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American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels 1956–1958: Double Star / The Stars My Destination / A Case of Conscience / Who? / The Big Time

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This second of two volumes surveying the best science fiction novels of the 1950s presents works by five of the field’s most admired and influential practitioners. In Robert A. Heinlein’s Double Star (1956), an actor forced to impersonate a twenty-second-century political leader intent on forging bonds between Earthlings and Martians learns hard lessons about the nature of This second of two volumes surveying the best science fiction novels of the 1950s presents works by five of the field’s most admired and influential practitioners. In Robert A. Heinlein’s Double Star (1956), an actor forced to impersonate a twenty-second-century political leader intent on forging bonds between Earthlings and Martians learns hard lessons about the nature of power. Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956), which Neil Gaiman has called “the perfect cyberpunk novel,” is a classic revenge tale set in a nightmarish future dominated by corporations. In James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958), space voyagers on the remote planet Lithia find themselves challenged by the values of an alien civilization. Algis Budrys’s Who? (1958) unleashes Cold War anxieties about technology and human identity with its story of a scientist rebuilt beyond recognition after a devastating accident. Set in “the Place,” a bar and bordello in the backwater of time’s stream, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time (1958) explores the implications of the “Change War,” an endless cosmic struggle in which shadowy antagonists dart in and out of history in a contest to control destiny. The range of styles—by turns adventurous, satiric, incisive—is as varied as the themes addressed by these novels, all now acknowledged as American classics. Together they mark an explosively entertaining era in modern fiction.


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This second of two volumes surveying the best science fiction novels of the 1950s presents works by five of the field’s most admired and influential practitioners. In Robert A. Heinlein’s Double Star (1956), an actor forced to impersonate a twenty-second-century political leader intent on forging bonds between Earthlings and Martians learns hard lessons about the nature of This second of two volumes surveying the best science fiction novels of the 1950s presents works by five of the field’s most admired and influential practitioners. In Robert A. Heinlein’s Double Star (1956), an actor forced to impersonate a twenty-second-century political leader intent on forging bonds between Earthlings and Martians learns hard lessons about the nature of power. Alfred Bester’s The Stars My Destination (1956), which Neil Gaiman has called “the perfect cyberpunk novel,” is a classic revenge tale set in a nightmarish future dominated by corporations. In James Blish’s A Case of Conscience (1958), space voyagers on the remote planet Lithia find themselves challenged by the values of an alien civilization. Algis Budrys’s Who? (1958) unleashes Cold War anxieties about technology and human identity with its story of a scientist rebuilt beyond recognition after a devastating accident. Set in “the Place,” a bar and bordello in the backwater of time’s stream, Fritz Leiber’s The Big Time (1958) explores the implications of the “Change War,” an endless cosmic struggle in which shadowy antagonists dart in and out of history in a contest to control destiny. The range of styles—by turns adventurous, satiric, incisive—is as varied as the themes addressed by these novels, all now acknowledged as American classics. Together they mark an explosively entertaining era in modern fiction.

30 review for American Science Fiction: Five Classic Novels 1956–1958: Double Star / The Stars My Destination / A Case of Conscience / Who? / The Big Time

  1. 4 out of 5

    brian

    impressive stuff. to succumb to cliche, 50s scifi is the litpulp equivalent of 70s punk meets 60s garage psychedelia: this collection (with its sister volume) then being a kind of literary version of 'nuggets'. i've often dreamed of a 'ramones program' whereby i could pump in any song and have a version come out as if recorded by the ramones around the time of their first album. this is something like that. impressive stuff. to succumb to cliche, 50s scifi is the litpulp equivalent of 70s punk meets 60s garage psychedelia: this collection (with its sister volume) then being a kind of literary version of 'nuggets'. i've often dreamed of a 'ramones program' whereby i could pump in any song and have a version come out as if recorded by the ramones around the time of their first album. this is something like that.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Nerine Dorman

