Before the hyper-space vessels could go from planet to planet, stations had to be set up. And that meant manned spaceships cut off from Earth for decades.
The explorer vessel Ariadne had gone toward galactic centre and was considered lost – until its call came in appealing for a xenobiologist.
Their new world was all swamp. As far as could be seen, there was no intelligent species. Yes, this was alarming because all inhabitable planets so far discovered had thinking inhabitants.
But the nature of that planet’s “people” turned out to be an enigma that had to be solved. For their alien biology could spell doom to all the civilizations of the stars … doom or a terrible unity!
Author, editor, critic, fan: few people have had such a great and varied impact on modern SF as Damon Knight. From membership of seminal SF group the Futurians, through years of incisive reviews and criticism, to editorship of the influential Orbit series of anthologies, Knight bestrode 20th-century SF like a colossus. After his death in 2002, the SFWA GRAND MASTER AWARD was renamed in his honour.
The four volumes contained in this omnibus represent the best of his acclaimed short fiction – FAR OUR, IN DEEP, OFF CENTRE and TURNING ON – including his retro HUGO-winning TO SERVE MAN, surely the only SF story to inspire episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE and THE SIMPSONS!
When Ruth Gemmill’s younger brother Alex fails to return her calls, she sets off to check up on him. Unable to find him in Greenwell, the town where he has been living and teaching, she begins her tentative enquiries. She soon discovers the locals to be frustratingly unhelpful, while the eerie town holds more questions than clues. Why are the police so uncooperative? Why is Greenwell so dark and lonely? And who is the ‘grey man’ the schoolchildren saw Alex with not long before he went missing?
As Ruth becomes concerned that something terrible has happened to her brother, events escalate mysteriously, dangerously out of control. Then in one fearful moment she is sure she glimpses the abusive ex-boyfriend she left behind in London, the man who caused her years of torturous pain. Too late, Ruth realises that her worst fears haunt her still, and that she is at the centre of a far darker nightmare than she could ever have imagined…
Light on Bottom…
The light was artificial. Believe it if you can. I realise that for a normal person it’s hard. Wasting watts to light up the outdoors is bad enough. Spending the world’s limited power to illuminate the sea bottom, though – well, for a few moments I was too furious to think straight. My job has brought me into contact with people who were careless with energy, with people who stole it, and even with people who misused it; but this was a brand-new dimension!
I was lower now and could see acres and acres of light stretching off to the north, east, and west until it blurred out of sight. Acres and acres lighted by things suspended a few yards above the level bottom, things visible only as black specks in the centre of slightly brighter areas.
Then I got my anger under control, or maybe my fear did it for me. I suddenly realised that if I hit bottom the way I was heading I might never be able to get back to the…
Ocean on Top.
Two petrol bombs thrown on the Cakewalk promenade, a sports reporter and his bike rammed off a cliff, a policeman thrown through a plate-glass display window in the city centre and left to die. All this is ‘a quiet summer weekend’ in the dockland city of Canton and its Art Deco resort town of Ocean Beach.
Chief Inspector Sam Hoskins links the investigation of these crimes, but political chicanery hampers him on both sides: on the left is ambitious young Eve Ricard riding to national fame and fortune on ‘women’s issues, media bias, and insensitive policing’; to the right is the monstrously corrupt councillor and aged razor-boy Carmel Cooney, with his girls and clubs and rackets …
‘Strong on city life and the interplay between policemen and local politics’ Independent
Mahali’s rulers for generations were the water witches, who could feel the ebb and flow of precious water in their very bones. Then there was a coup, and control of Mahali’s water passed to an impersonal computer network.
It was Deza’s father who hit upon the scheme. Dressing his daughter in ceremonial garb, he passed her off as the last surviving member of the royal house. With tricks and illusions she and her father moved toward the centres of power.
But it’s the nature of a con artist to go too far . . .
Travel out along the galaxy’s Perseid Arm. Branch off to follow the ten thousand stars of Mircea’s Wisp. Eventually you will come to the Purple Rose System – three stars, Lorca, Sing and Syrene, that seem about to drift away into the void. Three planets circle Syrene. On one, Cadwal, there is Life. Long ago the Naturalist Society of Earth had listed Cadwal as a natural preserve. An administration centre had been set up and staffed to protect the planet from all exploitation. Araminta Station. Now, centuries later, the young Glawen Clattuc is beginning to wonder what the future may hold for him in the hierarchic, carefully ordered hereditary society that is life on Cadwal.
Slippery Jim di Griz – the Stainless Steel Rat – is still recovering from his efforts to save his beloved Angelina from the notorious Interstellar Internal and External Revenue when he is called upon to perform the impossible. Saving the galaxy. But can he pull it off? The galaxy is being attacked by every kind of alien race – untold billions of tentacled, slimy, green, clawed mutations – and time is running out. Aided and abetted by his wife Angelina and his teenage sons, James and Bolivar, Jim infiltrates the nerve centre of the enemy council chambers. But he hasn’t reckoned on the grey men and their commitment to a ‘holy crusade’ to destroy mankind – permanently!
The room was quiet; the man in front of the mirror was the only living things there, and he was too horrified to utter a sound.
In the mirror, five faces stared back at him: one young and ruddy, which was his own, and four that did not belong in that place at all, for they were wrinkled, malevolent, small as crabapples and blue as smoke.
So begins Damon Knight’s ‘Be My Guest’, a story of the human race possessed by things that were – well, not exactly demons . . . but not exactly not demons, either.
It’s just one of the unpredictably imaginative tales in this fascinating collection by a modern master of science fiction.