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The Best of Edmund Hamilton, reviewed by Eric Weeks

This review was written in June, 1998 -- you might want to see the other short story collections that I reviewed.
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"The Best of Edmund Hamilton" by Edmund Hamilton, Ballatine Books, 1977.

Edmund Hamilton was writing sf before the Golden Age (the '40s), and still writing past that time. 13 of these stories were written between 1926 and 1939, and 8 more between 1940 and 1968. It's very interesting to see his style change as time passes. The earliest stories are pulp sf, with grand adventures starring mad scientists and adventurers stumbling on ancient monsters in obscure countries. The later stories become more thoughtful, with some sad endings, or at least endings that make the reader stop and ponder. The last few stories are fairly light on plot, and strong on moods and characters.

A few stories are worth mentioning. "Thundering Worlds" is one of the most epic pulp sf stories I've ever read: the nine planets of our Solar System, all inhabited, must travel through space to find a new sun (as ours is dying). "The Accursed Galaxy" is one of the cutest explanations of the red shift effect. The story "What's it Like Out There?" was an extreme shock to read, coming shortly after I finished Robinson's Red/Green/Blue Mars trilogy; in this story, the colonization of Mars is shown to be hard, grueling, depressing work. It's an excellent story. The story "Fessenden's Worlds" reminded me quite a lot of the short story "Microcosmic God," written by Theodore Sturgeon in 1941, 4 years after Hamilton's story. "Castaway" is a good sf story, starring Edgar Allen Poe.

I would recommend this book to anyone who enjoys pre-40's sf. While Hamilton's later stories are strong sf stories, most of his work (at least as represented in this collection) is of the pulp sf genre. Good stories, but a bit crude by today's standards.

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