Futures Past

by James White
Reviewed date: 2009 Jun 25
228 pages
cover art

Only the first story, Spacebird, is a Sector General story. The rest are stand-alone short stories. I found Commuter to be too predictable--the young man is a time traveler and he's the old lady's husband. Assisted Passage is cute but again, rather predictable. Curtain Call, Boarding Party, and Dynasty of One weren't much good. I liked Patrol except for the ending. Question of Cruelty, False Alarm, and Outrider were lots of fun.

  • Spacebird: Sector General treats a large bird found floating in interplanetary space, only to discover that the bird is a primitive spacecraft devised by an aerial race trying to escape their doomed planet.
  • Commuter: Police investigate a young man who is obsessed with an old woman.
  • Assisted Passage: A scientist helps his friend steal an experimental spaceship so he can rendezvous with the mother ship and return to his home planet.
  • Curtain Call: A pessimistic reporter covers the Earth's looming demise, as it detonates all its superweapons in an attempt to end the threat of war and destruction.
  • Boarding Party: Earth is losing the war against the Raghman, until one Raghman sphere envelopes a ship and makes mental contact with a human--at which point it's discovered that the Raghmans have only been trying to communicate with humans all along.
  • Patrol: Humanity is losing the war against invading alien bugs, until one man communicates with the bugs instead of trying to kill them all.
  • Fast Trip: Crew goes on a starvation diet after an accident destroys their food supply en route to Mars.
  • Question of Cruelty: Visiting aliens intercept Earth's first spacecraft and study the pilot--who turns out to be a monkey--to determine whether Earth should be destroyed or allowed to flourish.
  • False Alarm: Rogue scientist activates an alien beacon on Titan, summoning an alien fleet to evacuate the Earth.
  • Dynasty of One: An immortal ruler must periodically undergo rejuvenation treatments, which cause him to relive his entire life in vivid detail, with the pain of his moral failings magnified nearly to the point of being unbearable.
  • Outrider: An accident shears off all sensors, so one man straps himself to the outside of the spaceship and guides them down by sight and his gut instinct.

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