Note: The contents of the book I have are somewhat different from the contents listed in Goodreads for the book with the same ISBN. I tried to crack this mystery last night, and ultimately gave up after I started to get a headache. It is something to do with the Fourth Dimension, maybe.
John W. Campbell is not a person - for SF afficionados, he is an institution. And for people like me who were born long after the golden age of Science Fiction, he almost a myth-like Drona
, the legendary trainer of the Kuru
princes in the Indian epic, the Mahabharatha
. He is the one who created the likes of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke and James Blish.
It is not so well known that Campbell sacrificed a writing career to become an editor. In fact, it was he who pioneered the modern SF story, which features ordinary people grappling with issues of science in a future society. He could be termed the father of Hard SF.
So it was with great excitement that I picked up this volume: but sadly, it let me down. Except for the novella "Who Goes There?" (the inspiration for John Carpenter's movie "The Thing"), the other stories disappointed (incidentally, I left the last one halfway through). But that one story makes this book worth reading.
Campbell's science fiction contains hard science, with plausible explanations. The narrative is linear and easy to understand. It is not great literature: it does not contain great philosophical dilemmas like the ones Ursula K. LeGuin poses: but it is hard-boiled SCIENCE fiction.
Despite its name, I believe this volume does not contain the "best" of Campbell: however, it does give an insight into the fount from which the stories of the Asimovs and Clarkes originated.