Those Idiots from Earth was one of my random purchases. I love browsing used book stores and picking up random older titles, just to see what I find. Sometimes they are good, sometimes not so much, and sometimes I discover a new favorite author (of which I have several). This little gem is full of fun stories by Richard Wilson, an author I had not previously read. My favorite stories include “It’s Cold Outside”, “Lonely Road”, “Press Conference”, “The Inhabited”, “Don’t Fence Me In”, and “Honor”.
The worries of the time are readily apparent in “It’s Cold Outside”, a cautionary tale about the government controlling more and more of peoples’ lives. It felt influenced (in parts) by both 1984 and Animal Farm due to the way the government tried to control everything. The story shares the joys of parenthood and creativity while also pointing out the ills of a government that controls too much. I enjoyed the resolution to this story.
What if you were, quite literally (and as far as you could tell), the last man on Earth? Clarence finds himself in this situation as a trucker in “Lonely Road”. His tension and concern builds as the story progresses, as Clarence becomes more desperate to find anyone. Wilson ties everything in a neat bow at the end, using an analogy to which we can all relate.
Having listened to many press conferences, I can relate to the frustration of the reporters in “Press Conference”. Having an event of astronomical proportions while also having very little information to share with the public is bound to drive anyone crazy. However, Wilson shows the reader that less information is sometimes enough. This story was first published 64 years ago, and I can’t imagine how our current 24-hour news cycle would handle such an issue. It would probably end up like the Weekly World News.
I’ve ready many alien invasion stories, ranging from giant alien fleets to spores from passing asteroid and comets. Interdimensional alien invasions are less common, and only a few spring to mind. Interdimensional invasions that involve possession of host bodies here on this planet are even more rare. I found the way it was handled in “The Inhabited” to be delightful, and parts of it reminded me of K-PAX (the film, not the book). This was a really fun tale, and a solid addition to Those Idiots from Earth.
We all have tales of that one guy who tells crazy stories in the bar, stories no one would ever believe. “Don’t Fence Me In” is just such a story. It’s told from the perspective of a drunk pilot telling his grand adventure to a sympathetic alien ear. While none of the action actually happens during the story (it’s told past tense), I could just imagine the spacer waving around his arms while enthusiastically trying to convince me of just how things really happened. Prepare to smile while reading this one.
The main characters from “Love” (written in 1952), a blind Earth woman named Ellen and Martian named Jac, are now happily married after Ellen received an amazing gift at the end of that story. “Honor” (1956), a direct sequel, has Ellen and Jac trying to capitalize on the gift from the first story. Unfortunately, bigotry raises its ugly head, and they have to find a way to share the gift without people knowing its source. I thought Wilson handled the topic masterfully and without diminishing the enjoyability of the story.
Those Idiots from Earth was an amazing find. I found a great new (at least to me) author to enjoy, and 10 great stories, too. Anyone in their teens or older should enjoy them. There is adventure, love, addressing of social issues, and alien invasion all wrapped up in a very engaging package. I hope someone republishes this collection or at least includes the stories in a new anthology. I recommend hunting it down and reading it.
“Those Idiots from Earth” Three point five stars
“The Inhabited” Five point zero stars
“The Hoaxters” Four point zero stars
“Lonely Road” Five point zero stars
“Love” Four point zero stars
“Honor” Four point five stars
“88 Beats 266” Four point zero stars
“Don’t Fence Me In” Four point five stars
“Press Conference” Five point zero stars
“It’s Cold Outside” Five point zero stars
Release Date: 1957 (USA)
Publisher: Ballantine Books
Alcohol/Drugs: 1 (brief, social)
Language: 1 (brief, mild, deity)
Sexuality: 1 (implied sex)
Violence: 1 (implied violence, some fisticuffs)