Review of 'Galactic Cluster'

Galactic Cluster by James Blish

galactic_cluster.jpg Though now largely unknown, James Blish wrote a considerable amount of Science Fiction including, notably, adapting various Star Trek episodes which were published in a series of books, and the “Cities in Flight” series. “Galactic Cluster” contains eight short stories: “Tomb Tapper” where a world war results in an unusual spacecraft crash site…“King of the Hill” where a the sole inhabitant of an orbiting bomber wrestles with his inner demons; In “Common Time” a test pilot experiences the implications of travelling at more than 22 times the speed of light; “A Work of Art” sees classical composer Richard Strauss returned to life to continue writing music for a futuristic society with quite different taste in music…or has he?; In “To Pay the Piper” a war is devastating the planet and a colonel in charge of an underground bunker full of civilians faces a mutiny by those who wish to undergo the special treatment his soldiers receive to return to the surface; “Nor Iron Bars” is a variation on this theme with a spaceship containing civilians heads out to a remote star system encountering on their journey a phenomenon that allow them to read each other's minds; “Beep” concerns instant communications and a puzzling ability to predict the future; Finally, “This Earth of Hours” has a military vessel encounter an unusual alien intelligence and being marooned.

Though written more than half a century before some of the ideas here are quite interesting and certainly worth a read containing some intriguing ideas both technical and philosophical. Thankfully “Galactic Cluster” focuses less on the technology and more on the people which makes this collection quite refreshing compared to other stories of the time. I did find the stories dragged on a bit with a lot of character development but this is to be appreciated rather than condemned. Though this collection is perhaps a bit biased towards male characters, as you might expect for the time, it is still worth a read.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2022-09-18

Genre: Science Fiction

Publisher: Signet

Publication Date: 1959

ISBN: 0451054415

Other reviewed books by James Blish: