Poul Anderson, Murray Leinster, Robert Bloch, Isaac Asimov, and Robert Sheckley pool their talents in a classic round-robin novella that stretches humanity almost to the breaking point on the rack of Time and Space.
Humanity was falling before the onslaught of the Cloud People, soon the last remains would be wiped out. So they sent Ban to the Prophetess for an oracle. "What you must overcome is Time itself," she told him and sent him off accompanied only by the youngest of her handmaidens. But as he approached the realm of the Cloud People, Ban was horror stricken to see his weapons disintegrate into rust and find himself withering and dying of old age!
Here, from the July 1960 issue of the legendary pulp Fantastic, is a rare pyrotechnic display of sf writing skills and styles. More than a great story, it is a revelation into how the minds of the great writers tick. Poul Anderson, creating his bravura characters and situations; Isaac Asimov, grounding the conflict in a framework of theory-in-action; then Bob Sheckley ripping the fabric by going to the ends of the galaxy for complications; penultimately, Murray Leinster adeptly beginning to fuse the story's strands; and finally Bob Bloch taking the wildly disheveled story and tying it up in a brilliant job of plot resolution, down to the patly ironic last sentence.
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