The Big Front Yard is a strong but somewhat mixed bag – mostly strong stories, some that don’t feel completely thought out, and one that just doesn’t work. The one fairly experimental story is the one that doesn’t work, but when Simak sticks closer to familiar ground, he does very well indeed – stories about ordinary people who deal with extraordinary things without breaking a sweat.
The best stories include:
- The Big Front Yard – A small-town handyman receives unusual and generous visitors. Classic Simak – small-town doesn’t mean foolish or naive.
- Junkyard – A human ship breaks down on a strange planet, and finds signs it’s not the first to do so. The focus wanders a bit, but the overall theme is strong.
- Mr. Meek – Musketeer – A mild-mannered accountant finds an unexpected talent for adventure. The genius of Simak is that he doesn’t transform to macho hero at the end.
- Neighbor – An odd neighbor moves into a small-town. Nothing startling, but a nice encapsulation of what Simak did so well.
- So Bright the Vision – A writer struggles to get by in a time when most creation is automated. The understanding, supportive woman could stand to be updated, but the concept is nice, and it’s one of Simak’s relatively few stories with pointed social commentary.
A strong collection with just a few weak points.