L. Sprague de Camp, Aristotle and the Gun and Other Stories (Five Star, 2002)

This book is a collection of six stories previously published between 1939 and 1993.

"Aristotle and the Gun" is a story of a modern scientist trying to go back in time in order to help Aristotle understand the scientific method which would, in his opinion, make the world a better place to live in. "The Gnarly Man" tells the legend of a Neanderthal man living in the present and his meeting of some scientists interested in studying him; he wants to get some bones healed and they want to study him. The story shows ironically the amount of double-dealing that goes on in such a case.

"A Gun for Dinosaur," "The Honeymoon Dragon," and "The Mislaid Mastodon" are all connected by a time travel chamber, used by various people to travel to the distant past -- to the dinosaur era, in fact, to hunt these animals for fun. Reginald Rivers is the guide, and he tells us some fascinating stories about things that happened to him while taking his travelers into the deep forests.

"Nothing in the Rules" is a funny fantasy tale of someone entering a mermaid into a women's swimming competition. The story is about seeing just how far competition rules can be bent. "Two Yards of Dragon" tells the story of a young prince and his manservant, who are trying to hunt a dragon and run across some trouble. This is another very funny story.

All of the stories in this collection are fairly short, very readable and mostly also very funny. The author manages to paint a believable picture and wrap it up in a scientifically conceivable way. This book is a very nice presentation of L. Sprague de Camp's style, which blends fantasy and science fiction. I recommend it as light reading, suitable for readers of all ages. The copy I read is hardcover, 238 pages.


[Guy Soffer]