Welcome, those of you coming over from my YouTube Channel, where I spent the last year falling back into love with reading and talking about books. I’m turning a new page, so to speak, and reviving an old webpage and blog, with the aim of this next year to feel less pressure to spend all of my free time exclusively on reading books as fast as I can so I can talk about them.
Today we’re going to take a look at, and review, an old Sci-Fi anthology of short stories. There are seven of them in here from an assortment of authors, all possessing a sports-related theme:
“Joy in Mudville” by Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson
“Bullard Reflects” by Malcolm Jameson
“The Body Builders” by Keith Laumer
“The Great Kladnar Race” by Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg
“Mr. Meek Plays Polo” by Clifford D. Simak
“Sunjammer” by Arthur C. Clarke
“Run to Starlight” by George R.R. Martin
As with any anthology, the stories are going to vary wildly in how any individual reader responds to and resonates with each story. In most collections the assumption would be that a reader will find at least one they really enjoy, and will almost certainly find at least one which just didn’t work well for them. Sometimes you get lucky and encounter a lot of really good stories, sometimes you end up with a bunch of average ones with a few standouts. So let’s start off with the absolute standout in this collection: “Sunjammer” by Arthur C. Clarke.
This story is a delightful gem of a story, and a quick look through the spectrum of reviews on Goodreads confirms that this is almost universally viewed as the high point in this collection. There’s good reason for that, as Clarke crafts a tale that is both rooted in hard Science Fiction, but also has some strong human and plot-driven elements across a short span of time. The premise is interesting, having vehicles designed that operate on the power of the sun’s radiation, and after several orbits around the earth can jettison into space and out toward the moon. Clarke throws some delightful twists along the way, and the sheer imagination this story evokes makes this tale worth reading.
Fans of popular sports such as baseball and football might enjoy the first and the final stories in this collection. “Joy in Mudville” brings baseball to the forefront, with furry creatures stealing the show with their imprinting of historical baseball personalities – including Casey at bat. The story is enjoyable, but not spectacular, although huge fans of the sport might have more enjoyment. “Run to Starlight”, by a young Martin, envisions football with an alien race taking part in the sport in the wake of a horrific war against them. This one was certainly one of the stories I enjoyed the most in the collection after the Clarke one.
The other four stories are also enjoyable – I didn’t have a single tale in here that I felt was a dud – but they are unlikely to be what draws a person to pick up this collection. I enjoyed the twist on “The Great Kladnar Race”, with its unusual and surprising ending that was slightly predictable before the reveal. “Bullard Reflects” has some interesting action, and is certainly the most violent on a broad scale, whereas “The Body Builders” might entertain those who enjoy sports such as MMA. “Mr. Meek Plays Polo” was probably my least favorite in here, although the premise of space polo and the strange creatures that assist Mr. Meek provides an enjoyable enough read.
As a whole, this collection was one I had very low expectations for. It came as part of a book lot, and I picked it up out of curiosity to read the Martin story more than anything else. What I found was certainly an above-average collection that is going to remain on my shelf because there are several in here that I’ll probably revisit in the future. Even if the premise of sports-themed short stories doesn’t excite you – it didn’t for me – there’s still some really enjoyable stories in here that are worth the read.