Saturday, 29 September 2012

Book Review: American Science Fiction Edited by Gary K. Wolfe

The American Science Fiction collection, volume one, consists of 4 classic novels written from 1953 to 1956:

The Space Merchants by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth
More Than Human by Theodore Sturgeon
The Long Tomorrow by Leigh Brackett
The Shrinking Man by Richard Matheson

Pros: original book versions of the stories; biographical information, note on the texts and end notes for each story, diverse sub-genres represented, influencial stories and authors

Cons: some of the novels contain parts that modern readers may find boring

This is the first of a two book American Science Fiction collection.  It's a hard bound book set of books that match others in the series.  The four novels reprinted here are all by authors who have greatly impacted science fiction as we know it today.  The novels themselves represent different subgenres: dystopic, evolutionary, post-apocalyptic and fantastical.  [OK, I'm making some of these categories up, but each novel here has a different feel and used science fiction in a different way.]

The back of the collection has a number of good, short resources.  There are biographical notes on each author, a note on the texts (what versions are printed here (as most of them first appeared in magazines)), and end notes.  In addition to textual notes, the end notes also print an additional 3 chapters of Gravy Planet (renamed The Space Merchants) for its syndication in Galaxy magazine.  They come after the events of The Space Merchants as printed in book form.  There is also an introduction to The Shrinking Man writen by Richard Matheson for a 2001 printing of the book that explains where he got the idea for the story, where he wrote it and how it was turned into a movie.

If you're interested in the history of science fiction, this is a good collection, even if parts of the stories may be boring to those with modern sensibilities.

Also, check out the collection's website: for commentary on all of the stories by modern SF writers, a cover gallery, an explanation of SF in the 50s and more.

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