by Clark Ashton Smith Print book : Fiction
These stories are different and really good.   (2011-08-05)
The stories in this collection are a mixture of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Published mainly between 1910 and 1935, they represent a very different time in American fantastic fiction.
"Marooned in Andromeda" is about a trio of human mutineers kicked off a spaceship onto a semi-habitable planet. There, they have to survive in an unearthly landscape full of carnivorous beings who are far beyond the description of "strange." In "An Adventure in Futurity," Conrad Elkins looks like your average human, except for the fact that he comes from Earth of the year 15,000 A.D. Future Earth is dying, so Elkins has come to attempt to find some answers. He must return, and he takes the narrator with him. Earth has been importing slaves from Venus for hundreds of years, and the Venusians have had enough. They are rebelling, and winning. A microbe is released that changes Earth's atmosphere into the equivalent of the atmosphere of Venus. Of course, the Venusians are immune, but the humans that are left suffocate by the thousands.
Other stories take place on Earth. Explorers find an invisible city in the middle of a desert. An American rocket plane, chasing a Japanese plane, suddenly finds itself inside a strange cloud where physical laws are not the same. Once again, Earth is under attack from Venus, changing its climate into something acceptable for Venusians. Several stories take place in India, which, in the early 20th century, was the closest thing Earth had to an alien landscape. A man goes through a lot of research and preparation to kill a man who had wronged him a number of times over the years. He lures the man to his laboratory, gives him an undetectable poison and watches him die right in front of him. He then gets a call from the man's wife saying that he has just dies of heart attack at home, several miles away. The murderer rushes over there to examine the other corpse. Insanity begins to rear its head when the murderer realizes that he has two real corpses of the same man.
Smith was best known as a poet; these stories feel like poetry. Sometimes a person just needs to lose themself in a good old fashioned macabre/adventure story. If you can find a copy, start right here. These stories are different, and they are really, really good.
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