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Title: The Great Novellas
Series: Science Fiction Hall of Fame #2A
Editor : Ben Bova
Rating: 2 of 5 Stars
Consists of the following novellas by these authors:
- Call Me Joe by Poul Anderson
- Who Goes There? By John Campbell Jr
- Nerves by Lester Del Rey
- Universe by Robert Heinlein
- The Marching Morons by C.M Kornbluth
- Vintage Season by Kuttner and Moore
- …And Then There Were None by Eric Russell
- The Ballad of Lost C’Mell by Cordwainer Smith
- Baby is Three by Theodore Sturgeon
- The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
- With Folded Hands by Jack Williamson
The only reason this volume is getting 2stars instead of 1 is because of the story “Who Goes There?”, which has been turned into the various movies “The Thing” and is the basis for one of the X-Files episodes in Season One.
Part of my disappointment with this book was just how good Volume 1 was, which I read back in ’18. That collection of short stories was everything I expected from the Golden Age of SF. These novellas on the other hand are boring, plain and simple.
Take “Nerves” for instance. It is about a Doctor working at an Atomic Plant because he used to be a brain surgeon but an operation went wrong years ago. It wasn’t his fault and there was nothing he could do about it, but he couldn’t face the fact that he wasn’t perfect, so he ran away from his profession to become a “simple” general practitioner. Only something goes terribly wrong at the Plant and the only way to save the whole world is for him to do brain surgery on a wounded engineer. The lead up was too long and the tension just wasn’t there. Most of these stories I simply found too long. I kept asking myself “when will this story be over already?!?”
On the other hand, you had some horrific ideas. “The Marching Morons” was about a salesman revived hundreds of years later. The world has become populated by morons because all the smart people stopped having kids a long time ago and the remaining thousand or so people with IQ’s above X all live in the North Pole at a secret base. They secretly run the world but are tired of it, as the morons keep on multiplying and nothing the Clever People can do stops them. The Clever People tried to take a hands off approach but the war started by the Morons was too much for them to accept and so they stepped back in and began directing things again. The Salesman tells the Clever People to start a rumor of colonies on Mars or Venus or wherever and to hold a lottery for an entire city to go on rocket ships to this new colony. Then another city would be picked, etc, etc. The salesman puts together the ads and campaign and has the Morons clamoring to go to Venus. Of course, the rockets just go into the Sun and kill all the morons. The Salesman became Dictator of the World (that was what he wanted to give the Clever People his help) and the story ends with all the Morons gone and the Clever People throwing the Salesman into the last rocketship and sending it off. Now, whatever the author was trying to say went over my head, because this was just horrible. The Salesman was horrible, the Morons were horrible and the Clever People were horrible.
There is one more volume, Volume 2B (why they simply didn’t call them Vol. 1, 2 and 3 is beyond me) and I’m going to read it. I am desperately hoping it is better than this. It is another collection of novellas though, so I am keeping my DNF gun handy and my finger on the trigger. I won’t wade through another crapfest like this.