Science Fiction & Fantasy

A. BERTRAM CHANDLER – The Road to the Rim. Ace Double H-29, paperback original, 1967 (**). Cover art by Jerome Podwil. Previously serialized in If Science Fiction, April-May, 1967. Collected in To the Galactic Rim (Baen, trade paperback, 2011; mass market paperback, 2012).

   Chronologically, the first “Rim Worlds” story, or at least the first featuring John Grimes. Here he is Ensign Grimes of the Space Survey Service, newly commissioned and incredibly naive. While on passage to his assigned base, he joins a merchant ship captain on an illegal mission of revenge.

   The purser, Jane Pentecost, likely influences his decision, but piracy, after all, cannot be condoned. Afterward, the captain and Jane must leave for the Rim, but Grimes is partially exonerated by their success in destroying the attackers. Since it had already been written, we know there is more to come.

   Not a complete novel as far as development is concerned. An episode, though an important one, in the life of Grimes. Characterization is flat and unreal, changing too much, too abruptly. Grimes worries about his motivations but lets the action and events carry him on.

Rating: **½

NOTE: The version serialized in If SF is identical except for the partial deletion of a scene with Jane in a detention cell.

(**) The novel on the reverse side of the Ace Double paperback, The Lost Millennium, by Walt and Leigh Richmond will be reviewed next.

– March 1968

IF SCIENCE FICTION, May 1967. Editor: Frederik Pohl. Cover art: Jack Gaughan. Overall rating: ***½ stars.

KEITH LAUMER “Spaceman!” Serial, part 1 of 3. To be reviewed after the July issue.

TERRY CARR “The Robots Are Here.” Novelette. Robots from the future are busily blocking alternate time tracks in the interest of man. Pleasant, but short and hence inconsequential. (3)

CHARLES W. RUNYON “The Youth Addicts.” Novelette. An attempt to enter the dream memories of a friend’s wife ends in a very strange love triangle., Derivative, but a slightly new twist. (4)

H. H. HOLLIS. Novelette. “The Long, Slow Orbits.” Novelette. A man and woman operate an “underground railroad” for maltreated cyborgs, or “coggers.” Analog to Black situation clear but not pushed. Can anyone be imprisoned in a Klein bottle? (3)

B. K. FILER “The Hole.” First story. Fossils are being destroyed – to hide the secret of the formation of intelligent life on Earth. (4)

A. BERTRAM CHANDLER. “The Road to the Rim.” Serial, Part 2 of 2. To be reported on soon.

– March 1968

SAMUEL R. DELANY – The Einstein Intersection. Ace F-427, paperback original; 1st printing, March 1967. Many reprint editions exist, but the Bantam paperback of April 1981 is the first US edition that includes a chapter missing from the Ace paperback original. Cover art by Jack Gaughan.

   In a new Earth, peopled with new inhabitants, Lo Lobey leaves his village and travels to find Friza, to return her to life. He meets various characters: Kid Death, Spider, Green-eye, and the Dove.

   Symbolic garbage, trailing off to meaninglessness. Some people might be impressed by this; not I. Read the back cover and forget the rest.

Rating: **½

– March 1968


[UPDATE.] The Einstein Intersection won the Nebula voting for 1968, and came in second for the Hugo award.

THOMAS M. DISCH “Voices of the Kill.” First published in Full Spectrum, edited by Lou Aronica & Shawna McCarthy (Bantam Spectra, paperback original, September 1988). Reprinted in The Year’s Best Fantasy: Second Annual Collection, edited by Ellen Datlow & Terri Windling (St. Martin’s Press, trade paperback, 1989). Collected in The Wall of America (Tachyon, softcover, 2008).

   Thomas M. Disch was an author almost as well-known for his poetry as he was for his unique blend of science fiction and fantasy. While “Voices of the Kill” is a fantasy tale through and through, it is poetry as well, and in a way as opaque to me as most poetry is.

   It is the story of a man who, living alone in a cabin along a stream, falls in love (of sorts) with the flowing water, or (perhaps better said) is seduced by the stream, lying at night as he does in its waters and soothing embrace, listening to it talk to him.

   I do not know why Nixie asks him to place a twenty dollar bill under a stone in its (her?) depths. When William’s cousin Barry comes to visit, the overnight stays in the stream must end. When the two travel down it to its outlet into the sea, Nixie is annoyed.

