One of the 1968 volumes in the long-running sf anthology series. The highlights for me were a Sector General story from James White , and a novella from Colin Kapp that was definitely not an Unorthodox Engineers story, but which pressed some of the same buttons (at least for me). As usual with this series, I personally didn’t like everything in the collection, but thought it was all well-written.
Vertigo — James White
A Galactic Survey ship comes across a decidedly peculiar planet which the crew promptly name Meatball. While they debate how to recognise any intelligent lifeforms, the lifeform solves the problem for them by sending up a primitive rocketship. It appears to be in difficulty, so the survey ship rescues ship and pilot, and carts it off to Sector General for the pilot to receive medical treatment. It’s up to Conway and friends to work out why the rescue seems to have made things worse…
It is in general a fun and interesting story, but I did find it rather implausible that the medics took so long to realise what the basic problem was, especially given the Great Big Clue in the initial encounter.
(Later included in the Sector General fix-up novel “Major Operation”, which is where I first read it.)
Visions of Monad — M John Harrison
Psychological study of a man who has been the subject of a sensory deprivation experiment. Well-written, but didn’t work for me.
Worm in the bud — John Rankine
Short story in the Dag Fletcher space opera series. Fletcher’s on a diplomatic mission to a hostile planet. Part of that mission is a one-man geological survey with limited supplies in a remote part of the planet — so why are the natives finding all sorts of ways to delay pick-up of the geologist past the safe time limit?
They Shall Reap — David Rome
A young family give up everything to make a fresh start in a new community of farms founded by wealthy philanthropists. The valley is even more isolated than they realise, and with reason. While I liked the writing, John Wyndham had covered this territory a decade earlier, and to better effect.
The Last Time Around — Arthur Sellings
Poignant exploration of the social and emotional effects of being a pilot on a relativistic ship, with your subjective time decoupled from the objective time of your society. This theme has been covered by many writers, but this is one of the best ones I’ve read.
The Cloudbuilders — Colin Kapp
In a low-tech world, hot air balloons are the main form of long-distance travel. Jacobi the Journeyman joins Timor the master Cloudbuilder, bringing personal experience of new techniques developed by their Guild. But that’s not all he brings.