Sunday, January 8, 2017

Review: Earthmen and Strangers edited by Robert Silverberg

Synopsis: Robert Silverberg gathered a unique collection of short stories by several well known authors. Each explores the subject of human / non-human interaction. But even deeper, what these stories explore is the basics of what makes us human - and how that would hinder or help us as we collide with intelligent species from other worlds.

There are nine stories:

Dear Devil by Eric Frank Russell
The Best Policy by Randall Garrett
Alaree by Robert Silverberg
Life Cycles by Poul Anderson
The Gentle Vultures by Isaas Asimov
Stranger Station by Damon Knight
Lower than Angels by Algis Budrys
Blind Lightning by Harlan Ellison
Out of the Sun by Arthur C. Clarke

Review: This collection starts out warm and happy and fuzzy and then slips easily and quietly into hard, gritty, tough stories.
In Dear Devil, a gentle alien, a poet, asks to be left behind on a post-apocalyptic earth. Through his patient and gentle, he brings about a new life for the savage humans, which in turn, saves his own people.  Sweet and happy.
In The Best Policy, alien conquerors snatch up a lone human, who uses the absolute truth to convince the aliens of our terrible horrible powers of the mind.  Humorous and enjoyable.
In Alaree, humans accidentally teach an alien about individuality, to disastrous consequences. Sad and cautionary
In Life Cycle, humans must change the entire way of thinking of a matriarchal society in order to save their own lives. Adventurous and fast-paced.
In The Gentle Vultures, aliens discuss the impending destruction of the human race, and how they might help it along – until an encounter with a human shakes the aliens to their core. Insightful and thought-provoking.
In Stranger Station, a lone human waits for a rendezvous with a strange alien – unaware of the galaxy-altering change he will witness. Confusing and Mind-bending.
In Lower than Angels, a human encounters a primitive race, who worship him as a god, which could mean the end of their race. He takes drastic action to prevent that from happening. Realistic and gritty.
In Blind Lightning, a human encounters a telepathic primate, and risks his life to protect the primate from his own harmful thoughts. Bittersweet and hopeful.
In Out of the Sun, humans witness the death of an alien, helpless to save the life they just discovered. Profound and lyrical.
Of all these, The Gentle Vultures was my favorite. The Aliens, so certain in themselves and their methods, are jarred to the core when they see themselves through human eyes. What is an Ideology of Benevolence to one species may be Absolute Slavery to another. I thought about it long after the story was over.
My least favorite was Life Cycle or Alaree, not because they were bad, but because they were….forgettable? Blah? They lacked something a spark or something. Not sure. Worthy of being in the collection, but not as good as the other entries.

Bookmarks: 4 of 5

Awards: None

Year Published: 1966
Date Finished: 1-6-2017
Pages: 191

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