Science fiction and fantasy
by A. E. van Vogt
The author presents an optimistic and colourful view of the universe, where tentacled aliens and civilisations vastly more advanced than our own abound. And it's more than just tentacles: in Dormant, The Enchanted Village, and Dear Pen Pal the creatures are stranger still. These lifeforms are so different from our own that we would have difficulty in recognising them as such.
These stories work on the level of entertaining mysteries and oddities, but on the whole they are too short to be emotionally engaging. The characters are often ciphers, mere names or protagonists we glimpse only briefly.
Destination: Universe! is certainly brimming with ideas, and this is its best feature. However few of these ideas could be considered visionary, in the sense of predicting the way technology might alter our lives. There's an exception in The Search, a story that's full of amazing and improbable gadgets, including one that seems a lot like a Polaroid camera. But that's one of the few examples.
Mostly these are fables, and the fabulous elements dominate whilst the moral of each tale and the scientific basis for it (if any) are relegated to mere background details. These are the kind of amusing stories that challenge readers to approach them much like a crossword puzzle. Each tale is more of a riddle than the last.
If you like this, try:Entanglement by Douglas Thompson
Quantum entanglement allows astronauts to explore the galaxy and make first contact with bizarre extraterrestrial civilisations.
The Rest Of The Robots by Isaac Asimov
In this collection of stories Isaac Asimov examines the implications of a future dominated by sophisticated robots.
The Currents of Space by Isaac Asimov
A man with amnesia remembers that the planet is doomed. But will anyone believe him?
Review © Ros Jackson
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