Book Review: The Mammoth Book of Short Science Fiction Novels

Isaac Asimov – Profession
John W. Campbell – Who Goes There?
Lester Del Rey – For I am a Jealous People
Gordon R. Dickson – The Mortal and the Monster
David Drake – Time Safari
Phyllis Eisenstein – In the Western Tradition
Philip José Farmer – The Alley Man
John Jakes – The Sellers of Dreams
Donald Kingsbury – The Moon Goddess and the Son
Barry Longyear – Enemy Mine
Larry Niven – Flash Crowd
Frederik Pohl – In the Problem Pit
Robert Silverberg – The Desert of Stolen Dreams

A collection of short novels here from some of the biggest names in science fiction. Some will be familiar. “Who Goes There?” for example is the original story on which The Thing horror film is based.

Similarly, Enemy Mine will be familiar to almost all science fiction fans. Even if you’ve never read this or seen the film, there is barely a science fiction series that has not used its basic premise in an episode.

Those two aside, this collection is very much a mixed affair. My favourites are: For I am a Jealous People is about a preacher experiencing spiritual anguish at an alien invasion who becomes convinced that they have been sent by God. Flash Crowd is an exploration of the problems that come with new technology. In the Problem Pit is an interesting social experiment about confining a group of people together and cut off from society.

My least favourites are The Alley Man, an overly sentimental piece about a Neanderthal who has survived into the 21st century, The Moon Goddess and the Son a directionless piece about a girl who desperately wants to go to the moon and hooks up with the son of a lunar engineer who wants to avoid returning there at all costs. Finally The Sellers of the Dream about a world in which people can download new personalities, mostly targeted as a product for women. Aside from the chauvinism (which wasn’t my problem with this piece) there were consistency and clarity problems. Also, to be frank there are better examples of the dangers of consumerism in fiction.

The others I could take or leave. This collection is recommended as an introduction to the work of some of the big names of sci fi.


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