Dark Benediction By Walter M. Miller Jr.

    This is a collection of shorter works (up to a novella in length) of Walter M. Miller Jr., who is most known for his 1961 Hugo-winning novel A Canticle for Leibowitz, which was his last published work during his lifetime. His publishing career was quite brief, from 1951 to 1957, but he created some noticeable fiction during this time. He was a bomber pilot during the World War Two, which profoundly affected his later life: he converted to Catholicism in 1947, and after his award-winning debut novel became a recluse, avoiding contact with nearly everyone, struggling with depression and finally committing suicide in 1996.

    The stories included in this audiobook where also published as a Dark Benediction by Science Fiction Masterworks.

    You Triflin' Skunk! SF/horror, a woman is raising a kid with special abilities, sired not by a human, as he states. 3*
    The Will a boy is dying from cancer, but he is a fan of Captain Chronos, Custodian of Time TV series, hoping for a time machine. 3.5*
    Anybody Else Like Me? a woman finds out that she can share mind with a man, who deciding that such a mutation is beneficial starts to stalk her. 4*
    Crucifixus Etiam a man works on Mars terraforming project as an unskilled laborer. To let the breathe, aerator valves are surgically stitched in his chest. He is afraid that like many workers he’ll forget how to breathe, returning to Earth as a cripple. 4*
    I, Dreamer story’s narrator is XM-5-B, whom Teacher calls Clicker. Is it a strange abused AI, used in a bomber delivery system? 4*
    Dumb Waiter a post-apoc story initially reminding of Ray Bradbury’ There Will Come Soft Rains from The Martian Chronicles, but instead of an automatic house without people, there is a man, who goes to a town that continues to send bombers long after they run out of bombs. There is a managing computer in the town and some people plan to destroy it, which will collapse a civilization to barbarism. Content warning: usual for the 50s but cringy today role of a womanж it is actually present in a few other works here. 3*
    Blood Bank a galaxy empire, a ship transported medical supplies from Earth (which is almost forgotten, on the outskirts) and the ship denied inspection to a patrol and was destroyed. Patrol’s captain was legally I the right, but killing a medical ship of course led to his resignation. He travels to Earth to find truth. 3.5*
    Big Joe and the Nth Generation a protagonist is a thief in some planet turned savage. The air is getting thin and he has to travel to a taboo place е find a solution. 3*
    The Big Hunger an epic story of cycles of life, where eugenics growth specialized minds to get space ships but destroy the minds later. A nice stylization One of the prophets wrote an energy equation. Men crucified an Agitator on a telegraph pole. They purged a minority-group. They split a uranium atom into atoms of strontium and xenon. They wrote immortal lines deploring war while they invented better ways to wage it. They refashioned a body for my life-principle, for the tensor-transformers that constitute my soul. They mounted me again in a sky-borne prairie schooner because they were weary of sanctified braying. 4.5*
    Conditionally Human a man works as a District Inspector for the F.B.A., collecting and disposing off unwanted evolved animals, which creates a conflict with his wife. The idea is that to limit population only a few can have kids, while the majority satisfy their parenting instinct with evolved animals, whose intelligence is artificially limited. He gets an order to find an animal freak that was made too smarts and destroy it. 5*
    The Darfsteller Hugo winner for best novella of 1955, a former theater star works as a janitor in a new robotized theater. Unlike most other actors he hasn’t supplied his profile for copying in robots and plans to return to the scene one day. 3*
    Dark Benediction a post-apoc about strange disease from outer space, which urges people to touch others, spreading it. Some group to fight it like a zombie plague, but the protagonist cannot kill an infected girl and seeks another way. Another of his work with Catholic church s a major player. 5*
    The Lineman a team lines cable on a Moon, where strict one gender rule is set after mutated babies where born. A flying bordello arrives… 3*
    Vengeance For Nikolai a war between the USSR and USA and Soviets send a strikingly beautiful woman, who just lost her kid to enemy bombing to assassinate US military strategist. 3*
    Paperback It's pretty amazing reading this collection when you realise most of the stories were written between 1951 and 1954. Walter M Miller Jr is best known for his novel,A Canticle for Leibowitz,but the Millienium SF masterworks editors have done all SF fans a favour by repriniting this collection. Standout stories include Dark Benediction,Anyone Else Like Me,The Lineman and The Will. My personal favourite was Conditionally Human.The stories show their age when it comes to the sometimes poorly written female characters,but this is still a great collection to pick up,for a snapshot of some of the better SF shorts of the early 50s.If you enjoyed this,you might like the short stories of Robert A Heinlein,Damon Knight and Robert Silverberg. Michael Swanwyck and Clifford Simak might also appeal to you. If you especially enjoyed the short story Dark Benediction,you'd probably like Jim Starlin's Among Madmen,Spider Robinson's Telempath and Richard Matheson's I Am Legend. Paperback Dark Benediction

