Theodore Sturgeon is the best writer of short story science fiction. In a field such as science fiction, one of the few places where short stories continue to be regular features of the literary landscape, this is a high honor. This is a simple statement of fact. Ask any of the Giants, the other great short story writers of the field: Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Robert Silverberg, etc. They would each be more than willing to acknowledge Sturgeon as the best. Isaac Asimov wrote of his high opinions of Ted Sturgeon's body of work in his own autobiography.
I have always recommended the works of Sturgeon to people who want to get a feel for a more literary style of SF. Some people don't get Isaac Asimov or Arthur C. Clarke because they aren't normal "literary faire" to them. This is, at times, due to these people being educated beyond their own intelligence, but well... it is something that SF has had to deal with from the uninitiated. But Sturgeon is some one, along with some other SF luminaries like Ursula Le Guin and Harlan Ellison, even these so-called literary snobs have to recognize as a great writer. As a general rule, any English teachers who don't see SF as real writing will acknowledge Sturgeon as a great writer.
This book is part of a series of the complete short stories from Theodore Sturgeons career. It contains a few of his best and most famous short stories: "Medusa", "Killdozer!" and "Mewhu's Jet". It also contains a few of my own personal favorites with "The Bones", "Blabbermouth" and "Memorial".
Most of all, what we have with this book is a collection of where Sturgeon was at as a writer right before and during World War Two. WW2 was, naturally enough - as with all the other writers of his generation, the major factor on Sturgeon's later work... especially the effects of the atomic bomb and how it might affect later society - only at a more personal level than people normally think about. SF writers are rarely all about technical things... the technical and scientific aspects of issues are important to SF people because they are important to society. But Sturgeon was always affected at the level where science and technology interact with how we are friends and lovers with each other. You start to see that streak, which later cumulates with critical mass in his novel "More than Human", early on here with the story "Memorial".
Even those stories contained here, that would be by others considers to be not of the first rank, such as "Ghost of a Chance", "The Hag Seleen", "Abreaction", "Poor Yorick", "Crossfire", "Noon Gun", "Bulldozer Is a Noun", "August Sixth, 1945", and "The Chromium Helmet"... they are all, at the very least, very good stories. They're all still worthwhile reads today.
What is truly nice about this collection of his short stories, which North Atlantic Books has so kindly been putting out with the fine editorial over site of Paul Williams, is the story notes at the end of the book. Williams has dug into the background of each story, and come up with a lot of interesting lore about the fine author. Especially of interest in this volume is the alternative original ending to "Mewhu's Jet".
The book also has quips and quotes in the notes from Sturgeon on his own stories and his writing and how and why he wrote some of them, as well related notes from folks who Sturgeon talked to about writing and the specific stories over the years. Most important are some comments from John W. Campbell, Jr., the editor of Astounding Science Fiction back in the 1940's (up until 1971, as a matter of fact).
Campbell is probably the single most important influence on all Science Fiction, and Sturgeons interactions with him were very important to his development as a writer. Sturgeon later passed Campbell by, like many other writers, but he always remembered where he had come from. Science fiction, unlike a lot of other fields in English literature, has always remembered it's past, and Sturgeon was no exception.
Unfortunately, the Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) does not make people Grand Masters of the field posthumously. This has lead to Sturgeon never being inducted and hailed as a Grand Master because he had the misfortune to die before they got around to honoring him. This over site, along with those of Philip K. Dick, E. E. "Doc" Smith and John W. Campbell, Jr. and a few others should be a major issue to those who remember and revere the memory of Ted Sturgeon. This is something that the SFWA should correct at some point. Sooner is always better than later.
If you are into good shorts, then this is a very worthwhile collection to own and read.