By Keith Laumer
Brion Bayard, once of our own timeline and now Imperium Agent extraordinaire, had been on some pretty dangerous missions before - but never had he encountered so noxious a foe as the invading legions of giant plague-ridden rats who walked like men, spreading disease across the miltiple universes of the Imperium. Unless Bayard can travel to the original world of the long-tailed invaders and stop the plague at its source, the Earth of the Imperium and all the other Earths in all the universes will fall before the verminous hordes from a timeline that should never have existed in the first place.
By John Russell Fearn, Bryan Shaw
Using the secret motive power of a lost a lost flying saucer, physicist Micael Arnott, three companions and an escaped convict are flung into the void at eight times the speed of light to eventually land, after the oblivion of acceleration, upon a world that is both extraordinary and terrifying.Their machine disappears and they themselves also vanish one by one, Michael Arnott going first when he is on the verge of explaining the mystery of this far-flung world.That the planet is inhabited seems obvious from queerly designed spaceships glimpsed at intervals, all of them blazoned with a "Z", which is not so much an alphabet letter as a symbol of a master-race of scientists.In their efforts to solve the riddle of the world and system to which they have been hurled, the perplexed travellers gradually realise they are not only involved in an odyssey of space, but in a problem of Time as well. They are forced to the conclusion that, just as the first supersonic airmen paid a penalty of mental blackout for breaking the barrier of sound, so there is also a penalty for exceeding Fitzgerald's Law - namely that 186,000 miles per second is the ultimate possible speed.
By John Glasby, Paul Lorraine
To the crew of the Exploratory Ship Canopus, outward bound on the first intergalactic voyage to the flaring suns of mighty Andromeda, the evil whisperings that spilled out from the nebula into deep space came as a warning. This was something far beyond their previous experience. Nor were they the only ones to come under the malignant influence of the alien intelligence. In the empty, murmuring void, virtually half-way between the two galaxies of stars, a solitary sun streaked away from Andromeda, dragging its lonely, ammonia-laden planet with it. And it was here that the explorers first gained their glimpse of the black horror that lay straddled across the intergalactic darkness. Something that had being. Something that existed where it seemed impossible that anything could.It fell on Klau-Telph, the only non-Terran on board the Canopus, to finally track down and destroy the inhuman monster that threatened to drive the inhabitants of a trillion planets over the red edge of madness. Not until it was done did he find that the hidden reason behind the insidious whisperings was not what it seemed. In fact, it was something that even he, with his strange double mind, had never thought possible...
By John Glasby, Rand Le Page
Over the long years, ships of the Interplanetary Confederation had scoured the empty wastes surrounding Sol, searching desperately for a sister planet; a companion for the isolated worlds of the Solar System. Of the ships that were sent out, many returned. But always the answer was the same.There were no planets! The worlds of Sol were alone in the Great Dark that swirled across the boundless heavens. It was not until Steve Rane and Nick Brodine, in the Exploratory Ship Vega, reached across the yawning gulf of light years to Sirius, that they found the strange planet that rotated in its complicated orbit around the twin sun. It was an event transcending all others. A discovery that plunged the planets of Sol into the greatest race of all time. For whoever controlled the alien planet, controlled the Solar System. And away from the watchful eye of the IPC it would be possible to build the greatest space armada in history and attack the Interplanetary Confederation without warning.To Steve Rane, the order came from Earth Central. Zero Point has been set for three months hence. The ship of Jupiter must not reach the new planet first.
Zero Minus X
By Karl Zeigfreid, Lionel Fanthorpe, Patricia Fanthorpe
Man is an intelligent mammal. His intelligence lies in his brain. In mammals the tissues of the central nervous system are irreplaceable. The human brain contains something like 100,000,000,000,000 neurons, but 100,000 are destroyed on average each day of a man's life. Cosmic rays and general internal and external radioactivity account for most of this destruction.Hunger and Gradey decided on an illegal experiment. They brought up a small group of children in a strange artificial setting where there was practically no radiation. The setting was improved. The environment grew more shielded as generations passed. At last the Thinkers exploded into a world that had not dreamed of their existence. The world was facing other complications at the moment. An alien had appeared from the other side of the cosmos! Humanity was faced with two potentially deadly enemies; could they be turned against each other, or was one a secret friend?
