My rating: 3 of 5 stars;
5 novellas dating back from the mid 1930s (judging from copyright) from the writer of “Day of the Triffids”.
“Sleepers of Mars” – the Russians and the British have landed on Mars, and encountered a dying race. The British escape, but the Russian rocket fails, stranding them there. The Martians help build the ship, and whilst the Russians are waiting, they explore the remnants of the civilization, and stumble onto a secret. An accident and a poor decision by the doctor releases a catastrophic chain of events. This one hasnt specifically dated – designs of things arent hard and fast (except the one difference between the Russian and English rockets – 3 vs 4 fins) and the story itself is sound – it doesnt matter what nation you come from on earth, when you make a mistake that big on another planet, you have to face the consequences)
“Worlds to barter” It’s 1945, and a scientist with his assistant is performing some experiments when they are rudely interrupted by a crash next door. It’s the scientist’s decendant from 2145, telling a story of time travel, and deformed himans from the 53rd century who have travelled back to 2145 to demand that the current inhabitants swap places. Typos aside (the future traveller keeps changing his name, and his girlfriend keeps changing sex from “he” to “she”!) this is still a little flat in the narrative, though principal was good.
“Invisible Monster”. The crash landing of a spaceship returning from Venus is witnessed by 3 friends out on a fishing trip. They got to investigate and hopefully rescue any survivors. However there is something invisible inhabiting the ship and one of the three friends is killed. The two remaining men head to the nearest town and there soon arrives an increasing number of people in an attempt to address the issue, through increasingly violent means. Finally the beast is blown up, but there are unpredicted consequences that only makes the situation worse. However, help is on the way, finding out not only how to make the alien(s) visible but how to kill them. Whilst some of the detail is gruesome, there is still a lack of tension and emotional depth in this story – there seems to be little reaction to the fact that one friend is dead, and the other has apparently disappeared forever.
“The Man from Earth”. We’re back on Venus, with a human being kept in a cage, with a stark warning of his fellow humans to the people of Venus. Again, it’s a single person narration of how he’s come to be there, and this time it’s about how people use each other and the things people are prepared to do to get what they think they want. In the end Gatz realises that he’s the last human, and his fate is the same as that experienced in “Sleepers of Mars”.
“The Third Vibrator” another story told after the event from one person to another. By this point this technique has become boring and repetitive. I suppose Wyndham uses it to keep the stories short, but when it all 5 stories are collected together and use the same format it shows a weakness. David is a scientist who has been sent to a psychiatric unit after smashing up his work, and he tells a story of believing he’s invented this “vibrator” before and has destroyed two worlds with it, and needed to destroy the vibrator before it destroyed this world too.