Until he became an alcoholic, Murray Douglas was one of Britain’s leading actors. Now, after treatment, he’s ready to resume his career, but his first come-back part isn’t exactly what he thought it would be. The idea was to create an avant-garde play where the actors made up the script as they rehearsed. Unusual but hardly frightening. What was frightening was the rest of the cast. Like Murray, they all had some kind of craving. And each of them was given access to whatever had addicted them. It was doubtful if the play would ever entertain the public. But it seemed to entertain the director . . . (First published 1967)
The sequel to the only SF novel to sweep all SF awards and one of the bestsellers of all time In 2130, an alien spaceship, Rama, entered our solar system. The first product of an alien civilisation to be encountered by man, it revealed many wonders to mankind – but most of its mysteries remained unsolved … Sixty-six years later, a second approaching spacecraft was detected; four years on, the Ramans are definitely returning. But this time, Earth is ready. And maybe now, with the arrival of Rama II, some of the questions posed by Rama will at last be answered.
Is there a Destiny? Does Fate impose a limit? What Barrier stands between man and the creation of life? Since the legendary failure of the ill-fated Frankenstein, man has tried time and time again to pass those limits. He has created androids, clumsy robots of flesh and blood. He has made men of metal and servants of plastic, with wheels for limbs and magnetic tapes for voices. Man has made things by cross breeding the animal kingdom and destroying Nature’s intentions…but man has never yet made man. Or has he? Forbisher thought that he had the answer. It wasn’t a clumsy Synthetic. It wasn’t an Android, or a Robot, it was a real flesh and blood human being. The beautiful woman in his arms was the product of a laboratory experiment, not the result of a natural biological process. But how could he prove it?
The human personality had been defined by leading psychologists as the integrated and dynamic organisation of psychical, mental, moral and social qualities. A personality is the product of heredity and environment. Every experience records itself in the neurons of the brain producing an almost infinite number of possible combinations. Brains are as individual as fingerprints. In an infinite universe, however, there is a possibility that somewhere – separated by vast distances of Time and Space – two exactly similar brains exist. The strange telepathic bonds between identical twins could operate between identical minds. Melinda Tracey was a practical, intelligent, modern girl who didn’t believe in dreams – even recurring dreams – but her odd sleep experiences of the ruined city, and the strangely suited figure who searched it, disturbed her considerably. What incredible psychological bond linked Melinda to the lonely stranger, probing the wreckage of an alien metropolis?
Billy Byrne was a product of the streets and alleys of Chicago’s great West Side. From Halsted to Robey, and from Grand Avenue to Lake Street there was scarce a bartender whom Billy knew not by his first name. And, in proportion to their number which was considerably less, he knew the patrolmen and plain clothes men equally as well, but not so pleasantly. His kindergarten education had commenced in an alley back of a feed-store. Here a gang of older boys and men were wont to congregate at such times as they had naught else to occupy their time, and as the bridewell was the only place in which they ever held a job for more than a day or two, they had considerable time to devote to congregating. They were pickpockets and second-story men, made and in the making, and all were muckers, ready to insult the first woman who passed, or pick a quarrel with any stranger who did not appear too burly. By night they plied their real vocations. By day they sat in the alley behind the feedstore and drank beer from a battered tin pail. The question of labor involved in transporting the pail, empty, to the saloon across the street, and returning it, full, to the alley back of the feed-store was solved by the presence of admiring and envious little boys of the neighborhood who hung, wide-eyed and thrilled, about these heroes of their childish lives. Billy Byrne, at six, was rushing the can for this noble band, and incidentally picking up his knowledge of life and the rudiments of his education. By the time he became an adult, he was another thing entirely. . . .
One star-chained evening in a Manhattan bathroom, Carl Schirmer spontaneously combusts! His body transforms into light, mysteriously snatched from his banal life by an alien intelligence 130 billion years in the future. There, all spacetime is collapsing into a cosmic black hole, the Big Crunch – and a bold, cosmic destiny awaits Carl. Rebuilt from the remnants of his light by extraterrestrials for a cryptic purpose, he awakens in time’s last world, the strangest of all – the Werld. At the edge of infinity, Carl discovers the Foke, nomadic humans who travel among the floating islands of the Werld. The Foke teach him how to live – and love – at the end of time, and he loses his heart to his plucky guide, the beautiful Evoë. Their life together in this blissful kingdom that knows no aging or disease brings them to rapture – until Evoë falls prey to the zotl, a spidery intelligence who hunt the Foke and eat the chemical by-products of their pain. In order to save his beloved from a gruesome death, Carl must return to Earth – 130 billion years earlier – where he is shocked to discover that the Earth he’s come back to is not the one he left. Can he meet the harsh demands of his task before the zotl find him and begin ravishing the Earth? Author’s Note: The volumes of this series can each be read independently of the others. The feature that unifies them is their individual observations of science fiction’s sub-genre: “space opera,” which the editors David G. Hartwell and Kathryn Cramer define as “colorful, dramatic, large-scale science fiction adventure, competently and sometimes beautifully written, usually focused on a sympathetic, heroic central character and plot action, and usually set in the relatively distant future, and in space or on other worlds, characteristically optimistic in tone. It often deals with war, piracy, military virtues, and very large-scale action, large stakes.”
More than any other series, THE AVENGERS typified the Swinging Sixties – beginning in 1961 with Patrick Macnee starring with Ian Hendry in a grainy, realistic spy thriller, and ending in 1969 with Macnee and the glamorous Linda Thorson blasting off into space in a surreal episode appropriately entitled ‘Bizarre’. Meanwhile we had seen the memorable Honor Blackman and Diana Rigg in roles unusually progressive for British television. THE NEW AVENGERS in the mid-seventies reflected changing times but retained the essence of the show – as Macnee returned to play alongside another strong, independent heroine in the form of Joanna Lumley’s Purdey. And then there was the film… THE AVENGERS DOSSIER is a uniquely comprehensive yet humorous survey of all the show’s incarnations. As well as a remarkably detailed episode guide to both series – even covering the kinkiness factor and champagne count in both – this volume gives behind the scenes insights and revelations about every aspect of the programme. The film and its production are examined, and critical essays look at the history behind the cult.