This kind of thing used to happen all the time. An anthology with a good number of stories would be seriously abridged for its paperback appearance. Sometimes a second volume of stories would be published, sometimes not. In this case, the original volume had 22 stories. The paperback has 12. All the introductory material has also been cut.
I'll just give a brief idea of what each story in this abbreviated collection is about."Robbie" is the story of a girl and her robot. Gloria, the girl, becomes attached to Robbie, and her parents, especially her mother, think it's unhealthy. They get rid of Robbie, with predicable results. In "Virtuoso" a robot plays a piano. Perfectly. Eric Frank Russell gives his killer robot in "Boomerang" rules for behavior that aren't like Asimov's rules. That causes a problem for the robot and its creators. "The Jester" reminded me a lot of Robert Silverberg's "The Iron Chancellor," which was in the collection I mentioned last week. Another robot-gone-wrong story that's well written and funny but which is hardly remarkable. "Skirmish" seemed atypical of Simak to me, although the style is unmistakable. Joe Crane, a reporter, realizes that machine-like aliens have come to earth and that some of the machines, like his typewriter, are becoming sentient. What's a guy to do? Allen Bloch's "Men Are Different" is a short-short, and it proves its point. "Letter to Ellen" by Chan Davis is another story about how people might feel about androids. Theodore Sturgeon's "The Golden Egg" uses an alien to speculate on what it means to be human. I had a few words to say about Pohl Anderson's "Sam Hall" last year. The story is as relevant as ever. In "Dead End," Wallace Macfarlane shows that while eternal life (sort of) is possible, there are certain side effects. I like the idea behind "Dumb Waiter" by Walter M. Miller, Jr. What happens if after the war is over, the machines keep right on going after the ammo runs out? Repair the central computer or destroy it? Robert Sherman Townes' "Problem for Emmy" presents the problem of computer consciousness with the kicker in the final line.
Overall an entertaining collection of the Good Old Stuff that might not seem so good now if you can't put yourself back into the frame of mind that existed when the stories were written. I can see why younger readers might not care for most of them. As for me, I can remember reading the digests of the '50s that were crammed with stories like this and loving very minute of it. Nostalgia helps.
Table of Contents from ISFDB.
- 1 • Robbie • (1940) • shortstory by Isaac Asimov (variant of Strange Playfellow)
- 18 • Virtuoso • (1953) • shortstory by Herbert Goldstone
- 24 • Boomerang • (1953) • shortstory by Eric Frank Russell (variant of A Great Deal of Power)
- 38 • The Jester • (1951) • shortstory by William Tenn
- 54 • Skirmish • (1950) • shortstory by Clifford D. Simak [as by Clifford Simak ]
- 72 • Men Are Different • (1954) • shortstory by Alan Bloch
- 74 • Letter to Ellen • (1947) • shortstory by Chan Davis
- 85 • The Golden Egg • (1941) • novelette by Theodore Sturgeon
- 102 • Dead End • (1952) • shortstory by W. Macfarlane [as by Wallace Macfarlane ]
- 113 • Sam Hall • [Sam Hall Universe] • (1953) • novelette by Poul Anderson
- 142 • Dumb Waiter • (1952) • novelette by Walter M. Miller, Jr.
- 176 • Problem for Emmy • (1952) • shortstory by Robert Sherman Townes