Diary Reviews

IF SCIENCE FICTION – January 1954. Editor: James L. Quinn. Cover art: Ken Fagg. Overall rating: **½ stars.

EVAN HUNTER “Malice in Wonderland.” Short novel. The world of the future is bizarrely (and accurately?) portrayed as the arena of conflict between the Vikes, or vicarious pleasure-seekers, and the Rees, or realists. Van Brant, agent of authors of pabacks and sensos, is caught in that conflict as the Ree reaction takes over. The ending comes a bit too fast, and the background seems a little shallow, but a very good effort. (4)

ALAN E. NOURSE “Letter of the Law.” A planet of logical liars comes up against the expected paradox. (1)

HARRY HARRISON “Navy Day.” The Navy, about to be abolished, fights back. (0)

JAMES E. GUNN “A Word for Freedom.” An analogy is made between narrowness of language and encroachments upon individual freedoms. (2)

RICHARD WILSON “Double Take.” A young man has difficulty separating reality from filmed fantasy. (2)

DAMON KNIGHT “Anachron.” A time-machine enables a man to steal treasures from the future but becomes too ambitious. (3)

MACK REYNOLDS “Off Course.” A collector for the Carthis zoo is mistaken for an envoy. (1)

–February 1968

JOHN JAKES – When the Star Kings Die. Dragonard #1. Ace G-656, paperback original, 1967. Cover by Jack Gaughan. Second printing, 1978.

   When Max Dragonard, ex-Regulator, is broken out of prison by his old commander, he is assigned to investigate the revolutionary organization called Heart Flag. The Lords of the Exchange, rulers of II Galaxy and previously immortal, are dying, and no one seems to know why. Dragonard is captured by the High Commander of the Regulators and betrays his friend.

   At the command of Lord Mishubi II, he is sentenced to die. Escape to the Heart Flag movement reveals to him the secret of immortality which has been kept from the ordinary people of the galaxy.

   Quite better than expected, the story improves as it continues. One can hardly help but think of the old Planet Stories tradition, but it would seem that there is more complexity and development in this novel than the usual stereotyped space-adventure.

   Dragonard’s own mental defect, correction of which was denied him, helps persuade him of the Lords’ treachery, a nice touch. The girl he loves is killed under bitter circumstances, but there is another who is waiting for his love. And Jeremy’s dream of life for all must be destroyed, but only temporarily, to free the galaxy from one man’s control.

Rating: ***½

–February 1968

         The Dragonard series –

1 When the Star Kings Die (1967)
2 The Planet Wizard (1969)
3 Tonight We Steal the Stars (1969)

ANALOG SCIENCE FICTION, April 1967. Editor: John W. Campbell. Cover art by John Schoenherr. Overall rating: **½ stars.

JAMES BLISH & NORMAN L. KNIGHT “To Love Another.” #4 in the authors’ “A Torrent of Faces” series. [The four stories were expanded and combined as A Torrent Of Faces (Doubleday, 1967).] Novelette. A love story between a human woman and tectogenetically created Triton. Too extreme in its contrasts from the depths of the Pacific to the overcrowded city of Philadelphia. The unexpected result that their marriage would produce keeps the story from a lower rating. (2)

MACK REYNOLDS “Enemy Within.” A small child locks himself in a flying saucer. (1)

JOSEPH P. MARTINO “To Change Their Ways.” Novelette. Wilm Kirsten, Sector Supervisor, has to help convince settlers to use new grains to prevent famines. Analogous to problem of India, but one easier to solve. (3)

HARRY HARRISON “The Time-Machines Saga.” Serial; part 2 of 3. [Reprinted in book form as The Technicolor® Time Machine (Doubleday, 1967).] Review of full novel to be posted later.

COLIN KAPP “Ambassador to Verdammt.” The inhabitants of Verdammt, totally alien to alien minds, can control their environment at will. Somewhat the effects of LSD? (4)

Note: Reprinted in World’s Best Science Fiction: 1968, edited by Terry Carr & Donald Wollheim (Ace, paperback, 1968).

–January 1968

ANDRE NORTON – Year of the Unicorn. Witch World series. Ace F-357, paperback original, 1965. Cover and interior art by Jack Gaughan. Reprinted many times. Collected in The Gates to Witch World (Tor, hardcover, 2001).

   Gillan’s story begins in an abbey, where she has spent the last eight years. She is of unknown origin, having been captured from the Hounds of Alizon by a lord of High Halleck as he fought to free his homeland. Her past is of importance, however, for she has the ability of true-sight, to see the thing behind the thing.

   As she tells her story, of her marriage to a Were-Rider as part of the Great Bargain, of the evil magic which produces two Gillans, and of her desperate struggle to reach the false one before she fades to the world of her dreams, this ability grows more controllable and both aids her and brings about the troubles she faces.

