Science-fiction grandmaster Harrison collects and recollects from a 50-year writing career. Best known for his Stainless Steel Rat series, the American expatriate tries here for the mix of nostalgia, charming self-promotion, and inadvertent irony that Asimov achieved in the Opus books. In his autobiographical introduction, Harrison, musing on the writing and editing of comic books and pulp magazines, asserts: “I did not look down and sneer at these pulp products; you cannot write hypocritically and sell.” This doorstopper greatest-hits collection is heavy with familiar stories, including “If,” a trick-ender in which heroic aliens are found to have earthly origins; “The Streets of Ashkelon,” a critique of religious hypocrisy; and “The Road to the Year 3000,” an optimistic bit of speculative fluff, commissioned by the scientific journal Nature, contending that many complex problems just might have simple solutions. Although the volume aims to demonstrate Harrison’s versatility, his tales are mostly of the heavy-handed, dystopian, melodramatic, “if-this-goes-on” variety in which a technological innovation or political trend is extrapolated into a farce or tyranny, as in “Roommates,” the cautionary tale of an overpopulated Earth later expanded into the novel Make Room, Make Room.
A self-serving but admirable assortment of pieces written for money but with no small amount of love.