The Best of Lester Del Rey Hardcover – 1978
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The Best of Lester Del Rey
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The earlier stories are generally the more precise, and feature clear moral lessons: the work ethic of "The Coppersmith", the hope for the future evoked in "Into Thy Hands", the release from ignorance in "Superstition". Overall, not a bad collection. Only the plotless dog story, "The Keepers of the House" is a complete failure. Of course many of the ideas in these stories have since been used by other writers in better stories, and while this isn't Lester's fault, it does somewhat undercut this book for modern readers. A sound enough choice for fans of the speculative fiction of this era, but because it's so old-fashioned in style and approach, and because there aren't any stories that are just essential, three stars seems enough.
One thing that struck me about this collection is how memorable these stories are - they have characters and moods that stay with you for a long time. There are just too many good stories here to name them all, but "For I am a Jealous People" and "Vengeance is Mine" stand out. I also liked "Keepers of the House" (dog story that one of the previous reviewers did not like).
As with any collection, there are stories ranging from passable to absolute gems. My favorites included:
Helen O’Loy - Robotics experts Dave and Phil create a female robot complete with emotions and decide to name her Helen O’Loy, a derivative of Helen of Alloy, which is a pun on Helen of Troy. Got that? The only problem is that she falls in love with Dave, making his life miserable…at least at first.
The Coppersmith - Industrious elf Ellowan Coppersmith emerges from a long sleep in the Adirondacks looking for work among humans only to find that his skills in repairing copper and brass items are no longer in high demand. Worse, mankind has developed horrid combustion engines. Perhaps Ellowan could use his skills to bring an eventual end to that…
Hereafter, Inc. - Righteous and judgmental Phineas Theophilus Potts returns to work after a long illness, forcing himself to be kind to the disgusting sinners around him, until he begins to realize that something is amiss. Some of his colleagues had died before his illness, so what are they doing here? Perhaps the question should be, what is Phineas doing there?
The Wings of Night - Two astronauts land on the moon to repair their ship and encounter a bizarre but benevolent alien named Lhin. Through trial and error, the astronauts find a way to communicate with the alien and learn that Lhin is the last of his kind, but with a small supply of copper could repopulate his species.
For I Am a Jealous People - A preacher’s faith is shaken when aliens attack the Earth claiming to be on a holy mission from the Lord Almighty to eradicate humans from the planet. This is one of three novellas in the collection.
Vengeance is Mine - A robot named Sam is left behind on the moon when the humans are evacuated to Earth. Shortly thereafter, Sam notices bursts of light on the Earth’s surface before the planet goes completely dark. Believing that aliens had attacked, Sam finds his way back to the planet only to eventually learn the truth behind the death of mankind. The last of three novellas.