Read by David Warner
Originally Published in
Reviewed by Steven H Silver
Murray Leinster won a Hugo Award in 1957 for "Exploration Team" (Astounding, 3/56) and a Retro-Hugo in 1995 for "First Contact" (Astounding, 5/45). Its no real surprise, therefore, that Dercum Audio would choose these two Leinster tales for its audio series.
One of the things which sets this Dercum Audio collection apart from other books, or stories, on tape, is the fact that the tapes open with a short biography of Leinster. Although it isn't, and shouldn't, be necessary to know anything about the author in order to fully enjoy the stories, it is nice to have some idea about the author's background. Dercum's introduction provides just the right amount of information before launching into Leinster's tales.
The sound quality is good with the levels set properly. Although a small amount of music introduces the stories, the music and sound effects are minimal, allowing the reader to clearly hear the story and concentrate on the tale. Warner's voice is also very well suited to reading these stories.
Although it would be nice to say that Leinster's stories haven't aged in the four decades since they were written, to do so would be a lie. However, to say his stories have held up quite well would not be. "First Contact" tells the story of a scientific expedition sent to the Crab Nebula which happens to meet an alien species. While the story itself runs fine, a few of its suppositions seem dated, most notably the idea of a government funded mission whose primary purpose is pure research. Leinster's solution to the question of how to ensure the other race doesn't follow the humans to earth still works after more than fifty years.
"Exploration Team" is a philosophical story in which an illegal colony is discovered and the sole survivor must come to terms with the consequences of the colony. Leinster turns this story into an examination of ethics and what it means to be human and rational. Huygens, the self-professed criminal refuses to permit others to die through his inaction even if he condemns himself by saving their lives while the government official he is dealing with refuses to accept Huygens's actions.
My only (minor) complaint about this tape set is the cover art. A person dressed in an alien costume decorates the right side of the cover, the rest given over to white space. The cover is not eye-catching and may even turn off science fiction fans who are not familiar with Leinster's fantastic writing.
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