Monday, 7 July 2014
Review: The Second Fredric Brown Megapack: 27 Classic Science Fiction Stories
The Second Fredric Brown Megapack: 27 Classic Science Fiction Stories by Fredric Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Another fine collection of Brown's stories, including what was, I think, the first one of his I read, "Placet is a Crazy Place". I have fond memories of reading it in some collection or other while on holiday with my parents as a teenager.
Some of the stories are short gags, others more extended and, sometimes, more serious. There's a good mystery ("Daymare"), too. They're steeped in the feel of the 1950s, particularly in the frequency of reference to the Cold War, fear of nuclear war, and fear of invasion (usually framed as alien invasion).
Fans of Murray Leinster will recognise the decent heroes, and Robert Sheckley fans will recognise the political and social situation, though Leinster places more emphasis on the clever engineer finding the solution (and gives his female characters more important roles), and Sheckley is more cynical about human nature and inclines more to satire than comedy. The comedy here is often that of a classic New Yorker cartoon, but occasionally (as in "Placet") approaches the more bizarre style of an R.A. Lafferty.
Something that struck me about Brown is that, for a science fiction writer, he's sometimes shaky on science. He doesn't appear to know, for instance, that the removal of lightning would also remove thunder, and writes that a Martian day is about two Earth days without, apparently, having looked it up (it's barely longer than an Earth day).
He also shares in the ignorance of his time, making a remark that suggests that Australian "bushmen" are of low intelligence.
Don't go into this collection looking for modern storytelling sensibilities or accurate science. It's a period piece, and needs to be appreciated as such.
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