“My God!” he yelled. “What’s happening now?” Stevens stared. Then he started abruptly to his feet. Even afterwards, when he looked back on the incident, he could never actually decide what really happened. He had a persistent, oddly unshakable memory of a man flowing suddenly into liquid. Inside the blue and gray uniform of the Interstellar Passenger Service, the man began to melt, to change into a thick gooey substance that dripped and trickled away between the rising pillars of steel. Desperately, he fought down the rising sense of nausea that tugged at the muscles of his stomach. The picture was so utterly impossible that he screwed his eyes tightly to shut it out of his mind. When he looked again, there was nothing there and Blair was looking across at him, his jaw slack and an expression of stark disbelief in his dark eyes.
Beyond the eccentric orbits of Pluto and Neptune lies a vast, empty wilderness. There is nothing but the silence of space between the fringes of the Solar System and our nearest stellar neighbour, Proxima Centauri. The outer worlds of the Home System were only inhabited by Service and Scientific Personnel. Life for them was a constant routine war against an almost impossibly hostile environment. Then something in deep space began to affect the fringe of the Solar System. The isolated Observers in their living domes were helpless. They could do nothing except report on the increasingly bewildering phenomena. As the strange effects worsened, several domes were abandoned. The menace from Beyond continued to encroach on the civilised planets as it head steadily earthwards… What was the rational, scientific explanation for the thing that looked like an eye? Was it merely motiveless and purposeless, or was it guided by something sinister and more dangerous? Were men fighting a Cosmic Accident or an enormous Intelligence from out there…?
John Sladek explains the theme of the darkly comic stories in this wonderful collection: “The aliens here are human. This book contains no giant flying snails or telepathic octopods, no Ganymedean cat-women dressed in silver, no aggressive dugong chiefs roaming the galaxy in their pulsar-powered yo-yo ships. The aliens here are human aliens. Most of them work in ordinary offices, and they do not commute to work from Proximo Centauri, either. Yet these here humans are aliens. Office life attracts them …”