Science Fiction Stories by Edward Blishen

Science Fiction Stories is a collection of science fiction stories compiled by Edward Blishen. It is a part of Kingfisher Publication’s Red Hot Reads series, aimed mainly at adolescent readers.

The book starts with The Boy, the Dog, and the Spaceship (1974) by Nicholas Fisk. The story is perfect for the book’s intended adolescent audience.

The next two stories, Invisible in London and The Dragon of Pendor are excerpts from H.G. Wells’ The Invisible Man (1897) and Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea (1968) respectively. Invisible in London, even though an excerpt, manages to create a feeling of apprehension. The Dragon of Pendor is very good too.

Bobo’s Star (1979) by Glenn Chandler is a story laced with dark humour. It is a strange mixture of tragedy and comedy.

The next story The Yellow Hands is once again an excerpt from a larger book. This time it is from The Master (1957) by T.H. White. I don’t know about the original story but this excerpt doesn’t work for me. It felt disjointed and dull.

The Specimen (1979) by Tim Stout is good. I ended up feeling sorry for the alien in it.

The plot of the story Of Polymuf Stock (1971) by John Christopher isn’t anything new. I felt that I had read similar stories before.

The next three stories are once again parts of larger books. Hurled Into Space is from Jules Verne’s Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune, 1870), Goodbye to the Moon is from Crisis on Conshelf Ten (1975) by Monica Hughes and The Shot From the Moon from Islands in the Sky (1952) by Arthur C. Clarke. Nothing by Jules Verne, often referred to as the father of science fiction, can ever be bad in my opinion. Hurled Into Space is a pretty decent excerpt. Goodbye to the Moon is okay. The Shot From the Moon is engrossing.

The Fun They Had (1951) by Isaac Asimov is a simplistic children’s story. It didn’t particularly appeal to me.

And once again, we are back with the extracts from larger novels. From A Journey to the Center of the Earth (1864) by Jules Verne we have A Fight Between Lizards at the Center of the Earth, The Purple Cloud (1901) by M. P. Shiel produces The Last Man Alive, from The White Mountains (1967) by John Christopher How We Were Tracked by a Tripod and The War of the Worlds — an extract by H.G. Wells. A Fight Between Lizards at the Center of the Earth and The Last Man Alive are okay. How We Were Tracked by a Tripod is pretty exciting. The War of the Worlds — an extract is insipid.

Homecoming (1983) by Stephen David tries to be exciting but is strangely dull.

I didn’t expect All Summer in a Day (1954) by Ray Bradbury to be such a serious story. Its tragic tone took me by surprise.

Grenville’s Planet (1952) by Michael Shaara was quite creepy. This is one of the better stories of the book.

The Fear Shouter (1979) by Jay Williams tries to be funny but I found it uninteresting.

The last story is Arthur C. Clarke’s The Wind From the Sun (1963). It was a tad long but it was a true science fiction story where the impossible seems possible.

The book is way too full of excerpts from larger works. I feel that filling up a book that promises us science fiction ‘stories’ with such excerpts is cheating. As far as I know there are a lot of wonderful science fiction stories out there. Why not use them?

Karin Littlewood’s illustrations are very shoddy. Just because the book is aimed at the children doesn’t mean the drawings have to be childish.

The cover is looks good as do all of the other book covers from the Red Hot Reads series.

Frankly, I am disappointed with Science Fiction Stories. After reading another book from the same series called Detective Stories I had expected much more from this one.

Overall, Science Fiction Stories is entertaining only in parts. Most of it feels disjointed. It’s a pity really. A science fiction collection aimed at adolescent readers could have been much richer and engaging than this.

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