Guin: A story of a "superman" who is so sure of his knowledge and vision for his world that he is willing to give up everything, even the woman he loves to make certain that vision becomes reality.

"Wall of Crystal, Eye of Night" by Algis Budrys: A man arranges to have sole control of the ultimate entertainment system--no matter who he has to step on to get it. But then his competition does him one better.

"Faith of Our Fathers" by Philip K. Dick: PKD tells us a little bedtime nightmare about the dictatorship that takes over the earth....but isn't quite the dictatorship that it seems. But then nothing in this story is....

"That Share of Glory" by C. M. Kornbluth: A young novice in a monastery-like training ground for interstellar translators finally earns his place on board a trading ship...but soon learns that his testing isn't over. Will he pass?

"The Men Return" by Jack Vance: Vance weaves a tale of the Earth whose universal orbit takes it into space where the physical laws that man and beast have been subject to no longer apply...what might that Earth look like? And who is the master of the Earth then?

"The Voices of Time" by J. G. Ballard: This one, I'm afraid, makes no sense to me. It's like a dream involving time and the main character seems to be running out of time and sleep...but goes into a coma or goes to meet the voices in the stream of time. Or something. And there's a guy following him around who never sleeps. And...yeah. [I told you it makes no sense.]

"The Burning of the Brain" by Cordwainer Smith: What if ship captains controlled their ships with their brains? And what if the proper coordinates for travelling from here to there got lost? What would the captain have to do to get his ship safely back where it belongs? This is that story.

"The Shaker Revival" by Gerald Jonas: The young people (younger than 30, that is) host a revolution by reviving the tenants of the Shakers with modifications suitable to a response to the 70s-ish era of rampant consumerism. The New Shakers adopt a creed of "No war. No money. No hate. No sex" (The 4 Noes) and the story relates the reaction of the feebies (the parents and the establishment) to revolution.

1 comment:

fredamans said...

There is a couple that piqued my curiosity, but not enough that I would hunt down the book to read it. Great review!