Diary Reviews


(1) MACK REYNOLDS – The Rival Rigelians. #3 in his “United Planets” series. Paperback original, 1967. A shorter novella version entitled “Adaptation” appeared in Analog SF, August 1960. Published separately by Wildside Press, trade paperback, July 2020.

   A political lecture in fictionalized form. A team of eighteen is sent to Rigel’s two planets having been given fifty years to bring the abandoned colonies here back to civilization and eventual union with the Galactic Commonwealth. They split into two forces to settle their argument over the optimal plan of action, capitalism or communism.

   This might be a valid premise for a story, except (page 25) Earth has had world government for some time, implying that some political wisdom must have been gained since the present time. The local leaders even realize this and unite to force their unwanted visitors to depart in favor of proper ambassadors.

   “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely,” and Reynolds pulls every trick in the book to make this obvious. He needn’t have tried so hard. The faults of current political systems are obvious enough, without the lecture.

Rating: 2½ stars

Comment: From the online Science Fiction Encyclopedia: “The United Planets Organization [worked] in the cause of socioeconomic progress in the often-eccentric Ultima Thule colony worlds of a Galactic Empire.”

   

(2) A. BERTRAM CHANDLER – Nebula Alert. Empress Irene #3. Paperback original, 1967.

   Ex-empress Irene and the crew of her ship Wanderer enter the Alternate Universe of the Rim Confederacy after being pursued through the Horsehead Nebula. Their cargo consists of two dozen (somehow later twenty-six) Iralian embassy personnel. But the Iralians are capable of transmitting knowledge by heredity and hence are extremely desirable as slaves.

   Thus begins a tale of chase and fast action, but the plot becomes more and more tangled up in itself and fails to be resolved by an ending which comes from nowhere. Possibly OK if read as an adventure story only, but what a waste of undeveloped ideas!

Rating: 2 stars

Comment: Once Irene and her crew pass through the Horsehead Nebula they meet Chandler’s major series character, John Grimes. This is the last Irene story. It was preceded by Empress of Outer Space (1965) and Space Mercenaries (1965).

– August 1967

RAYMOND J. HEALY & J. FRANCIS McCOMAS, Editors – Famous Science-Fiction Stories: Adventures in Time And Space. The Modern Library G-31; hardcover, 1957, xvi + 997 pages. First published as Adventures in Time in Space, Random House, hardcover, 1946. Bantam F3102, paperback, 1966, as Adventures in Time and Space (contains only 8 stories). Ballantine, paperback, 1975, also as Adventures in Time and Space.

   Part 1 can be found here.

P. SCHUYLER MILLER “The Sands of Time.” A pointless time-travel story, if that could be imagined, including a mysterious battle between unknown invaders of Earth sixty million years ago. (1)

Update: First published in Astounding Stories, April 1937. First reprinted in this anthology, then in Great Science Fiction Stories, edited Cordelia Titcomb Smith (Dell Laurel-Leaf Library, paperback, 1964) and Voyagers in Time, edited by Robert Silverberg (Meredith Press, hardcover, 1967), among others. After a moderately lengthy career writing science fiction, mostly between the 1930s and early 40s, Miller became the long-time reviewer of the field for Astounding/Analog SF from 1951 to 1975.

LEWIS PADGETT “The Proud Robot.” Novelette. Gallagher invents a robot while drunk, then forgets its purpose, but finally manages to use it to prevent a monopoly of the television industry. (3)

Update: Lewis Padgett was one of the pen names used by Henry Kuttner. Some of the stories published under this name were co-written by C. L. Moore, but I do not believe this was one. The “Gallagher” series, of which this is a prime example, were very popular. “The Proud Robot,” the third in the series, first appeared in Astounding Science-Fiction, October 1943, and was first reprinted in this anthology. First collected in Robots Have No Tails (Gnome Press, hardcover, 1952), then in Return to Otherness (Ballantine F619, paperback, 1962). Over the years it has appeared  in many other anthologies and collections of Kuttner’s works.

