ARTHUR C. CLARKE • FRITZ LEIBER • JAMES BLISH • ROBERT SHECKLEY • THEODORE STURGEON • DAMON KNIGHT • WALTER M. MILLER, JR. • PHILIP K. DICK • ALFRED BESTER • FREDERIC BROWN • JEROME BIXBY • WILLIAM TENN • THEODORE COGSWELL • WARD MOORE • WILLIAM MORRISON
In this unique series which critics have praised as the finest retrospective of science fiction, the latest collection is an especialy wondrous volume which reads like the ultimate tour through the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. 1953—the year which saw the presentation of the very first Hugo Awards, also saw the publication of such science fiction classics as The Demolished Man, More Than Human, and Childhood’s End—a year of great stories, indeed. And here for your enjoyment are the best tales from that truly memorable year.
So welcome back to yesterday, when Earth is about to be “liberated” by aliens, but no one can tell which aliens are truly our allies and which our enemies…when humanity undertakes a mission of planetary magnitude—the terriforming of Mars…when a scientist learns the shocking truth about time travel—and the price a traveler must pay for a one-way trip…when a small child can change the world everyone in it merely by willing things “different.”
For general comments on this series, see Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 1, 1939.
There are no stories by Asimov himself in this volume, which isn’t entirely surprising. 1953 wasn’t a good year for him in terms of short fiction, although it saw the publication of “Sally,” ”Kid Stuff,” ”Belief,” and ”The Micropsychiatric Applications of Thiotimoline,” none of which are quite good enough to be called truly "great".
(At the same time, of course, neither are a lot of stories that did get included in the anthology, either. Oh, well.)
There are, nonetheless, some very good stories in here, in particular four that occur one after the other: Theodore Sturgeon’s “Saucer of Loneliness,” William Tenn’s “Liberation of Earth,” Ward Moore’s “Lot,” and Arthur C. Clarke’s “Nine Billion Names of God.” Three other stories deserve particular mention: Fritz Leiber’s “Bad Day for Sales,” Theodore R. Cogswell’s “Wall Around the World,” and Jerome Bixby’s a little too famous “It’s a Good Life".
In the end, then, I’m just willing enough to give this book a good recommendation, despite its bad taste at leaving Asimov himself out in the cold.
One other note. I mention in my review of Isaac Asimov Presents the Great SF Stories 12, 1950 how DAW changed the style of their spines at that point in the series. Well, with this volume, they change it again: this time the typeface is changed to something utterly different and (frankly) distinctly worse than the dignified serif font they were using before. Oh, well. There’s no accounting for taste, I suppose.