What is the very best short science fiction—according to science fiction fans themselves? The short stories and short novels collected here hold the most recent prizes. They are the Hugo Winners.
Among the brightest stars in the crown of science fiction are the winners of the coveted Hugo Awards. The Hugos are presented each year at the World Science Fiction Convention, where the competition is fierce but where the voting is done by members of the convention, all of them highly knowledgeable about what has been written in the field, and outstanding judges of what makes really good science fiction reading.
In this volume are the Hugo prize-winners for 1971 through 1975, once again presented, in his inimitable fashion, by Isaac Asimov, science fiction master and himself winner of two Hugos in earlier years. Needless to say, Asimov’s introductions to each story are as engaging and fresh as ever.
A must for every collector of science fiction.
I hate to be anything other than unrestrained in my praise for a Hugo winners volume, but the simple fact of the matter is that I don’t particularly care for this one and am more than a little surprised that a volume of award-winning science fiction can be so uninteresting.
Not that it doesn’t have some world-shattering stories in it, of course. Poul Anderson weighs in with “The Queen of Air and Darkness” and “Goat Song,” Ursula K. Le Guin with “The Word for World is Forest” and “The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas” (which has grown on me), George R.R. Martin with “A Song for Lya”, and Larry Niven with “Inconstant Moon.”
No, it’s some of the other stories that I can’t figure out. The volume starts out with two stories by Fritz Leiber (“Ship of Shadows” and “Ill Met in Lankhmar”), which are both good enough but never really caught my imagination. (And they‘re dang long, too.) There are two stories by Harlan Ellison, too: “The Deathbird” and a story with a long, long title having something to do with the pancreas. They‘re skillfully written, of course—few can write nearly as well as Ellison—but are frankly virtually incomprehensible to me. Larry Niven’s “Hole Man” is cute and nice, but not exactly classic Niven.
So this is a pretty mixed bag for me: Some of it is definitely among the best sf around, and some of it—well, isn’t. And by this point Asimov’s Bob Hope schtick has worn a bit thin and been dropped, so the introductions aren’t as funny as they were in the original Hugo Winners, more’s the pity. (Not to mention the fact that there aren’t any stories by Asimov in the book.) Of all the Hugo winners volume, I'd probably have the least qualms in missing out on this one.