    This is a wonderful collection. While the titular tale bears some notable similarity to I Am Legend, Walter M. Miller, Jr. is a much better writer than Richard Matheson. Matheson's stories are juvenile by comparison and come off conspicuously dated, with thin characters and consistently foreseen endings. Yes, I know this is short fiction but Miller knows people well and as a result his short stories are usually populated with strong multi-dimensional personages. Matheson had some great ideas but was not a particularly strong writer, Miller was the whole package.

    There are of course a lot of themes common to the genre present but the execution is always thorough and competent, and execution is what ultimately matters.

    It's a pleasure to feel Miller flex the muscles that develop into what becomes his ultimate exercise, the little-known but well-awarded A Canticle for Leibowitz. And that's important because these stories are really the only other things he ever published.

    If you're familiar with the basic facts of Miller's life - he took part in the bombing of the world's oldest monastery during WWII which affected him profoundly, became Catholic and eventually lived as a complete recluse until his wife passed, after which he committed suicide - then the story entitled Blood Bank carries a deeper meaning. Its central character and plot mirror the author's profound guilt and foreshadow his own death forty years later. Unlike his life, this story has a fairly upbeat ending.

    Probably my favorite of these narratives is Anybody Else Like Me? which chronicles a psychic housewife's first encounter with another of her kind. An impressively rich story at only 15 pages.

    Another particularly strong tale is Crucifixes Etiam which concerns the disillusionment of a young miner adjusting to work on Mars.

    Some miscellaneous notes on a few others:

    The Darfstellar, one of his least science-fiction-y tales regarding an old stage actor fighting the mechanization of his craft, was one of my least favorites, although it did win a Hugo in 1955.

    The Will seems like a Spielberg picture combining elements of Flight of the Navigator and Cocoon.

    Finally, Conditionally Human peers into the life of a man whose job is to exterminate animals that have been illegally granted sentience and a lower level of human-like intelligence. It is very intriguing and very sad - in fact I nearly sobbed afterwards.

    If you've never read A Canticle for Leibowitz, do so. If you have, then stop wasting your time reading this and find a copy of Dark Benediction. Paperback A plague is sweeping over the USA causing people’s skin to turn GREY (or GRAY) – that’s pretty much all it does, it doesn’t kill anybody or turn them into flesh eating zombies. But all right-thinking citizens are fleeing the grey skin plague. It seems as the story progresses that there are only white people in this version of the USA. Then it dawned on me that this is a little parable about racism. The only other effect of the “plague” is to enhance people’s sensory perceptions slightly. So all the hysterical white flight and horror of the plague is code for the horrors of mixing the races – you know, like, if you mix black and white you get grey, right? In the end, the hero realises people are running away for nothing and grey is the new white or whatever so he willingly snogs a grey-skinned young lady and catches the plague. Soon he’ll be glad to be grey.

    Kinda goofy little story.

    This was the final book in a very desultory series I have been reading called TEN SHORT SF NOVELS. I started back in 2018. The full randomly-selected list is as follows:

    1. The Miracle Workers : Jack Vance
    2. The Merchants Of Venus : Frederik Pohl
    3. A Story Of The Days To Come : H G Wells
    4. The Star Pit : Samuel R. Delany
    5. The Midas Plague : Frederik Pohl
    6. Chocky : John Wyndham
    7. The Chrysalids : John Wyndham
    8. Flight To Forever : Poul Anderson
    9. And Then There Were None : Eric Frank Russell
    10. Dark Benediction : Walter M. Miller Jr

    I checked my vast archive of unread science fiction and found I have enough short ones for a second series. Great! I will call it ANOTHER TEN SHORT SF NOVELS. Pretty catchy! Paperback there's a story in this about a sentient rocketship called I, Dreamer which is just beautiful, i loved it so much. the rest of the stories don't quite reach that height, but there are many that come close. Dark Benediction and Blood Bank spring to mind. miller is very smart, about people and technology and the ways they interact, and is a fine writer of prose who not only always follows the emotional conflict, but always follows it through to the end, every single time. that is a rarity not only in science fiction but in fiction in general.


