Tommy Loy: a cabin boy trapped in a preternatural situation in outer space. Star Holmes: an accomplished time traveler at the age of five. Anthony Fremont: a small boy cast in the role of Satan. Charles Walton: a child in mortal and horrifying combat with his father.
Tomorrow’s Children: eighteen haunting tales of children in time to come, when the fanatastic has become the commonplace, when witchcraft is a science and creatures from alien planets live next door. Stories by the masters of fantasy and science fiction: Ray Bradbury, Damon Knight, Clifford D. Simak, Stephen Vincent Benét, Fritz Leiber, Robert A. Heinlein and Isaac Asimov.
I happen to be very fond of this collection of eighteen science fiction short stories about children. Only one of the eighteen is by Asimov, but that one is “The Ugly Little Boy,” which would by itself make the book worthwhile to the Asimov fan if it weren’t anthologized over and over elsewhere by Asimov, starting with Nine Tomorrows.
So, as with other anthologies edited by Asimov, there is little of interest regarding Asimov himself. There is, however, a great deal of interest to the general science fiction fan, and I would heartily recommend the collection on that basis alone.
Many of the stories are classics that ought to be known to any sf fan: Lewis Padgett’s “When the Bough Breaks,” Fritz Leiber’s “Pail of Air,” Damon Knight’s “Cabin Boy,” Philip K. Dick’s variant on Invasion of the Body Snatchers “The Father-Thing,” Ray Bradbury’s “All Summer in a Day,” Jerome Bixby’s “It’s a Good Life,” and of course “The Ugly Little Boy.” That’s about half the collection right there. (I shouldn’t have to describe any of these stories; if anything, they should be so well known as to be too well-known and almost clichéd.)
For the rest, there are none that I actually dislike although some I’m less than enthusiastic about. I happen to enjoy Gertrude Friedberg’s “The Wayward Cravat” an awful lot although it’s sf or fantasy only by an enormous stretch of the imagination. Robert Sheckley’s “The Accountant” is an interesting variant on the fantasy theme of living in a world where magic is science and its potential impact on a young boy who doesn’t want to grow up and be a wizard, and Will F. Jenkins’ “Little Terror” is cute and fun for anybody who’s the parent of a small, innocent child. Mark Clifton’s “Star Bright” is another examination of the gap between parent and, in this case, super-intelligent child and is quite nice. Clifford D. Simak’s “No Life of Their Own” is an interesting view of ET’s adapting to life on Earth, but somehow falls a little flat to me. And William Lee’s “Junior Achievement” is another fun story that appeals to the sf fan’s usual over-appreciation of their usually above-average intelligence.
None of these stories, then, are anything I object to. James H. Schmitz’ “Novice” is clever but somehow lacks something, as is Robert A. Heinlein’s “Menace from Earth,” which is more a stylistic tour de force than an interesting story in its own right—proof that Heinlein could write a teenage romance with a girl protagonist. (The story is also helped by Heinlein’s ability to fully and vividly realize an entire society.) And although I don’t dislike Zenna Henderson’s “Gilead,” I can’t say it does anything for me, either. Ditto Margaret St. Clair’s “Child of Void,” which is in my estimation the weakest story in the book. Stephen Vincent Benét’s “Place of the Gods” is too much of a cliché now to really be terribly interesting to me, either.
So there you have it. Not much of particular interest to the Asimov fan, but an awful lot that’s definitely worthwhile for the general sf fan, to whom I would strongly and heartily recommend the book.
|“The Ugly Little Boy”|