A. E. Van VOGT “Black Destroyer.” Novelette. An exploring spaceship discovers a planet now ruled by the killer coeurls, descendants of a once-powerful civilization. Most notable for the description of one of these alien creatures, the story loses some of its effectiveness with a confusing ending. (4)

Update: First appeared in Astounding Science-Fiction, July 1939. From Wikipedia: “‘Black Destroyer’ was combined with several other short stories to form the novel The Voyage of the Space Beagle (Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1950). It was claimed as an inspiration for the movie Alien and van Vogt collected an out-of-court settlement of $50,000 from 20th Century Fox.” A source quoted by Wikipedia suggests that this particular story “represents the start of the Golden Age of Science Fiction.”

– July-August 1967

   

TO BE CONTINUED.

RAYMOND J. HEALY & J. FRANCIS McCOMAS, Editors – Famous Science-Fiction Stories: Adventures in Time And Space. The Modern Library G-31; hardcover, 1957, xvi + 997 pages. First published as Adventures in Time in Space, Random House, hardcover, 1946. Bantam F3102, paperback, 1966, as Adventures in Time and Space (contains only 8 stories). Ballantine, paperback, 1975, also as Adventures in Time and Space.

   Thirty-three stories first published in the years 1934-1945, mostly from Astounding, plus two articles not reviewed below. Although these were originally chosen as “classics” in 1946, as a whole they have not aged well. That [I have rated] only a third as above average demonstrated this quite adequately.

   The emphasis, as pointed out in the [book’s] introduction, is on science rather than fiction, and often it is only the obviously creative imagination of the author that saves an indifferently written story from disaster, Style is also important… Overall rating: 2½ stars.

NOTE: I read and reviewed all 33 stories. On this biog, I will post my comments in groups of three spread out over the next few months. This is Part One.

ROBERT A. HEINLEIN “Requiem.” A ‘Future History’ story. A softly sentimental story of a rocket pioneer’s first and only trip to the moon. Excellent is spite of an obvious plot. (5)

Update: Also part of Heinlein’s D. D. Harriman (“The Man Who Sold the Moon”) series. First published in Astounding SF, January 1940. First reprinted in this anthology. Collected in The Man Who Sold the Moon (Shasta, hardcover, 1950) and The Past Through Tomorrow (Putnam, hardcover, 1967).

DON A. STUART “Forgetfulness.” Novelette. Poetic story of the ultimate destiny of man – advanced, but unable to remember the steps of progress. The point is good, but the story does not seem to convey it well. (2)

Update: Don A. Stuart was the pen name of long time Astounding SF editor, John W. Campbell. First published in that magazine, June 1937. First collected in this anthology, then several times later, including Cities of Wonder, edited by Damon Knight (Doubleday, hardcover, 1966).

LESTER del REY “Nerves.” Novella. An atomic-power plant goes out of control, endangering the lives of all in the surrounding countryside. No doubt very exciting when it first appeared, the story no longer provides much punch. The characters are almost stereotypes today, especially the doctor-father image and his young assistant, who desires to become an atomic physicist. (2½)

Update: First published in Astounding SF, September 1942. First reprinted in this anthology. First collected in …And Some Were Human (Prime Press, hardcover, 1948). Expanded upon and published as a separate novel by Ballantine (paperback, 1956), with a slightly revised version appearing in its sixth printing, 1976.

– July-August 1967

   
TO BE CONTINUED…

ORBIT SCIENCE FICTION. September-October 1954. Vol. 1, No. 4. Overall rating: 2 stars.

ALFRED COPPEL “Last Night of Summer.” The study of reactions to knowledge of Earth’s sudden destruction in a burst of flames. (4)

Comment: According to my view at the time, this was a best story in this issue. Reprinted in The End of the World, edited by Donald A. Wollheim (Ace, paperback, 1956) and Catastrophes!, edited by Isaac Asimov, Martin Harry Greenberg & Charles G. Waugh (Fawcett Crest, pb, 1981).

MICHAEL SHAARA “Death in the House.” A creature from a flying saucer disguises itself as a dog. (1)

Comment: Reprinted in Uncollected Stars, edited by Piers Anthony, Martin H. Greenberg, Barry N. Malzberg & Charles G. Waugh (Avon, pb, 1986). I suspect that this was due more to Shaara’s name value on the cover more than the quality of the story. (I could be wrong about this.)

JAMES E. GUNN “Danger Past.” Sabotage of a time machine leads to murder. (2)

Comment: As of last year, at 95 years old, Gunn was still active as a published writer. This story, however, has never been collected or reprinted.

