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Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century

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An overview of the best science fiction short stories of the 20th century as selected and evaluated by critically-acclaimed author Orson Scott Card.


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An overview of the best science fiction short stories of the 20th century as selected and evaluated by critically-acclaimed author Orson Scott Card.

30 review for Masterpieces: The Best Science Fiction of the Twentieth Century

  1. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    Well, I finally finished it going about 1 story a day. "sandkings," "call me joe," "all you zombies--," "tunesmith," "dark they were, and golden-eyed," "repent harlequin," and "inconstant moon" are probably my favorites in this collection. Overall a wonderful collection. A must read for everyone. I would highly recommend this book to others. Another compilation book to tackle, another batch of individual reviews. My review of the book overall is subject to change with each story read. 1. "Call me Well, I finally finished it going about 1 story a day. "sandkings," "call me joe," "all you zombies--," "tunesmith," "dark they were, and golden-eyed," "repent harlequin," and "inconstant moon" are probably my favorites in this collection. Overall a wonderful collection. A must read for everyone. I would highly recommend this book to others. Another compilation book to tackle, another batch of individual reviews. My review of the book overall is subject to change with each story read. 1. "Call me Joe" - FANTASTIC! A great story. This had me hooked from the very beginning. 5/5 2. "All You Zombies--" - Decent story. It was pretty short, but I don't feel that anything was left out. Brings a whole new meaning to the "grandfather paradox" in a sense. Not quite killing your grandpa in the past, but still a massive effect. 4/5 3. "Tunesmith" - A little slow starting off, but not bad overall. I enjoy stories, such as this, that touch on media/entertainment in the future. This particular story, in reference to visiscopes "ruling" the world, reminds me of "Harrison Bergeron." 4/5 4. "A Saucer of Loneliness" - A straightforward story that deals with loneliness at face value. I prefer the part that shows just how humanity would act if something alien happens or what they would expect to achieve/do with the alien presence. 3/5 5. "Robot Dreams" - Another classic tale of "what would happen if robots became self aware?" Doesn't seem to be much new here. Pretty much ends the way you expect it to. 2/5 6. "Devolution" - Interesting concept. Tackles evolution in an entire new way. I can't recall ever reading anything like this before. Definitely help my attention and had me wishing for more at the end. 4/5 7. "The Nine Billion Names of God" - Classic religion/end of the world story. Easy read, amusing. 4/5 8. "A Work of Art" - An interesting spin on bringing people back to life. As a psychology major, this was particularly interesting to me. 4/5 9. "Dark they Were, and Golden-eyed" - Amusing, is all I can say without giving spoilers. Definitely an amusing spin on the concept of life on other planets. 4/5 10. "'Repent, Harlequin!' Said the ticktockman" - At first I didn't like this one, but I kept reading. Shortly into the story it became my favorite so far. Nothing beats the classic line (in this story) "Repent, Harlequin!" Response: "Get Stuffed." 5/5 11. "Eurema's Dam" - Interesting to say the least. Says a lot about how the author views human intelligence and those who are "geniuses." 4/5 12. "Passengers" - This story left me with a lot of questions about the story itself. I'm sure the questions I have are meant to be left unanswered. "who are the passengers," "where did they come from," "whats the purpose of it all?" Reminded me a lot of the movie "Gamer" in which people control others because of a brain implant. The concept was alright, but not sure if i truly like it or not. 3/5 13. "The Tunnel Under the world" - Interesting story, but almost too predictable a few pages in. The end still did manage to surprise me a bit, though it wasn't too far off from what I was expecting. Rather enjoyable. 4/5 14. "Who can Replace a Man?" - This story brought up some things I had never thought about myself. Life what would AI do, if it existed, when man no longer existed? 4/5 15. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" - A bit brief. Seems more a bit on morality rather than a story. Still fairly good though. 4/5 16. "Inconstant Moon" - The concept of the end of the world is something that is extremely common in science fiction. Though, this is the first "nova" end I have ever read about. I've heard it spoken of in real life as something that will eventually happen after millions of years but never thought of it being applied to a story. I really liked the writing style in this story, I will surely be checking out some more of Niven's stuff. 5/5 17. "Sandkings" - Fantastic story. Possibly the first time I've actually felt horror with what i was reading. I think I'm going to have trouble sleeping after this one.. 5/5 18. "The Road not Taken" - Good read. Thought the concept was rather fascinating. People "find" or "stumble upon" high tech stuff rather than invent it. 4/5 19. "Dogfight" - interesting concept. what do you have left to lose rather than everything you have left. 4/5 20. "Face value" - Not too much to say about this one. Wasn't bad, wasn't great. 2/5 21. "Pots" - 3/5 22. "snow" - 3/5 23. "rat" Didn't care for this one at all. 1/5 24. "Bears discover fire" - Amusing, to say the least. Not quite sure if there is meant to be some underlying meaning or if it is all just meant for a fun read. 4/5 25. "A Clean Escape" - a lot like pleading the "insanity" case but a level up. 3/5 26. "tourists" - reminded me of a lot of "dark they were, and golden-eyed" earlier in this book. you become where you are. 3/5 27. "one" - a solemn tale. 4/5

