jueves, 15 de octubre de 2015

I Am Crying All Inside and Other Stories, by Clifford D. Simak

(Disclaimer: English is my second language, so I want to apologize in advance for there may be mistakes in the text below. If you find any, please let me know so that I can correct it. I'd really appreciate it. Thanks.)

Review Soundtrack: I suggest reading this review while listening to Everybody's Crying Inside by The Truths (Spotify, YouTube).

Before Liu Cixin, before Greg Egan, even before Orson Scott Card, my favorite science fiction author was Clifford D. Simak. I read Way Station and City when I was very young (just ten or eleven) and they made such a deep impression on me that I tried to find and read all the books by Simak that were available at my local library and at my town's bookshops. Sadly, there weren't many (and today's situation is not very different) so I quickly went through all of them and had to move to reading other authors.

Thus, I was really happy to learn that Open Road was publishing a series of volumes with the complete short fiction of Clifford Simak. I was really looking forward to reading his work again, a lot of years later. I was also a bit worried, for I think we have all had the experience of discovering that one of our favorite authors from our childhood was really not that great as we remembered. Simak's work, however, more than stands the test of time. 

I must say that I'm not really sure how the stories that are included in this first volume, I Am Crying All Inside and Other Stories, were selected. The range of publication dates is notably wide ("Madness from Mars" is from 1939 while "I Am Crying All Inside" appeared in 1969) and the stories are not even set in chronological order in the book. But the average quality is excellent, with some true gems, and they reflect most of the main topics that are prominent in all of Simak's oeuvre.      

Almost every story in I Am Crying All Inside and Other Stories focuses on the contact between humanity and other, alien species and in almost all the occasions this contact is traumatic, for one of the species (usually the alien one) lives in a non-technological state of bliss that is utterly disturbed by the encounter. This longing of Simak for a past, simple rural life is especially evident in such excellent stories as "Installment Plan", "Ogre", "Small Dear" and "I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up In the Air", which, surprisingly, is new to this volume (it was commissioned by Harlan Ellison for The Last Dangerous Visions and, since the anthology was cancelled, remained unpublished to this day). In fact, I think the book is more than worth its price for any Simak fan just for this latter story.

The stories also feature other typical interests of Simak, such as time travel ("Small Deer" and "Gleaners"), robots ("Installment Plans" and "All The Traps of Earth") and religion ("Gleaners", again). There is even room for a little western in "Gunsmoke Interlude" and for some classical pulp adventure in "The Call from Beyond", the only story in the book that I found of just average quality.

However, the main thematic connection existing among the stories may be the process of transformation. Almost all the protagonists go through a profound modification which, in most occasions, is not only psychological or spiritual but also very physical. That is, in fact, the central element in "I Had No Head and My Eyes Were Floating Way Up In the Air" and "All The Traps of Earth", in which the bodies and brains of the main characters suffer deep changes. And, for instance, in "Ogre", the symbiotic relationship between humans and the alien plant race of the planet in which the story is set drastically alter the capabilities of both species. A very interesting and philosophical topic that is explored by Simak from a wide variety of points of view.

For all this, it was a huge pleasure for me to have the chance of visiting again the work of Clifford D. Simak. I highly recommend I Am Crying All Inside and Other Stories to both old-time fans of the author and to readers that are new to his amazing work. I can only congratulate Open Road for the excellent idea of collecting all these marvelous short stories and I am looking forward to reading the next installments in the series.

(You can also read this review in Spanish/También puedes leer esta reseña en español)

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