MAX DANCEY “Me Feel Good.” Child from asteroid has strange powers. (0)

Comment: “Dancey” was one of several pen names used by author Peter Grainger. Others include Robert Flint Young and Peter Cartur. Under these various names he has thirteen SF tales to his credit, appearing between 1947 and 1974.

IRVING E. COX “No More the Stars.” A conspiracy to escape Earth’s oppression is broken up but does not fail. Quite familiar. (2)

Comment: Cox was the author of several dozen short stories between 1951 and 1965. This one has never been reprinted or collected in the US.

AUGUST DERLETH “The Thinker and the Thought.” A thinking machine mirror its inventor’s thoughts. (0)

Comment: Collected in Harrigan’s File (Arkham House, hardcover, 1975). I don’t know much about Tex Harrigan, the leading protagonist in this collection, but one online source says that he was a newspaperman who continually runs “up against strange inventions and curiously weird-science occurrences.” I do not seem to have been much impressed by this one.

ALAN E. NOURSE “The Image of the Gods.” Colonists of Baron IV find help from the natives in their struggle against Earth’s dominion. (3)

Comment: Reprinted in The Counterfeit Man: More Science Fiction Stories (David McKay, hardcover, 1963) and still in print electronically today.

PHILIP K. DICK “Adjustment Team.” [Novelette] An error in timing allows Fletcher to see the underlying reality of his existence, maintained by outsiders. Weak ending. (3)

Comment: First collected in The Book of Philip K. Dick (Daw, paperback, 1973) as well as several later collections. I do not believe that anything Dick ever wrote has not been reprinted or collected.

MILTON LESSER “Intruder on the Rim.” [Novelette] A husband-wife team of reporters are sent to Pluto’s moon and uncover a plot by the military in charge to take over the solar system. (1)

Comment: Lesser eventually changed his name legally to Stephen Marlowe; under this name he is well known as the author of many mystery and suspense novels. I do not believe any of his SF tales are at all memorable. This one has never been collected or reprinted in the US.

– August 1967

IF SCIENCE FICTION. November 1966. Overall rating: 2½ stars.

KEITH LAUMER “Truce or Consequences.” Novelette. Retief stops a war; any resemblance to the current Arab-Israeli conflict could not have been intended but neither is it coincidental. (3)

Comment: Laumer’s stories about no-nonsense galactic diplomat Jame Retief were great favorites of SF fans for many years. The first one, “Diplomat-at-Arms,” appeared in 1960. This one was first collected in Retief: Ambassador to Space (Doubleday, hc, 1969; Berley, pb, 1970) then in Retief: Diplomat at Arms (Pocket, pb, 1982; Baen, pb, 1987).

LARRY NIVEN “At the Core.” Novelette. Beowulf Shaeffer takes on another job for the puppeteers, this time taking a spaceship to the core of the galaxy. (3)

Comment: Many of Niven’s novels and stories fell into his future history known as “Tales of Known Space,” and this is an early one. Collected in Neutron Star (Ballantine, pb, 1968). Reprinted in The Second If Reader of Science Fiction (Doubleday, hc, 1968; Ace, pb, 1970).

C. C. MacAPP “The Sign of Gree.” Novelette. Another episode in the unending war against Gree. Steve Duke enlists the aid of the Remm. (1)

Comment: There were nine stories in MacApp’s “Gree” series; this was number eight. Probably pure space opera. My brief comment suggests I wasn’t very impressed. The story itself has never been collected or reprinted.

LESTER del REY “A Code for Sam.” Novelette. Del Rey suggests that Asimov’s Laws of Robotics may not be practical in the field. The point is well made. (3)

Comment: Collected in Robots and Magic (NESFA Press, hardcover, 2010). I’ve always found del Rey’s fiction to be unexpectedly uneven, but I wish I’d known about this collection before now.

JOHN T. SLADEK “The Babe in the Oven.” A wacky short story with no plot but plenty of wit. (4)

Comment: Collected in The Best of John Sladek (Pocket, pb, 1981). Reprinted earlier in Alpha 6, edited by Robert Silverberg (Berkley, pb, 1976).

ROBERT SILVERBERG “Halfway House.” In return for his life, an executive takes on the job of guarding the crossroads of all parallel world and deciding who may cross. (4)

Comment: First collected in Dimension Thirteen (Ballantine, paperback, 1969), then in several other books. I think most of Silverberg’s stories have been collected several times over!