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jerry Pogan

    I bought this book really for one reason and that was so I could read Robert A. Heinlein's story "All you Zombies" but I really enjoyed the other stories as well. The title of the book was very aptly titled "Masterpieces" because many of the stories were just that, masterpieces. I thought the Heinlein story especially fit that category and the others ranged from excellent to very good and a couple I would categorize as bad. However, I must admit I have a fondness for bad sci-fi especially the I bought this book really for one reason and that was so I could read Robert A. Heinlein's story "All you Zombies" but I really enjoyed the other stories as well. The title of the book was very aptly titled "Masterpieces" because many of the stories were just that, masterpieces. I thought the Heinlein story especially fit that category and the others ranged from excellent to very good and a couple I would categorize as bad. However, I must admit I have a fondness for bad sci-fi especially the older 40's and 50's ones that have the science so wrong that they are fun to read, although I'm quite sure that was not the intent of the author. Also, I would like to note that Theodore Sturgeon, an author I was unfamiliar with, had especially beautiful lyrical prose, a trait that is not well known among most sci-fi writers. All in all, a very enjoyable read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Kelly Danahy

    I had never really read much science fiction before this, much less enjoyed short stories. I guess I've always imagined the genre as the stereotype: the cold, hard-calculated science that I couldn't possibly comprehend. Instead, I found that there is variety, soft and hard, some dealing with music, some with loneliness, etc. This book has a good selection of stories that has made me want to dive further into science fiction. I had to read a few stories out of this for class: I ended up reading I had never really read much science fiction before this, much less enjoyed short stories. I guess I've always imagined the genre as the stereotype: the cold, hard-calculated science that I couldn't possibly comprehend. Instead, I found that there is variety, soft and hard, some dealing with music, some with loneliness, etc. This book has a good selection of stories that has made me want to dive further into science fiction. I had to read a few stories out of this for class: I ended up reading the WHOLE thing. What does that tell you? Call Me Joe- A story of a disabled man who finds freedom telepathically living through this other guy while on an experiment on Jupiter. A good story, however, I did not find it as captivating and insightful as some of the others and maybe not the best choice for the first story of this selection. 6.5/10 "All You Zombies --"- This story involves time travel. The little you know the better (or perhaps that might just be my justification since it is mind-blowingly complex and I can't say even I completely understand it). 7.5/10 Tunesmith- A story that combines music and science and emotion. An interesting story, but perhaps I need to reread it to feel the full effect. 6/10 *A Saucer of Loneliness- A must read. Minimal science fiction elements means that most anyone can pick this up and enjoy. Very powerful message and definitely resonated with me in the end. 9/10 *Robot Dreams- What do you know? Apparently, Asimov and this story helped inspired the movie I, Robot. Short, thought-provoking story. 8/10 Devolution- A story about aliens and the beginning of humanity. Not quite as powerful as I would have hoped. 6.5/10 The Nine Billion Names of God- The title says a great deal. Essentially, the story is about these monks that believe once they find all of the names of God the world will end. I was not fond of this story; it simply didn't hold anything for me in plot or message. 3.5/10 A Work of Art- The twist at the end was interesting but the story was a little hard to get through. Ironically, this was not due to the science elements but due to the music elements. 6.5/10 *Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed- A story of a family adjusting to life on Mars. Very fascinating. 8/10 *"Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman- an odd story to be sure with a dystopian feel mixed in with children storytelling elements, it's an entertaining read to say the least. 7.5/10 Eurema's Dam- I felt the story started off with potential but I didn't quite get the ending. Truly, I didn't remember the story for this little review and had to look at it in the book again. 5/10 Passengers- A story about alien(s) or forces called "Passengers" that "ride" humans for a few days making them due odd and embarrassing things. An interesting premise, an interesting world-building, I felt the plot twist at the end cut it short from what I wanted to see in it. 7/10 *The Tunnel under the World- Twist after twist after twist. I think it might be better going into this one blind. 8.5/10 Who Can Replace a Man?- A story about robots and what they decide to do when they think mankind is over. Again, another ending that I felt left me unsatisfied. It was going well until then. 6/10 The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas- The ending...good, good. I won't spoil it here but even though the story has a lot of the happy fantasy at first it does go further, darker. 6.5/10 *Inconstant Moon- What would you do if you thought this was your last night? What if the world restarted? Kept me going, kept me thinking. 8/10 *Sandkings- George, George, George. This story was fucking creepy. I wonder about him sometimes. Where do his Sandkings hide? Insert evil hand gesture here. 9.5/10 The Road Not Taken- A story about space bears. Very interesting. 7/10 Dogfight- It took me two tries to get through this one. The world building is interesting but the flight simulations/fights didn't interest me and therefore, bogged down the story. Also, with the ending, I simply don't like characters that make the douchey move and then want pity. 6/10 Face Value- Interesting, but not one of my favorites. A story of a human couple studying on a different planet these humanoid creatures with useless wings that have a design of human faces. Creepy. 6.5/10 Pots- A story about a cloned man who finds out about a conspiracy. Not as interesting as it sounds. This one had a hard time keeping my attention and I didn't feel like keeping with it paid out. 4/10 *Snow- A man who deals with the death of his wife with this technology that can glimpse random moments in her life. I really loved this story. 9/10 Rat- A story about a rat drug-dealer and a drug called "Dust". I liked the idea of this new drug but everything else was kind of a flop for me. 2/10 Bears Discover Fire- The title is the story. I read the story. Still haven't gotten more out of it than just what the title says... 2/10 A Clean Escape- Fancy little story, this. I liked it. Kept you guessing. I don't think I can really say much without giving something away. So...I'll say nothing. Ha! 7.5/10 Tourists- Not the best story. It's about a tourist who loses the person he was with and all of his belongings and slowly seeps into this country that he doesn't know. Didn't really care for this one. 4/10 One- A story about a couple that go into space searching for life. A bit bland and the grandness of the ending's message just doesn't match with the little feeling I got out of it. 5/10 Overall, I guess you could say this is a great introduction to the world of short story science fiction because it definitely was for me.

