The Worlds of George O. – Review

Science Fiction and Fantasy Book Review, No. 8, October 1982, p. 31

Smith, George O. The Worlds of George O. Bantam, NY, September 1982. x + 338 p. $2.50, paper. ISBN 0-553-22532-4.

“To be or not to be” was not always a cliche; when penned by Shakespeare it was original thought. Similarly, the ten stories and one radio script in this collection may appear, to allegedly sophisticated minds, as little more than stereotype stories with stereotype characters. Smith’s writing leaves much to be desired, his heroes (all male) never lack for technical competence, and he makes use of deus ex machina on more than one occasion. But Smith also helped found modern science fiction, and if his style seems all too familiar–well, maybe that is an indication of his success.

As Frederik Pohl notes in his introduction, Smith, an electrical engineer, was one of Campbell’s favorite writers. The Complete Venus Equilateral (Ballantine, 1976) reflects Sm1th’ s technical background, and both book and author are representative of Campbell’s belief in the engineer/scientist as problem solver. Roughly half the stories in the current collection are of this type, and most of the rest concern paradoxes of one sort or another. Smith admits that two stories, “History Repeats” and “Understanding,” were written specifically to appeal to Campbell’s fondness for dogs. The Worlds of George O. is as much biography as story collection. The fifty-six pages of biographical material, illustrated by the stories, cover Smith’s journey from engineer to fan to writer. Why Smith rejected Campbell’s invitation to Dianetics, how this resulted in Smith’s marriage to Campbell’s first wife, and the consequences of all this makes for better reading than many of the stories. Recommended for larger libraries and students of the Campbell era.  — Lawrence I. Charters


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