2.5/5 (Average)– 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.