Diary Reviews

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

ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE – May 1967. Overall rating: ***½ stars.

CHRISTIANA BRAND “Twist for Twist.” Novelette. Inspector Cockrill solves the murder of a man no one wanted to see married, especially the bride. Good detection. (4)

MORRIS COOPER “As It Was in the Beginning,” Quite possibly the first detective story, occurring some 20,000 years ago. (5)

ELAINE SLATER “The Way It Is Now.” In contrast to the previous story, a search for lost romance in a modern-day marriage ends in murder. (4)

ARTHUR PORGES “The Scientist and the Invisible Safe.” A diamond thief hides them in light bulbs. (2)

MICHAEL GILBERT “The Road to Damascus.” Novelette. Previously published in Argosy (UK), June 1966.  A Calder and Behrens spy story of a World War II impersonation discovered only when an old resistance post is uncovered, fascinating in its accounts of past and present espionage. (5)

ALICE SCANLAN REACH “Father Crumlish and His People.” The hypocrisy of a murdered social worker is discovered. Good social comment. (3)

HENRY STONE “The Impersonator.” Psychiatrical fare. (1)

NEDRA TYRE “A Case of Instant Detection.” A cop in a sociology class is forced to make deductions on the spot. Interesting background. (3)

ROBERT L. TILLEY “The Other Man.” An escaped convict finds refuge in a country cottage, an ideal sanctuary. Personal involvement clashes with the ending. (2)

VERA HENRY “What They Don’t Know Won’t Hurt Them.”  The hired help take advantage of two suspicious deaths. (2)

JON L. BREEN “The Crowded Hours.” First story. Pastiche. A murder investigation by the 97th Precinct Squad. McBain’s style deserves this. (4)

ED McBAIN “The Empty Hours.” Short novel. Previously published in Ed McBain’s Mystery Book #1, 1960. A murder investigation by the 87th Precinct Squad. A girl posing as her cousin is killed by a burglar, but the police must learn everything through determined work. The plot is obvious from the beginning, and it is the emotional involvement that makes the story at all attractive, McBain has a flair for detail, but his style can be overdone and irritating. ***

– 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

ANTHONY BOUCHER – The Case of the Solid Key. Fergus O’Breen #3. Simon & Schuster, hardcover, 1943. Popular Library #59, paperback, 1945. Pyramid X-1733, paperback, 1968.

   A chance meeting in a Hollywood restaurant between Norman Harker, a would-be playwright fresh from Oklahoma, and Sarah Plunk, an actress of Carruthers Little Theater, involves them both in blackmail, attempted fraud, and murder.

   Fergus O’Breen is the detective, with Harker as his Watson and the assistance of Lieutenant Jackson of the LA police. Originally hired to investigate Carruthers, Fergus connects him an unsolved fifteen year old murder case and convinces an insurance company to allow him to investigate the death. “Probably the only case on record where a killer thanked the detective who spotted him.”

   The writer of the back cover blurb [of the Pyramid edition] obviously has not read the book. Lewis Jordan was not a blackmailer, did not die, and nobody wanted the killer not to be found. It was a locked room murder made to look like an accident, and everyone but Fergus would have accepted it.

   The [introductory description] inside the front cover is not much better – it gives away the first twist of the double-twist ending. Mr. Boucher should sue this publisher. The solid key is the key to the locked room, and not even Carr could have done it better. Occasionally the characters act strangely, but everything has its explanation. Quiet wit is unobtrusive and adds a great deal to the general Hollywood background.

   Amusing note: A description of the [totally fictional] pulp magazine Dread Stories is included.

Rating: ****½

– 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

ROCKET STORIES. July 1953. Vol. 1, No. 2. Edited by Wade Kaempfert [Lester del Rey]. Cover: Schomberg. Overall rating: 1½ stars.

