5,271,009 - Alfred Bester

Included in Virtual Unrealities
5,271,009 is a thoroughly bewildering, drug induced fantasy that may or may not be to your fancy. Bester's signature prose is dynamic as always, however 5,271,009 may feel lackluster in direction. Here is an enigmatic individual, a Mr. Solon Aquila, who has a perplexing speech pattern, (which further complicates the readability) who has an expensive taste in art and further tastes in realms which I will not divulge. 5,271,009 involves a Philip K. Dickesque psychological ride that baffles the reader comes back to address more simple questions than we anticipate.
This is decidedly not one of my favourites in the collection 'Virtual Unrealities', however an interesting study in fantastic fiction.

Publication history of 5,271,009

The Best Science Fiction Stories - An anthology

Cover [Hardcover]
ISBN-13: 9780600382430
Buy from Amazon.co.uk 
43 classics in Science Fiction, as the cover announces with the contributions of Aldiss, Asimov, Clarke and many more. Stories presented within are,

  1. A Little Knowledge  (1971)  by Poul Anderson
  2. And the Moon Be Still as Bright  (1948)  by Ray Bradbury
  3. Before Eden  (1961) by Arthur C. Clarke
  4. Between the Dark and the Daylight  (1958)  by Algis Budrys
  5. Call Me Dumbo  (1966)  by Bob Shaw
  6. Coming Attraction  (1950)  by Fritz Leiber
  7. Dormant  (1948)  by A. E. van Vogt
  8. Esmeralda  (1975)  by Daphne Castell
  9. Far From This Earth  (1970)  by Chad Oliver
  10. Green Thumb  (1954)  by Clifford D. Simak
  11. Hobson's Choice  (1952)  by Alfred Bester
  12. In the Abyss  (1896) by H. G. Wells
  13. Kaleidoscope  (1949)  by Ray Bradbury
  14. Let's Go to Golgotha!  (1974)  by Garry Kilworth
  15. Madness from Mars  (1939)  by Clifford D. Simak
  16. Old Faithful  (1934)  by Raymond Z. Gallun
  17. Process  (1950)  by A. E. van Vogt
  18. Rammer  [State]  (1971)  by Larry Niven
  19. Repeat Performance  (1971)  by Bob Shaw
  20. Second Variety  (1953) by Philip K. Dick
  21. Survival  (1952)  by John Wyndham
  22. The Deep  (1952)  by Isaac Asimov
  23. The First Martian  (1939)  by A.E. van Vogt
  24. The Fly  (1952)  by Arthur Porges
  25. The Hibbie  (1975)  by James Alexander
  26. The Hunter at His Ease  (1970)  by Brian W. Aldiss
  27. The Life Preservers  [Matter Transmitter]  (1970)  by Harry Harrison
  28. The Lost Machine  (1932)  by John Wyndham
  29. The Machine Stops  (1909) by E.M. Forster
  30. The Man from Beyond  (1934) by John Wyndham
  31. The New Wine  (1954)  by John Christopher
  32. The Ruum  (1953)  by Arthur Porges
  33. The Short Life  (1955)  by Francis Donovan
  34. The Star Ducks  (1950)  by Bill Brown
  35. The Voices of Time  (1960) by J.G. Ballard
  36. The Wicked Flee  (1971)  by Harry Harrison
  37. Transit of Earth  (1971)  by Arthur C. Clarke
  38. We All Die Naked  (1969)  by James Blish
  39. We Purchased People  (1974)  by Frederik Pohl
  40. Wife to the Lord  [Matter Transmitter]  (1970)  by Harry Harrison
  41. Worrywart  (1953)  by Clifford D. Simak
  42. Youth  (1952)  by Isaac Asimov
  43. Zero Hour  (1947)  by Ray Bradbury

The Machine Stops - E.M. Forster

I am awed by this prophetic work, conceived over a 100 years ago to this day, that captures the future of humanity's machine fed isolation, of which we are arguably and sadly the first generations. Haunting and  undeniably prophetic, Forster is uncannily accurate of technologies which we take for granted today such as Television, Virtual communities and teleconferencing. It took 20 years for the Television to be developed, almost 90 for the Internet, Social Networks and the rest. This should then be the ideal consultation to learn where humanity is headed over the next 100 years. What more evidence do we need that Science Fiction has contributed more to us than any other fiction? But where do we stop? Would we survive after the machines have stopped?

Hawksbill Station - Robert Silverberg

Included in
The Best of Robert Silverberg
The future government (Up-Front, as it is referred) sends political prisoners back in time, way back in time, to the Pre-Cambrian. All is rock, stone and sea, with virtually no life on land, and trilobite infested seas. They have built the Penal colony The Hawksbill Station in this desolate space and time, with newcomers arriving now and then.
The story follows the keeper of the colony, its inhabitants and the mystery that coils around a newcomer, who seems virtually harmless. Silverberg crafts an imaginative backdrop for an equally imaginative plot that binds exploration, mystery, totalitarian political agendas and time travel.

The short form, which Silverberg admits is his favourite version, was later expanded into a novel.