   Evidently she has blood of the witches of Estcarp, stories of whom have been previously told but not read; still, this book stands well enough on its own. This is an interesting world, where magic can be performed by some and swordsmanship is a necessary art. But, as fantasy, there is too much a feeling that the author has too much power at her command, especially at the end as Gillan and Herrel fight for their lives.

   The book begins slowly, difficult reading, but as the story becomes clearer so does interest rise. Then long chapters drag on without dialogue as she struggles her way alone to the land of the Were-Riders. On the other hand, many scenes are quite effective, and the quality of the archaic, picturesque language Norton uses adds a great deal to the tale.

Rating: ****

–February 1968

ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION – January 1954. Editor: John W. Campbell, Jr. Cover by H. R. Van Dongen [the magazine’s first specific Christmas cover]. Overall rating: ***

EVERETT B. COLE “Exile.” Short novel. A student of Archaeological Synthesis on an observational trip is stranded on a backward planet. Without means of transportation or communication, his attempts to get home must not disturb the local culture. Terribly muddy and often depending on glibness, the story would have improved tremendously if it had a point to be made. **

FRANK M. ROBINSON “The Lonely Man.” The death of a man living alne in a hotel room is investigated by a policeman who discovers he has blue blood. (3)

H. BEAM PIPER & JOHN J. McGUIRE “The Return.” Novelette. After the Bomb, a group of people with a strange religion is found. Abundant clues to the sacred Books make this a worthy addition to the Holmesian saga. (4)

ALGIS BUDRYS “A.I.D.” Anti-Interrogation Device. An organic servomechanism which satisfies the specification of both sides, but only Earth has it. The ending is a letdown, but is satisfactory upon reconsideration. (3)

RALPH WILLIAMS “Bertha.” Novelette. A somewhat unlikely premise: an undiscovered artificial satellite which welcomes Earth’s first astronauts. Exciting in spite of occasional lapses in scientific background. Hindsight. (4)

–January-February 1968

ELLERY QUEEN’S MYSTERY MAGAZINE April 1967. Overall rating: ***

JULIAN SYMONS “The Crimson Coach Murders.” Novelette. First published in The Evening Standard, 1960, as “The Summer Holiday Murders.” A detective story writer seeking background material takes a tour through southern England. Murder gives him a chance to try his abilities. (3)

ROBERT BLOCH “The Living Dead.” A World War II vampire story; not too imaginative. (2)

EDWARD D. HOCH “The Spy Who Came Out of the Night.” Rand of Double-C is sent to Berne to decode a message. His bitterness is forced to light. (3)

JACQUELINE CUTLIP “The Trouble of Murder.” A murderer burns down his inheritance unknowingly. Dry and confusing writing, but ending is good. (4)

CORNELL WOOLRICH “The Talking Eyes.” Novelette. First published in Dime Detective Magazine, September 1939, as “The Case of the Talking Eyes.” A paralyzed woman, able to communicate only wth her eyes, overhears her son’s wife plotting to kill him. Unable to stop the murder, she manages to avenge his death. Who else could attempt such a story? (4)

RHODA LYS STOREY “Sir Ordwey Views the Body.” Anagram-pastiche [by Norma Schier] of [Dorothy L. Sayers’] Lord Peter Wimsey. (1)

DOROTHY L. SAYERS “The Queen’s Square.” First appeared in The Radio Times, December 23, 1932. Lord Peter Wimsey solves a murder no one could have committed. A red costume in red light would appear white. (3)

JIM THOMPSON “Exactly What Happened.” Man disguised as another is killed by the other disguised as him. (1)

H. R. WAKEFIELD “The Voice of the Inner Ear.” First appeared in The Clock Strikes Twelve by H. Russell Wakefield, Herbert Jenkins, 1940, as “I Recognised the Voice.” A “psychic” detective solves mysteries. (2)

L. J. BEESTON “Melodramatic Interlude.” Revenge is thwarted by the victim’s wife. Obvious but still exciting. (3)

CHRISTOPHER ANVIL “ The Problem Solver and the Burned Letter.” Richard Verner reads a clue from a typewriter ribbon. (2)

LAWRENCE TREAT “P As in Payoff.” Mitch Taylor of Homicide Squad solves a hotel robbery as he tries to gain a favor. (3)

–January 1968

MACK REYNOLDS – After Some Tomorrow. Belmont, paperback original, 1967.

   Two people, Michael Grant and Anne Enesco, are among those a strange foundation has given scholarships to Earl University on the condition they study para-psychology, Their psionic powers attract the attention of another foundation , which is interested in their ability to foresee the future for political gain.

   The sociopolitical systems of the world are about to fall, and knowledge of the prevailing forms of government could be of immense value. Hallucinogenic drugs play a part also and aid them in sending their original benefactor back to his own time.

   The major part of the book deals with their enforced study of political science, which gives Reynolds his usual chance for lecture. In addition, the story of narcotics and their relation to human culture is told. There is an underling story, however, and while it is not as thrilling as the cover would imply, it reads fairly well.

