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Final Stage: The Ultimate Science Fiction Anthology Paperback – May 1, 1975
1st edition 1st printing paperback, vg++ In stock shipped from our UK warehouse
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Top Customer Reviews
All of these stories are appearing for the first time in this anthology with one exception: although Asimov’s “That Thou Art Mindful of Him” was commissioned for this anthology, once he got his hands on it, Ed Ferman could not resist publishing it in “Fantasy and Science Fiction”.
The editors selected a number of the (as they identified them) classic themes in science fiction (First Contact, The Exploration of Space, Immortality, Inner Space, Robots and Androids, Strange Children, Future Sex, Space Opera, Alternate Universes, The Uncontrolled Machine, After the Holocaust, and Time Travel) and commissioned stories from the writers that they thought could write the “ultimate” story on each theme. They also asked each contributor to write an afterword and add a brief reading list. All this makes for some very interesting possibilities from outstanding writers and I do think that the anthology is an excellent read. At the same time, I don’t think any of the stories really take off in the way that their authors have managed at times elsewhere. I note that of the stories only “That Thou Art Mindful of Him” by Isaac Asimov made the Hugo (nominated in Best Novelette category 1975) or Nebula nominations.
The (sadly late) great Bud Webster thought highly of this anthology and devotes a full chapter to it in his “Anthopology 101”, including detailing how the original hardback edition was “sabotaged” by the Charterhouse editor-in-chief who extensively rewrote three of the stories (Anderson, Silverberg, Ellison! Bizarre.) without consulting either the writers or editors. This penguin edition is the corrected (i.e. original unedited) edition following considerable and ultimately successful complaint from these authors.
However, I do not know enough about science fiction to give detailed comments on this collection. I'm also concerned that in the detail I might give away too much of the storylines. My main motivation for reviewing is to give an easily accessible list of contents to those browsing through anthologies on Amazon.
Here is a list of the contents together with a brief scene setting comment or quote (definitely not plot spoiling):
(1) “We Purchased People” by Frederik Pohl
First lines: “In the third of March the purchased person known as Wayne Golden took part in trade talks in Washington as the representative of the dominant race of the Groombridge star.”
Well-written story, but it gets increasingly unpleasant as it progresses.
(2) “The Voortrekkers” by Poul Anderson
“I am in the sky now, and of it. Around me stars and stars and stars are crowding, until there is no room for blackness to be more than a crystal which holds them.”
(3) “Great Escape Tours, Inc.” by Kit Reed
Dan and his impoverished elderly friends are deeply envious of the rich tourists who can afford to go on the “Great Escape Tours” which, so the story goes, take you somewhere where you are young.
(4) “Diagrams for Three Enigmatic Stories” by Brian W. Aldiss
“Diagrams” is the right word, as this Aldiss contribution consists of three interlocking stories that appear unfinished, as if still in the process of being written, but which still hold the attention.
(5) “That Thou Art Mindful of Him” by Isaac Asimov
U.S. Robots is in deep trouble and likely to be wound up and closed down by the government. It is up to the Director of Research, Keith Harriman, to find a way forward. Naturally the Three Laws of Robotics are re-visited.
(6) “We Three” by Dean Koontz
Three strange children.
(7) “An Old Fashioned Girl” by Joanna Russ
It’s autumn in Vermont and the narrator is bringing three girlfriends to see her house in the woods: a house that has everything, including Davy, “the most beautiful man in the world.”
(8) “Catman” by Harlan Ellison
First lines: “The thief materializes in the shadow of a surrounding waterfall. The air sparked like a dust circuit for a moment, and then he was there; back flat to the wall, a deeper black against the shadow….”
(9) “Space Rats of the CCC” by Harry Harrison
First lines: “That’s it matey, pull up a stool, sure use that one. Just dump old Phrnnx onto the floor to sleep it off. You know that Krddls can’t stand to drink, much less drink flnnx – and that topped off with a smoke of the hellish krmml weed.”
(10) “Trips” by Robert Silverberg
Chris Cameron is a compulsive explorer of the billons upon billions of alternate worlds.
(11) “The Wonderful All-Purpose Transmogrifier” by Barry N. Malzberg
This is a helmet that you put on your head and life then feels significantly easier...
(12) “Her Smoke Rose Up Forever” by James Tiptree, Jr.
Fourteen year old Petey is hunting ducks.
(13) “A Little Something for Us Tempunauts” by Philip K. Dick
The first US time travellers were killed in re-entry implosion, but all three are clearly alive and well, though somewhat stressed.