  4. 4 out of 5

    JethOrensin

    Some of those stories were very creative, to the point of being amazing just by their concept. Even if the writter had let a sticker-note with a brief plot summury instead of actually writting the story, they would have still been worth reading.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ebenmaessiger

    "Call Me Joe," by Poul Anderson (1957): 9.5 - Frankly, amazing that this was written in the mid-1950s, even if it has all the hallmarks of (even literary) fiction from the era--the sincere reliance on psychotherapy as an explanatory, scientific framework; the crude, forthright generalizations about those outside the author’s own experiential world [“cripples” here]; and the exploration of interiority as a phenomenon in lockstep with broader environmental surroundings. In short, this read like a "Call Me Joe," by Poul Anderson (1957): 9.5 - Frankly, amazing that this was written in the mid-1950s, even if it has all the hallmarks of (even literary) fiction from the era--the sincere reliance on psychotherapy as an explanatory, scientific framework; the crude, forthright generalizations about those outside the author’s own experiential world [“cripples” here]; and the exploration of interiority as a phenomenon in lockstep with broader environmental surroundings. In short, this read like a genuine sort of “adult” speculative fiction that I haven’t yet often received from the stories of this era [although I’m actually probably too much equating this era with the ‘Golden Age’ adventure stories of the 30s]. AVATAR’s clear reliance on the concept from this story only makes that film look even worse in retrospect, as the themes are dealt with in a much more complex way in the story, and in a darker way, as well [esp. as we start, in retrospect, to understand the subtler ways in which “Joe” is actually starting to assert his dominance psychologically over Edward from afar (esp. the maneuvering for female companionship on the planet). Most effective in this regard, however, is probably the very subtle ways in which Joe’s increasingly dominant thoughts are used to form a critique of settler colonial societies (I’m being very generous here to either 1) say these threads are pronounced enough to even exist; or 2) say that Anderson is introducing them as a critique rather than, say, a reflexive and unthinking approval of the methods given his own time and place and probable ideology). Namely, Jupiter is harsh and violent, and Joe’s personality adapts in harsh and violent ways to this--one result being his desire to both subjugate the surrounding fauna, as well as create a subservient harem and slave class from amongst his own kind. Indeed, that is even the stated plan of the scientists from afar as well (Vitek), who want to create the same, but for their own purposes (scientific and quanititative information gathering). Pretty good. "All You Zombies," by Robert Heinlein (1958): 7.75 - I’d need some graphs to lay out all the time-jump contortions on display here. Largely a story in two parts: one, an exposition-heavy [in the way these period genre stories love] recounting of one intersex person's life; and another, a sped-up series of time-traveling manipulations by the main character, during which we find out he was the interlocutee the whole time [i.e. all of the characters, in other words: the barkeep, the ‘unmarried mother,’ the seducer, the girl, and the baby (if I’m getting it right)]. That’s all well and good, and might reward some chart-making scrutiny, in that you could appreciate the convolutions therein. I’m more interested in the intersex story, though. Not because it’s “problematic” or anything like that. But more because it serves as an interesting illustration of precisely an historical occurrence I’ve read often about: the very conscious intercession on the part of physicians when encountering intersex individuals regarding the ‘gender’ of the individual. Here, it’s [par for the time] presented as matter of fact: the doctor saw this ganglial ‘confusion’ while the patient was out and, without consent or consultation, made his own decisions about what this person’s gendered external expression would/should be from then on. Interestingly, the ‘patient’ is presented in this story as not at all reacting negatively to this, likely because it’s not coming from Heinlein’s own experience and he’s extrapolating outwards from some simultaneously unsympathetic, sexist, and essentializing positions. Again, none of this is ‘bad.’ It’s just interesting to see history in action. Apart from this, the writing is okay, although it picks up towards the end in intriguingly strange perspectival shifts. Replete, then, with the quite wonderful line, admittedly: “I know where I came from--but where did all you zombies come from?” Good stuff. "The Nine Billion Names of God," by Arthur C. Clarke (1953): 5 - The for-it's-time excuse doesn't work here -- there are just as many narratively skilled and complex short short stories from this period. This one: some Tibetan monks buy a computer from a Western company, in order to print out all possible word combinations with 9 letters, in order to say God's names, which will trigger the End Times, with big things to come. It's as simple as that. There's no spin or turn here -- the characters, and the Big Archetypes they represent, are lifeless -- and it's mostly revolving around one of those early-science-fictional Thought Problems -- i.e. what if we could print off all these words, a la Tower of Babel or some Asimov -- except there's literally nothing here except that questions. What there is, however, is a pretty fine concluding line: "overhead, without any fuss, the stars were going out." "A Work of Art," by James Blish (1956): 8.5 - A story done in, strangely, by commitment to its premise -- to its overweening assumption of the mantle of a storyteller telling this story with these characters -- rather than by any of the many more common mistakes by in 1950s short SF fiction. The story: Richard Strauss is, ostensibly, brought back to life