    Walter M. Miller Jr. õ 4 Read & Download

    I believe each of these stories were written in the 50’s, and because of that there is a dated aspect to the technology. Luckily, true human drama and the exploration of fears and motivations will not become dated until we are all perfect and exist with no existential angst. Even the lesser tales were hip deep in quality prose and an exploration of the daily quandaries experienced by humanity. Nothing particularly sexy or thrilling, but definitely a rock solid collection. Paperback A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the best pieces of science fiction ever written, but Walter M. Miller Jr.'s other works don't have nearly the same reputation so I've held off on reading them for quite some time. The sequel to Canticle has gotten poor reviews so I skipped it in favor of this short story collection, which has sat on my to-read list for some time. I’m glad I finally got around to it. Miller focuses on how an actual person would react and feel in fantastic situations, and he’s a good enough writer to actually tell those human stories effectively. The works in this collection have a range of settings, lengths, points of view, and more, with the best in my opinion being Anybody Else Like Me, though almost all of them are at least solidly enjoyable. Some are more creative than others, however, and the few by-the-numbers stories sink to mediocrity despite Miller’s writing. I read the SF Masterworks edition, which unfortunately could have been better. For one thing, there are numerous typos. For another, the cover depicts a swarm of sperm swimming in front of a woman's face, making it something I’d hesitate to read in public. But I don’t hold that against Miller, who shows with this collection that he was a quality writer who I wish had published more. 3.5/5 for this collection, rounding up (though it was a close call). Thoughts on individual stories below.

    You Triflin' Skunk! (1955)
    The story has a terrible title, but keeps you guessing as to what exactly the truth is and explores a single mother’s emotions in an interesting near-future setting. It illustrates the idea that a sci-fi story’s setting need not be blatantly futuristic, it can be quite modest in fact, but it’s the small references that build it up and make it thought-provoking.

    The Will (1954)
    The Will again gives a human story like that presented in You Triflin’ Skunk!, this time exploring both a child’s fear of death and a foster father’s discomfort in handling that death. Though the ending is telegraphed early into the story, it doesn’t stop it from being effective.

    Anybody Else Like Me? (1952)
    A lesser author would have focused on the analytical university student, but Miller puts the married housewife at the center of the action, whose confusion about her situation mirrors the reader’s. A great sense of strangeness permeates the beginning of the story, and a surprisingly scary climax makes this my favorite of the collection.

    Crucifixus Ethiam (1953)
    Unlike the many pulp stories where Martian settlements are full of clean white corridors and plastic domes, Miller gives a story where Mars is hell, and he makes you feel it. The story depicts the physical and existential struggle of a laborer, but it’s more successful in depicting the former than the latter.

    I, Dreamer (1953)
    This entry in the collection shows that Miller had range in how he told a story, with this one told from the perspective of an artificial intelligence/human intelligence hybrid with a different understanding and perception of the world (it being a spaceship and all). Again an interesting setting, mostly hinted at, that may well be stronger for not being fully explained, and that has at its heart an emotional core. It has similarities to, but is overall more successful than, Miller’s story The Big Hunger discussed below. One of the best works of the collection.

    Dumb Waiter (1952)
    The story has very good setting, an abandoned post-war city where an AI, unable to understand the changed circumstances, continues to enforce minor laws like jaywalking. It wonderfully illustrates bureaucracy gone mad. However, the main character takes actions that don’t make sense, having entered the city without thinking things through (despite allegedly being quite intelligent), which drags down the entire tale. Some of the protagonist’s talk of the need for everyone to understand basic engineering also smacks of Miller preaching to his readers, which is not to say he's wrong.

    Blood Bank (1952)
    An intriguing mystery set up, but its last third quickly devolves into pulp and the reveal does not satisfy. More interaction between Roki and Daleth may have improved the story, as their relationship (even if not developed much) was one of the story’s highlights, as was the brief exploration of the differences between the different cultures of this future universe.

