This book has some special meaning for me because I remember that my brother-in-law (who introduced me to science fiction) had a copy of it when he and my sister lived down the street from us in the early Seventies. I borrowed it from him and read the title story, but I don’t think I ever got around to the others. The stories in THE VORTEX BLASTERS were pulled from another anthology edited by Sam Moskowitz, MODERN MASTERPIECES OF SCIENCE FICTION, published by World Publishing Company in 1965. “Masterpieces” might be going a little too far, but there are some good stories in here.“The Vortex Blasters” (originally published in COMET, July 1941 under the title “The Vortex Blaster”) was my introduction to the work of Edward E. “Doc” Smith, PhD. (Gotta add the PhD after his name.) It’s set in the same universe as his magnum opus, the Lensman series, and is sometimes counted as part of that series although the only Lensman in the story is a supporting character. The protagonist is an atomic scientist named Neal “Storm” Cloud. Earth has atomic power, but it’s not very stable and will sometimes generate out-of-control vortices, which are basically atomic tornadoes. One of those vortices kills Cloud’s wife and children, and in his obsession for vengeance he comes up with a way to destroy these violent forces of nature.
I enjoy Doc Smith’s work, but I’m not a huge fan. His prose is pretty stiff and his dialogue usually sounds like nothing that ever came out of a human mouth. But his ideas are always big and interesting and the stories move along well. His stodgy heroes kind of grow on me, too. I enjoyed “The Vortex Blasters” when I read it 40-some-odd years ago, and I enjoyed it when I reread it now, too. That same long-ago summer, my brother-in-law and I both read Smith’s Skylark of Space series. That was enough Doc Smith to last me for a good long while. He had a huge influence on science fiction for decades, though.
So all in all, THE VORTEX BLASTERS is a pretty strong anthology, with a couple of excellent stories (“We Guard the Black Planet!” and “Requiem”), several very good ones, and only one that I didn’t care for—and it wasn’t terrible. I’m glad I finally got around to reading the whole thing after so many years.