Edited by Martin H. Greenberg – 1998 – I love science fiction anthologies. They’re short and sweet and easy to pick up and put down. I read so many of them, in fact, that I’m surprised this is my first anthology review. I especially enjoy anthologies written on a theme. This collection of short stories is all about aliens descending upon unsuspecting Earthlings and the challenges that ensue. Some are funny, some make you think, but none are not quickly forgotten.
I do have some favorites in this collection. Unlike Twilight Zone punchline stories – “To Serve Mankind! It’s a cookbook!” – most of these have a twist on the twist. A middle-aged man takes his devoted wife to meet the aliens who abducted him only to discover he wasn’t abducted and he’s not him. When a hungry spaceship arrives on Earth, the little green men beckoning from the open doorway are like those fish that dangle worm-shaped organs to snare prey.
We’re given several explanations of what the abductions are really about (besides filling a flying saucer’s stomach). Many of the tales make you wonder who is the alien and who is more frightened by our first contact, us or THEM? This book contains all great stories by some well-known authors such as Gregory Benford and Alan Dean Foster. I won’t be including a paragraph of which stories to skip in this review. As I said, they’re short, clever, and thought-provoking.
The one about the mild-mannered history teacher who can detect “aliens” by their dead eyes may be a chilling tale about a psychopath or the world’s savior. Probably my favorite is the one where the wounded alien woman comes into a Casablanca-themed Rick’s Bar. She’s saved by a young man who knows all the lines (from the movie). Clever. I also laughed at the berserker alien race whose first encounter with Earthlings is a jolly fat man in a red suit.
Grays, BEMs, ETs, shape-shifters, and gobs of galactic ooze inhabit this story. You’ve been warned.
I never liked the cheerleader anyway.