Classic Short Stories by a Master of Science Fiction,
This review is from: Conflict (Hardcover)
Contemporary writers of science fiction sometimes churn out readable books, and there are a handful who are on their way to joining the ranks of the Classic Masters -- Verne, Wells, Bradbury, Heinlein, Asimov, Clark and many others. Every now and then, it's a worthwhile exercise to read some of the older works by these Masters, not only because they are superlative, but to have a better appreciation for the genre against which to measure contemporary offerings.
There can be no serious debate that the late Poul Anderson is among the front ranks of the Classic Masters of Sci-Fi. His three Nebula Awards and seven Hugos barely establish his credentials. "Conflict", a collection of ten short stories published by Tor in 1983, gives the reader a fine survey of Anderson's vision and engaging writing.
These ten shorties were written between 1956 ("Details") and 1973 ("The Pugilist"). All deal with the theme of conflict in the Human culture. Although there is more than enough scientific speculation to satisfy even the most demanding Sci-Fi connosiour, none deal directly with a Homo vs. ET conflict. The stories really drive home one of the main premises of all great Sci-Fi writing -- that the themes and morals and plots are about US, not about THEM (whoever "THEM" may happen to be). Each story also portrays the role of individual people caught up in the swirl of historic events, and explores how each responds to the challenges of their own predicaments. Through these personal "conflicts" and resolutions, Anderson explores and establishes his own concept of what basic Human Nature is about, and sets an ideal by which actual history, events, and people can be measured.
Despite the fact that these stories date back, in some cases, over 50 years -- to the "Golden Age" of Science Fiction -- each was a fresh read, and not particularly dated by the passage of time or advancement in current technologies. It is another testament to the mastery of Anderson that his work hinges not so much on an exposition of gee-whiz technology, but on the exploration of Human character, emotion, values, and behavior. These stories also provide a nostalgic link to that era of Sci-Fi writing, birthed in the dawning "nuclear" and "space" ages. They first appeared in many of the great "pulp" magazines of the day, such as "Analog," and "Astounding Science Fiction." Largely relegated by publishes and reviewers to the margins of "serious" literature in those days (despite the work of 19th and early-20th Century writers such as Verne and Wells), these stories are part of the foundation of what has become today a respected genre of literature. They are part of the depth and breadth in writing that has given Sci-Fi its legitimacy.
I've given this book a five-star rating, something I don't give very easily, especially to more contemporary Science Fiction. It would be a good addition to any reading list in a college course on Science Fiction, and is well-worth finding an old copy and reading. It will take you simultaneously to the past, our present, and to the future. Enjoy.