Tales of Terror From Outer Space
Ray Bradbury, Ray Nelson, Robert Bloch, Brian W. Aldiss, Ralph Williams, Sydney J. Bounds, Robert Presslie, Charles Barkin, Bob Shaw, Arthur Porges, Claude Veillot, Robert Sheckley, Arthur C. Clarke, R Chetwyn-Hayes
Bought this anthology in a heavily secured, highly stacked second-hand book store run by such a nice, though wary, old man. He looked like the gatekeeper to a secret library, awaiting the “Chosen One”.
A gripping 5 out of 5
Outer Space – where in the dark mists of infinity lurk alien creatures from far-flung galaxies. Weird monsters like…
The vamipre girl from Mars. The spaceship manned by living corpses
The hideous giant trapped by time. The lump of intelligent jelly. The huge insects that overran the earth.
Space-age horror comes down to earth in these chilling stories by such famous writers as Ray Bradbury, Brain Aldiss, Robert Bloch and Arthur C. Clarke.
I am on a quest to read as many classic works by famous horror/science fiction/ fantasy authors as possible. While also under tight budget during this Janu-worry period. So it was quite fortunate that I found this gem. (Along with The Priests of Psi by Frank Herbert which will probably be next week’s review)
I started reading the book almost immediately after I got it. (I was waiting for Ole and Elliot for once) The first story by Ray Bradbury affected me for hours afterwards. Haunted. That’s what I can say about not just that story but all that followed. Haunted. *Shivers
I, Mars – Ray Bradbury
We are thrown right into the deep end with a beautifully written, nostalgic and mentally-distressing tale of a man forgotten on the planet Mars. There are no aliens or anything of the sort, just the thought-provoking concept of solitude and how far one will go to overcome loneliness. With very creepy personas leading the way. *Shivers
Eight O’Clock in the Morning – Ray Nelson
Ray Nelson is a known science-fiction writer and cartoonist. This story is one of his most noted works which famous director, John Carpenter, turned into the film They Live. Although the film took creative-liberty to extend the story, it does not change the immense psychological effect it has. Basically the entire human race is under the influence of reptilian aliens who use subliminal hypnosis to keep humans under control. On the TV. On the radio. They are everywhere… and one man wakes up from the illusion and into the horror. Turn off your TVs and phones kids.
Side note: I was playing the new rendition of DmC: Devil May Cry and its basically Nelson’s story but with demons. It wasn’t even influenced Nelson’s story or idea and it was created decades after his short story. Could this be an underlying human fear?
Girl from Mars – Robert Bloch
This one wasn’t so scary. The owner of a travelling circus meets a very, very beautiful girl who claims to be from Mars. Its her first time on earth and in his ignorance of her statement, hopes to take advantage of that situation.
Heresies of the Huge God – Brian W. Aldiss
The human psyche is always one that fascinates me. Especially when it comes from a religious world-view. This story is in essence the writings of a new “prophet” sort of St. Paul’s Letter to the… kind of thing. Only it speaks of the Huge God who appears on Earth suddenly and how people react to this startling new entity with religious zealousness.
The Head Hunters – Ralph Williams
The idea of game hunting is probably as old as time. We’ve all seen that gross act (though some people may argue against that) of hunting an animal and placing its severed head on a wall as a trophy. Now imagine Earth was the playground of an alien race who claimed humanity to be their game – and their heads as trophies. Very Predator don’t you think?
Not that scary in the end but a good read. Human ignorance never ceases to amaze me.
The Animators – Sydney J. Bounds
The silent invasion we never see coming begins with a group of scientists exploring the surface of Mars. After a peculiar accident, the dead come to life on the red planet. How will the sole survivor fair against the animated corpses of his fellow crew members? *Shivers
It is a well written, though with very surface story-telling (because it’s a short story) but has deeper ramifications when one starts to think too deeply about what happens.
The Night of the Seventh Finger – Robert Presslie
There are very few stories of aliens that elicit empathy from us. The usual reaction is fear and/or disgust. This particular story plays on multiple emotions as we are given the “alien’s” perspective as well as of the girl walking through the dark who gets picked up by the seven-fingered creature. The ending makes me shake-fists at the irony of it all. With a touch of sadness.
No More for Mary – Charles Birkin
Toby Lewis is a writer on a holiday who finds an obscure creature in his garden. A bug of sorts with the most captivating skin and a single gleaming eye. Knowing his sister is a renowned entomologist, he captures the creature and hopes to give it to her as a gift. But of course this is no bug.