in the 2160s and goes about creating a new opera. Strauss is intermittently confused by these circumstances and thrilled to be given the chance to create again. And, he does create--an opera, to be exact, which he premieres in front of rapturous audiences, even as he's himself finally become convinced of the staid futility of his retreaded work, with further revelations to ensue. It's all fine and good -- and same with the prose. Smooth, over-involved, albeit often appealingly elegent (especially for the period and genre), it nonetheless overcommits to our Strauss-ness and misses the story for the character. "The Tunesmith," by Lloyd Biggle, Jr. (1957): 6.5 - Twice as long as it needed to be and half as smart or thrilling as it wanted to be. Of course the Iowan would write the blandest of great-men Golden Age SF. Hits that perennial GA twosome: conscious cultural elitism and half-conscious Randian libertarianism (albeit here mixed in with some anti-corporation material [the commercialization of everything], although I really think that is more a necessity for plot contrivance purposes rather than being born out of any sincerely held ideological position or belief. That story: dude works composing commercial jingles in an age when music is mechanized and artistic genius half-outlawed and half-unappreciated, but guess what: he cares! Can his valiant efforts to reintroduce sincere human emotion and sound back into the arts and music [art here being Bach and Beethoven and Michelangelo, etc., since, of course, our C25 brethren will definitely be into all that] change society? Also half-grating and half-redolent of the times: his appropriation of the rhythm and sexuality of black music along with the complete submersion of the human element here. I mean, what he's playing, to a postwar Midwesterner -- something that has hypnotic rhythm and a passion that nearly compels lust in its audience -- is clearly jazz. "A Saucer of Loneliness," by Theodore Sturgeon (1953): 8.5 - Bester's style gets in the way of his story, often, albeit less becasue of the prose than with the tenor of his dialogic movement and the uncoordinated directional control of his narrativization. Sturgeon's prose is just often bad. Namely, it's purple. That initial two-page exemplar here eventually does recede and reveal a rather touching story of human loneliness, couched (and probably, for Sturgeon, proceeding from) the nice sfnal thought experiment: what if galactic messages in a bottle? "Who Can Replace A Man," by Brian Aldiss, 9 pg. (1958): 8.75 - Unintentional on my part, but, being from '58, works as a nice little juxtaposition to the Garrett from GO FORTH. Aldiss, in line with his reputation within the field, presents a strongly written story less in terms of the sentence-by-sentence Quality of the Prose, than in the clear wisdom and mind behind the construction of the story and its thematic engagement--most striking, there is Restraint in each measure: language, plot divulgence, thematic play, etc. The thematic interplay was the most intriguing to me, given the bigger themes touched on here (Eugenics -- the clear demarcations between robots with varying degrees of intelligence, and that's integration with the formation and solidifcation of hierarchies in general, whether of a human or artificial nature).

  6. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    I tracked down this volume in order to find Heinlein's classic "All You Zombies--"; it did not disappoint. I was also very pleased to find a story I thought about often, despite forgetting who wrote it or when exactly I read it. I will not forget Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas again. Card's introductory blurbs were, for the most part, a lackluster litany of the each story's author's works. Perhaps he took the book's title to heart and thought there no other way the interested reader I tracked down this volume in order to find Heinlein's classic "All You Zombies--"; it did not disappoint. I was also very pleased to find a story I thought about often, despite forgetting who wrote it or when exactly I read it. I will not forget Le Guin's The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas again. Card's introductory blurbs were, for the most part, a lackluster litany of the each story's author's works. Perhaps he took the book's title to heart and thought there no other way the interested reader could follow up on a particular author. I could appreciate Call Me Joe, A Saucer of Loneliness, Robot Dreams, The Nine Billion Names of God, A Work of Art, Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed, Dogfight, Snow, Bears Discover Fire, A Clean Escape, Tourists, and One, but they weren't really for me. "All You Zombies--" deserves it's status as the classic time travel story. In hindsight, the line about everyone in the narrator's family being a bastard was amusing. I liked, to varying degrees, Tunesmith, Passengers, Who Can Replace a Man?, Sandkings, and Rat. Devolution was amusing only as a cliche of a bygone era. "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman is great. Like some other stories in the book, I think I've read it before, but there is no way I appreciated it as a child or teen. I could skip Eurema's Dram, Face Value. It's tempting to say The Tunnel Under the World is prescient, but ridiculous advertising was clearly well-established in 1955. If one wanted to maintain the claim, one could perhaps make an appeal to some sort of big data comparison. One could make a convincing argument that The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas is one of the best short stories ever written. I really like Inconstant Moon and The Road Not Taken. In both cases, the story was engaging enough and the ending raised enough interesting ideas that I would have liked a full novel on the subject. I really liked Pots. If I felt no desire to know more about that universe, it's because the story had no need to be added to. my favorite quote: "We have an enemy we cannot fight; at best we can resist through endurance. So we endure."