    Double Star by Robert A Heinlen Laurence, or “the great Lorenzo” might not admit it to himself, but he’s a washed-up has-been of an actor not quite succeeding at eking out a living. That is, until he runs into a potential employer who isn’t quite whom he appears to be. Soon Lorenzo is studying for the greatest role he’s likely ever to play, and the stakes have become far higher than he expected. Heinlen explores the notions of the self in double star, and how one person quite literally becomes an Double Star by Robert A Heinlen Laurence, or “the great Lorenzo” might not admit it to himself, but he’s a washed-up has-been of an actor not quite succeeding at eking out a living. That is, until he runs into a potential employer who isn’t quite whom he appears to be. Soon Lorenzo is studying for the greatest role he’s likely ever to play, and the stakes have become far higher than he expected. Heinlen explores the notions of the self in double star, and how one person quite literally becomes another. This is a story of personal alchemy, and the psychological changes the protagonist undergoes are far more vast than the ones that are merely skin-deep. Double Star is best described as a futuristic political thriller, and delivers a satisfying close leaving me with much to mull over. The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester This is yet another novel that I’ve heard much about that I’m glad I’ve had an opportunity to read. At the end of the day I’m a bit torn how I feel about the story, and need a bit more time to reflect on how everything fits together. Gully Foyle behaves more as an anti-hero rather than protagonist, though readers can’t help but cheer for his efforts, I’m sure. He comes across a bit as an imp of the perverse, upsetting the cosmic apple cart in the process. He begins his journey at the bottom—a victim—but by the time the story draws to a close he takes on almost godlike proportions. Bester envisions an almost dystopian future, and the concept of jaunting is certainly a fascinating one with far-reaching implications. This story touches on a lot of sociological issues, and makes me think a lot of Ayn Rand’s fiction for some reason. The telling itself leaves me a bit cold, however, as we’re experiencing the world through an omniscient third-person viewpoint. This might, however, be my contemporary tastes coming into play, however. At an rate, The Stars My Destination is a powerful story that will stay with me for a long time. A Case of Conscience by James Blish In this novel, Blish answers the question of “What if there were sentient life on another planet?” A thoroughly uncomfortable story that reprises the disastrous consequences of the Spanish conquest of South America, A Case of Conscience examines the repercussions of human contact on the planet of Lithia. All four scientists who numbered among the initial contact expedition to Lithia are changed. Our primary character is a Jesuit priest and scientist, Father Ruez-Sanchez, and the very basis of his faith is called into question by the inhabitants of Lithia, who possess absolutely no faith as a reason for moral guidance. A gift given to him by a well-meaning Lithian in turn has unintended consequences. At a glance, this story pokes at reason vs. faith, but at heart remains a cautionary tale about the dangers of subjective thinking. The world-building of Lithia is hauntingly beautiful, a kind of savage Garden of Eden. This is, as always, a difficult story to read, and one that can definitely lead to lively discussions. Who? By Algis Budrys This is another story that’s fascinating to read in the aftermath of the Cold War. Lucas Martino was a genius scientist working on a top-secret project near the enemy lines when things went awry, and he was horribly injured in the resultant explosion. This was exactly the gap the Soviets were looking for, and they picked him up, and patched him up. The only complication for him was that he was almost unidentifiable—much of him had become mechanical. Now he became a bone of contention between the two sides. The Soviet colonel Azarin doesn’t want to let Martino return. What I appreciate about how this story is written is Budrys understands how to use the different viewpoint characters with their unreliable viewpoints to the best effect to create tension. Right up until the last, we are never entirely sure just *who* the mostly mechanical man is. The Big Time by Fritz Leiber The last of the novels included in this collection, The Big Time is also my least favourite. To be honest, I struggled to keep up with the cast of characters, terms and settings. I also suspect the fault lies with the reader and not so much the author. That being said, Leiber does a fascinating job of mashing up different eras with his characters, and leaves me guessing the whole time with regard to what’s actually going on. For some bizarre reason, I’m reminded of Anthony Burgess’s A Clockwork Orange in the telling. Still, there is something enigmatic about The Big Time that I enjoyed, and I’m glad I read it. I’ll be honest, I wouldn’t ordinarily have picked up these novels on their own. When I was a kid I read *a lot* of SF. I didn’t always *get* what I was reading (as in the cultural/historical contexts) but was nonetheless utterly fascinated by the imaginations of these classic authors. So, I’ll admit that the idea to have five classic novels lumped together offered the incentive for me to bite, and consider reading these novels in clump to gain some sort of comparative perspective. On a very shallow level, I find it fascinating to see authors try to envision future technology. Now, many decades since these novels were published, things have turned out very differently. Small details, such as *how* we communicate, and how we store and retrieve information—I don’t think many could conceive of these possibilities back then, and it shows. Sociologically speaking, there was so much emphasis on the implied threat of the Cold War, of capitalism vs. communism. Now, in our post-modern world, it’s more the War on Terror that seems to have captured mankind’s fixation. With Soviets out of the picture, we look with a wary eye toward China. What is also apparent to me, as both editor and reader, is how our language usage has shifted, especially when employing point of view within genre fiction. For that very reason, I did find some of these stories a bit more challenging than others. Another point of difference is how women are portrayed in SF. For some reason the discrimination didn’t bother me as much when I was a teen exploring classic SF for the first time. But now, the lack of three-dimensional female characters bothered me. My final verdict: if you’re a serious collector of genre fiction, or are looking to get stuck into a decent collection as a first intro, you can’t do wrong with this selection. There’s a strong cross-section, memorable characters and thought-provoking stories. I appreciated the ride very much and am glad I invested the time in the reading. I might not have gelled with each author’s style as much, but sometimes there are reads that are important as snapshots of a particular zeitgeist, and this anthology says a lot about the hopes and dreams of the 1950s.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    Who? presents an interesting dilemma: How does a man whose face and fingerprints were annihilated by an accident prove who he is? On the other hand, how is someone else to believe he is who he says he is? The novel in brief: An American scientist working on a top secret project is returned to the Americans by the Soviets, but he’s been fitted with a metal helmet/mask. According to the man in the mask, his lab had an explosion and the Soviets swept in and captured him. He was so badly injured tha Who? presents an interesting dilemma: How does a man whose face and fingerprints were annihilated by an accident prove who he is? On the other hand, how is someone else to believe he is who he says he is? The novel in brief: An American scientist working on a top secret project is returned to the Americans by the Soviets, but he’s been fitted with a metal helmet/mask. According to the man in the mask, his lab had an explosion and the Soviets swept in and captured him. He was so badly injured that the Soviets had to put him in the surgically implanted mask. It cannot be removed. Is he who he says he is? It’s a great idea for a novel – what makes us what we are? How do others identify and recognize us? And Who? explores these issues. The novel is written as a mystery that’s not completely solved until the end (though it is predictable). It’s an interesting read – with some suspense and some well-formed characters. But the author fails, I believe, in his attempt to present both points of view – the man himself and the agent trying to determine if he’s telling the truth. I think that gives away too much of story. Told from one perspective or the other, I think the story would have been much more compelling. Also, the novel would have been better served not to answer the question. (Though I think it did answer it pretty early on.) It would have been better to end at chapter 13 where the agent asked the man in the metal mask if he is indeed the person he says he is. The man in the mask says, “No.” Is he telling the truth? Or is he just fed up? Or is he now unsure after trying so long to prove himself? The rest of the novel ties up all the loose ends. That’s too bad. Overall, it’s a pleasant read. It has more well-formed characters than some sci-fi novels. It’s not a must-read, but if you enjoy sci-fi and want some light reading for the train/beach, this is a good choice. Side Note: My Homage to Abbott and Costello - I read Who? - What? - The book, Who? - You read what? - Who? - Are you talking about author? - No the book. Who? - The book what? - No, that’s a different book. - What? - Yes. That is a different book. - What did you say you read? - Who? - Hu the Chinese author? - No, the book – Who? - Who what? - Just Who? - You are talking about whom? - No, it’s Who? - That’s not proper grammar. - That’s the book. - What? - I thought we covered that. That’s a different book. - Please don’t tell me about the books you read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Terence

    This two book set has been on my list for a while and I finally finished this volume. I would say it is pretty essential reading if you are at all interested in science-fiction or weird/speculative fiction. The biggest stand outs to me were Alfred Bester's "The Stars my Destination" that was quite honestly a revelation in how early its ideas about an anti-hero in a world dominated by corporations could pre-date cyberpunk or the new wave. Next, for me, would be "The Big Time" by Fritz Leiber that This two book set has been on my list for a while and I finally finished this volume. I would say it is pretty essential reading if you are at all interested in science-fiction or weird/speculative fiction. The biggest stand outs to me were Alfred Bester's "The Stars my Destination" that was quite honestly a revelation in how early its ideas about an anti-hero in a world dominated by corporations could pre-date cyberpunk or the new wave. Next, for me, would be "The Big Time" by Fritz Leiber that anchors a raucous time-traveling story in a brothel. "Who?" by Algis Budrys was another piece that stood out, a bit more quiet, but incredibly interesting. Also, "Double Star" by Heinlein was one of the best Heinlein works I've read. And only "A Case of Conscience" by Blish being a bit of a dud for me. Anyway I can't wait to dive into the other collection. I really found some gems that were so far ahead of their time.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    To be honest, I've only finished the first 2 stories within this compilation, but will have to put it aside for the time being. The second story was quite intriguing but confusing, as it involved a completely different syntax in the future people's language as well as very different social organization than our current system. Overall, however, it was an enjoyable story but not nearly as enjoyable as the initial story. To be honest, I've only finished the first 2 stories within this compilation, but will have to put it aside for the time being. The second story was quite intriguing but confusing, as it involved a completely different syntax in the future people's language as well as very different social organization than our current system. Overall, however, it was an enjoyable story but not nearly as enjoyable as the initial story.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Heather

