Menace of the Machine (British Library Science Fiction Classics) ★★★☆☆

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Title: Menace of the Machine
Series: British Library Science Fiction Classics
Editor: Mike Ashley
Rating: 3 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 257
Words: 95.5K



Synopsis:

Table of Contents

Moxon’s Master
Ambrose Bierce

The Discontented Machine
Adeline Knapp

Ely’s Automatic Housemaid
Elizabeth Bellamy

The Mind Machine
Michael Williams

Automata
S. Fowler Wright

The Machine Stops
E. M. Forster

Efficiency
Perley Poore Sheehan & Robert H. Davis

Rex
Harl Vincent

Danger in the Dark Cave
J. J. Connington

The Evitable Conflict
Isaac Asimov

Two-Handed Engine
C. L. Moore & Henry Kuttner

But Who Can Replace a Man?
Brian W. Aldiss

A Logic Named Joe
Will F. Jenkins

Dial F For Frankenstein
Arthur C. Clarke

My Thoughts:

I had not read, or even heard of, 3/4’s of these stories, so this was a good collection to expand my knowledge of classic SF. Considering that some them date back to the 1890’s, that’s as classic as you can get! Of course, there was also a reason I had not heard of most of these.

While not universally depressing, the tone is definitely set by the title. I had to remind myself several times that this was not a collection about the indomitableness of the human spirit but what humanity could let itself in for. It was interesting to see how almost every single author believed that man’s creation was somehow greater than mankind and they blithely threw out statements about how complicated and wonderful the machines were and how simple and primitive the human body was. It really showed a complete lack of understanding about biology and an acceptance of the roar of evolution that was just coming into being then.

The biggest reason this got 3 stars from me and no higher was because of the fething editor sticking in his nose. Just like in the collection Worst Contact, this editor (Mike Ashley) has a little chat with the reader about the author of the upcoming story. Maybe that works for a lot of people but when I saw that on the first story I gritted my teeth and groaned. Then when I saw it for the second story I knew this was going to be the format. Unfortunately, I am not disciplined enough to skip them and besides, why should “I” have to skip them, why didn’t the editor skip them? I believe I used a lot of words in my head like sycophant, lickspittle, buttkisser and useless sod. Instead of allowing me to read the stories and judge on their own merit, Ashley has to include a bunch of data that ruined the whole experience for me. Besides ruining the flow the collection! I’ve got 4 or 5 more of these British Library series edited by Ashley and I’m going to do my hardest to skip his idiotic blathering and useless drivel and generally disgusting toejam munching.

To summarize, the stories were enjoyable on a variety of levels but the editorializing ruined the whole thing for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

19 thoughts on “Menace of the Machine (British Library Science Fiction Classics) ★★★☆☆

  1. Some information about the author or the context of any given story might be useful, but I imagine that much depends on the way the information is delivered and – more important – its length, because we can all agree that too much can indeed be too much… 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Good morninig Cap’n, or afternoon as it is here. We have an equally annoying Mike Ashley over here, he’s ruined a great football club and runs a sports emporium that treats the workers like poo. He’s a useless sod too. Anyway that’s my useless bit of info for the day! Glad you liked the stories anyways!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, maybe they’re related?
      I’ll tell you this though, I am glad I am not a sports fan of any kind. The heartbreak I see among fans as either players, coaches or others do stupid things that just destroy whole franchises 😦

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Like Maddalena says, this is very common in anthologies. Gardner Dozois did it for his Year’s Best collections, for example. But he usually only gave a couple of paragraphs. Some of the stories here are pretty old and the authors long dead so I can see having a bit of context being helpful. Did the editor go on too long or were you objecting on general principle?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. For, it was both. I thought they were too long (I think several of them went on for 2 pages?) but I also really don’t like “getting to know” the writers. I avoid that kind of thing in my modern reading as much as I possibly can. I don’t want to know the authors as people. I don’t mind reading about authors in a biography or something, but not this way.

      I realize since this thing is always happening that others must enjoy it, but I don’t understand it.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I have taken to skipping forwards and intro’s now, unless it is by the author. Anyone else gets an auto-skip. Ugh indeed.

      Yes, the Machine Stops is a good story and should be required reading as far as I’m concerned. Especially with how society has changed over the last year due to covid.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m all for not getting to know writers; they’re generally a feckless bunch. This book would be better the ‘Dennis The’ in front of the title. Are Asimov Eyebrows included, or do you have to grow your own?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. A robot dennis the menace sounds menacing. I think I’d pass on a book with that title.

      Unfortunately, being an ebook the “glue on Asimovbrows” were not included. Even the paper copies I think you had to get the Exclusive Edition, which cost 3 times as much.

      Like

  5. Hahaha it’s definitely interesting to see how all the authors lined up their idea around the superiority of machine over man for this collection. Usually, stories end up showing how man will always have to prevail over machine though. It sounds like these didn’t even go there?

    Liked by 1 person

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