Book Review: Best SF 1970

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I was born in 1970, but it wouldn’t be for a couple of years that I’d discover television SF and a few more after that before I’d begin to read it seriously. When I did, I’d read voraciously, but I’d eventually find that a lot of the so called New Wave of SF wouldn’t work all that well for me. Happening smack in the middle of the New Wave, I expected a lot of this anthology to fall flat for me. Much of it did, but not all of it. This particular anthology has the added bonus of having a couple of stories available in translation for the first time. Of course, neither really worked well for me, but a translation doesn’t always do the original work justice.

Still, there were some good stories here.

The standouts:

“Black is Beautiful” probably couldn’t be written today, but it’s an eye-opening and mind-stretching look at what could be if all of the white folks left a major city to the black folks who are allowed to be competent and diverse. What might that society look like after a couple of decades?

“Oil-Mad Bug-Eyed Monsters” is a story of a member of an alien species who, collectively, are trying to buy up all of the oil rights on Earth because, well, they need it for the breeding fleet that’s on the way. Better we don’t think about it too closely.

“Traffic Problem” is an exercise in absurdity. What might happen to the rest of society if the American love of the automobile were taken to a ridiculous extreme. Eye rolling and disturbing at the same time.

Most of the rest of the stories were at least readable, though I’d consider more than a couple of them pointless exercises in throwing words at the page to see which of them might form sentences.

Complete contents:

  • Introduction (Best SF: 1970) • (1971) • essay by Harry Harrison
  • Gone Fishin’ • (1970) • short story by Robin Scott Wilson
  • The Ugupu Bird • (1959) • short story by Slawomir Mrozek
  • Black Is Beautiful • (1970) • short story by Robert Silverberg
  • The Lost Face • (1964) • novelette by Josef Nesvadba
  • Mary and Joe • (1962) • short story by Naomi Mitchison
  • Gorman • (1969) • short story by Jerry Farber
  • Oil-Mad Bug-Eyed Monsters • (1970) • short story by Hayden Howard
  • A Pedestrian Accident • (1969) • short story by Robert Coover
  • Traffic Problem • (1970) • short story by William Earls
  • The Asian Shore • (1970) • novelette by Thomas M. Disch
  • Erem • (1963) • short story by Gleb Anfilov
  • Car Sinister • (1970) • short story by Gene Wolfe
  • “Franz Kafka” by Jorge Luís Borges • (1970) • short story by Alvin Greenberg
  • Pacem Est • (1970) • short story by Kris Neville and Barry N. Malzberg
  • The Day Equality Broke Out • (1971) • short story by Brian W. Aldiss

Overall rating: 3 stars, but that’s probably generous. Not enough of the stories were really a good read for me to say I liked the book, but a two-star rating feels like a disservice to the stories I did enjoy.

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