So far as I know, this 1968 collection is all that Masson wrote. If so, he certainly quit while he was ahead. These are great SF stories, including one recognised classic of the genre.
Lost Ground is an impressive time-mess story, although the second of its big ideas, emotional weather, is a puzzling inclusion: either the story is cleverer than me, or it's a tad undisciplined. Not So Certain details some of the difficulties we might encounter in seeking to talk to aliens; but it's less a story than a light essay.
With Mouth Of Hell the collection takes off: one simple idea, a vast hole in the surface of the (unspecified) planet, is enough for Masson to evoke an atmosphere of High Strangeness, and then slyly undercut it.
A Two-Timer is a wonderful tale of a time-travelling chancer from the 17th-century who steals the unsecured time machine of a traveller from 1964 and comes forward to that time. The thing is written in first-person, through the language and perceptions of 300 years ago, and contains much witty satire on modern life, along with the usual gleeful ingenuity of time-travel stories.
The Transfinite Choice smoothly solves the problem of global overpopulation by time-slicing our existence; with, of course, a twist or two in the tale. Psychosmosis is some kind of cryptic allegory in which speaking of the dead is taboo, since those who do so disappear instantly. It's weakened by having no particular thread or single protagonist, but remains a worrying read.
If I say the final, famous story, Traveller's Rest (on the strength of which I spent years looking for this book) is the most perfect in this collection, it is no criticism of the other tales: Traveller's Rest is one of the most perfect science-fiction stories ever. Our protagonist, H, is a lowly soldier in the endless, insanely pyrotechnic war at the northern end of the bewildering time-gradient that runs up and down his world. Relieved from duty, he is able to travel south to an ordinary life for many years, while only minutes pass on the battleline. It's a superb entwining of an idea, a story and a metaphor.
Ideas are what these stories are about, although there is some decent characterisation in Traveller's Rest and, particularly, A Two-Timer. Masson is clearly knowledgeable on a range of subjects, enriching his stories with detail. It's a shame that he didn't write more, but it's great that he wrote this much.
One of my favourite books. As was said of Philip Dick these stories ring in the mind long after you have read them. I was born in 1950 and it may be that the stories are not for modern tastes Nick Toop
Where do I start? Ten short stories in the only published work of David I Masson. Trouble is - they weren't short enough! In my opinion, they should have never seen the light of day, let alone be published for public consumption.
Confusing doesn't even scratch the surface. It's as if a hundred children have been lined up and each one asked to write a couple of lines, then to put the lot together as short stories. There's no sensible build up, it's all utterly incoherent, and the whole sorry mess is boring. Even the names of the people in every story are ridiculous.
I rifled through the ten stories presuming that one of them would be readable. No such luck.
What is even more galling is the introduction, where the stories are upheld as some great treasures of science fiction, that could have been lost to posterity. They should have been binned at birth!
Couldn't understand any of it. I haven't even got the nerve to deposit this book on the local charity shop.