BooksOfTheMoon

A for Anything

By Damon Knight

Rating: 2 stars

This was an intensely irritating book for me. It starts with the invention of the ‘gismo’, a device that can duplicate anything placed on it, with no expenditure of energy. From this, it would seem that a Paradise for mankind should arise, but within two or three chapters, we see that the book decides to take a very different line with this idea. With material possessions now no longer an issue, there still needs to be some way of differentiating ‘grades’ of people: so slavery returns.

This came completely out of left-field for me, but after thinking about it, it sort of makes a kind of sense. If all that is left of value is labour, then who controls it controls the society. I think this is a very American attitude, well, a certain sort of extreme right-wing American, a European book with a similar premise would probably have gone along very different lines.

The majority of the book is set about 70 years after the invention of the gismo, when the new slave society is established as we follow a young freeman sent off by his family to spend a year as an officer in the army of the local ‘baron’ in an almost Gormenghastian mountain castle/estate.

There were some interesting ideas, especially later in the book following a slave revolt, but I just couldn’t get past the opening premise and failed to really enjoy this book. Particularly the rather bleak ending.

Book details

ISBN: 9781892884015
Publisher: Cascade Mountain Publishing
Year of publication: 1959

A Century of Science Fiction

By Damon Knight

Rating: 3 stars

The oldest story in this collection is from about the 1860s and the newest from the 1960s so it does pretty much what it says on the tin. Each story has an introduction written by Knight and it contains stories by all the greats of the era, ranging from Mark Twain and H. G. Wells, through Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke to Marion Zimmer Bradley and Frank Herbert.

The stories neatly show how the genre has evolved over the decades, from the not-quite-supernatural stories of the middle of the 19th century to the hard science of the 20th. The stories have more than just historical value though, and remain enjoyable, fun and sometimes moving, even today. Poul Anderson’s Call Me Joe and Edgar Pangborn’s Angel Egg are probably my favourites in the collection, although the former shows its age when a character comments that native Jovians would probably never have invented radio because “think how thick the vacuum tubes would have to be” :).

Book details

ISBN: 9780848805548
Publisher: Amereon Ltd
Year of publication: 1962

Towards Infinity

By Damon Knight

Rating: 4 stars

A collection of short stories with a paragraph by the editor before each one introducing it. This was a great collection with contributions from Asimov, Bradbury, Sturgeon and Van Vogt, all of whose work I enjoy. It also contained the story Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell which was the basis of John Carpenter’s The Thing. A great collection of golden age and new wave writing.

Book details

ISBN: 9780330234313
Publisher: Pan Books
Year of publication: 1968

Rule Golden and Other Stories

By Damon Knight

Rating: 3 stars

This was a collection of 5 short(ish) stories, all but one with the general theme of man’s violent nature. The most depressing of the lot was The Earth Quarter since the other stories generally had a light at the end of the tunnel; man might change, but it would be for the better, while this one had no such hope.

This is the first Knight that I’ve read, and I enjoyed his work so will look out for more in future.

Book details

ISBN: 9780380436460
Publisher: Avon Books
Year of publication: 1979

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