    Loved the first story and then I had to return it to the library. I hope to check it out again and finish it. I really enjoy this style of scifi writing.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Paul Magnussen

    This handsomely produced volume contains five SF stories from the specified period: Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester A Case of Conscience by James Blish Who? by Algis Budrys The Big Time by Fritz Leiber It is a scholarly edition, with interesting and useful biographical notes and notes on the text. The text of The Stars My Destination, for instance, is considerably better than that of my old Penguin edition of Tiger! Tiger!, which I had in This handsomely produced volume contains five SF stories from the specified period: Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein The Stars My Destination (aka Tiger! Tiger!) by Alfred Bester A Case of Conscience by James Blish Who? by Algis Budrys The Big Time by Fritz Leiber It is a scholarly edition, with interesting and useful biographical notes and notes on the text. The text of The Stars My Destination, for instance, is considerably better than that of my old Penguin edition of Tiger! Tiger!, which I had innocently assumed was as the author originally intended, but which (I now find) had been mucked about (p. 814 in the present work) — by whom not being entirely clear. Since these individually already have plenty of reviews, there seems little need to say more; except perhaps that stylistically (and in content, as well), Bester’s work stands out like a flat chest at a beauty contest. And that this book is apparently subsumed in American Science Fiction: Nine Classic Novels of the 1950s.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    This is my third Library of America collection and, unfortunately, is the one I’ve liked least so far. Perhaps I have simply discovered that the Red Scare overtakes American scifi of the late 1950s more than I had previously realized, and that is just not to my own personal scifi taste. The collection still does what it purports to, though: it gathers a selection of the best of American scifi in a particular time period, letting the reader immerse herself and truly come to know a particular genr This is my third Library of America collection and, unfortunately, is the one I’ve liked least so far. Perhaps I have simply discovered that the Red Scare overtakes American scifi of the late 1950s more than I had previously realized, and that is just not to my own personal scifi taste. The collection still does what it purports to, though: it gathers a selection of the best of American scifi in a particular time period, letting the reader immerse herself and truly come to know a particular genre in a particular period. Since this collection gathers up books written by different authors, I have reviewed the books individually as I read them. Thus, here I will simply summarize my reviews to give you a feeling of the collection as a whole. Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein Similar to The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, Heinlein presents a delightful mix of wit, Hollywood glamor, and thought-provoking political speeches all in a well-imagined and engaging future society. A fun piece of classic scifi that tosses together acting and politics in outer space with Martians who look like toadstools and a heavy sprinkling of wit. The romance leaves something to be desired, and the tech isn’t particularly predictive or imaginative, but these are minor aspects of the story. Recommended to fans of witty scifi who don’t mind a dash of political intrigue. 4 out of 5 stars Full Review The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester The world building is so excellent and gets so much attention from Bester that it overshadows the more average vengeance plot with iffy morals. Readers who enjoy immersing themselves in various possible futures will revel in the uniqueness and richness of the future presented here. Those who believe firmly in punishment for crime as opposed to redemption may not be able to get past the plot to enjoy the setting. Recommended to scifi fans interested in a unique future setting. 4 out of 5 stars Full Review A Case of Conscience by James Blish Essentially, the book has interesting world-building and what could be a promising plot that get derailed by two-dimensional characters and too many bizarre plot-twists and occurrences. It’s certainly an interesting read, particularly if you are interested in immersing yourself in this odd world Blish has created. However, readers should not expect to connect with the characters on an emotional level and should be prepared for a bizarre plot. 3 out of 5 stars Full Review Who? by Algis Budrys An interesting concept that wasn’t fully fleshed out nor the possible weaknesses fully addressed. It is definitely a scifi of its time, with its hyper-focus on the Soviets and the Cold War that could almost feel kitschy today. A short read with an interesting premise, albeit a lack of female scientists, soldiers, or government workers. Recommended to scifi fans who enjoy some old-fashioned red scare in their reads and don’t need the science to be perfect. 3 out of 5 stars Full Review The Big Time by Fritz Leiber A thought-provoking whodunit mystery set in an R&R waystation in a time-travel war. Some aspects of the book did not age particularly well, such as the hysterical fear of Communism and the lack of women soldiers, but the heart of the book is timeless. How do you know if those in charge are right or wrong, does love make you see things more or less clearly, and does evolution feel frightening and random when it’s happening. Recommended to scifi fans with an interest in a scifi take on a Clue-like story. 3 out of 5 stars Full Review In Conclusion This is an interesting collection that shows how gradually fear of Communism came to take over American thought by the end of 1958. The two earliest books in the collection are set in a far future with no concerns about the long-reaching impacts of the Cold War. By the last two books, the futures are heavily impacted by the perceived threat of Communism, with one book even having time itself being unraveled and re-written in an attempt to stop the Russians. The most light-hearted, entertaining book in the collection is Double Star. I would recommend fans of witty scifi pick it up as soon as they get the chance. The most thought-provoking, with a cool world that could work quite well for cosplay is The Stars My Destination. It withstands the test of time quite well. The most interesting world is the planet and culture of Lithia in James Blish’s A Case of Conscience. The collection as a whole is primarily recommended to scifi fans with a heavy interest in how the Red Scare of 1950s America can be seen in scifi of the time. Check out my full review. (Link will be live June 4, 2014). Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Wiley Duerson

