Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Review: Science Against Man

Book Review: 'Science Against Man' 
edited by Anthony Cheetham

3 / 5 Stars

'Science Against Man' (221 pp) was published by Avon books in December, 1970. The cover artist is uncredited.

'Science Against Man' is an anthology of original stories written especially for this volume. Like Damon Knight's Orbit anthologies, which were popular venues for sf short stories and novelettes at the time, the emphasis in 'Science' is on stories with a New Wave dimension.

My capsule reviews of the contents:

The Lost Continent, by Norman Spinrad: Spinrad's work during the New Wave era could be offbeat and imaginative, or offbeat and unreadable. Fortunately this novelette is one of his better works. It's set in a near-future USA brought low by deadly pollution and economic collapse. A group or prosperous African tourists take in the ruins of old New York City; mutants live in the subway system. There are some proto-cyberpunk flavorings here that make this the best entry in the anthology.

In the Beginning, by Robert Silverberg: this is the short story that eventually was expanded into the novel The World Inside. In the future, overcrowding means that humanity is obligated to live in Urban Monads, enormous high-rise structures that house 800,000 people.

The Hunter at His Ease, by Brian Aldiss: in the near future, the Western powers foment eco-destruction of the Third World....just to have something interesting to do.

Man's Estate, by Paul Ableman: in a future Earth ruled by benevolent computers, one of the few surviving humans confronts a crisis. Rendered in a figurative, stream-of-consciousness prose style, this short story is..........incoherent.

Harold Wilson at the Cosmic Cocktail Party, by Bob Shaw: prominent statesmen live on after death, as AIs inside a giant computer.

Statistician's Day, by James Blish: in the future, overpopulation doesn't just mean mandatory birth control......but Death Control, too.

The Invisible Idiot, by John Brunner: when supercomputers go bad, some old fashioned doctoring is required.

Small Mouth, Bad Taste, by Piers Anthony: two imaginative paleontologists make an interesting discovery.

The Ever-Branching Tree, by Harry Harrison: in the future, kids learn about Evolution via time machine. Too pedantic to be effective.

Sea Wolves, by Michael Moorcock: a Jerry Cornelius story, very New Wave-ish, consisting of a series of loosely linked vignettes, rather than a short story per se. I was Bored. 

The Penultimate Trip, by Andrew Travers: a man experiences hallucinations associated with his imprisonment. While its plotless nature makes this story another yet New Wave casualty, it retains enough of an offbeat tenor to make it worth reading.

The verdict ? 'Science Against Man' is no worse, and no better, than any of the other myriad all-original sf anthologies that were issued in the New Wave era. When all is said and done, the Spinrad novelette is what makes it worth searching for.

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