    Big Joe and the Nth Generation (1952)
    The classic sci-fi premise of a society losing its understanding of technology and regressing, though the remnants of that knowledge still remain, and a free thinker who starts to put the pieces back together. It’s not explored here in nearly as interesting a way as in A Canticle for Leibowitz, instead Big Joe and the Nth Generation is the pulpiest story in the collection, with flat and boring characters that are stock archetypes and that participate in by-the-numbers action.

    The Big Hunger (1952)
    A story told, not from the perspective of a spaceship like I, Dreamer, but told from the perspective of the concept of space travel. It depicts a bifurcated cycle of human development where the species is divided between those with an insatiable desire to explore but who are never satisfied, and those who lack such a drive who (as a result) either stagnate or destroy themselves. It’s a bit thought provoking as a symbolic story, but didn’t resonate with me or strike me as true to human nature.

    Conditionally Human (1952)
    This story spends far too much of its length establishing its premise, which is complicated but boils down to posing the old sci-fi question “what does it mean to be human?” It would have been better if the question was posed faster, and more was done with it. As it stands, our protagonist’s answer to that question shifts too quickly to feel real, and the ending feels both rushed and forced, thus the story as a whole isn’t emotionally impactful.

    The Darfsteller (1955)
    Protagonist is a slave to the theater, and a slave to the old ways. As an artist himself, I’m impressed that Miller gives the automation of theater angle as much legitimacy as it has in this story—it’s initially presented as less sympathetic than the protagonist’s position of dedication to human actors, but automation in the space isn’t presented as purely vile. Indeed, Miller makes the entire story very nuanced—the protagonist is proud that he’s not a sell-out, but admits that he probably couldn’t have sold out even if he wanted to. He speaks of other people deluding themselves but is clearly doing the same himself. His very actions highlight the superiority of the technology he hates. And, interestingly, the story suggests that the acting technology isn’t even performing to its utmost, but rather has been constrained so as to appeal to the lowest common denominator. Somewhere out there I’m sure there’s a retired elevator operator, lamp lighter, switchboard operator who is convinced that they did it better than how it’s done today. The Darfsteller gives us a world where actors have been added to that pile of obsolescence, and makes you contemplate what their role in society truly is. Another of the collection's best.

    Dark Benediction (1951)
    There are lots of science fiction tales of a post-apocalyptic world caused by a deadly plague, but here Miller gives us such a world followed by a non-lethal plague variant. The story could have done a better job at creating tension, since the protagonist is in many situations that should feel harrowing but don’t. And the plot could have been more interesting if it were more complex—such as through the changes brought on by infection not being clearly beneficial. Finally, the protagonist falls in love with the girl far too quickly to be satisfying. But overall this was a perfectly solid story.

    The Lineman (1957)
    Similar to Crucifixus Ethiam, The Lineman is about manual laborers working off-planet, this time on the Moon and not Mars. This story is focused on giving you a slice of life of those laborers as they work a tough job surrounded only by other men, which is disrupted by the unexpected arrival of a spaceship. I enjoyed how there were political machinations at work that the laborers were aware of and cared about, but did not play an important role in, like actual labor legislation today. This one has less of a conclusion than Crucifixus Ethiam, but I can’t envision any conclusion being very satisfying and I liked what there was of it.

    Vengeance For Nikolai (1957)
    An interesting choice for an end to the collection, this story centers on a Russian mother that has lost her infant child in an American military invasion and who becomes an assassin built on revenge. It has only light science fiction elements, being first-and-foremost a war story. The focus is again on the emotions and character of the protagonist, as well as those around her, and it’s a nice change of pace from the earlier stories that hammers home Miller's range as an author. Paperback It was hard to like this book, overall. A couple of stories were good, but most of the stories were mediocre, imo, and guilty of what so much sci-fi (and really most literature) of the era is guilty of: sexism. Barf.

    4 stars
    Crucifixus Etiam
    (He was crucified also for us)
    Mars was being transformed for future settlement by Earthlings.
    He had been on Mars only a month, and it hurt. Each time he swung the heavy pick into the red - Brown sod, his face winced with pain. The plastic aerator valves, surgically stitched in his chest, pulled and twisted and seem to tear with each lurch of his body. The mechanical oxygenator served as a lung, sucking blood through an artificially grafted network of veins and plastic tubing, frothing it with air from a chemical generator, and returning it to his circulatory system. Breathing was unnecessary, except to provide wind for talking, but Manue breathed in desperate gulps of the 4.0 psi Martian air; for he had seen the wasted, atrophied chests of the men who had served four or five years, and he knew that on return to earth - if ever - they would still need the auxiliary oxygenator equipment.