The Zen Gun
By Barrington J. Bayley
Pout, the chimera, half-man, half-ape, was incorporated into one of the plants or vice versa. He was jammed into a squatting position, while the stems, entering at his buttocks, merged with his legs, his arms and his torso, emerging at knees, elbows, and through his abdomen and thorax. A large, yellow-petalled flower seemed to frame his face.It was his face that rivetted Ikematsu's attention, while the chimera squirmed in dumb distress, glaring with huge piteous eyes. For in that face, set into it as if set in pudding, was the zen gun. The gun was his face, or a part of it. The barrel pointed straight out in place of a nose... the stock merged with and disappeared into Pout's pendulous mouth. Ikematsu leaned toward the chimera. "How you loved your toy! Now it is truly yours!"
By E.C. Tubb
Earls Dumarest's quest for his homeland - the legendary planet Earth - had been long and dangerous. Trekking across the galactic wastelands of the Milky Way, he had been pursued and hindered at every step by the deadly Cyclan.Now, just as his search seems to be nearing its close, Dumarest is once again side-tracked - forced to lead an army for Zenya in the deadly feuds of the alien planet of Paiyar . . .(First published 1974)
By Greg Egan
Nasim is a young computer scientist, hoping to work on the Human Connectome Project: a plan to map every neural connection in the human brain. But funding for the project is cancelled, and Nasim ends up devoting her career to Zendegi, a computerised virtual world used by millions of people.Fifteen years later, a revived Connectome Project has published a map of the brain. Zendegi is facing fierce competition from its rivals, and Nasim decides to exploit the map to fill the virtual world with better Proxies: the bit-players that bring its crowd scenes to life. As controversy rages over the nature and rights of the Proxies, a friend with terminal cancer begs Nasim to make a Proxy of him, so some part of him will survive to help raise his orphaned son. But Zendegi is about to become a battlefield ...
Zones of Thought
By Vernor Vinge
Vinge's masterpieces together at last, in one epic volumeThe Hugo Award winning A FIRE UPON THE DEEP and its epic companion novel A DEEPNESS IN THE SKY, set in the same universe but 20,000 years earlier, were benchmarks for SF in the last decade of the 20th century. In FIRE 'Vinge presents a galaxy divided into Zones - regions where different physical constraints allow very different technological and mental possibilities. Earth remains in the "Slowness" zone, where nothing can travel faster than light and minds are fairly limited. The action of the book is in the "Beyond", where translight travel and other marvels exist, and humans are one of many intelligent species. One human colony has been experimenting to find a path to the "Transcend", where intelligence and power are so great as to seem godlike. Instead they release the Blight, an evil power, from a billion-year captivity.' Publisher's Weekly In DEEPNESS, 'the story has the same sense of epic vastness despite happening mostly in one isolated solar system. Here there's a world of intelligent spider creatures who traditionally hibernate through the "Deepest Darkness" of their strange variable sun's long "off" periods, when even the atmosphere freezes. Now, science offers them an alternative. Meanwhile, attracted by spider radio transmissions, two human starfleets come exploring - merchants hoping for customers and tyrants who want slaves. Their inevitable clash leaves both fleets crippled, with the power in the wrong hands, which leads to a long wait in space until the spiders develop exploitable technology. Over the years Vinge builds palpable tension through multiple storylines and characters.' Dave Langford
By Alastair Reynolds
A fabulous collection spanning the galaxies and career of SF superstar Alastair ReynoldsReynolds' pursuit of truth is not limited to wide-angle star smashing - not that stars don't get pulverised when one character is gifted (or cursed) with an awful weapon by the legendary Merlin. Reynolds' protagonists find themselves in situations of betrayal, whether by a loved one's accidental death, as in 'Signal to Noise', or by a trusted wartime authority, in 'Spirey and the Queen'. His fertile imagination can resurrect Elton John on Mars in 'Understanding Space and Time' or make prophets of the human condition out of pool-cleaning robots in the title story.But overall, the stories in ZIMA BLUE represent a more optimistic take on humanity's future, a view that says there may be wars, there may be catastrophes and cosmic errors, but something human will still survive.