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"I "I have to confess, right up front here, that you will not find a great deal in the way of poetic vision in these stories, or singing prose, or deep insight into character. Nor are these stories that will tell you much that is new to you about the human condition. These are stories in what is now pretty much a lost tradition in science fiction, the simple and unselfconsciously fast-paced adventure story of the pulp-magazine era. They are stories from the dawn of my career, which began in the closing years of that era, and are straightforward tales of action, in the main, that were written partly for fun and partly for money." -Robert Silverberg, from the Introduction
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Starred Review. SFWA Grand Master Silverberg (Phases of the Moon) delivers 16 deliciously slam-bang short stories from early in his career, along with engaging commentary including autobiographical insights, glimpses into his creative process and a mini-history of SF's flaming pulp youth. Beginning at 18, Silverberg wrote furiously, churning out tales like the gently wry "Yokel with Portfolio" (1955) for small SF magazines he had in his high-minded mid-teens denounced as formulaic and drably degenerate. As a member of Howard Browne's Fantastic Worlds stable, Silverberg perceptively explored now traditional SF themes—the poignancy of android existence in "Choke Chain" (1956), the world-saving hero in "Citadel of Darkness" (1957), the "amusing artifact" in the brief "New Year's Eve—2000 A.D." A predatory-alien story, "The Insidious Invaders" (1959), ended Silverberg's apprenticeship, the foundation of such later achievements as the mature novels Downward to the Earth and Hot Sky at Midnight. These are stories that he and his readers can justifiably look back on with affection, if not total admiration.
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Silverberg delivers exactly as promised in this collection of high-speed romps from the beginning of his career that he suggests affords a kind of archaeological experience. This is the work of a young man writing at a furious pace for what were simple adventure magazines, and it often lacks such literary niceties as developed characters and lyrical prose. But the stories do the job they were expected to do: entertain. They include such gems as "Vampires from Outer Space" (a title chosen by an editor, says Silverberg, and the only time the redundant cliche outer space appears in his fiction), in which aliens resembling nothing so much as the classic batlike vampire stand accused of murdering humans in search of blood, and "New Year's Eve--2000 AD," an early (1957) look at the argument over the date on which the new millennium begins. The classic tropes of pulp sf are all on view and just as rewarding as they were meant to be when Silverberg first exploited them. Regina Schroeder
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