Two recent releases offer great escapism from reality, whisking the reader away to strange planets and unusual adventures.
"Redshirts" (Tor, $24.99) by Hugo Award-winning author John Scalzi, is a fast-paced, funny tale that's set in the 25th century.
It introduces Ensign Andrew Dahl, who's just been assigned to the Universal Union Central Capital Ship Intrepid.
All seems well at first, until Dahl realizes that there's a problem - every time there's an Away Mission, it involves lethal confrontation with alien forces.
He catches on to a few other inconsistencies - three of the Starship's officers on the missions always survive and one low-ranking crew member (or more) inevitably is killed.
Dahl goes on an Away Mission and survives; but many of his suspicions are confirmed. Dahl faces more challenges as he tries to convince other crew members that something is definitely wrong.
If you're thinking that this is a take-off on the plots from the old Star Trek television series - you're absolutely right! But Scalzi does it in a quite humorous way, with a variety of unpredictable plot twists.
Scalzi, author of the best-selling "Old Man's War" series, "Fuzzy Nation" and other science fiction novels, adds three additional codas to the volume, which add more insights and a satisfying conclusion.
"Tales from Super-Science Fiction", (Haffner Press, $32) edited by Robert Silverberg, is an intriguing collection of imaginative short stories that originally were published in the magazine from 1956 to 1959.
It features a brief informative introduction to the history of the publication, including insights involving Harlan Ellison and its amiable, experienced editor, R.R. Scott.
Silverberg's selections showcase a variety of interests, from bug-eyed aliens to early spaceflight and creepy monsters. He offers 14 stories by a wide assortment of authors, including many names that are easily recognizable by loyal genre readers.
"Catch 'Em All Alive" by Silverberg focuses on a planetary exploration team from Earth and unusual discoveries. Robert Bloch's "Broomstick Ride" explores the usage of witchcraft on a planet while Jack Vance offers "Worlds of Origin", an excellent Magnus Ridolph tale.
There's great cover art by Kelly Freas as well as black and white interior graphics by Ed Emshwiller and others.
Silverberg, who's won numerous Hugo and Nebula awards, has masterfully edited a great collection of short stories that's ideal for dedicated science fiction fans.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop, has reviewed books regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on Sunday, September 30, 2012.