Hertzsprung-Russell rating: M104

Available in: Stories Of Your Life And Others

Among Ted Chiang’s small but brilliant body of work is this story, which describes the construction of the titular tower (you know that thing ain’t up to code) and what happens when its builders finally reach Heaven. Whether you’re a contractor looking for tips on how to work with bricks made of baked clay, or just a time-travelling, homesick Babylonian eager for news from back home, this story rocks. Read it, and everybody have fun tonight. Everybody Ted Chiang tonight.


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Hertzsprung-Russell rating: O103.5

Available in: The Vortex Blasters (duh)

E.E. ‘Doc’ Smith is of an era when professional scifi writers often adopted their former day jobs as nicknames. Smith, for example, maintained a lifelong correspondence with Robert ‘Halal Butcher’ Silverberg, Harry ‘Non-Union-Bull-Inseminator’ Turtledove, and Philip Jose ‘Farmer’. But if Smith was as bad a doctor as ‘The Vortex Blasters’ is a story, I’m going to stop mailing him my urine samples, because I don’t think he knows what he’s doing.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: O106.5+

Available in: More Tales Of Pirx The Pilot

In Stanislaw Lem’s native Poland, the letter ‘w’ is often represented by the letter ‘v’. In tribute, I will follow the same rule for my review of this story. Ahem. This story is wery, wery boring. I would rather have a wiolent wasectomy with a scalpel soaked in winegar and then get kicked and wigourously and wiciously in the testicles by Darth Wader than read it again.


Hertzsprung-Russell rating: A106.5+

Available in: The Mammoth Book Of Golden Age Science Fiction

The language is corny, the characters are 1D and the title has an exclamation mark after it. But, despite all that, this classic story about a possessed and rampaging bulldozer is quite enjoyable. It is a testament to Sturgeon’s mastery of language that he is able to make a detailed technical description of heavy machinery interesting to read for more than fifty pages. Indeed, his skill at keeping the reader ‘hooked’ is why he eventually had a fish named in his honour.

Hertzsprung-Russell rating: B102.5

Available in: Before The Golden Age Book 3

Two eagle-eyed astronomers discover a massive planetoid is about to hit Earth (our Earth! Where we live!!) so they attach rockets to the moon and use it to blow said planetoid out of the sky. Course, now we’re moonless, which means no more tides, but fuck the Bay of Fundy, right? You know a story’s bad when the central scientific premise sounds like a rap lyric: “Strap a rocket to the moon and use it as a weapon/and, like the moon, the total Gs are lessened when they steppin’.”