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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Delicate stories of human adaptation,
This review is from: The Seedling Stars (Paperback)The book is a compilation of stories: 'A Time to Survive/Seeding Program' (54 pages), 'The Thing in the Attic' (33 pages), 'Surface Tension' (64 pages) and 'Watershed' epilogue (9 pages).
In 'Seeding Program' Donald Sweeney is a young man who has been altered so as to be able to survive on Jupiter's moon, Ganymede. He has been raised completely alone and his job is to bring the leader of refugees, The Adapted Men already at Ganymede, to justice. If he succeeds to infiltrate, he may get a reversal of his adaptation and live in Earth. But things are not quite what they seem; the government who sends him to the mission hasn't told him the whole truth. The story ends at escape of the surviving refugees from Ganymede. The seeding of stars begins.
In 'The Thing in the Attic' the off-springs of the seeding program live in a trees where any heretic statement against prior giant legends are condemned to the horrifying ground level. The fear of the ground dominates this planet. This part is about the adventures of the exile group in pre-historic environment.
In 'Surface Tension' we find out that one of the seeding ships ship wrecks to a waterworld and human genome must be radically Adapted to survive. This is *truly* unique story where survive actions happen at microscopic level. These humans escape from horrors of rotifer (smaller thank plankton) and build tiny "space ship" to explore world by rising above the water's surface.
The 'Watershed', The final story, is set in millennia in the future where humans have adapted virtually everywhere. The genetic modifications are so vast that the the original human is now in minority. This is the story of an Adapted returning to see unhabitable earth.
Five (5) stars. This 1957 compilation is Blish at his best. He takes a striking idea, adaptation, and let's the stories carry on the pictures. The prose is thoughtful, though provoking and deep. The overall balance and what is to be human is told in the final 9 pages eloquently: imagine an Adapted Human to tell the Original Human, that his days have come to an end. Timeless, wonderful reading.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Seedling Stars....,
(4/5) Seeding Program
This story examines the beginnings of the the practice of pantropy. Sweeney, an Adapted Man, is placed by the Terran Port Authority in a colony of Adapted Men and their chief scientist on the moon Ganymede. His task, bring the fugitives back to Earth so he can become human. Sweeney eventually discovers that during his sheltered life under a dome on the Moon he was indoctrinated with lies about the Adapted Men. He eventually realizes that he'll never become human and decides to remain with his new family. He assists in the launching of the new seed ships from Ganymede which head off across the galaxy to find suitable planets for pantropy.
I really enjoyed this story. I was expecting slick 1950s space ships and was pleasantly surprised when Blish describes a much more feasible spaceship of modules placed in a metal framework. The scientist and his Adapted Men is very similar to the plot of Star Trek's The Wrath of Khan and the follow up episodes in Star Trek: Enterprise. I suspect Blish might have been an early inspiration...
(2/5) The Thing in the Attic
The Thing in the Attic is by far the weakest selection of the collection. A group of renegade furry Adapted Men on a heavily forest planet are cast down into Hell (the ground level of the forest filled with dinosaurs) for believing that the Gods (the original human planet seeders) don't exist but are instead symbolic. These renegades figure out how to defeat the dinosaurs (a system of genocide -- destroying their eggs). Some die. The two survivors come across their "Gods" who have returned to the planet to check on the progress of the furry monkey-like Adapted Men.
Blish has fun with describing the world but ends up advocating the massive destruction of species (the dinosaurs). He apparently feels it's justified since the Adapted Men are figuring out how to survive in their new environments and thus act more like animals -- well maybe more like Kudzu, unfortunately introduced to the US causing the massive destruction of native species.
(5/5) Surface Tension
This story, although continuing the worrisome theme described in The Thing in the Attic, deserves to be read for it's extraordinarily inventive. A seeding ship crashes on a water world with a single island (with some fresh water ponds and rivulets). The survivors carry out their original project of seeding the world but with the knowledge that they will never return to their own homes.
The "humans" they develop are almost microscopic and are placed in the fresh water ponds. PETRI DISH BATTLES ENSUE. The microscopic Adapted Humans (with lungs, etc) fight the vicious rotifers, enlist the aid of Parameciums, and with the help of inscribe metal tablets left by their primogenitors eventually develop a two inch "space craft" that crawls along the bottom of the pond out of the water onto land.
This is a wonderfully well realized little novelette. The various microscopic organisms are lovingly described by Blish. A kaleidoscopic adventure worthwhile for its sheer inventiveness...
Although a very short short story (which should have been expanded), Watershed examines the bigotry held by the "original form" humans (now a minority) for the other various unusual looking Adapted Men. A spaceship crewed with "original form" humans is sent to Earth -- which has become a desert wasteland -- with seal-like Adapted Men to reintroduce man to the planet. The "original form" humans are faced with the unusual position of watching the home world of the human race being reseeded by Adapted Men.
Considering this story was written in the 50s, the discussion of racism is very admirable. However, Blish should have expanded it substantially. The impact of the reseeding of Earth is too dramatic for this cursory treatment.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Human adapts fill unlikely planetary niches,
Seeding Program - 4/5 - Having escaped the moon, home to the adaptation program, the Adapted Men have found purchase on the unforgiving moon of Ganymede. Earthlings, however, find the project to amoral and are fueled with suspense to put the colony to an end. To facilitate this usurpation, the same moon program has created through metamorphosis an individual identical to the outlaw Adapted Men who is then sent on a mission to infiltrate the community with the goal of kidnapping their leader. This man, Sweeney, finds a comfortable yet small society progressing in science to meet their fate as promulgators of life to the galaxy. 50 pages
The Thing in the Attic - 4/5 - Arboreal human Adapts, furry and quaint in appearance, have colonized the tree tops to be kept safe from the monstrosities which walk upon the shadowed earth beneath the umbrella of foliage. It is here, which the denizens deem to be Hell, where the convicted blasphemers go to suffer and ultimately die. A lengthy 1000 day sentence is given to five heretics who find the Book of Laws and the tale of the Giants to be mere fable. Upon reaching hell, they strive to ascend until ascension is no longer possible. Greeted by feathered beasts, a saurian and volcanic rock faces, it isn't an easy journey. 32 pages
Surface Tension - 3/5 - The microscopic human adapts of an aquatic world have an epic struggle against other minute lifeforms which find them to be masticatingly scrumptious. After generations of sporing and birth, the denizens move forward with their extinction attempts of their prime predator and the strife for a more scientific society. The discovery of a waterless space above the `sky (water's edge)' spurs a trans-generational construction of a two-inch wooded vessel adapt in itself enough to withstand the rigors of locomotion on land. 60 pages
Watershed - 3/5 - Base form humans are transporting a squad of seal-like Adapt experts to a solar system which is home to a scorched, sterile planet. The human crew find the seal scientists to be long-winded and annoying so they devise a solution to sequester the seals to their staterooms. When the approach to the system is close, the seals reveal a secret which sets the situation into perspective and serves up a sinuous stress. 10 pages
5.0 out of 5 stars Adapted men,
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Classic sci-fi...,
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This review is from: The Seedling Stars (Paperback)The stories in this book, by James Blish, are the standard by which I judged all other stories. These stories were some of the first, next to H.G. Wells, Robert A. Heinlein, and a few others. The author of such greats as Cities in Flight and A Case of Conscience has given us a series of short stories about mankind's evolution and exploration of the stars. Each story is like a photograph of this journey of man. Surface Tension is very likely the most famous of the stories. Get it, used or new.
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The Seedling Stars by James Blish (Paperback - 2001)
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