   And what is the significance of the black woman in a pea-green swimsuit who is playing there with her son on the beach? (She does return.)

   In spite of these and other questions I cannot answer, the effect of this story is one I cannot get out of my head. Good poetry (and fantasy) can have an amazing effect on one’s mind. It is no wonder this was the lead story in the Full Spectrum anthology where it first appeared.

WORLDS OF TOMORROW – May 1967. Editor: Frederik Pohl. Cover artist: [Douglas] Chaffee. Overall rating: ***½.

FRED SABERHAGEN “Stone Man.” Novelette. One planet in the universe is such that time is a variable capable of physical control. The berserkers’ attempt to destroy life there takes them back to the time of the first colonists so that the race can be exterminated at once. Very human story of conflict and life in wartime. (4)

      ADDED UPDATE: Taken from Wikipedia:

   “The Berserker series is a series of space opera science fiction short stories and novels [begun in 1963] by Fred Saberhagen, in which robotic self-replicating machines strive to destroy all life.

   “These Berserkers, named after the human berserker warriors of Norse legend, are doomsday weapons left over from an interstellar war between two races of extraterrestrials…”

DOUGLAS R. MASON “Squared Out with Poplars.” A mad scientist uses human brains for his computers. A strange excuse for a love story. (2)

DAVID A. KYLE “Base Ten.” Novelette. A missing little finger keeps a man marooned in space for eighteen years. A different story of “first contact.” (5)

SIMON TULLY “Whose Brother Is My Sister?” Novelette. Alien scientists combine with those of Earth to prove a theoretical relationship between space and time. Their efforts to stop time do not succeed entirely, as the flow of time is simply reversed. The alien culture is superbly created. (4)

MACK REYNOLDS “The Throwaway Age.” Novelette. A spy who thinks of the enemy as “commies” is assigned to infiltrate a new group concerned with the waste of America’s resource and man-power. Reynolds has good points, but tells a poor story. (3)

– March 1968

HARRY HARRISON – The Time-Machined Saga. Serialized in Analog SF, March-May, 1967. Published in book form as The Technicolor® Time Machine (Doubleday, hardcover, 1967; Berkley, paperback, 1968).

   A movie company finances the construction of an inventor’s time machine, they choose only to make another filmed epic. This time with authentic background, however, with certain alterations in the Hollywood tradition.

   Going back to the 11th century, they turn their cameras on the historic Viking expedition to North America. But it is their efforts in promoting the recreated voyage that produces the original – a neat circle in time.

   Beginning almost as slapstick, the story gradually settles down to a gentle tongue-in-cheek adventure in time, with nothing else to recommend it. The ending is obvious; something else is hoped for. Actually enjoyable once expectation are lowered.

Rating: ***½

– March 1968

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION May 1967. Editor: John W. Campbell. Cover art: Kelly Freas. Overall rating: ***

RICHARD GREY SIPES “Of Terrans Bearing Gifts.” Novelette. Quite predictable Analog story of warlike planet defeated by traders from Earth, bringing psionic inventions, especially so since the story begins with the ending. Adequate but annoying. (2)

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL “Experts in the Field.” Another Analog type – bringing in an outsider to solve a problem. This time, that of a culture without a spoken language. (3)

BOB SHAW “Burden of Proof.” Slow glass (*) has another possible use: evidence in a court of law. Excellent idea; good development here. (4)

MIKE HODOUS “Dead End.” Earthmen trick a planet of centaurs into accepting a false FTL drive, Too much scientific terminology thrown around. (2)

HARRY HARRISON “The Time-Machined Saga.” Serial; part 3 of 3. See review of complete novel soon.

– March 1968


(*) From an online website: “Slow glass was an amusing scientific toy. Light traveled through it so slowly that, looking through a pane of it, you might see what had happened five minutes ago on the other side — or five years.”

