Archive for October 18th, 2009

postheadericon Tomorrow Lies in Ambush Part 2, Gollancz, Hardback, ISBN, 0-575-01602-7

While I try and rebuild the blogs I was working on that were lost due to corruption of files by Microsoft Word (I’m guessing version 2002 is the main culprit) I’ll post some notes on Tomorrow Lies In Ambush, Bob Shaw’s first short story collection, issued in 1973, this being part two.

The Cosmic Cocktail Party is a little New Wave-ish, starting with the line A highball on the human reality vector. The founder of an African republic is in a ‘tank’ neither dead nor alive, and communication with him is needed for the incumbent party to win an election. Aliens make a simulacrum of a long dead UK Prime Minister and talk about the Galactic Social Congress. They have been controlling humans via mind to mind telepathic probing and the new computer consciousness cottons on to them. This I felt was one of the least enjoyable stories by Bob Shaw I’ve read, but then again that’s only a personal preference. I couldn’t get into it as I could with other stories of his and perhaps the New Wave-ish impression was responsible for that.

… And isles where good men lie. This is one of the longer stories in the collection. An endless caravan of alien spaceships are heading toward earth, landing every couple of ours, bringing with them large scaly monsters that the military of earth kill as soon as they land. Col John Fortune looks past this and reasons there must be a signal directing them to earth, as all the ships are automated. He starts to hunt for this signal with the intent of destroying it and stopping the alien ships from homing in on Earth. Although it is a race against time adventure story it is also a personal journey for the main protagonist, gaining new insights into himself and other people as a consequence of his actions.

The happiest day of your life is a brief short story only a few pages long. Its’ form is very traditional, get the reader hooked in, build the story and leave on a high. The backbone of the story is now a science fiction staple: quick learning, knowledge achieved and implanted in a short time. Shaw treats it realistically: it isn’t universal or free, children have to have a minimum IQ level and the parents have to be able to pay for it. The twist in the story is an emotional one rather than a revelatory one but it is satisfying nonetheless, and the impact of the story makes the reader think.

The Weapons of Isher II is a decent enough story and you can see that Shaw is tipping his hat to E A Van Vogt; even naming a character old Vogt. And it goes back further than that as the bulk of the plot revolves around an old fashioned gunfight straight out of the Old West, but brought up to date in the form of a sport that is controlled and regulated – only one of the contestants doesn’t want to bother about rules. So a showdown is arranged for Isher II, where the weapons have an inbuilt safety feature, which features in the dénouement to the story.

Pilot Plant. This story is close to novella length and is by far the longest and most complex story in this collection of stories. It was first published in New Worlds in 1966. I picked up a copy of New Worlds with this in it, purchased online quite cheaply. The story starts off with an airplane crash and the main character, Garnett distinctly hears a voice talking before a part of the plane crashes into him. This haunts him as he goes through his rehabilitation back to normal health. His suspicions grow as events lead him to believe that something major is going on when his orders for the special plane his company are working on – which caused the accident – are actively ignored and countermanded. While he develops a relationship with his nurse Garnett gets closer and closer to the cause behind the voice he had heard until finally all is revealed.

Telemart Three involves a husband who notes his wife is spending a lot of money and does something drastic to stop his wife from spending more money than they have. As a compromise he agrees to them getting a special television set called a Telemart Three, which can delivery products from adverts direct to the home (I wonder if this can come true; Bob Shaw did ‘invent’ Sky Plus systems in one of his novels – I’m almost positive it’s in The Peace Machine/Ground Zero Man where the main character rewinds so he can be sure of a news report he is seeing on the TV – and there are such things as 3D printers nowadays plus home shopping channels are entrenched). Ted Trymble is in for a nasty surprise when he tries to stop his wife from buying through the TV.

Invasion of Privacy is a fairly long story and rounds off the collection. A young boy sees dead people then he is rushed off to hospital with pneumonia. The father notices something odd about the place where his son said he saw people who were dead and decides to investigate. There he sees for himself people who are supposed to be dead and buried. In fear he causes the house to be burned down. In his mind the local Dr, Dr Pitman, becomes a suspect for mysterious and worrying goings on. There’s a touch of Invasion of The Body Snatchers about this story and also some similarity to themes Bob Shaw would expand in Fire Pattern. There’s a chance this could be considered to be part of the Fire Pattern Series, which includes a couple of stories involving The Prince. It was originally published in 1970; Fire Pattern appeared in hardback fourteen years later in 1984.

Overall the stories in this collection, Bob Shaw’s first, are rewarding, well thought out, and represent a good guide to the quality of stories that Shaw was putting out in the late sixties early seventies. There’s a wide range of subjects and themes and a variety in the length of the stories. If you want something to dip into there are short stories that last only a few pages, if you want something more intense and involving Pilot Plant, … And isles where good men lie and Invasion of Privacy are satisfyingly in-depth enough for most readers. Overall Tomorrow Lies I Ambush is a great collection.