ALGIS BUDRYS “Blood on My Jets.” Complete novel. Detached Operator Ash Holcomb of the SBI is hired to fly the first ship into hyperspace, but as old friend and his iwfe, known since Academy days, plot to steal it from him. Not much of a story, but it reads well enough. (2)

GEORGE O. SMITH “Home Is the Spaceman.” An experimental FTL ship is stopped by a policeman for speeding. (2)

MILTON LESSER “Picnic.” A husband, wife, and two brats stop on a living asteroid for a picnic. (0)

POUL ANDERSON “The Temple of Earth.” Novelette. Civilization on the Moon is headed downhill unless the priests and their knowledge of science can take over. Too much fighting. (2)

BEN SMITH “Sequel.” The paths of three former Academy students meet in space. (3)

CHARLES E. FRITCH “Breathe There a Man.” Rebellion on an Earth where the very air is taxed. The first plot twist really didn’t seem believable. (1)

IRVING COX, JR. “To the Sons of Tomorrow.” Novelette. The crew of a wrecked spaceship become the gods of a new Earth. Distortion of proper names didn’t help. (2)

WILLIAM SCARFF “Firegod.” A fair point to be made, but a basic flaw ruins story of a man playing god. [Pen name of Algis Budrys.] (1)

–February 1968

EDMUND COOPER – All Fools’ Day. Berkley X1469, US, paperback, 1967. Cover art by Hoot von Zitzewitz. Previously published in the UK by Hodder & Stoughton, hardcover, 1966, and in the US by Walker, hardcover, 1966.

   Beginning in 1971, solar radiation cause the world’s suicide rate to increase sharply. Ten years later, only the Transnormals are still alive – the creative, the fanatic, and the crazy [have] inherit[ed] the Earth. The book follows the life of Greville, a former advertising executive, in this new world as he searches for love, purpose, and direction.

   Perhaps written for a wider audience than the usual SF one, the story loses impact simply because of the overuse of its theme, particularly by [British] writers. Frustrating in its deliberate irrationality, the civilization of this savage world seems doomed, but Greville forms the basis of a new world from a group of anarchists.

   The sudden optimism of the ending comes as a relief from the previously established tone, but it is not altogether satisfying. One point of disagreement: mathematicians are among the first to die (page 17), symbolizing [the loss] of normality and supreme stability, but mathematicians can be as crazy as anyone.

Rating: ****½

–February 1968

GALAXY SF, April 1967. Editor: Frederik Pohl. Cover artist: [Douglas] Chaffee. Overall rating: ***½.

KEITH LAUMER “Thunderhead.” Novelette. A lieutenant of the Fleet Navy, who has manned his planetary post for twenty years, though it is clear that he has been forgotten, receives a message at last. In response, he climbs to the mountaintop beacon and sets a diversion for a fleeing enemy. Deliberately sentimental, the story is obvious from the beginning, but still succeeds. (4)

ROBIN SCOTT “Fair Test.” Aliens consider a segregated Earth. (2)

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL “The New Member.” Bangolia joins the UN and immediately becomes a pest to everyone. Humorous. (2)

JAMES McKIMMEY “The Young Priests of Adytum 199.” The childish survivors of the war do not tolerate deviation from their norm. (5)

HOWARD HAYDEN “The Purpose of Life.” Novella. Dr. West, in telepathic control of Mao III, precipitates a crisis that buries hem and fifty Esks 4000 feet below Peking. The Esks multiply furiously, threatening the food supply, and a tunnel to the surface must be dug. The discovery and fulfillment of the purpose of the Esks on Earth is rather anticlimactic. Immortal life after death requires the death of billions. Dr. West dies too. ***½

[Note: This was number seven of eight stories Hayden wrote about the Esks. These were indigenous Canadian Inuits transformed by an Alien presence into an apparently benign, fast-breeding new species called Esks. (From the online SF Encyclopedia.)]

PIERS ANTHONY “Within the Cloud.” Clouds have a sense of humor also. (3)

KRIS NEVILLE “Ballenger’s People.” Burt Ballenger operates as a nation, as a democracy. (3)

HARRY HARRISON “You Men of Violence.” A mutation of homo spaiens develops, one unable to kill. At least, actively. (3)

–February 1968

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