Edited by Judy-Lynn del Rey
Ballantine (February 1976)
209 pages ($1.50)
The cover shows a centauroid in formal dress of the early 1900s as it might be adapted to that shape of body. Credited to the Brothers Hildebrant. The cover layout adapts the form all the following books will have.
“Custom Fitting (James White)”
An elderly British tailor must make the very first set of formal clothes for the alien representative from a galactic Federation. This story is the illustrated by the cover.
Related to the Sector General stories (A relative of the tailor shows up in one) although I don’t think this can be the same Federation as in the SG tales. Decent enough story. I generally prefer his non-SG stories to SG.
“Stuck with It” (Hal Clement)
Laird Cunningham once more, different planet (More Earthlike), different aliens. These aliens were originally ocean dwellers who became masters of adhesives, city builders and bioengineers with very poor pollution control measures. This is quite serious since while our industrial pollution can kill, their pollution actively hunts its victims. Various technologies are hitting unpredicted limits and yet a return to the sea is not possible. What to do? Cunningham demonstrates technological possibilities they have overlooked.
See previous collection: I like the Cunningham stories.
“Songs of Dying Swans” (Jack C. Haldeman II)
Bigoted young thugs commit genocide trying for a fast buck and start an interstellar war.
Competent enough tragedy but not my thing.
“Mistake” (Larry Niven)
A fierce Martian attacks a human spaceship, only to discover it has limits it never expected.
Niven fluff. Inoffensive and short.
“The Bicentennial Man” (Isaac Asimov)
A robot is built with creativity. His campaign for personal freedom has the effect of dooming all other robots to be deliberately designed without the potentials he had. Eventually he decides his desire to become human requires his death.
I really hate this story. I know it’s an award winner but the main character is at best misguided wrt death and the human society is very, very creepy in its use of intelligent machines as slaves. I don’t think it is badly written but I hate it.
“Tindar‑B” (Patrick B. Conner)
A follow-up mission to a world which killed the first survey team a thousand years earlier belatedly realised what killed the team and much to my disappointment manage to survive the experience. Bonding happens.
You know it’s going to be a bad story when the exploration team tests the local air by cracking the airlock. Silly faux-problem story driven by the incredibly stupid survey methods. This is the dud of the collection. I think this was Conner’s sole published story.
[Added in 2020] Conner had at least one other story, “Change of Life”, published in Void #2.
“Sic Transit” (Stephen Utley & Howard Waldrop)
The last man alive discovers a method to avoid nature’s ire.
It’s a Waldrop (Sorry, Mr. Utley). It’s weird, it’s engaging, it’s got T Rexes in it. Fun short read.
“Unsilent Spring” (Richard S. Simak and Clifford D. Simak)
A country doctor discovers that some of his patients now require DDT to stay healthy, a serious problem now that DDT has been banned.
This is, I think, Richard S. Simak’s only published SF. Not earth-shatteringly good but a decent enough story of its type. Simak’s characters seem to be blessed with the ability to jump to the right conclusions and I don’t much care for Clifford D. as a “problem” author (Unfortunately, I can’t tell the difference between Clifford D. with or without Richard S.. Sorry, Richard S.)
Again, a perfectly competent collection with generally readable stories in it. Only one real stinker, the Conner. Definite improvement in the look of the cover layout and decent enough cover art.