  7. 5 out of 5

    Osmyska

    The Golden Age Poul Anderson - Call me Joe ***** perfect! Robert A. Heinlein - All You Zombies—" *** Lloyd Biggle, Jr. - Tunesmith *** Theodore Sturgeon - A Saucer of Loneliness*** Isaac Asimov - Robot Dreams *** Edmond Hamilton - Devolution **** Arthur C. Clarke - The Nine Billion Names of God *** James Blish - A Work of Art * Ray Bradbury - Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed *** The New Wave Harlan Ellison - "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman ** R.A. Lafferty - Eurema's Dam ** Robert Silverberg - The Golden Age Poul Anderson - Call me Joe ***** perfect! Robert A. Heinlein - All You Zombies—" *** Lloyd Biggle, Jr. - Tunesmith *** Theodore Sturgeon - A Saucer of Loneliness*** Isaac Asimov - Robot Dreams *** Edmond Hamilton - Devolution **** Arthur C. Clarke - The Nine Billion Names of God *** James Blish - A Work of Art * Ray Bradbury - Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed *** The New Wave Harlan Ellison - "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman ** R.A. Lafferty - Eurema's Dam ** Robert Silverberg - Passengers *** Frederik Pohl - The Tunnel under the World *** Brian W. Aldiss - Who Can Replace a Man? *** Ursula K. Le Guin - The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas ** Larry Niven - Inconstant Moon **** The Media Generation George R.R. Martin - Sandkings **** Harry Turtledove - The Road Not Taken *** William Gibson and Michael Swanwick - Dogfight * Karen Joy Fowler - Face Value * C. J. Cherryh - Pots ** John Crowley - Snow ** James Patrick Kelly - Rat *** Terry Bisson - Bears Discover Fire *** John Kessel - A Clean Escape * Lisa Goldstein - Tourists *** George Alec Effinger - One **

  8. 4 out of 5

    Dore' Ripley

    Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game, collects together a fine group of short science fiction from the Golden Age, New Wave and Media Generation. New readers of the genre will get a good grounding in Golden Age science fiction with stories like Poul Anderson's "Call Me Joe," a story that explores what it means to be human (literally. Theodore Sturgeon's "A Saucer of Loneliness" presents an updated look at a message in a bottle. The New Wave contains Harlan Ellison's classic "Repent, Harlequin!" Said Orson Scott Card, Ender's Game, collects together a fine group of short science fiction from the Golden Age, New Wave and Media Generation. New readers of the genre will get a good grounding in Golden Age science fiction with stories like Poul Anderson's "Call Me Joe," a story that explores what it means to be human (literally. Theodore Sturgeon's "A Saucer of Loneliness" presents an updated look at a message in a bottle. The New Wave contains Harlan Ellison's classic "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman, a comical fable of uniform consumerism, politics, and timeliness. Ursula K. Le Guin's stunning "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas" a thought provoking commentary on the price of a stable society is also featured. The Media Generation is treated to an archeological thriller of mythological proportions in C.J. Cherryh's "Pots" while "Bears Discover Fire" in Terry Bisson's fable of aging and evolution. These are just a few of the stories included in this anthology, and it's easy to say there should be more, but Card offers a great collection for an overall view of science fiction in the twentieth century.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Jesse Jones

    I love this book. It was used as one of the textbooks for a sci-fi literature class I took and it has been one of my favorites ever since. My copy is taped together with love due to the amount of travel it's gone through with me. It contains masterworks by some of the best writers in sci-fi and is a great starting point for finding your next favorite author or book. There are so many great stories here that I have repeated to many friends in rote fashion - they are that memorable. I can't I love this book. It was used as one of the textbooks for a sci-fi literature class I took and it has been one of my favorites ever since. My copy is taped together with love due to the amount of travel it's gone through with me. It contains masterworks by some of the best writers in sci-fi and is a great starting point for finding your next favorite author or book. There are so many great stories here that I have repeated to many friends in rote fashion - they are that memorable. I can't recommend it enough for anyone even remotely interested in sci-fi. I think it's best taken out of order. Enjoy!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Mike Kenefic

    Beautiful. Why we read stories and write books. I've enjoyed this book more than the last ten books! If it is really true that we read and write for knowledge and its companion inspiration then this book has exceeded its mandate well. Very well written and beautifully edited. More!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Willow Grier

