The Seedling Stars

James Blish


This is another of the Gollancz SF yellow backed paperback re-issues of classic SF stories. It is a collection of a number of novellas and short stories previously published in 1950s magazines.

There are four separate stories:

The basic premise of the stories in this collection is that they are all based round the fact that the simplest way to colonise of other planets is by the technique of pantropy. This is the act of manipulating the cells of humans until their descendants could live in the target environment.

In 'A Time to Survive' the practice of pantropy is in its early days and the first modified humans have been created. But they are not honoured explorers, but demonised as criminals and pirates for the Port Authority that ran Terra's space programme did not believe that pantropy would give a sufficient return for it to pay. The rebels must show that they are wrong before they can be wiped out.

When we reach time of 'The Thing in the Attic' pantropy is an established technique and many missions are sent out to colonise suitable worlds. One such planet was so unusual that the safest spot for the colonists was a return to the trees far above the dinosaurs that still ruled the surface. But even in the most primitive of surroundings those in charge find themselves challenged by those who do not believe in the gods!

'Surface Tension' is probably amongst the best known of James Blish's short stories. Still set in the same universe as the other stories, normal men play little part in the upbringing of their altered descendants for their space ship crashed on an otherwise inhospitable planet where there was insufficient land to house normal sized humans, but near microscopic beings could thrive. If they could find a way to fight back against things almost as intelligent as themselves. Maybe one day their civilization might rise to the point where it could spread from just a single pool to conquer the planet!

As the starship in 'Watershed' approaches the ancient solar system its crew is filled with a deepening anger against their passengers, an anger that is justified as an intrusion of their passengers into the running of the ship, but is nothing more than 'simple' racism for the crew are Normal Men while their passengers are Altered Men of one form or another, a group that outnumber themselves. Their destination? A dead world that had once been humanity's cradle!

This is a Gollancz Classic Science Fiction edition

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