Book Review: Entry to Elsewhen (contains three 1950s short stories/novelettes), John Brunner (1972)

2.5/5 (Bad)– collated rating

This collection contains three 1950s short stories/novelettes expanded and modified from their original magazine form for this volume.  Although two of the three are average/bad, ‘Lungfish’ (1957) remains one of my favorite short stories of all time and proved very influential for later science fiction stories concerning the effects on children growing up in the restricted stimulus deficient environment of a generation ship…

(2/5) ‘Host Age’, first published in New Worlds SF, 1955.  There’s not much remotely interesting/above average about this 50 page tale.  A plague strikes a near future earth.  An unusual burglary with no point of entry occurs destroying a medical research facility.  It’s up to the doctor in charge of finding the cure to the Plague to piece together the puzzle — which is somewhat obvious to the reader.  There’s a semi-twist at the end — but, it falls short of anything revelatory or impressive. In short, simplistic, straightforward, and poorly written run-of-the-mill 1950s sci-fi…

(5/5) ‘Lungfish’, first published in Science Fantasy, 1957.  This has always been one of my favorite short stories and worth the acquisition of this volume.  In part, because of the subject matter: generation ships.  In part, because of Brunner’s delivery.  And, in part, because of its continuing influence on the genre: evidenced by Ursula Le Guin’s short story ‘Paradises Lost’ — in the recent collection, The Birthday of the World — which expands on Brunner’s premise with a few more generations and a more modern delivery.  What happens when the offspring of the original generation ship colonists don’t want to settle their new world?  I won’t spoil this one!  He should have expanded these concepts into a full length book.  It really shows John Brunner’s growing interest in social science fiction which later manifests itself so powerfully in works such as Stand on Zanzibar (1969).

(0.5/5) ‘No Other Gods But Me’, first published as A Time to Rend in  Science Fantasy, 1956.  Colin and Vanessa run into each other late at night in London — Colin had seen her before in Australia.  But, Colin is recovering from a panic attack and its accompanying hallucinations so he doesn’t know if what he sees is real.  After a bizarre experience together involving hypnosis and a mysterious man, they head in different directions.  They meet again in America — Vanessa is married to a member of the creepy cult, ‘The Real Truth — an athropocentric religion which claims that man is the greatest thing in the universe, and anything you can conceive you can achieve.  They slowly discover that their lives are being manipulated — the reader gets bored and asks repeatedly, why does this have to be the longest novella in the collection?  It’s at this point that I set it down — no wonder I didn’t remember the story the first time I read the collection 6 or so years ago — and give up.  I’ll read most Brunner science fiction no matter how bad it is, but this is unacceptable.  Feels kind of like a creepy fantasy examination of Scientology…  Boring/worthless/silly.

Brief Concluding Thoughts

So, in short, this collection is worthwhile ONLY for ‘Lungfish’ (1957) which is an absolutely wonderful, engaging, though provoking, and well written read.  The other stuff is shallow and predictable.  I’ve found that John Brunner excels when discussing the social ramifications of technology.  So, read ‘Lungfish’ — ignore the rest.

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12 thoughts on “Book Review: Entry to Elsewhen (contains three 1950s short stories/novelettes), John Brunner (1972)

  1. Great review. I enjoy Brunner and have a stack of his work in my “to read” pile, but have never even seen this book. And, hey! thanks for including the old, original publication covers. I know it takes extra time, but, I, at least, appreciate it!

  2. Which ones have you read (and more importantly, enjoyed)?

    As I’ve probably said before, Stand on Zanzibar (1969) is my favorite sci-fi novel of all time.

    Yes, well, with that website I told you about finding the covers is really easy — and it’s always nice to have pictures.

    • Brunner is hit or miss. But, Stand on Zanzibar is a must read…. However, Stand on Zanzibar *can* be interpreted in a somewhat misogynistic light (but remember, he is projecting a dark future). He is extrapolating an extraordinarily overpopulated future where women have been relegated to subservient status in part because the family unit has completely broken down. It’s a stunning work…. I need to reread it so I can write a review.

  3. You’re gonna chuckle at my review of No Other God But Me. It WAS epically painful to read and it certainly deserves any negative remarks hurled at it. However, I kind of liked Host Age as it had a certain Golden Age charm with an inclusion of modern science… in parallel with Lung Fish (due to its fairly crap ending).

      • I loved the setting and cast conflict of Lung Fish and understood it all to the end, but Brunner was really gasping for air with that conclusion; it didn’t mesh right with the intricacy of the conflict.

  4. Great review. I can’t wait to read Lungfish. Now you got me started on trying to reconstuct what all I read about generation ships. You don’t have a list of them somewhere that I could use to check off? Unfortunately, I spent 30 years reading stuff without recording what I read, and it is buried in the morass of long-term memory getting soft.

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