    The Stars My Destination / Double Star

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kayla

    *NOTE: This is my husband, Seth's review, as he is helping me catch up on my review pile.* 3.5 Stars. While not an elegant title for a book, it is quite accurate. Once you crack it open you find quite a few stories in it. The running time on this book if you are going to read it from cover to cover is quite long. You’re looking at a little over 20 hours of reading, possibly more. The first story in this collection is Double Star by Robert Heinlein. It follows the life of a has been actor who takes *NOTE: This is my husband, Seth's review, as he is helping me catch up on my review pile.* 3.5 Stars. While not an elegant title for a book, it is quite accurate. Once you crack it open you find quite a few stories in it. The running time on this book if you are going to read it from cover to cover is quite long. You’re looking at a little over 20 hours of reading, possibly more. The first story in this collection is Double Star by Robert Heinlein. It follows the life of a has been actor who takes on a role of a lifetime. Quite literally it seems. While slow paced, it has a knack of keeping you interested to find out what happens to ‘The Great Lorenzo’. Overall, the story seems quite credible for science fiction. It keeps away from anything too exotic like light speed travel and all the other staples of sci-fi stories like giant star ships etc. The only thing unrealistic about it is the presence if aliens on Mars, but as this was something written back in the 50’s it’s to be expected seeing as how practically all planets in the solar system were perceived as being inhabited. I give this story in the collection a 4/5. The second story in this collection is The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. This covers an alternate history where sometime after man began to colonize other planets in the solar system and the asteroid belt, they discovered how to teleport(jaunt). This has a huge impact on how the world economy works. Cities spring up in unlikely places. Roads are left in disrepair. Telepathy becomes a thing with some people as well. This story focuses on the life of Gully Foyle who is left to die in space only to eventually track down and get his vengeance on those who left him to die. This story is much faster paced than the last one, which was a nice respite. I give this one as well a 4/5. The third story in this collection is A Case of Conscience by James Blish. This one follows the story of three men contacting an alien race for man for the first time. They aren’t nearly as advanced as man is in some aspects of technology because the planet they evolved on didn’t have enough heavy metals to do much with. But they had managed to develop flight with what was available to them. The three men observe and collect information on the aliens up until they have to leave. Upon leaving they are gifted with one of the alien young to take back to Earth with them. While I enjoyed this story somewhat, it left me wanting more from it I think. I can’t explain what. Anyways, I give this one a 3.5/5. The fourth story in this collection is WHO? By Algis Budrys. This one follows a cold war scenario with more technology than was available in our history. A man who was thought to have been dead was brought back from Russia, but his identity can’t be confirmed because all his identifying characteristics have been replaced by mechanical items. No teeth, no fingerprints, even his eyes have been replaced. As such, he is under suspicion for the whole rest of his life on whether he is an American or in reality a Russian spy. I also give this one a 3.5/5. The last story in this long winded collection is The Big Time by Fritz Leiber. It covers something called the Change War. It follows an entertainer who is stuck outside of space and time along with several others. They ostensibly ‘entertain’ time travelers who combat different scenarios in history where things could have gone horribly wrong. To be honest, I thought it was a quite boring story and was just glad to be done with this collection. I give this one a 2/5.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Martin Hernandez