    A fantastic, varied collection I would recommend to any sci-fi and/or human philosophy nerd. Filled with short, impactful stories from some of the greats, and with ideas that will leave the mind churning endlessly after.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Brooke

    Though dated, a great collection of sci fi writers by the ages. Nice way to show how sci fi literature has developed over the decades as well as the variety of what's included in this wide genre.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cristina

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Some stories I liked a lot... some, not so much... The Golden Age Poul Anderson "Call me Joe" (1957) - the story that inspired "Avatar" - as usually, better than the movie in my humble opinion... Robert A. Heinlein "All You Zombies" (1958) - mind-bending but not a favorite... Lloyd Biggle, Jr. - Tunesmith (1957) - reminded me of Terry Pratchett's "Soul Music" (the other way around actually) ("Baque" - haha) Theodore Sturgeon "A Saucer of Loneliness" (1953) - weird, sad, metaphoric... borderline Some stories I liked a lot... some, not so much... The Golden Age Poul Anderson "Call me Joe" (1957) - the story that inspired "Avatar" - as usually, better than the movie in my humble opinion... Robert A. Heinlein "All You Zombies" (1958) - mind-bending but not a favorite... Lloyd Biggle, Jr. - Tunesmith (1957) - reminded me of Terry Pratchett's "Soul Music" (the other way around actually) ("Baque" - haha) Theodore Sturgeon "A Saucer of Loneliness" (1953) - weird, sad, metaphoric... borderline science-fiction Isaac Asimov "Robot Dreams" (1986) - short, dry, robotic laws Edmond Hamilton "Devolution" (1936) - black humor, all that humans call evolution is involution from another point of view Arthur C. Clarke "The Nine Billion Names of God" (1953) - a classic - what if Buddhists were right - and writing all the names of God brings the end of the world... James Blish "A Work of Art" (1956) - another music-related story of the anthology... so so... Ray Bradbury "Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed" (1949) - the special flavor of "science"-fiction typical to Bradbury... dreamy... poetic The New Wave Harlan Ellison "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman (1965) - didn't like... too burlesque... R.A. Lafferty "Eurema's Dam" (1972) - extreme case of impostor syndrome Robert Silverberg "Passengers" (1968) - very, very good! No hope... (nothing to do with "Passengers" the 2016 movie) Frederik Pohl "The Tunnel under the World" (1955) - Excellent! What would happen if advertising had more budget?... Would they shrink from "reviving" a whole town in order to test advertisements on them? "The hedgehog day" with miniature people... Again no hope... Brian W. Aldiss "Who Can Replace a Man?" (1958) Ursula K. Le Guin "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" (1973) - another not-really-science-fiction classic... Yin and Yang... Light is "The Left Hand of Darkness"... happiness must be payed for... Larry Niven "Inconstant Moon" (1973) - probably my favorite story of the book... speculative, smart and humane... The Media Generation George R.R. Martin "Sandkings" (1979) - once you read this story you never forget it... maybe because of the recurring nightmares? Harry Turtledove "The Road Not Taken" (1985) - easygoing, what if space travel was discovered by other sentient beings before electricity? (reminds me of the game "Civilization") William Gibson and Michael Swanwick "Dogfight" (1985) - William Gibson universe, one recognizable character - the teenage hacker - how important is to win? What is worth giving up in order to win a game? Friendship? Compassion? Karen Joy Fowler "Face Value" C. J. Cherryh "Pots" John Crowley "Snow" (1985) - What if one could record every moment of ones life and replay it randomly? James Patrick Kelly "Rat" (1986) - cyberpunk - not my piece of cake Terry Bisson "Bears Discover Fire" (1990) - As the title says - what if bears discovered fire? ... simple somehow... incomplete... didn't like too much John Kessel "A Clean Escape" (1986) - amnesia as an escape mechanism Lisa Goldstein "Tourists" (1985) George Alec Effinger "One" - What if man is completely alone in the universe?

  14. 5 out of 5

    Riju Ganguly

    This hefty tome is indeed a wonderful representative of science fiction as practised by authors of the last century. It contained stories from almost every major writer. In its own way it also acted as a mirror of issues that used to concern writers of that bygone era. There are several memorable and evergreen stories here. Unfortunately, the stories also suffered from issues typical of that era, namely~ 1. Very few women writers have been selected, with Ursula Guin getting a very drab piece of This hefty tome is indeed a wonderful representative of science fiction as practised by authors of the last century. It contained stories from almost every major writer. In its own way it also acted as a mirror of issues that used to concern writers of that bygone era. There are several memorable and evergreen stories here. Unfortunately, the stories also suffered from issues typical of that era, namely~ 1. Very few women writers have been selected, with Ursula Guin getting a very drab piece of her included, while neither Moore nor Brackett finding a place. 2. In the stories, women, LGBTQ, people other than WASP are hardly present. 3. The alien is anthropomorphic caricature of the 'others' rather than being truly alien as we see now. Also, there were few issues pertaining to the selection itself, where~ 1) While Heinlein has been represented by his best story, for the others stories have been chosen that don't do justice to their name and fame. 2) Stories with humour and action have been avoided, due to reasons best known to the editor. Nevertheless, it is a solid collection that's bound to entertain you for several days. However, to call it 'masterpieces' would be a real stretch.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Rena Sherwood

