Dave's Reviews > First Contacts: The Essential Murray Leinster

First Contacts by Murray Leinster
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's review
Jan 05, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: speculative-fiction, fiction

Murray Leinster was the pseudonym used by William Fitzgerald Jenkins (June 16, 1896 – June 8, 1975), though some he did publish some of these stories under his real name. One of the greats from the early days of Science Fiction, his name is not as recognizable as Heinlein, Asimov, or several others, but that is a mistake of history, more than an accurate level of achievement. Perhaps it is due to his being significantly older than those writers, and the fact that some of his earlier stories pre-date the term science-fiction itself. Some of the earliest stories about robots (called logics in one story), alternate universes or multi-verses, and time travel were in his stories, and many of them are included here. Also included are two previously unpublished stories, making this a treasure even for those who are well acquainted with his writings.

I think it is fair to say that if you haven’t read “First Contact”, then you really are not a fan of the Golden Age of Science Fiction, at least not yet. It is one of those stories which has been printed and reprinted in an untold number of collections and that everyone should read, at least a few times. Thus it isn’t surprising that it is the story which serves as the source of the name of this collection. It was tied for 9th in the Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll for Short Fiction in 1971, and won the Retro Hugo given in 1996 for novelettes published in the year 1945. Also from 1945 was “The Ethical Equations”, a short story which was nominated for a Retro Hugo the same years as “First Contact”. There are earlier works as well, including Leinster’s alternate universe story “Sideways In Time” which was originally published in 1934. It was tied for 25th on the Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll for Pre-1940 Short Fiction. Also included is “Proxima Centauri” from 1935, which was tied for 12th on that same poll. The last of his award winning works included is “Exploration Team”, which is a novelette which won the Hugo in 1956. The artwork on the cover of the collection is taken from ideas from this story.

All in all, there are 24 stories included, and there are wonderful ones like “The Strange Case of John Kingman”, “If You Was a Moklin”, “Keyhole”, “The Power”, and “The Lonely Planet” which may not have won awards or appeared on fan polls, but are definitely worth reading nonetheless. Lastly, there are the two previously unpublished stories: “The Great Catastrophe”, and “To All Fat Policemen”. The first had been sold for publication, but when the publisher demanded extensive rewrites, Jenkins refused. The latter isn’t science-fiction, but is definitely Leinster/Jenkins.

The weakness of this collection is not in what is included, but rather in what is left out. Where is “The Runaway Skyscraper” from 1919, which was tied with the included “Sidewise in Time” on the Astounding/Analog poll? Where is 1932’s “Politics”, another story which the fans remembered. Joe Rico, the editor indicates that there was considerable demand for “The Mad Planet” and Hal Clement in his introduction talks about stories like “The Incredible Invasion”, “Murder in the USA”, “Trog”, and “Critical Difference”. Mr. Rico expresses concern over including additional works with regards to the length of the book, but in some cases, the longer the better, and I think the works of Murray Leinster fits that category.
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Reading Progress

January 5, 2009 – Shelved
January 5, 2009 – Shelved as: speculative-fiction
January 5, 2009 – Shelved as: fiction
Started Reading
February 8, 2009 – Finished Reading

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