    Este volumen del recopilatorio doble que publica la Librería de América incluye 5 novelas clásicas de la Ciencia Ficción, publicadas en la segunda mitad de la década de los 1950's: 1) Double Star, de Robert A. HEINLEIN comienza el tomo de manera un poco floja, No es el mejor trabajo de HEINLEIN, pero ganó el Premio Hugo a la Mejor Novela en 1956. (2 estrellas; mi reseña aquí) 2) The Stars My Destination, de Alfred BESTER , me gustó mucho más, en particular la descripción que hace de l Este volumen del recopilatorio doble que publica la Librería de América incluye 5 novelas clásicas de la Ciencia Ficción, publicadas en la segunda mitad de la década de los 1950's: 1) Double Star, de Robert A. HEINLEIN comienza el tomo de manera un poco floja, No es el mejor trabajo de HEINLEIN, pero ganó el Premio Hugo a la Mejor Novela en 1956. (2 estrellas; mi reseña aquí) 2) The Stars My Destination, de Alfred BESTER , me gustó mucho más, en particular la descripción que hace de la sinestesia. En el momento de su publicación no fue muy bien recibida, pero ha ganado apreciación con el tiempo, y autores reconocidos como Samuel R. Delany y Robert SILVERBERG la mencionan como una de las mejores del género. También se le reconoce influencias importantes en el desarollo del género cyberpunk. (3 estrellas; mi reseña aquí) 3) A Case of Conscience, de James BLISH , ¡todavía mejor! Primera vez que veo a un sacerdote jesuita como personaje de una novela de ciencia ficción. Ganó el Premio Hugo en 1959. (4 estrellas; mi reseña aquí) 4) Who?, de Algis BUDRYS Después de la novela anterior, ésta ya no me pareció tan buena. Aún así, encuentro muchos aspectos interesantes y disfrutables. Hicieron una película con el mismo título en 1974... ni la novela ganó un Hugo, ni la película un Oscar, pero ¡bueno! (3 estrellas; mi reseña aquí) 5) The Big Time, de Fritz LEIBER ... ahhhh, no me gustó. La encontré confusa y dispersa. ¿Qué objetivo tiene buscar ganar una guerra cambiando el pasado y el futuro, si la otra parte puede hacer lo mismo? En fin, a pesar de mi opinión, ganó un Premio Hugo en 1958, así que debe tener más méritos de los que yo alcancé a leer. (2 estrellas)

  12. 4 out of 5

    Randal

    I didn't finish the last novel ... after the fairly woeful Who? it was hard getting enthused about it. The only one that really did anything for me was Bester's The Stars My Destination, which I loved. It's a primal, frenzied tale of a monomaniacal protagonist seeking revenge after being abandoned to his fate following an accident in deep space. Highly recommended. I've reread several Heinlein recently and each does less for me than the one before. His style feels gimmicky, verbose and stilted now I didn't finish the last novel ... after the fairly woeful Who? it was hard getting enthused about it. The only one that really did anything for me was Bester's The Stars My Destination, which I loved. It's a primal, frenzied tale of a monomaniacal protagonist seeking revenge after being abandoned to his fate following an accident in deep space. Highly recommended. I've reread several Heinlein recently and each does less for me than the one before. His style feels gimmicky, verbose and stilted now that I'm not reading him as a 14-year-old; this one is no different. A Case of Conscience wasn't bad -- just forgettable. Some of that might be trying to pack in too many books in too short a time, but when you have to go back to the text to remember it after a week, it's not a classic. And Who? was just dull. Yawn-inducing ... and forced. A brilliant (American) scientist working on a mysterious superweapon during the Cold War is set to work on the very border of the Iron Curtain, and following an explosion is nabbed by the Soviets. Budrys can't really explain why the West would put such a valuable target in so vulnerable location and doesn't even try to explain why the East -- having captured him and milked him for all the intelligence they could -- wouldn't just put a bullet in him, cremate the remains and say he died of his injuries following the explosion despite our heroic efforts to say his life, here's a nice urn, sorry. Instead, they return what we now call a cyborg -- half man, half machine -- who the West don't really trust. It's an awkward turn on the individual alienated from society by technology trope begun at least as far back as The Invisible Man. There are far, far better books on the same theme. (Return From the Stars being one of my favorites, as just one example.)

