Saturday, 30 May 2009

"The Dark Side of the Earth" by Alfred Bester

Now that I have a steady source for paperback editions of classic science fiction in town (the Book Exchange here in Amsterdam), I have been picking up a sampling of books from authors I've enjoyed previously. In the latest batch, I picked up "The Dark Side of the Earth" by Alfred Bester, whose "The Stars My Destination" is one of the all-time classics, and whose other great work "The Demolished Man" isn't far behind.

"The Dark Side of the Earth" is a collection of short stories. As with many collections of this type, there are a few gems and a few misfires. The highlights of this collection are "Time is the Traitor" and "They Don't Make Life Like They Used to". "Time is the Traitor" is a meditation on memory and loss, and succeeds fairly well.

"They Don't Make Life Like They Used to" is a post-apocalyptic story in the same vein as "Night of the Comet" or "The Quiet Earth". In both those films, a handful of survivors attempt to live out their lonely lives in the ruins of our society, and have what fun they can doing it. The story is mostly about the characters, we never really even know how the world ended. It's speculative fiction more than science fiction, characters driven by fantastic circumstances, but still recognizably and endearingly human.

A few of the other stories just seem a bit dated, or maybe they just didn't suit my mood at the time I read them. Regardless, there are enough gems to make this worth picking up.

No comments: