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Fortysomething, photographer slacker, working in IT, living in Greenwich; failed polymath; drinks and eats too much, reads too little...

The Best of British SF 2

The Best of British SF 2 - Arthur C. Clarke, Brian W. Aldiss, Mike Ashley, J.G. Ballard, Keith Roberts, Kingsley Amis, Michael Moorcock, Bob Shaw, James White, John Wyndham, Colin Kapp, Kenneth Bulmer, Fred Hoyle, Arthur Sellings, Philip E. High Having read and enjoyed the first volume of Mike Ashley' Starting Course follows with the excellent story of Eddie the android, first of the factory line he's embedded into an ordinary family in order to finesse his social skills before he is sent off-world as part of the workforce of humanity's expansion into space. Each family member has a very different reaction to him: fear, mistrust, a desire to 'free' him from his perceived bondage, and even jealousy of his future off-world. As the family change Eddie for the better, so he also changes them. And as was revealed to him once he's ready to go off world, maybe that was always the point.

Kenneth Bulmer's The Jackson Killer describes the final job for an Why them? What do they have in common? Why have they been put in all together and where are they going? empire hitman. Assigned to a department that eliminates paranoid super mutants before they begin trying to overthrow the empire, he arrives on the planet knowing that they couldn't possibly have any technology that could prevent him completing his mission – he just has to find the guy and kill him. The story is used as a means of asking what the effect of a job like that might be for a person; how does the killing change their own personality and what is the retirement plan for an empire hitman?

John Wyndham's The Teacher is a story of a first contract operative. The Gaffer is trying to balance the risks of first contact. On the one hand, he desperately wants to bring the local human species up to a technological level that will enable them to survive, and even win, their war with a much more voracious reptile species. On the other hand he must make sure that they don't become overly dependent on him, make sure that their existing culture survives as intact as possible, as well as trying to make sure that he doesn't end up revered as a god, or hated as a devil.

Arthur C. Clarke' The Signaller finishes the volume off. An alternate English history story, and obviously party of some larger world (and this story is clearly written to provide more depth to that existing universe), a young lad wants to join the signallers guild, the people who man the large towers that visually telegraph messages across the country. As a big step up socially for his family, we follow his apprenticeship through to his first official posting. Probably the least SF story in the collection, this is speculative fiction in the historical fantasy vein.