This wonderful book is a collection of short stories that appeared in various science fiction magazines in the 50’s and 60’s, plus one that appeared in 1995 and another that is published in this volume for the first time. The central theme for all the stories has to do with how Aliens keep trying to put humankind down. Usually through deception or attempts at overwhelming force. And always with just a hint of humor to it all.
Christopher Anvil is a master satirist, and plies his trade with style and wit. My favorite of the stories is one that comes late in the book. In it the main character is put into a position where he is given both the best gift and the worst curse someone could ever be given. Namely he is made to live many life times and comes out of it not knowing which lifetime is quite real.
The volume starts out with a large number of stories where mankind is dealing with a set of aliens called the ‘Outs’. These strange beings have a certain something that gives them an edge in deception. But humans are way too stubborn to be totally tricked for long. In one of the most amusing we really never have a typical story. It is, instead, told in the form of memos and dispatches back and forth after then change in leaders. The pace is fun, and the ending not at all what you would quite expect, but definitely the solution to the problem and a sure example of the lengths humanity will go to to survive and prevail.
If you like classic stories of science fiction from well before things we all take for granted with just a hint at what was then thought about what might be, you will enjoy these stories. If you like your stories to contain wit and don’t mind not going too deep into the whys and wherefores, you will enjoy these stories. They are masterful little stories to tickle your neurons with.