THE BIG BOX OF PAPERBACKS PROJECT, BOOK 5:
THE SEEDLING STARS, BY JAMES BLISH (1957)
On June 10, 2006, I purchased a box of 75+ vintage paperbacks, mostly sci-fi and adventure books, from a Half-Price Books And Records in Lincolnwood, IL. I am reading all of them. This is book 5.)
This going to be a short entry since i read this before the bloglapse of the past few months and my memory is a bit hazy. Before reading The Seeedling Stars I only knew James Blish's name from the covers of all those Star Trek paperbacks I'd see at the Englewood Public Library growing up, the ones with names like Star Trek 4 and Star Trek 7 and so on. They adapted episodes into prose stories and apparently provided Blish with a nice income in his waning years. He was writing number eleven when he died in 1975. His wife finished it for him.
Blish won a Hugo in 1959 for A Case Of Conscience and found a following with his four Cities In Flight novels. I know little about either but I think I might be hitting some of them further down the line in this project. He also apparently coined the phrase gas giant, unintentionally amusing schoolkids for decades to come.
But back to the book at hand: The Seedling Stars is less a novel than a series of short stories, some of them quite long, that build off one another. All concern "pantropy"—presumably another Blish coinage—the practice of adapting the human body to live in alien environments. One story deals with tree-dwelling descendents who feat the ground, another with humans reduced to cellular size who live, and war, with single-celled organisms underwater. Conceptually it's all quite strong. Narratively, it's all a bit too protracted. The ideas in the stories are more interesting than the stories themselves. Which, I guess, is one of the main complaints people who don't read science fiction make about science fiction in general. I guess sometimes it's true.