Charles Birkin’s writing style is fluid and expressive. The detail he paints is gorgeous. Beyond that the story itself intertwines two unconnected creatures into a chance meeting. Coincidence? I think not.
Invasion of Privacy – Bob Shaw
Imagine you’re sitting at the table, and you seven-year-old son states he saw your wife’s grandmother at the old “haunted” house. Only she’s been dead for two weeks. This is how this short story begins and what unfolds is a tale of terror and reflective poignancy as the father seeks out the truth. What he finds may have far-reaching consequences… and not the deep-space kind.
The Ruum – Arthur Porges
An alien crew forget their “Ruum” on a primitive planet. Billions of years before the start of man-kind. In the age-of-man, Jim travels to the Canadian Rockies on an expedition. There he meets a bizarre creature that begins to chase him.
I can’t give away too much but there is a logical reasoning for all of this, and one of those obscure endings that hit you later like “Ooohhh!!” Arthur Porges you devious man. I was holding my breath the entire read!
The First Days of May – Claude Veilliot
Can that just be my review? No? Okay. So. Giant Praying-Mantis like creatures appear on earth and practically decimate the population with their shrill-like screaming and razor-blade forearms-and legs. We follow a survivor who has kept himself hidden in his apartment, waiting for his wife. Hoping for her return. Eventually he leaves the house to search for her and what unfolds is just pure horror. Will I ever sleep again?
Specialist – Robert Sheckley
This was a weird one. Like. Weird. The story revolves around an alien crew made up of various… body parts? that have learned to co-exist as the universe intended. As in Eye is practically just an eye. Engine is a creature who is an engine. Walls are actual walls etc. And they are all sentient, cognitive beings designed by the universe to be exactly what they are. They are also the Ship, each one with a specific role in their interstellar travels. Unfortunately the storm has forced them to find a new crew member… on Earth.
Its peculiar because these beings are so normal in their “human” behaviour while being completely alien in every way. Underlying this whole story, we actually delve once again into the human mind and how our behaviour is so… uncooperative.
No Morning After – Arthur C. Clarke
Trust Arthur C. Clarke to come up with this perfectly normal and yet exceedingly frustrating and true reflection of us as humans. An alien ship is trying to communicate with earth to deliver an incredibly important message. With all the billions of people, the message reaches the most stubborn drunk fool with morbidly accurate reactions to the telepathic voices in his head providing the warning.
I think the protagonist is right in many aspects. To our shame as humans. Just think about it. Imagine you’re the only human on Earth who hears a message from aliens… how would the world perceive you even if you were right?
PS: This story was so affecting, I actually had a dream about something similar… and it was the most heart-wrenching, mind-shattering dream ever. I may even turn it into a story!
Shipwreck – R. Chetwynd-Hayes
How fitting that the last story in the anthology is also about an invasion. A silent one. A scary one. An asteroid crash lands on earth and a gelatinous substance escapes. It is able to break-down any living thing and assume its traits… almost perfectly. The living creature turning to ash on the spot. Then it spots a bipedal on a motorcycle.
The writing obviously varies from author to author. Some are quite straightforward in their telling while others use strong descriptive language to captive more than just the mental process of reading, but the visual too. However many of them touch on that one important aspect: Humans.
We’ve built up so many defenses in our minds, negating the very idea of “what if it’s true”. Despite all the movies and books and series and documentaries on the possibility of aliens. There’s just a part of us that doesn’t want to accept it. And it is this idea that makes these stories so much more riveting. So much more frightening. So much more… insightful.
I love the underlying meaning in every story. Beyond the fear that your neighbour, or your teacher, or your pet could be an alien in disguise – awaiting its orders to subjugate the human race. Or that we are even worth saving if an alien race realised a star is about to explode and they are our last hope. Will we willing jump aboard their vessels or will we assume the worst of them and begin a war. (Ah war… the bane of humanity.)
Just how we think as humans. Our egos. Our fears. Our oh-so-clever brains that logically make us think ourselves superior on every level. The center of the universe. But as one of the characters in the anthology said “probably the one about praying mantes”,
“Establish communication? Do we ever think to establish communication with an ant before we take a boot to the anthill? What if to them, we’re the ants? Do you still think they’ll establish communication?” ~ paraphrased but you get the gist right?
Isn’t that a scary thought?
Tales of Terror from Outer Space was published May 15th 1975.