  13. 4 out of 5

    Bradley Scott

    I read two of the short novels included here: Heinlein's "Double Star" and Bester's "The Stars My Destination." Heinlein, as always, is compulsively readable, and the scenario of an actor being recruited to play the role of a temporarily (?) incapacitated politician makes for an intriguing read even if the bits about the Martians and Venusians, etc., are kind of implausible and silly in light of modern knowledge. No doubt Heinlein had in mind the kind of Mars envisioned by Edgar Rice Burroughs c I read two of the short novels included here: Heinlein's "Double Star" and Bester's "The Stars My Destination." Heinlein, as always, is compulsively readable, and the scenario of an actor being recruited to play the role of a temporarily (?) incapacitated politician makes for an intriguing read even if the bits about the Martians and Venusians, etc., are kind of implausible and silly in light of modern knowledge. No doubt Heinlein had in mind the kind of Mars envisioned by Edgar Rice Burroughs ca. 1910, not the cold, dry and (mostly?) lifeless world our robotic avatars have explored in more recent decades. For once, the insouciant egotism of Heinlein's narrative voice makes perfect sense in the persona of The Great Lorenzo, self-proclaimed actor extraordinaire. The Bester book, after an introductory info-dump about the discovery and widespread adoption of "jaunting" (teleportation), starts its real action as a kind of gritty space-opera, with the lone survivor of a wrecked spaceship vowing revenge on the crew of another spaceship that ignored his distress call and left him to die. That survivor, Gully Foyle, is anything but a hero. Bester explicitly states that he's considered subnormal by his peers, and his only really distinguishing characteristic is the volcanic willpower with which he pursues his mission of revenge. That mission becomes ever more bizarre throughout the book. Too bizarre for my tastes, actually, and the end of the book blossoms/disintegrates into what seems to me utter chaos. Perhaps that's the author's point, in some fashion that I fail to comprehend. It does have some interesting portrayals of human excess along the way, particularly the excesses of conspicuous consumption that the hyperwealthy 1% of Bester's dystopian space opera indulge in.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Adam Gutschenritter

    Double Star-Would you be willing to give up your own life in order to impersonate a politician who's work is not yet done? That is the question and central theme of Double Star when a down and out actor is pressed to take over for the most famous politician in the empire when he is kidnapped. I loved the story and the characters and had a great time reading it. (4/5) Stars My Destination-Much like the Demolished Man, there is much more going on in the background of this story then at first, secon Double Star-Would you be willing to give up your own life in order to impersonate a politician who's work is not yet done? That is the question and central theme of Double Star when a down and out actor is pressed to take over for the most famous politician in the empire when he is kidnapped. I loved the story and the characters and had a great time reading it. (4/5) Stars My Destination-Much like the Demolished Man, there is much more going on in the background of this story then at first, second and twelfth then meets the eye of the reader. I find that I love the style of writing that Alfred Bester presents. As for the story I liked it a lot once I got about half way through and could not help but follow where Folly lead in his quest for revenge. (4/5) A Case of Conscience-A second (original) version of a religious science fiction. Still while reading this I couldn't shake the feeling that it was written in the 50s and is in some way a commentary on communism. Still I was sucked up and couldn't wait to reach the end. It didn't disappoint. (4/5) The Big Time-The concept is one I always enjoy, but the book just didn't do that much for me. It was well written, that is about all I could say.(3/5)

