Clifford Simak was the master of the contemplative story - the story in which the narrator does little but sit around and think about life. Little action, not much dialogue, and yet the result is a moving story that works beautifully. This volume in his collected works includes some of his finest contemplative work, along with City and other celebrated stories. While this is volume 3 in the series, it's an excellent place to start your voyage with Simak.
The best stories in the book include:
- Leg. Forst. - How many great stories are there about aged stamp collectors? In this one, the overall emotional arc is largely unoriginal, but the components that make it up are innovative and fun.
- Physician to the Universe - While nominally about escape from a prison swamp, the story is really about purpose and satisfaction.
- Condition of Employment - How to motivate workers in an unpleasant profession. One of the rare twist stories that rewards re-reading.
- The Autumn Land - A perfect story, again about purpose. I first read this a long time ago, and it has stuck with me.
- Founding Father - Problems in spaceflight and remote coloniziation. Relatively thin on premise, the story succeeds on the issue of loneliness and human frailty.
That's almost half the stories in the book, and that should tell you something. Not one of the stories in this volume is bad, and it includes some of Simak's best work. Even the western, while formulaic, is a pleasant read. Whether you're new to Simak or a confirmed fan, you'll enjoy this volume.