Robert Sheckley, master of the science-fiction short-story form, created numerous tales of dark humor. He had an entertaining gift for looking at society with a warped mirror, enabling us to see ourselves in a clearer reflection.
Will Barrent has no memory of the murder for which he was convicted. He will now have to live his life sentence on the prison planet Omega. The few that survive there do it by committing crimes. And the more adept the planet inmates are at higher crime, the more they climb their bizzare anti-social ladder. They all must live in a society where drug addiction is mandatory, as is the worship of the Dark One.
Two vintage stories from the 1950s by science-fiction Grand Master Jack Vance, who wrote stories of adventure, detection, horror, and humor.
"Oddities from Jack Vance"
In Farewell to the Master, Cliff Sutherland, a freelance reporter, is determined to get more photos of the giant robot that stands as a silent sentinel over his dimensional space-traveling ship. Cliff is determined to have an overnight vigil to get behind the mystery of the slain alien known as Klaatu.
Garin Featherstone has been sent to explore a mysterious blue haze that was spotted in the polar region. There he discovers a lost civilization and a strange environment of vivid green lands, crimson tree trunks, and golden rivers. He must save Thrala of the light against the lizard men.
On the planet Glory, missionaries live in a constant unpredictable environment. Sister Mary and her husband, Brother Raymond, try to contend with the flits, which live satyr-like existences. The missionaries are exasperated with this world's disregard for cause and effect. The only constant is the clock that they brought with them. And therein lies the problem.
"Too Short, I lost a credit for this?"
As a man surveys the countryside for the construction of a reservoir, he comes across a stretch of barren farmland leeched of life. An aged survivor of the town tells him the tale of a rural farmer's family and their path to madness and unspeakable horror.
"Horrible narration, ruins a great story."
Future humanity has found the secret of faster-than-light travel, but it comes with great dangers. To minimize these dangers, man can pilot ships through the up-and-out with cats as their partners. Underhill shares his mind with his cat-partner, the Lady May, and must travel to the terrible open places between the stars. Only by working together can they defend themselves and the ship's passengers against the dragons in the emptiness of space.
Man has conquered space, but not without costs. To maintain the space lanes, Scanners have to undergo an operation in which their brain is severed from their sensory inputs to block the Pain of Space. A man named Adam Stone claims that he has a found a way to travel in the deep of space without the use of the Scanners - and the community of Scanners has decided that he must die. But one Scanner realizes the madness of that solution.
When Raf Kurbi's spaceship from Earth burst into unexplored skies of the far planet Astra, it was made welcome by the natives of a once-mighty metropolis. But Kurbi was unaware of three vital things.
When Brion Bayard was kidnapped and brought to the alternate world where Earth's history took a different turn, it was not a pleasant experience. It was, however, a startling experience. Here was a world that was just like the Earth he was taken from--with just a few subtle changes. On top of all this, Brion was given a puzzling assignment by his captors. He was to secretly enter a palace, and kill a dangerous and tyrannical dictator. There was one, small catch--the hated dictator in this world was the mirror image of Brion Bayard.
"Good 60s science fiction adventure story"
Life changes on Earth when the population tips the scales at over X billion people. Harry lives in a single room without a window and hates the commutrain ride, which is like the black hole of Calcutta on wheels. If he can get his private car out of commugarage, he might be able to get to work on time. If only it wasn't for his headaches....
The Company was a powerful, efficient, and monstrous insurance organization that controlled the entire world, scientifically regulating everything in life: war, epidemics, one-a-day food pills and test-tube sex...all through the use of its patented, terrifying human deep-freeze vault. Claims Adjuster Wills, a great believer in the Company, begins to have second thoughts when he meets beautiful and sorrowful Rena, whose radical father lies in a frozen subterranean vault.
Taylor felt life was pretty good. Sure living in an underground bunker developing more sophisticated weapons to bomb the Soviets was less than ideal. But he had a pretty wife, and he was safe from the radioactive poisoned environment that existed above ground. The leadies, a sophisticated robot servant, could inform them of the devastating destruction, the bombed out cities, and the further Soviet attacks. But it was a strange fact that the latest leadie to return to the bunker showed no sign of radioactivity.
To save her newborn son, Dr. Helen Murray has to remain behind on an alien world. But is she alone? As her son, Robin, becomes older, he acts strangely and describes other people that Helen cannot see.
What is more idyllic than a small Midwestern agricultural town? Peaksville would sound like a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting, except little Anthony is a monster! What happens when a child is omnipotent, and with his mind he can execute his every desire and petulant whim? Tonight, there's a birthday party for Dan Hollis at Anthony's house. It's a party all the townspeople will remember...always!
Joan Leeton was certainly a lovely girl. A perfect girl for an English scientist to fall in love with. Unfortunately for Will Fredericks and Bill Josephs that's exactly what happened, to both of them - and to the same girl too, Joan! But they were no ordinary scientists, and they created the most marvelous invention. A device that could perfectly replicate anything. But could it replicate a lovely girl named Joan Leeton? Could they create a love triangle with four people?
Mad! Impossible world! Sun-blasted by day, cold-wracked by night - and life condensed by radiation into eight days! Sim eyed the Ship - if he only dared reach it and escape! ... but it was more than half an hour distant - perhaps the limit of life itself! From the author of Fahrenheit 451, The Martian Chronicles and The Illustrated Man. Originally published in the Fall 1946 issue of Planet Stories. It was later reprinted under the title Frost and Fire.
A future New York City has changed since a nuclear bomb left areas of radiation that threaten the residents. Women wear coverings over their faces as the latest fashion trend. An Englishman in New York saves a girl from a speeding coupe with fish hooks on its fender. He finds himself attracted and repelled by the girl in this classic story of future shock from a science-fiction grand master.
"Even the title is a metaphor!"
A trading spaceship often has to carry unusual cargo. But none as strange as the blubberous pig-like alien known as the wub. The captain of the ship decides that the wub may make an excellent meal for him and the crew. But the wub might have something to say about it.