    Fabulous stuff. This short anthology is MILES better than many larger "best ever" anthologies I've read. I shot through this entire anthology when in the middle of reading The Big Book of Science Fiction. After reading this, I had the energy to go and finish Big Book. Also has a short introduction where Card explains why he could not include all of the authors he wanted to. His author introductions are also short so you can get right on with reading the story or novella. My only quibbles are that Fabulous stuff. This short anthology is MILES better than many larger "best ever" anthologies I've read. I shot through this entire anthology when in the middle of reading The Big Book of Science Fiction. After reading this, I had the energy to go and finish Big Book. Also has a short introduction where Card explains why he could not include all of the authors he wanted to. His author introductions are also short so you can get right on with reading the story or novella. My only quibbles are that some stories are in numerous anthologies like "Sandkings" by George R. R. Martin and "Bears Discover Fire" by Terry Bisson. Also the last story is a real bummer. Written well, but depressing as hell.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Ben

    A decent collection of some of the classic SF stories in the past including some obvious classics (Heinlein's "All You Zombies --", Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God", Ellison's "Repent! Harlequin! Said the Tick-tock-man" and LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from the Omelas"). Some new ones for me that I really liked: (1) "Inconsistent Moon" in which the moon grows disturbingly bright and a cynical, wry man deals with the consequences. I really enjoyed it; (2) "Sandkings" by GRRM is an A decent collection of some of the classic SF stories in the past including some obvious classics (Heinlein's "All You Zombies --", Clarke's "Nine Billion Names of God", Ellison's "Repent! Harlequin! Said the Tick-tock-man" and LeGuin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from the Omelas"). Some new ones for me that I really liked: (1) "Inconsistent Moon" in which the moon grows disturbingly bright and a cynical, wry man deals with the consequences. I really enjoyed it; (2) "Sandkings" by GRRM is an interesting tight story about alien bugs and a collector; and (3) "Road Not Taken" in aliens come to earth in fossil-fuel powered ships (but they have counter-gravity) and are startled to see humans (who haven't discovered counter-gravity) have excelled in other technological areas. Neat little idea.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    Read this aloud in the car, on a family trip. It is a good collection of science fiction stories (which is not a genre I read often). It reminded me of watching old Twilight Zone episodes as a child. There were a few stories we skipped (because they seemed more adult or less interesting) but we read about a third of them and then ran out of "car time". It was fun to discuss each story with my hubby and kids to get everyone's perspectives. We each had a different favorite and overall it was an Read this aloud in the car, on a family trip. It is a good collection of science fiction stories (which is not a genre I read often). It reminded me of watching old Twilight Zone episodes as a child. There were a few stories we skipped (because they seemed more adult or less interesting) but we read about a third of them and then ran out of "car time". It was fun to discuss each story with my hubby and kids to get everyone's perspectives. We each had a different favorite and overall it was an enjoyable read.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    As a whole, I did enjoy this stroll through SF short stories covering a large portion of the 20th century. As with any compilation, some stories were more interesting than others. Your mileage may vary... My favorite, I believe, may have been George R. R. Martin's entry, "Sandkings". This also a great way to become familiar with authors one has never read! The introduction to each story also gave a quick discussion of the author's works (up to publication of this work) that sometimes gave me some As a whole, I did enjoy this stroll through SF short stories covering a large portion of the 20th century. As with any compilation, some stories were more interesting than others. Your mileage may vary... My favorite, I believe, may have been George R. R. Martin's entry, "Sandkings". This also a great way to become familiar with authors one has never read! The introduction to each story also gave a quick discussion of the author's works (up to publication of this work) that sometimes gave me some other possible "to read" materials.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angela Lawlor

    A good selection of science fiction short stories I enjoyed several of the stories in this collection. I liked that Orson Scott Card included a sampling of different types. My favorites? Ray Bradbury: Dark They Were, and Golden-Eyed and Isaac Asimov: Robot Dreams (from the Golden Age); Ursula K. Le Guin: The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas; and Larry Nevin: Inconstant Moon (from the New Wave); and Lisa Goldstein: Tourists (from the Media Generation).

  20. 5 out of 5

    Nadja

    A great read for its sheer versality in illustrating the length and breadth of what sci-fi is. Thus, a good intro book to the genre, especially for those who might have a limited preset definition, having been exposed to only a few representative works, or even no works at all.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jacob

    An interesting mix of stories, some I liked, some I didn't. Some of them were thought provoking, some were just kind of weird leaving me wondering what the author was trying to say. But mostly they were good

  22. 4 out of 5

    Edward B.