Publication history of Hawksbill Station (Novella)Hawksbill Station/The Anvil of Time (Novel)

In The Abyss - H.G. Wells

H.G. Wells presents this thrilling expedition into the deep of the sea, merging the reader with the detailed descriptions of the explorer's account. What sets off as a simple account of deep sea exploration turns into a fantastic adventure that warrants more and more.

Publication history of In the Abyss.

The Best of Robert Silverberg

Cover [Paperback]
ISBN-10: 0860079503
ISBN-13: 9780860079507
Buy from: Amazon.com
Robert Silverberg is a staple author, his work is clean and devoid of jargon; his ideas are vivid and imaginative. He has the ability to tell a story with much heart just as Ray Bradbury.
Collected here are a notable 10 among his vast output, (Found among the Collected stories of Robert Silverberg series).

  1. Road to Nightfall
  2. Warm Man
  3. To See the Invisible Man
  4. The Sixth Palace
  5. Flies
  6. Hawksbill Station
  7. Passengers
  8. Nightwings
  9. Sundance
  10. Good News from the Vatican

The Voices of Time - J.G. Ballard

A singular short fiction of J.G. Ballard, which follows a Dr. Powers, whose life is taking dramatic turns after the death of a colleague Dr. Whitby and a cryptic mandala he had left. The prose is strong and stuffed with scientific jargon, Ballard takes the reader upon many subjects from Nuclear war, biological evolution, time and mysteries of the universe. It's ethereal quality transcends the fact that The Voices of Time doesn't follow a single thread of plot.

Publication history of The Voices of Time.

Star Light, Star Bright - Alfred Bester

Included in Virtual Unrealities 
A man is looking for a certain Buchanan, who has disappeared without a trace. He has a phonebook and visits every Buchanan in the list, so that he may stumble upon the correct one. The pace Bester sets for the narrative is thrilling and suspenseful. The sought  is revealed to be of fantastic proportions as the story unfolds. How it concludes is twice as fantastic!

Publication history of Star Light, Star Bright

Oddy and Id (The Devil's Invention) - Alfred Bester

"This is the story of a monster"
Included in Virtual Unrealities 
This is how Bester captures the unwitting reader in his transfix. What follows is the life of the Oddy (who must be the monster) through time and growth, who is gifted with singular powers luck. The story explores his mentors and their relationship with Oddy. The thin line that separates darkness and light, the power of id over reason, are explored as he narrates the tale of Oddy and his mentors, which rises to be a grand saga.

Publication history of Oddy and Id

Disappearing Act - Alfred Bester

Included in Virtual Unrealities
Disappearing Act is set in the far (near?) future when the United States and the rest of the world is drawn to a disastrous war in favour of the "American Dream".  Public interest is aroused about a secret experimental ward where certain casualties of war are said to be held. What unfolds then is a major breakthrough in known science or para-science.
The essence of the story is something very different from it's narrative. Bester in a visionary attempt, surprises the reader after a imaginative thrill ride, to which I will leave you now.

The publishing history of Disappearing Act.

Virtual Unrealities - The Short Fiction of Alfred Bester

Cover [Paperback]

ISBN-10: 0679767835
ISBN-13: 9780679767831
Buy from Amazon.com
The journey begins with an introduction to 'Virtual Unrealities' by Alfred Bester (The Demolished Man, Stars, My Destination).
Alfred Bester doesn't lollygag. He gets to the point in one word  when others will spend 10 setting the context. His prose is therefore dynamic, fun to read and essentially concise.
Virtual Unrealities collects 17 short fiction works by Alfred Bester, with an introduction by Robert Silverberg.
The contents are,

  1. Disappearing Act
  2. Oddy and Id (The Devil'sInvention)
  3. Star Light, Star Bright
  4. 5,271,009
  5. Fondly Fahrenheit
  6. Hobson's Choice
  7. Of Time and Third Avenue
  8. Time Is the Traitor
  9. The Men Who Murdered Mohammed
  10. The Pi Man
  11. They Don't Make Life Like TheyUsed To
  12. Will You Wait?
  13. The Flowered Thundermug
  14. Adam and No Eve
  15. 3½ to Go
  16. Galatea Galante
  17. The Devil Without Glasses(Previously unpublished)

In to the abyss – Introduction

Science Fiction may be the most important fiction of all. Why? Most of the science we know, we enjoy everyday was born of either a mistake or a wildly imaginative speculation of a human brain. It is unlike Fantasy, which can rely on the most bizarre of explanations, or have no explanation at all. Horror needs no explanation but to address a most basic terror element in the human psyche. Science, even in its fictitious form needs a probable explanation. There is a sound record of human Science Fiction, which finds it’s earliest roots in Jules Verne’s classic adventures to H.G Wells, Clarke, Asimov and generations of vivid minds that nourished and contributed in incalculable measures.
I am a humble reader, befuddled in their mighty visions, who attempt to read as much as I can, and reflect upon as much as I can of this great literature. We shall explore stories to their visionary values to the more basic storytelling values as we go along. I will take great care in not spoiling any value of your reading experience by doing so. You can be assured to be forewarned should there be any potential spoilers.