As soon as a new book in this series comes out, I buy it. That should tell you something right there. You get a lot of reading for just 99 cents for your Kindle and you can‚Äôt beat that. The Ninth Science Fiction Megapack (Amazon link) is here and I recommend it with reservations.
I‚Äôve given most of the books in this series five stars, but this one I‚Äôm dropping to 4. There isn‚Äôt quite as much of a mix in different types of stories, and there seems to be a lot more of the older (1950‚Äôs to 1970‚Äôs) ones than usual. Still, for only a buck, you can‚Äôt lose.
Here‚Äôs a round-up of the better ones (sans plot-spoilers):
Near novel length, The Spires of Denon, by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, concerns intrigue at an archeological dig on a distant world where, far in the future, descendants of Earth explore an old, abandoned human colony. There are secrets to be discovered, and some of them involve the participants, themselves. Typically excellent Rusch storytelling.
Ain‚Äôt Nothing But A Hound Dog, by Brenda W. Clough, relates what happens to one mail order business owner when he discovers that his best customer is‚Ä¶
Luvver, by Mack Reynolds. A pleasure craft makes an emergency landing on a quarantined world.
Frog Level, by Bud Webster. A student could learn a lot by hopping a freight train ‚ÄĒ with the right teacher.
Shifting Seas, by Stanley G. Weinbaum. Now we‚Äôre really talking climate change!
Rock Garden, by Kevin O‚ÄôDonnell, Jr. Searching for life in the asteroid belt, and a computer that understands English less than Siri does.
When They Come From Space, by Mark Clifton. Another novella, probably about 70,000 words long. As an editor, I would have cut about 5,000 of those. Nonetheless, this is a wonderfully cynical look at governmental bureaucracy, the control of media over politics, and an alien exploration committee that knows how to exploit both. My favorite quote from it (there are several) is: ‚ÄúYou‚Äôre in the government now. First rule of government of the people, by the people, for the people: Never tell the people!‚ÄĚ
Waiting For The Coin To Drop, by Dean Wesley Smith. Time travel for historians. Time travel for prisoners. What could go wrong?
Beyond The Darkness, by S. J. Byrne. Another version of the multigenerational star ship from Earth with a revolt against the ruling class. Pretty good, though the ending seems rushed and could have been expanded to make this a full length novel.
The Loch Moose Monster, by Janet Kagan, is my favorite story in this collection. Colonists on a planet ‚Äúunpack‚ÄĚ the ‚Äúcondensed‚ÄĚ DNA samples from Earth and bring them to life. Well, it seemed a good idea at the time‚Ä¶ Lots of fun, and I wish I could be there!
My Fair Planet, by Evelyn E. Smith. An alien hires an actor to instruct him on how to be human. I chuckled more than once while reading it.
My second favorite story here is Preferred Risk, by Frederik Pohl and Lester del Rey. Novel length, it was written many years ago, but thanks to Pohl‚Äôs skill, reads perfectly fine today. It‚Äôs also one of the few ‚Äúaction‚ÄĚ stories in the book. What happens when one ‚Äúcompany‚ÄĚ runs the world? It controls every facet of your life, insuring your health, well being, and there‚Äôs still a bottom line to be met. Oh, and then disaster strikes! Typical Pohl at his best.
There‚Äôs also two good, in-depth interviews by Darrell Schweitzer of authors Dan Simmons and Frederik Pohl.
A handful of the stories are hopelessly ancient. For example: to read about plant and animal life on Mars when we know that there isn‚Äôt any. These should have been left out of the book. One example will suffice: Before Eden, by Arthur C. Clarke, takes place on Venus. Here‚Äôs a quote from the third chapter of the tale, discussing the weather: ‚ÄúThe weather was fantastically clear, with visibility of almost a thousand yards.‚ÄĚ I didn‚Äôt bother reading any further than that.
I want to mention one more story in the Ninth Science Fiction Megapack. It is For I Am A Jealous People, by Lester del Rey. This is an old, novella length retread of War of the Worlds, with a religious twist, and not a good one. The story itself isn‚Äôt bad and has some action in it. However, (and I say this as a non-religious person) the ending and premise will be deeply insulting to devout Christians and Jews. I‚Äôm not politically correct under anyone‚Äôs definition. However, I believe in playing fair, and I do believe that the media, writers, and in this case, editors, seem to feel that it is perfectly fine to beat-up on the Christian faith. That‚Äôs just wrong. If this story had been scornful of gays (for example) or women or African Americans, the outrage would be immediate. There was no legitimate reason to include it in this omnibus.
Having said all of that, this latest entry in the series is still a very good bargain. Lots of good reading for less than a cup of coffee. Buy it and have fun.