1945—a momentus year: January 9, U.S. forces invade the Philippines; February 13, Dresden firebombed; Iwo Jima falls March 16; F.D.R. dead on April 12; Hitler, April 30. And on August 6, 1945, the Enola Gay dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima, altering the fate of humanity. And most certainly alering the face of science fiction.
Stories of dramatic mutations, “outsiders,” aliens, superhumans, were in high gear and the tremendous transition of the times was reflected in powerful stories by Fritz Leiber, Leigh Brackett, Fredric Brown, Lester del Rey, Henry Kuttner, A. Bertram Chandler, Isaac Asimov, and more.
The world was expanding at a rapid rate, but no more quickly than the world of science fiction!
For general comments on this series, see Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 1, 1939.
Asimov resurfaces for the first time in this series since Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 4, 1942. His entry is the delightful ”Blind Alley,” one of my favorite stories of his; its presence alone justifies the volume.
And that’s probably a good thing, because the rest of the collection is rather weak. We get Murray Leinster’s “First Contact,” a story effectively satirized a couple of decades later by a Soviet sf writer. Fredric Brown has the strange and a little overly nostalgic “Waveries.” A Bertram Chandler’s “Giant Killer” is included, which is interesting the first time you read it but wears thin pretty fast. Raymond F. Jones’ “Correspondence Course” is interesting, and perhaps my second-favorite tale here after “Blind Alley.”
All-in-all this is one of the lesser volumes in the series, even if it does have one of Asimov’s best.