    Twenty-seven short stories, going as far back as 1936. I'm not sure that I would have classified *any* of these as The Best of the Twentieth Century, and some of them not even as Science Fiction. But it was still interesting. I had not previously read most of the stories.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Pointed Review

    Can’t Go Wrong Not a bad story in the bunch. Well worth the effort to read. If you like Sci Fi, take a look.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David Critchfield

    Just like the book's name says, these are all great stories. Many I have read in other collections but it was nice to revisit them. These yarns are why I love science fiction.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Paul Goodison

    Fantastic anthology of short stories from the greats of the genre.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jake Evans

    Meh.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Pedro Esteves

    Pretty good. I'm my opinion a couple of stories weren't good enough but a great book nonetheless.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Ris

    Masterpieces is, as the title suggests, a collection of science fiction short stories from the 20th century. The book breaks the stories down into eras: the Golden Age, New Wave, and the Media Generation. Card's anthology does a very good job at sampling from both across eras and across sub-genres of science fiction in order to provide the introductory reader with a wide variety. There's both hard, extremely technological science fiction short stories alongside dystopian and social commentaries. Masterpieces is, as the title suggests, a collection of science fiction short stories from the 20th century. The book breaks the stories down into eras: the Golden Age, New Wave, and the Media Generation. Card's anthology does a very good job at sampling from both across eras and across sub-genres of science fiction in order to provide the introductory reader with a wide variety. There's both hard, extremely technological science fiction short stories alongside dystopian and social commentaries. I highly recommend this book both for new and old science fiction fans seeking to branch out their knowledge of the genre or just a good read. Although the science fiction genre is still relatively new, it is dense with content and variety, and Masterpieces provides readers with a good starting place for exploring that variety. Obviously, the use of the word "best" is subjective, as there were several stories in the compilation I didn't think were very good representations of writing within the genre. Although science fiction primarily interested itself with facts and used plot and characters solely to explain the technology, it has since evolved and there are plenty of well-rounded, well-written stories in the genre other than those Card has selected, in my opinion. Personally, my favorite stories from Masterpieces fell in the Golden Age and New Wave eras. I have a particular fondness for social commentary, and especially Ursula Le Guin's "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas," and I'll praise every collection that remembers to include it in its pages. Some other personal favorites from this collection are, "A Saucer of Loneliness" by Theodore Sturgeon, "Robot Dreams" by Isaac Asimov, "The Tunnel Under the World" by Frederik Pohl, and "Dogfight" by William Gibson and Michael Swanwick.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Todd

    Extremely uneven book. The knowledgeable reader can probably sense the uneveness by scanning the table of contents and will be able to fairly predict which stories are masterpieces and which ones aren't. The collection is divided into three eras of stories and for my money, the middle or 'New Wave' era comes off the best- Every story in this section is great, but particularly the ones by Ellison, Aldiss, Le Guin and Niven. The beginning section or 'The Golden Age' has quite a few grand stories as Extremely uneven book. The knowledgeable reader can probably sense the uneveness by scanning the table of contents and will be able to fairly predict which stories are masterpieces and which ones aren't. The collection is divided into three eras of stories and for my money, the middle or 'New Wave' era comes off the best- Every story in this section is great, but particularly the ones by Ellison, Aldiss, Le Guin and Niven. The beginning section or 'The Golden Age' has quite a few grand stories as well, particularly Heinlein's classic, "...All You Zombies" but in this section the uneveness is evident. Where the uneveness is manifest, however, is in the third section of the book, or 'The Media Generation.' It starts off very strong with Martin's 'Sandkings,' but never comes anywhere close to that level in the remaining 10 stories in that section. Don't get me wrong, I don't believe there are any out and out stinkers in this section- they are simply not masterpieces by any definition. The Turtledove story is a Hoka story gone terribly wrong, Cherryh's 'Pots' was interesting and Effinger's 'One' reasonated with me on an emotional level. The other stories were forgetable and, in a few cases, barely qualified to be in the genre of Science Fiction. There are some gems in "Masterpieces of Science Fiction" but some of Orson Scott Card's selections were head-scratchers to be sure.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Fiona

    A very worthy collection of science fiction stories - most of which I'm slightly ashamed to say I hadn't read previously, given how many classics are present - ranging from 'The Golden Age' up to more contemporary stories. In any anthology, there are going to be hits and misses for most readers, and this was no exception for me, but the hits made it well worth the time invested, and there were definitely more hits than misses. The stories are separated into three chronological sections: 'The A very worthy collection of science fiction stories - most of which I'm slightly ashamed to say I hadn't read previously, given how many classics are present - ranging from 'The Golden Age' up to more contemporary stories. In any anthology, there are going to be hits and misses for most readers, and this was no exception for me, but the hits made it well worth the time invested, and there were definitely more hits than misses. The stories are separated into three chronological sections: 'The Golden Age', 'The New Wave', and 'The Media Generation', allowing the anthology to serve as a kind of journey through the history of science fiction. The first section was my favourite of the three, while the section containing the most recent stories actually fell most flat for me - probably the opposite of what I'd expected. Which goes to prove, of course, that those stories are considered classics for a reason. If you like science fiction and you're not averse to reading shorter-length stories, then this is a must read - unless you've read these stories before, of course! A list of the included stories can be found here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Masterpi...

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