Hellhounds of the Cosmos by Clifford D. Simak
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Short story time from one of my favorite old-school SF authors!
OMG this was not what I expected it to be. The ideas behind this are not so much dated as just plain creative and oddball. You might say the young man Simak was just having a blast. Of course, it was the time of the Great Depression and horror was HUGE at the time and he couldn't resist doing a complete mash-up with hard SF.
But I honestly thought this was pretty damn great! :) Flawed to hell, sure, but I give it top marks for underlying ideas. :)
What was so great about this?
The world is getting torn up by oozy black creatures taking on whatever shape it wants out of our nightmares and nothing we do can stop it. But a corny scientist not only postulates a wild theory, he has a machine to test it. He can change volunteers into our 4th-dimensional selves in order to fight the monsters slipping through the 4th dimension. Handwavium at it's best, but this isn't the good part. :)
Evolution works slightly different than What Darwin would have us think. Simple organisms do become complex ones, but the direction for evolution is reversed on the dimensional playing field. 7th-dimensional life forms evolve into the greater 6th, 6th evolves into the greater 5th, and so on. The scientist assumes, wrongly, that we become a superman living across vastly different time scales when we pass through the machine, sending all these volunteers through to fight our survival in the most epic way imaginable.
What really happens is that we devolve into 4th-dimensional conglomerate intelligences engaged in eternal fisticuffs across all-time against other lumbering monstrous giants.
Oops. We become demons. :)
And it ends with the scientist very publicly committing suicide.
LOL it's like a modern Anime mixed with a little Lovecraft, a B-Movie mixed with a clever Darwinian twist, even a satire lambasting our most cherished tenants.
Yeah, it's also kind-of a bad story, too, but it tickled me. :) We are our own hellhounds. :)
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