    4 stars
    I Dreamer
    You know how they take baby cows away from mama cows so Humans can drink their milk? In this story, human babies are taken away from their mamas to become weaponized spaceships.

    5 stars
    Conditionally Human
    Anthropos' mutant pets fulfilled a basic biological need of man--of all life, for that matter. The need to have young, or a reasonable facsimile, and care for them. Neutroids kept humanity satisfied with the restricted birth rate, and if it were not satisfied, it would breed itself into famine, epidemic, and possible Extinction. With the population Held constant at 5 billion, the federation could ensure a decent living standard for everyone. And as long as birth must be restricted, why not restrict it logically and limit it to genetic desirables?

    The world was a better place wasn't it? Great strides since the last century. Science has made life easier to live and harder to lose. The populace thoughtlessly responded by pouring forth a flood of babies and doddering old codgers to Clutter the Earth and make things tougher again by eating and not producing; but again science increase the individual's chances to survive and augmented his motives for doing so--and again the populace responded with the fecundity and long white beards, making more trouble for science again. so it has continued until it became obvious that progress wasn't headed toward the good life but toward more life to continue the same old mesger life as always. What could be done? Impede science? Unthinkable! Chuck the old codgers into the sea? Advanced the retirement age to 90 and work them to death? The old codgers still has a suffrage, and plenty of time to go to the polls. P. 235-6

    Miller's solution is Anthropos' mutants.

    4 stars
    Dark Benediction

    Was man, as Seevers implied, a terrorized ape- tribe fleeing it logically from the Grey hands that only wanted to offer a blessing? How narrow was the line dividing blessing from Curse, god from demon! The parasites came in a devil's mask, the mask of disease. 'Diseases have often killed me,' said man. 'All disease is therefore evil.' But was that necessarily true? Fire had often killed man's club - bearing ancestors, but later came to serve him. Even diseases have been used to good advantage - artificially induced typhoid and malaria to fight venereal infections.
    But the gray skin... Taste buds in the fingertips... Alien micro - organisms tampering with the nerves in the brain. Such concepts caused his scalp to Bristle. Man--made over to suit the tastes of a bunch of supposedly beneficent parasite - was he still man, or something else? Little bacteriological Farmers embedded in the skin, raising a crop of nerve cells - eat one, plant two, sow an olfactor in a new field, reshuffle the feeder - fibers to the brain. P.383

    Paperback This book is an anthology of shorter fiction by the author of Canticle for Leibowitz. Here's a story-by-story review...

    You Triflin' Skunk--A poor, rural mother is worried about her son who is both sick and seemingly delusional. He thinks his long absent father is about to come back and that his father is an alien about to lead an invasion of Earth. It's not as explicit in the story as I describe it, which is to the story's benefit.

    The Will--A boy dying of leukemia wants to find a cure. The hope of a cure happening soon seems foolhardy. Everyone believes that a cure will one day be found but probably not in time to save his life. The boy is a fan of a television science fiction show about a time-traveling captain, which gives him an inspiration to solve his problem. The characters are well drawn and the boy's final solution is both brilliant and moving.

    Anybody Else Like Me?--A woman suffering from ennui discovers she has a telepathic connection to a stranger. The stranger knows about it and can use it to his advantage, since it communicates more than just information. He can see with her eyes and put images not just in her head but in her vision. She's very unhappy about that, so when he tries to come calling, bad things happen. The story is very engaging and has a satisfying ending.

    Crucifixus Etiam--Manue is a laborer on Mars. In addition to the backbreaking work of digging and pouring concrete, he has to deal with the extra-thin air supply. A respirator is installed in his chest, like everyone else. If he manages it right his lungs will still be functioning when his five-year contract is up and he returns to Earth. By then, he'll be wealthy enough to travel the world and see amazing sights. If he can make it through the hardship. A lot of men give up on managing the respirator and lose their lungs. That means they lose the possibility of a normal life back on Earth. Some have just accepted it and become lifers on Mars. Manue's struggle to find meaning is difficult...will he find some consolation? The story is a bit bleak except for the ending, which I found thought-provoking.

