The twelve stories in this collection, written separately and published between 1950 and 1964, fit into a consistent future history that covers human development from the Second Age of Space to the era of rights for underpeople and the Rediscovery of Man. Many of the stories involve the Instrumentality, a ruling bureau-cracy that is not always admirable but ultimately manages “to keep man man.”
Set in the Second Age of Space, “Scanners Live in Vain” concerns the scanners, men surgically cut off from their senses in order to endure the pain of space travel. When scientist Adam Stone discovers how to travel in space without pain, the scanners fear they will lose their privileged position and so order his death. Scanner Martel breaks with his elite group to warn Stone, who survives and subsequently restores scanners to normal senses and emotions.
In “The Lady Who Sailed The Soul,” Helen America, the first woman to pilot interstellar space, has trouble with the gigantic solar sail of her ship. An apparition of the man she loves, Mr. Grey-no-more, assists her in righting the craft, and she is saved. In future history, theirs is one of the great love stories.
“The Game of Rat and Dragon,” set in the age of planoforming, is about the human telepaths, pinlighters, who protect interstellar flights from the psychic dragons of deep space. A pinlighter is saved from a dragon by the alertness of his telepathically linked partner, a cat. While recovering, he realizes that no woman can compare to his cat partner, Lady May.
In “The Burning of the Brain,”...
(The entire section is 662 words.)