J. T. McINTOSH “Snow White and the Giants.” Serial, part 2 of 4. The novel will be reported on in its entirety when all four installments have been read.

MIKE HILL “Hairry.” An unsquare story of a Martian spider who becomes a jazz buff. (2)

Comment: Mike Hill was the pen name of Paul G. Herkart, but under either name, this was his only published SF story.

THURLOW WEED “The Boat in the Bottle.” As the title suggests. (0)

Comment: Another author with a one and done.

– June 1967

ALAN E. NOURSE – The Universe Between. Paperback Library 52-462, paperback, 1967. Prior hardcover edition: David McKay, 1965. Expansion of stories “High Threshold” and “The Universe Between” (Astounding SF, March 1951 and September 1951, respectively.) Ace, paperback, 1987. Cover of PL edition probably by Jack Gaughan.

   This novel consists of two major parts, probably corresponding to the two stories indicated above. The first concerns the attempt to construct a transmatter, necessary for the economic survival of the world. Somehow a model under construction bridges the gap to a parallel world, through the fourth dimension, and threatens it with destruction.

   Agreement with the inhabitants of the Other Side brings the galaxy within reach, but in the second art of the book, complete communication with them is needed to solve problems arising from he existence of infinitely many parallel worlds.

   Nourse is quite clearly familiar with engineering methods, as well as science in general, which probably explains the many outstanding reviews by libraries and school journals found on the covers. As is to be expected, attempts to describe the fourth dimension fall short, but they make interesting reading. The value of the switch ending is debatable, but there is no doubt it is valid.

Rating: 3 stars

– June 1967

SPACE SCIENCE FICTION. May 1952. (Volume 1, Number 1.) Overall rating: 3 stars.

LESTER del REY “Pursuit.” Feature novel. A man with unknown assailants pursued for unknown reasons for the major part of the story finally discovers that it is his own unconscious mind plus an uncontrolled psi factor which has been creating his monsters. The plot, meant to sweep the reader along with the hero’s plight, jumps badly at times, simply because of vague details or incongruous background. Also, forty-two pages is a long time for confusion to run rampant. (1)

Comment: Collected in Gods and Golems (Ballantine, paperback original, 1973). Also of note, perhaps, is that Lester del Rey was also the editor of this magazine.

JERRY SOHL “The Ultroom Error.” A readable but pointless story of a life-germ transplanting process gone wrong. (2)

Comment: Collected in Filet of Sohl: The Classic Scripts and Stories of Jerry Sohl (Bear Manor Media, softcover, 2003). Besides a dozen or so SF novels published later on, Sohl also wrote scripts for Alfred Hitchcock, Twilight Zone, Star Trek and several other TV shows.

ISAAC ASIMOV “Youth.” Novelette. The illustrations give away the ending, obviously meant to be hidden. Two alien cultures meet and initiate friendly relations, but the identity of each cannot be determined from the context. (4)

Comment: Collected in The Martian Way and Other Stories (Doubleday, hardcover, 1955). This is clearly a small gem whose first appearance is hidden away in what is today an sadly obscure magazine.

HENRY KUTTNER “The Ego Machine.” Novelette. A badly confused robot carries on an ecological experiment in adjusting a Hollywood screenwriter’s character to his environment. The wild type of science-fictional comedy that made Kuttner famous. Incidentally, this novelette has only three pages fewer than the feature novel. (5)

Comment: ISFDb suggests that this story was co-written with C. L. Moore. Reprinted in Science-Fiction Carnival, edited by Fredric Brown & Mack Reynolds (Shasta, hardcover, 1953). Collected in Return to Otherness (Ballantine, paperback original, 1962).

BRYCE WALTON “To Each His Own Star.” A predictable story of four men lost in space, each wanting to go his own way. (2)

Comment: Reprinted in Space Odysseys: A New Look at Yesterday’s Futures, edited by Brian W. Aldiss (Doubleday, hardcover, 1976). Collected in “Dark of the Moon” and Other Stories (Armchair Fiction Masters of SF #1, softcover, 2011). Walton was the author of several dozen short stories between 1945 and 1969, but only one novel, one of the Winston series of YA books, which I’m sure explains why he’s a Little Known Author today.

