I finished reading “The Prentice Hall Anthology of Science Fiction and Fantasy” (2000, Prentice-Hall, edited by Garyn G. Roberts) a few days ago. This was #5 in my quest to read and discuss the 6 major door-stop anthologies that claim to survey 20th Century SF. I enjoyed quite a bit of it, but it was a mixed bag for me and parts of it were definitely a slog.
My average rating for the stories included was 3.74/5, which translates to an average of “very good” but not “great” stories in my view.
Some of my favorites included stories I have loved and read before, like “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale” (PKD), “There Will Come Soft Rains” (Bradbury), “Shambleau” (C.L. Moore), and “Blood Music” (Greg Bear). Among stories that I have either read but really did not remember or stories I don’t think I’ve ever read, I loved “The Lottery” (Shirley Jackson), “Enders Game” (the novella by Orson Scott Card), and Philip Jose Farmer’s “The Lovers” (I concluded I had read the book but not the novella).
On the other hand, there were 3 stories that I was not able to finish. There were also several that I finished, but just barely, and only because of historical significance; these included “An Express of the Future” (Verne), “The Fall of the House of Usher” (Edgar Allan Poe) and “The Mortal Immortal: A Tale” (Mary Shelley ).
Make no mistakes, this was an anthology put together by an academic to serve as a textbook (like some of the others I have read lately). In addition to the story/author introductions, there are 14 essays here. Most of them are written by editor Roberts, and some of these essays are really outstanding.
One difference for me is that the purpose and scope was to clearly cover fantasy at the same time as science fiction. Although most of the other 19 and 20th Century survey anthologies of SF have included a nominal amount of stories I consider fantasy, the approximately 30% fantasy and horror included here is much more than the others.
If you want a survey of 19th and 20th century SF and fantasy, this is the best choice for you of those I have read so far. I don’t enjoy reading fantasy as much as reading SF, and I am not a big fan of horror or ghost stories either, which is one reason my overall reaction and average rating was not stronger.
Finding this anthology was not hard, but there were challenges. There is no ebook version, and my regional library consortium did not have it. It appears to be out of print, but I was able to purchase a used trade paperback copy in reasonable shape for about $35 after shipping.
The other major issue I had with this anthology is the font size. It’s pretty small, as you might expect from a book that includes 86 pieces of fiction and 14 essays in 1,162 pages. It’s also rather heavy due to the page count, which makes it less easy to read at times.
I’ll report back, discuss, and compare, and contrast all six anthologies I found that claim to cover 20th century (and 19th too, to varying extent) science fiction after I have read the last one, Heather Masri’s 2008 “Science Fiction: Stories and Contexts” (another textbook). I hope to finish that later this year.
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