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The Seeds of Time - John Wyndham
Member Name: CaptainD
The Seeds of Time - John Wyndham
Advantages: It's Wyndham...
Disadvantages: ... many of the stories end just when they're getting interesting...
The Seeds of Time is a collection of 10 short stories by John Wyndham, author of such sci-fi classics as The Day of the Triffids and The Midwich Cookoos. In a short foreward he explains his reasons for writing the stories, as a ckind of cross-genre experiment, and his dismay that the science fiction genre in popular terms had become tied up almost exclusively to tales of intergalactic heroes. He also thanks various magazines who were willing to publish these stories which, at the time, were viewed as unsuitable for the mass market.
The stories themselves are varied and almost all interesting, with Wydnham's unique style and wry humour coming out in all of them to some degree. First off we have CHRONOCLASM, a kind of time-travel romance, followed by TIME TO REST is a tale of a lone earthman travelling across Mars in search of tranquillity following earth's sudden destruction. Then there is METEOR, an ironic tale of an advanced civilisation's journey to a new home, and SURVIVAL is her disturbing tale about a a shy young woman who ends up taking drastic measures to ensure her and her newborn's safety. PAWLEY'S PEEPHOLES shows what might happen if travel agents could send tourists on journeys across more than just geographical distances. OPPOSITE NUMBER examines what might happen if you meet yourself, only he's not you… The most intriguing story of the whole lot is undoubtedly PILLAR TO POST, which starts of as a psychiatric assessment but turns out to be much, much more… The oddly titled DUMB MARTIAN is not as might be expected from the title a humorous story, but instead an interesting take on the whole culture clash idea.
COMPASSION CIRCUIT shows what might happen if robots were given artificial compassion, and finally WILD FLOWER is probably the most experimental story here, something of an esoteric anti-science message. Overall my hardcover copy comes to 141 pages (ino comparison to 161 pages for Day of the Triffids in this same volume.)
The stories vary greatly in length, from a few pages to about 20. I'm not sure that I would class any other that <b>Pillar to Post</b> as actually outstanding. All are perfectly readable and some are good, but many suffer from being rather too predictable. This isn't Wyndham's fault, because I feel that at the time they were written many of the basic plot ideas would have been quite original and perhaps even adventurous. Today however most ideas of time travel, parallel universes, and suchlike are ingrained into our consciousness by Star Trek, Quantum Leap, etc. There was also that sinking feeling with about half of the stories that it ended just as it was beginning to get interesting (a difficult thing to avoid in short stories, I've always found.) There is a fairly extensive use of female protagonists (written rather differently to many of Wyndham's female characters in his novels) which varied things a little. Also he used a consistent model for the Martians in different stories. This did help to give a feeling of continuity even though the stories were completely unrelated. His love of poetry comes through in some of the stories, either by quotation of others' poems or by his own florid prose at times.
I liked the book overall because most of the stories were interesting and I like Wyndham's style of writing, but it really doesn't represent his best work. Recommended to John Wyndham fans or science fiction fans who don't mind something being a little out of the normal mould.
You're probably looking at second hand or in a compilation to get this nowadyas, unless you go to a specialist science fiction bookstore. Amazon's Marketplace has it from a penny!
Summary: It's Wyndham, Jim, but not as we know him...