– June 1967

RANDALL GARRETT – Too Many Magicians. Lord Darcy #4 (first novel appearance), Serialized in Analog SF, August-November, 1966. Doubleday, hardcover, 1967. Curtis, paperback, 1969; Ace, paperback, 1979. Collected in Lord Darcy (Baen, softcover, 2002). Hugo finalist, 1967, Best Novel.

   A mystery novel which takes place in the alternative-history world where magic has developed rather than science, Two locked-room murders are committed in connection with secret plans for a new magical weapon, thus involving national security.

   One of the murders takes place at a Magicians’ Convention, making the number of possible suspects very large indeed. However, detection is made even more difficult by the fact that magic was not used; still, psychic talent was necessary to the extent that the murder would have been impossible in our world.

   The story is well done and consistent within, but does not always keep the reader’s attention well-fixed, since there is the continual uneasy feeling that the author may come up with an explanation for everything from nowhere. Garrett does play fair with the reader, though, and it is possible to at least guess who the killer may be.

   One of the characters, the Marquis of London, bears more than a striking resemblance to Nero Wolfe, and the connection is made obvious when one realized that name of his Chief Investigator is Lord Bontriomphe. Also (p.116, November issue) there is a version of the most famous Holmesian piece if dialogue between Darcy and his assistant, forensic sorcerer Sean O’Lochlainn.

   More such references may be present; these are the most obvious.

Rating: 3 stars.

– June 1967

   

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION, November 1966. Overall rating: 2 stars.

MURRAY LEINSTER “Quarantine World.” Short novel [50 pages]. Calhoun of the Med Service. There is no possible reason for the length of this story, except payment by the word. Why can’t a reader to be expected to remember that plot as it has occurred without requiring a summary every two or three pages? Why must characters be shocked at the disclosure of political perfidy once on page 41 and identically again on page 42? (1½)

Comment: Collected in S.O.S. from Three Worlds (Ace, paperback, 1967), The Med Series (Ace, paperback, 1983), Quarantine World (Carroll & Graf, paperback, 1992), Med Ship (Baen, paperback, 2002). Leinster’s “Med Service” series was one of his most popular.

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL “Facts to Fit the Theory.” [Federation of Humanity.] A series of communications between commanders of Terran force trying to save colonists of Cyrene IV from invaders. Psychic powers of colonists make outside assistance unnecessary, but of course that can’t be included in reports to superiors. (2)

Comment: Collected in Interstellar Patrol II: The Federation of Humanity (Baen, hardcover, 2005; paperback, 2007). Baen has published several collections of Anvil’s work, real name Harry Christopher Crosby. A large percentage of the stories he wrote over the years fall into this same overall series.

STEWART ROBB “Letter from a Higher Circle.” Ingenious debunking of American history by a future historian. (4)

Comment: According to ISFDb, Robb’s only other work of speculative fiction was “The Doom of Germany According to the Prophecy of St. Odile,” a chapbook published in 1940.

RANDALL GARRETT “Two Many Magicians.” Serial, part 4 of 4. See separate report, to be posted soon.

– June 1967

JOHN RACKHAM – The Double Invaders. Ace Double G-623, paperback original, 1967. Published back-to-back with These Savage Futurians, by Philip E. High (reviewed here).

   This seemingly simple story of invasion from outer space is indeed something more. The prologue introduces the mystery, a secret plan of Earth against the expanding empire of Zorgan. Without knowing about this underlying factor, the reader would proceed quickly and enjoyably through the greater part of the book.

   As it turns out, a little more concentration is required. Motivations are not as obvious as they might first seem, relationships are not as they might first appear. And yet, if the blurb on the inside front cover is interpreted correctly, everything becomes as obvious as it does at the story’s conclusion. It should be obvious all along, but Rackham does a creditable job of fooling the reader.

   The society of Scarta, the invaded planet, is very well developed, with a [Poul] Anderson-like astronomy influenced theology. Another feature, passing almost without notice, is the linguistic problem of translation: for example (page 69) how do you describe war without a word for it?

Rating: 4½ stars.

– June 1967

   

Bibliographic Notes: John Rackham was a pen name of British writer John T. Phillifent. Under that name and as Rackham, he wrote 18 traditional SF novels for Ace and Daw between 1964 and 1973. He also wrote three of the series of “Man from UNCLE” books published by Ace in the 1960s.

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