  15. 4 out of 5

    Claire

    This set of novellae certainly kept my interest, at least the beginning few - I skimmed over the last two so I could bring the whole thing back today. I'll go into exact detail! Double Star: Heinlein is one of my absolute favourite science fiction authors overall, bumping this rating so high! This story was an awesome way to begin the collection, in my opinion, since it's the big draw to the whole thing. The Stars My Destination: I found it really neat that the ending poem served for the title, and This set of novellae certainly kept my interest, at least the beginning few - I skimmed over the last two so I could bring the whole thing back today. I'll go into exact detail! Double Star: Heinlein is one of my absolute favourite science fiction authors overall, bumping this rating so high! This story was an awesome way to begin the collection, in my opinion, since it's the big draw to the whole thing. The Stars My Destination: I found it really neat that the ending poem served for the title, and I kept telling people the whole time about the etymology of jaunting since I found that so full of win. A Case of Conscience: This one I started to skim since time began to draw to a close, but I found the linguistic stuff pretty cool due to how close it is to Russian, which I've not ignored the past couple of years. Then the others I skimmed over since time did not permit me to enjoy them as much as I wanted. So when time permits I'll take this out again.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Oh yeah, I finished this one a while ago. The selection isn't as good as in the companion volume, but it's still worthwhile. Where the first volume had some undeniably great writing in it, most of the works here require a sort of "alternate standard of quality" to appreciate. The Stars my Destination, with its experiments in language and typeface as the main character goes crazy and time overlaps, is interesting. Who? with it's thoughts about identity, is also good. Too many of the individual no Oh yeah, I finished this one a while ago. The selection isn't as good as in the companion volume, but it's still worthwhile. Where the first volume had some undeniably great writing in it, most of the works here require a sort of "alternate standard of quality" to appreciate. The Stars my Destination, with its experiments in language and typeface as the main character goes crazy and time overlaps, is interesting. Who? with it's thoughts about identity, is also good. Too many of the individual novels have main characters who are insufferable. It's interesting if you want to think about how these male protagonists reflect 1950s notions of masculinity, but if you're just reading, it's not so enjoyable.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sherrie

    I got this book as part of a boxed set from my grandma and it's been awesome. There are 5 stories in this volume and 4 of them are great. The first is a Martian political drama that's pleasantly optimistic. The second is a dark teleportation story. The third is a alien story with religious undertones. The fourth is a robotic cold-war-esque story. And the last one...sucks. It's supposedly about a time war, but it's just awful. Very disappointing end. Overall, well worth the read, though. :) I got this book as part of a boxed set from my grandma and it's been awesome. There are 5 stories in this volume and 4 of them are great. The first is a Martian political drama that's pleasantly optimistic. The second is a dark teleportation story. The third is a alien story with religious undertones. The fourth is a robotic cold-war-esque story. And the last one...sucks. It's supposedly about a time war, but it's just awful. Very disappointing end. Overall, well worth the read, though. :)

  18. 4 out of 5

    Timothy

    1 • Double Star (1956) • Robert A. Heinlein 149 • The Stars My Destination (1956) • Alfred Bester 373 • A Case of Conscience (1958) • James Blish 555 • Who? (1958) • Algis Budrys 701 • The Big Time (1958) • Fritz Leiber

  19. 5 out of 5

    Rick sullivan

    A brilliant collection, especially Bester's "The Stars my Destination" and Budyrs' "Who". Books that I read 40+ years ago and have regretted losing my copies of. Few new SF writers show the high level of imagination and creativity found in this collection. A brilliant collection, especially Bester's "The Stars my Destination" and Budyrs' "Who". Books that I read 40+ years ago and have regretted losing my copies of. Few new SF writers show the high level of imagination and creativity found in this collection.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Anthony Faber

    The Heinlein was pretty much old school, the Bester was old school, but gets big points for originality, and the last 3 are pretty awesome.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jasper Smit

    Suoerleuke verhalen! Ik heb de eerste drie boeken gelezen en die waren echt de sjit op een twilight zone achtige manier! Ik denk dat ik in 2014 de andere boeken ook lees.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Marjolein

    Heinlein *** Bester **** Blish *** Budry **** Leiber *

  23. 4 out of 5

    Eborix13

  24. 4 out of 5

    Adam Young

  25. 4 out of 5

    Drey Carr

  26. 5 out of 5

    John Y.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Chuck Ledger

  28. 5 out of 5

    Evan Schultz

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shelly

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jason Holland

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