    I, Dreamer--An intelligent machine with a flaw that causes illogic and disobedience tries to understand its place in what's going on. It has a male teacher, who is a bit rough with it and does not provide a full account of things. It also has a female technician, who is not supposed to talk to it but the machine works up the nerve to ask about songs she hums. It can't sing except in dreams it has. There's interpersonal drama between the teacher and the technician that leads to more revelations about the machine. The story is another exploration of what it means to be human.

    Dumb Waiter--After a future war, people have fled the city which still runs from a central computer. The radiation dust has lost its potency but people are still afraid to go there. Not so Mitch Laskel. He wants to reprogram the system so people can live a civilized life again. He runs into a lot of human obstacles as well as the city central computer which is still enforcing laws and ordinances in the absence of any human direction. The story is an interesting exploration of how dependent people become on technology and how to overcome the help the computers provide. The world is well developed and Mitch is an interesting hero.

    Blood Bank--A strict, honor-bound military commander has blown up a ship of medical supplies when it refused to be boarded and inspected. He's summarily dismissed from service even though he is sure there must have been some contraband or other illegal substances on the ship. Nothing untoward was detected in the wreckage. To clear his name, he travels as a civilian to the source of the mercy ship, a planet outside the civilized space known as Sol III. It's rumored to be the source of humanity. The moral conundrums in the story are more interesting than the science (there's a lot of focus on the mechanics of their drive systems). I liked the guy's quest to prove himself right in spite of everyone else thinking he's a monster. The discussion of culture clash between his culture and other cultures (Sol's culture and other worlds in his league) is interesting and relevant even today (probably because it is an on-going problem in any larger community that has many sub-communities).

    Big Joe and the Nth Generation--A rebellious guy is being crucified (almost literally) for his crime of thievery. He's been stealing information about Mars (where he lives). The atmosphere is slowly bleeding off and he wants to restart the subterranean generators that first made the human-friendly atmosphere. The current rulers are not interested in his ideas but he is clever enough to make some progress at least getting past the guardian (the Big Joe of the title) protecting the generators. This story is more a perfunctory and world-building adventure than a human interest story. This might be my least favorite story in the collection.

    The Big Hunger--A very poetic tale traces the history of mankind across the stars. Two sorts of people are born, those who are content on the world where they live and those who have the Big Hunger, the desire to travel the stars and find that original Paradise from which we were originally cast out. Sometimes the hunger is not so explicit in its goals but it does inspire people to reach out for the stars. The narrative is given by the spaceship that helps man cross the vast distances and then is left to rust. The spaceship always comes back when the civilization is advanced enough to feed the hunger. The story is an enjoyably different look at the sweep of human history and more so of human ambition.

    Conditionally Human--In a population-controlled future, only certain couples are allowed to have children. Others have the opportunity to adopt genetically-engineered pets as substitutes. They are called neutroids and have human-like features (human faces, talking, maybe intelligence?) but other bits (a tail and a limit to their aging) that are decidedly inhuman. Terry Norris is an animal controller, which includes the neutroids that people get too attached to. He and his new wife Anne have a hard time since they are not allowed to have children and she can't stand the part of his job where he has to put to sleep the animals that are abandoned or have other problems. Norris gets a new order from his boss--collect a certain set of neutroids because a rouge geneticist has made at least one that isn't neuter. If they start reproducing, that could be bad for business and bad for people who think the neutroids should have human rights. The situation is fairly complicated and the human drama caused by the human experimentation makes for thought-provoking reading.

    The Darfstellar--A darfstellar is a certain type of actor: a Method actor who doesn't just perform a character but becomes the character. Such an actor becomes the embodiment of the role which can become a problem for directors or producers who want to craft the overall theatrical presentation, not just a specific role. In this story, that problem has been over for at least ten years. Actors have been replaced by life-like mannequins that are based on real actors who have sold their appearance and even their acting style to Smithfield, the business producing the pseudo-actors. The whole show is run by a machine called the Maestro that dictates the performances and can compensate for any malfunctions. The hero of the story is the theater's janitor, Ryan Thornier, who was an actor ten years ago and is on the verge of being fired from the janitor role and being replaced by a Smithfield-like robot that can do janitor work. The theater is mounting a performance of the last play Thornier was almost in. Circumstances and contrivances lead him onto the stage for one last...statement? The general contour of the story is obvious from the beginning but the path is so interesting and the insights about acting and performing are convincing enough to make a compelling story. Thornier is a complicated character and his grappling with his problems fleshes out the world and drives the story forward nicely.

