The Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume One (2005) ed. Robert Silverberg
All I wanted to do was read some good ol' sci-fi.
I picked up this book thinking, "hmm, if it's a collection of 'The Greatest Science Fiction Stories of All Time Chosen by the Members of the Science Fiction Writers of America,' it must be REALLY good."
And I read it and it rocked so hard it was like getting punched in the stomach and run over by an eighteen-wheeler- in a good way. If that makes sense.
Here not only did I find some of the greatest stories ever written- about underwater life, human exploration of Mars, the quiet end of the world, etc.- but some of the greatest writers whose further works I've sought out. Theodore Sturgeon's "Microcosmic God," about a scientist who creates microscopic creatures that evolve at high speed, is just plain fantastic. "The Nine Billion Names of God" by Arthur C. Clarke is quietly terrifying: monks, a supercomputer, and the end of the world are all packed into just a few pages. Genius, I tell you, GENIUS. And don't get me started on the nightmares I still have that were caused by Ray Bradbury's "Mars is Heaven!" and Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life." Whew.
I'm telling you- read this book. Read it. Because it's flat-out amazing.