In the 1930s, Donald Wandrei was one of the most famous science fiction pulp writers. Before the lines were drawn between fantasy, science fiction and horror, he wrote with a dark vision of the cosmos and a poet's sense of language. This book is an attempt to bring back some of his short fiction, largely un-reprinted.
This was a time when scientific plausibility had not yet become a central principle of science fiction. Plot and mind-blowing concepts were more important. On story in this book is about two men, rivals for the same woman, who follow each other on one-way trips to the year 1 million. One of the men makes a tiny, but huge, error in his calculations and arrives almost 2,000 years "late." The woman, kidnapped by the other man, is long since dead, but the later man finds that a cult, practically a religion, has grown up around his arrival among her descendants, the last people on earth.
What if it could be determined that the entire universe was nothing more than an atom in some incomparably larger universe (and what if that universe was nothing more than an atom in some much larger universe)? A man builds a spaceship capable of traveling thousands of times the speed of light and aims to find out. There are also a number of tales of the end of mankind, in all sorts of interesting ways.
In 1938, John W. Campbell took over the editorship of Astounding Science Fiction, where many of these stories first appeared. He forced scientific plausibility and extensive rewrites on his authors, and thereby on the rest of the field. Wandrei found that he could not adjust his writing to suit Campbell, and, by the 1940s, Wandrei basically gave up full-time writing to concentrate on running the specialty publisher Arkham House, which he co-founded. While it introduced authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith to a new generation of readers, Wandrei basically forbade the republishing of his stories.
I really enjoyed this book. It's quite good as a bit of science fiction history. Sometimes it's good to read stories full of up-to-the-minute science, and other times it's good to read stories like these, about the destruction of humanity or trips to the next universe. It gets a strong recommendation.