Monday, January 18, 2016

Imagination Unlimited: Review

Imagination Unlimited (1952), edited by Everett F. Bleiler and T. E. Dikty, is a collection of seven science fiction stories from 1939-1951. It provides us with a vision of the future from the vantage of the World War II- and post WWII-eras and does so through stories by Ray Bradbury, Theordore Sturgeon, L. Sprague de Camp, and others. According to the back of the book, it asks questions such as:

With the continual triumphs of medicine, how long will men live when cancer and heart disease have been conquered, as they will be within the lifetime of many who read these words? [We're still waiting to find out.]

With one rocket already in orbit around the sun [huh?], what will man be doing with rockets in fifty years. [Not a heck of a lot as it turns out...]

What happens when the earth's resources have been depleted and its population has increased tenfold? [We're working hard to make that problem a reality.]

This is a middle of the road collection of science fiction stories. The strongest are by Bradbury, Sturgeon and Phillips. "Dune Roller" is a fine second-tier story as is "Employment" and the remainder have concepts that hold the interest although the story-telling is not quite as good as the others.  ★★

Here are the synopses for the stories:

"Referent" by Ray Bradbury: In the future (1997 as it happens) a young boy named Roby is at a controlled, live-in educational facility on Orthopedic Island. Everything is controlled from activities throughout the day (down to the minute)--including instructional time and "play" time (which hardly seems like play when every detail is dictated) as well as regimented meals and sleep periods. One day a strange sphere lands with a being capable of changing shape--a capability that seems oddly connected to the thoughts and desires of those around it. Little does the alien know that it will provide Roby a means for escape from the facility.

"What Dead Men Tell" by Theodore Sturgeon: A young genius discovers a secret society who can offer him immortality. But he must accept an entrance exam challenge and there are only two possible outcomes: the promised immortality or if he fails the challenge....immediate death. He will have to figure out what the dead men can tell him if he is to succeed.

"Dune Roller" by Julian May: An ecologist is studying life in the tide pools of Lake Michigan when he discovers the reality behind local legends of a ravenous beast that comes from the lake "in search of a man" to kill...and then retreats until its hunger forces it from the lake once again.

"Employment" by L. Sprague de Camp: Definitely a precursor to Jurassic Park. A paleontologist/inventor devises a method to bring animals back from the dead--starting with more recent varieties and working his way back to the dinosaurs. His "creations" become a hit with zoos everywhere, but his employee fears what might happen if he reanimates the larger carnivores....

"Dreams Are Sacred" by Peter Phillips: Science Fiction and Fantasy writer Marsham Craswell has overworked himself and escaped the stress in a dream-state coma where he loves out the lives of his fictional worlds. His psychiatrist is afraid that if the dreams become too real and Craswell "writes" a story in which the hero (Craswell) dies, then it just might happen for real. The doctor has a machine that will allow someone to share Craswell's thoughts/dreams and he asks his very down-to-earth, pragmatic friend to "go in" and bring Craswell back.

"Berom" by John Berryman: An alien ship shows up and the crew speaks in what seems to be gibberish. A translator discovers that the aliens are speaking in an obsolete code from the 1920s--which they picked up on radio waves before arriving. But what do the aliens really want?

"The Fire and the Sword" by Frank Robinson: Don Pendleton was sent to the primitive world of Tunpesh to live among the inhabitants. Inexplicably, he commits suicide and Templin is sent to investigate why. The investigator nearly suffers the same fate himself. What is it about the idyllic world that could drive men to kill themselves?

1 comment:

fredamans said...

I love short stories, but am so finicky about sci-fi... I guess I'd give this a go but am not convinced it's my taste.