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION. September 1948. Editor: John W. Campbell, Jr. Cover artist: Chesley Bonestell.  Overall rating: ***

GEORGE O. SMITH “The Catspaw.” Novella. Two people are given conflicting information about a possible space-drive in their dreams. Tom Barden is given knowledge of the necessary science; Edith Ward is warned by an opposing faction that the drive is unstable and dangerous. Are they guinea pigs? The plot line is cleverly worked out, but the scientific jargon can be skipped. (4)

PETER PHILLIPS “Dreams Are Sacred.” A sports writer is sent into the dreams of an overworked fantasy writer to bring him back to reality. Excellent except for lack of an effective ending. (4)

RENE LAFAYETTE “The Great Air Monopoly.” Novelette. Ole Doc Methuselah stops over on a planet where one man has control of the only drugs useful against hay fever, and the machinery to keep ragweed circulating. Not much of a story and indifferently told. (1)

MACK CHAPMAN LEA “The Gorgons.” The natives on an uncharted planet were friendly, but their mental screens came down at night. (3)

JOHN D. MacDONALD “Dance of a New World.” A recruiter for a projected colony and a dancer in a tavern on Venus go to that world together. (2)

ARTHUR C. CLARKE “Inheritance.” Realistic story of the first space probes, by a man and his son. Point not clear. (2)

– March 1968

D. R. BENSEN, Editor – The Unknown Five. Pyramid R-962, paperback original; 1st printing, January 1964. Cover art by John Schoenherr.

   A collection of five stories in all, four of them reprinted from the pages of Unknown, plus one by Isaac Asimov which was accepted for publication shortly before that magazine folded, but never actually having appeared in print in it before it did. Strange to say, that one is also the weakest of the five. But even knowing that the other four were chosen from the best of the magazine, the only restriction being the stories never having been published in book form before, Unknown well deserves its reputation among fantasy fans.   Overall rating: ****

ISAAC ASIMOV “Author, Author!” Novelette. In which author Graham Dorn’s famous detective Reginald de Metzter comes to life and demands his say in future plots. Too slaphappy and hectic rather than truly funny.  (2)

CLEVE CARTMILL “The Bargain.” (From Unknown Worlds, August 1942.) Death gives immortality to a woman in exchange for information the world should not have. The “folksy” approach entertains.  (4)

THEODORE STURGEON & JAMES H. BEARD “The Hag Saleen.” (From Unknown Worlds, December 1942). A man and his wife and daughter living in a small cabin in the bayous arouse the anger of a swamp witch. Besides the basic background, the story’s excellence depends on balance between fantasy and the explainable.  (5)

ALFRED BESTER “Hell Is Forever.” (From Unknown Worlds, August 1942,) Short novel. Five degenerate people, in the search for newer and stranger sensations, enter into a bargain giving them their choice of realities. Their new worlds are not what they expect, however:
   An artist can create only in his own distorted image. A woman wishing the strength to kill her husband finds that strength only in an unhappy extension of herself. An imaginative man find truth only in hell, or is it heaven?  A woman without love becomes the Consort of a God. A logical man finds he cannot kill himself — for they are all dead already.
   The meaning of hell is twisted to suit each personality, resulting in a story that should be analyzed more deeply and thoroughly to reveal all its implications.  *****

JANE RICE “The Crest of the Wave.” (From Unknown Fantasy Fiction, June 1941.) A St. Louis gambler is tossed from a bridge, but his drowned body revenges his death. Extremely picturesque language adds to a rather average ghost story. (3)

– March 1968

ALGIS BUDRYS – The Iron Thorn. Serialized in If Science Fiction, January-April 1967, the latter issue of which was reviewed here. Published in book form as The Amsirs and the Iron Thorn (Gold Medal d1852, paperback original, 1967; cover art by Frank Frazetta).

   On a cold desert planet, later discovered to be Mars, two races live – men, and the Amsirs they hunt. Both colonies surround Thorn, metal towers which provide air and warmth within a small radius.

   Honor Jackson discovers that the Amsirs are intelligent, not vicious, and allows himself to be captured. In the Amsir settlement, he fins a spaceship and eventually the truth behind the experimental genetic colonization of Mars. Returning to Earth, he finds civilization has become sterile and the experiment forgotten.

   Three of the installments [in If SF] are exciting and well done, but the fourth is a distinct disappointment. Maybe Budrys has a point to make, but it doesn’t come through. Flat. Of characterization, the cybernetic spaceship and its robot doctor seemed the most real, and it was from the time of their destruction immediately upon bringing Jackson to Earth that the story faded fast.

   Jackson himself is sympathetically portrayed. Rugged and individualistic enough to escape Mars, but one wonders how he shall fare on the Earth of the future.

Rating: ****

–February 1968

Next Page »