28 January 2008

Brian Aldiss, ed., A Science Fiction Omnibus, 2007

The best from Aldiss’s three patchy-but-famous Penguin Science Fiction anthologies from the early 1960s, plus ten or so new selections from the intervening years. Aldiss was the right man for the job then to further popularise SF, and this time around his editorial point again seems to fall in favour of diversity with slightly less regard for conventionality. There are a few that read less well today, as I’m sure Aldiss is aware; it’s interesting and strange how perception of a story can change while the words themselves never do. Not all the stories here are now worth the effort involved, but of those that are it was particularly good to read again James Blish’s ‘Common Time’, Ward Moore’s ‘Lot’, William Tenn’s ‘The Liberation of Earth’, and John Steinbeck’s ‘The Short-Short Story of Mankind’, a Cold War story worth keeping in print despite its scant relevance to science fiction. Best pick: Ted Chiang’s sublime and perfectly structured ‘Story of Your Life’, an SF tale with few equals from any era, because there is simply no other story here that comes close in either concept or execution.  PY

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