- Format: Kindle Edition
- File Size: 655 KB
- Print Length: 424 pages
- Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
- Publisher: Halcyon Press Ltd.; First edition (13 July 2010)
- Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
- Language: English
- ASIN: B003VS0DUK
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
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- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #755,707 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum (Unexpurgated Edition) (Halcyon Classics) Kindle Edition
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The Best of Stanley G Weinbaum is a collection of his short fiction which appeared in 1974. You can still find it used bookstores ( like me) or order it off the Internet. It's a good look at an young writer who left a legacy of stories. Most take place on the planets in our solar system. There's a naive sense of wonder in these stories, not the best drama, but fun just the same. Many contain some of the same characters. These stories take place in what William Gibson called "The Gernsback Continuum", i.e., giant flying cities, pre-WW2 atomics and zeppelins.
A few stories do stick out: "A Martian Odyssey", being the one every sf fan seems to have encountered. This is a tale of the first human expedition to Mars, where the explorers meet a large bird-like creature called "Tweel" and the other strange life forms they encounter. Similar stories take place on Venus and the moons of Jupiter. In all cases the air is breathable, but the humans might need oxygen masks in some parts. It's constant with what was known about the planets at the time.
However, my favourite stories in this collection take place on earth. The first, "The Ultimate Adaptive", is about what happens when an ordinary woman is given the power of evolutionary adaption to any situation. The ending is contrived, but the tone is chilling. "Vally of Dreams" allows a lonesome young man the ability to enter a fantasy world. The ending is a little contrived too, but it moved in the right direction. And then there's "Proteus Island" which is a strange merge of "jungle girl" stories and The Island of Dr. Moreau. Again, these three tales stepped outside the "Blasting rockets!" stories and showed the direction Weinbaum might have taken had he lived.
The collection comes with an introduction by Issac Asimov and a remembrance by Robert Bloch. Worth reading if you can find a copy.
"The Best of Stanley Weinbaum" is a collection of short stories that, unfortunately, probably represents half of this astonishing writer's entire output.
Perhaps the greatest and most enduring charm of Weinbaum's stories rests with his collection of unique extra-terrestrial life - sentient, intelligent life that clearly had alien psychologies and motivations beyond human understanding. The most innovative feature of Weinbaum's collection of creatures was that they were not simply monstrous foils used to showcase the heroism of the human protagonists. Nor were they shallow anthropomorphized critters that merely happened to have green skin and six arms and legs. Tweel, the comical ostrich-like creature from "The Martian Odyssey" was Weinbaum's phenomenal response to John W Campbell's dictum "write me a creature who thinks as well as a man, or better than a man, but not like a man". The outrageously bizarre intelligent plant "Oscar" from "The Lotus Eaters" challenged the thinking sci-fi reader in ways that had never been achieved up until that time. Indeed, a case may be made that no sci-fi writer has created this type of alien intelligence since.
Although current knowledge of our solar system has moved beyond what was available to Weinbaum in the thirties, his presentation of alien ecologies was fascinating, compelling and yet wholly believable in the context of the science of the day. His presentation of a hostile Venusian jungle in "The Parasite Planet" is positively chilling.
Beyond that, even within the limitations of the short story format, Weinbaum also demonstrates the ability to create complete characters whose achievements matter to the reader. They are fleshed out utterly human down-to-earth "folks" with foibles, failings, happiness and sadness to accompany the heroism and feats of derring-do that are only to be expected in stories like this.
If you've never sampled Stanley Weinbaum, then you are in for a truly delicious treat. Read slowly and savour it, because, sadly, there is far too little of his work available. Highly, highly recommended!
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