Spoiler alert! Spoilers are in this review!
I first read this collection of short stories in 1992. It includes a reprint of the 1983 story, “The Toynbee Convector” that appeared in the January 1984 issue of “Playboy.”
Here is the story plot/summary. The story’s protagonist claims to have returned from the future. He has tapes and films of a miraculous technological wonderland. Humankind has solved all its major problems – no cancer, no world hunger, etc. This energizes the world with confidence. People believe that their dreams will come true. They proceed to build that future.
They have no idea that future is all a lie. The lie pictures a wondrous future. It describes this future in breath-taking detail. There is almost an action plan with hints as to how to get there. The world’s brain trust of scientists, economists, and politicians take the clues and make this future a reality.
Then comes the day when we are at the time and place where the protagonist is to appear from the past in the created future. A major deflection occurs. You have to read the story for the conclusion. It is worth reading.
The book has twenty-two other stories. While the other stories in the collection are good and “worth the read,” none match the opening story. The majority are reprints from magazine articles.
I nominate the short story of “The Toynbee Convector” for the best fantasy/science fiction short story ever written. It is that good.
Photo Sources: The cover of the hardbound first edition along with Ray Bradbury’s signature inside the first edition.