    Dark Benediction--In a plague-ridden present, infected people have gray skin and want to infect others through touch. Paul is a healthy, normal human trying to be smart about how he wanders through the apocalyptic landscape. He plans to go into the ruins of Houston but he's convinced to head in a different direction. He travels with a woman to Galveston, hoping to be safe on the island. He soon discovers that the island is a haven for the plague-ridden, who are rebuilding their own society. They look on themselves as a future. Paul has a hard time adapting to the situation. The story has a lot of rich detail and a much deeper understand of human nature and behavior than you'd expect.

    The Lineman--Work crews on the moon are trying to hook various locations together so that things run more smoothly. But work on the moon is really tough. The men are constantly threatened by the environment (both dangers on the moon's surface and the dangers of the delicately balanced biospheres) and by the pressure of living in close quarters. Women aren't allowed there since nearly universal birth defects happen. Some guys come for the high pay that will make life easier back on Earth, as long as they have family to come back to. Protagonist Relke's Earth-bound wife left him for someone else, so he's grumpy and likely to stay longer. The moon-madness is always threatening, especially when he sees what he thinks might be an alien ship coming. Or when he has a run-in with the Party, an underground group trying to overthrow corporate control. His hard life changes quite a bit when the foreign ship lands and has a most unexpected crew. The story has an amazing amount of detail and history to it. Relke is an interesting character and the story moved in ways I wasn't able to anticipate. Good stuff.

    Vengeance for Nikolai--The Americans have invaded the Soviet Union with intense fighting causing death all around. A young Russian woman has lost her infant son. She is recruited for a covert mission: to be captured and to assassinate the American general who is masterminding the invasion. She reluctantly agrees as her handler explains the weird weapon they plan to use. She goes through with it, having a harrowing journey as a prisoner who is eventually taken to the top man. Making the Soviets the sympathetic protagonists is daring (the story was published in 1957) and a lot of the expectations of the reader are reversed. The point seems that war is horrible and it often makes people horrible, or at least do horrible things. Vengeance is not a pretty thing.

    This collection provides a lot of food for thought and has a lot of interesting ideas. Even though moon bases and Martian bases still seem too far off in the future, Miller's stories have a moral realism that is easy to identify with and enjoy pondering.

    Recommended--like any anthology, some are hits and some are not.

    The title story is part of the triptych on A Good Story is Hard to Find #267.
    Paperback A masterwork. Full of emotional and humanistic characteristics that bring his stories life and charming. Without humourous sense, Miller produces short fictions excited, frightened and unforgetable as more indispensable as for human to think of its own future. He is not a futurist, whose interest is to look forward into the future and predict what the world would become; instead, a person who looks back in the past and apprehend the inner of human race, actually as the same thing that Arthur C. Clark has done in the first part of his classic 2001 : A Space Odyssey. It must be considered one of the major works assigned for readers who want to penetrate into the miracle of the world of science fictions.

    In my personal choices, I like the stories 'The Will', 'The Big Hunger' and 'Dark Benediction'. If anyone asking me which novella is interesting for the beginners, I would mention these. Though it is better tasting all without missing a word than choosing only two or three stories to read.

    After finishing this one, I'm looking forward to tasting his classic 'A Canticle for Leibowitz'. I would love to start reading it sooner. Paperback

    Distinguished short story collection produced by one of the best writers in the science fiction world, previously published as The Best of Walter M. Miller Jr in 1980. This essential collection contains fourteen short stories from the 1950's: 'You Triflin' Skunk!', 'The Will', 'Anybody Else Like Me?', 'Crucifixus Ethiam', 'I, Dreamer', 'Dumb Waiter', 'Blood Bank', 'Big Joe and the Nth Generation', 'The Big Hunger', 'Conditionally Human', 'The Darfsteller', 'Dark Benediction', 'The Lineman' and 'Vengeance For Nikolai'. Dark Benediction