   Naturally, no clue can be given as to the social system that will eventually emerge from the welfare state that Reynolds quite pessimistically sees for the US, and the book ends without resolution on that level. The love interest proceeds beneath the lines, revealed mainly when Grant forbids Anna to wear a transparent blouse. A not too favorable view of Johnson’s role in Vietnam is given on page 67.

Rating: ***½

– January 1968

DIME MYSTERY MAGAZINE. May 1945. Cover by Gloria Stoll. Overall rating: *

BRUNO FISCHER “Deadlier Than the Male.” Novelette. A soldier’s buddy comes home from the war to check on his friend’s wife, who seems to have changed. Murder welcomes him at the door. Fairly obvious ending. (2)

TALMAGE POWELL “The Dark, Unfriendly Tide.” A man tries to dispose of a girl’s body in the bayou, but the elements betray him. Overly melodramatic. (3)

WILLIAM R. COX “They’ll Kill Me!” Novelette. Tom Kincaid has a murderous competition in his attempt to make a movie about gambling. Low grade Hollywood all the way. (0)

CYRIL PLUNKETT “Murder on the Wing.” A man obsessed with owls suspects his wife of poisoning him. (1)

FRANCIS K. ALLAN “The Man with the X-Ray Eyes.” Novel. Duke Danube saves a girl from involvement with murder in an opium den. Could have been put down at any time. (0)

JOHN PARKHILL [pseudonym of William R. Cox] “Slips That Pass in the Night.” An ex-Marine helps an explorer’s daughter regain two stolen rubies. (1)

JOE KENT [pseudonym of Francis K. Allan] “The Madman in the Moon.” Novelette. A soldier on furlough returns to his old neighborhood and is nearly framed for murder. A certain flavor of the wartime forties enhances this less-than-average story. (3)

DAY KEENE “A Corpse for Cinderella.” Novelette. Dancing skeletons, the kiss of death, and other “supernatural” happenings are exposed by a private detective. Had promise, but much too overdone. (1)

–January 1968

IF SCIENCE FICTION, March 1967. Editor: Frederik Pohl. “Special Hugo Winners Issue.” Cover: McKenna. Overall rating: ***

ISAAC ASIMOV “The Billiard Ball.” Novelette. A conflict between a theoretical physicist and a technician over the possibility of ant-gravity leads to the death of one. The Master has not lost his touch. (5)

HARLAN ELLISON “I Have No Mouth and I must Scream.” Four men and a woman, the last human survivors, are trapped within the underground vaults of a computer. (4)

ROGER ZELAZNY “The Mortal Mountain.” Novelette. A mountain forty miles high challenges the best climbing team in the business. Complications arise when “energy beings” threaten their ascent. Too much of an adventure story only, but is SF. Symbolism, climbing to stars? (3)

JOSEPH WESLEY “Moonshine.” A marine orderly on the moon brews his own. Story has been told many times before. (1)

LARRY NIVEN “Flatlander.” Novelette. Beowulf Schaeffer and perhaps the richest man on Earth look for adventure on the mysterious planet of a protosun. All the clues to its true nature are provided. Well done, except that the details of the previous series parts are beginning to bore. (4)

ROSCOE WRIGHT “The Sepia Springs Affair.” A strange bunch of aliens write letters to Pohl. I’d rather read the [real] letter column. (0)

ALGIS BUDRYS “The Iron Thorn.” Serial; part 3 of 4. See report following final installment.

BETSY CURTIS “Latter-Day Daniel.” A man with one arm feeds synthetic ones to lion. (1)

–January 1968

ROBERT E. HOWARD, L. SPRAGUE de CAMP & LIN CARTER – Conan. Lancer, paperback, 1967. Cover: Frank Frazetta. Chronologically the first in the series.

   My first exposure to the saga of Conan. I found him as exciting a character as his fans have been saying for years. The writing can be uneven, but Conan in combat is never dull. There were many points of similarity between story plots in this volume; Conan probably had his fill of kiling evil magicians. The quality of the pastiches is generally good – note that the highest rated story is by de Camp and Carter. It is also the shortest, however, which may imply something.    Overall rating: ****

“The Hyborean Age, Part I” – Howard. Originally published in The Fantagraph, Feb, Aug, Oct-Nov 1936. The fictional background for the series, telling of events up to the time of Conan (not rated).

“The Thing in the Crypt” – Carter & de Camp. Fifteen-year-old Conan discovers a sword guarded by one of the undying dead. Skillful blend of horror and swords and sorcery. (5)

“The Tower of the Elephant” – Howard. Originally published in Weird Tales, March 1933. Conan undertakes the theft of a well-guarded jewel in an evil priest’s tower and frees the captive alien from whom the priest received his powers. (4)

“The Hall of the Dead” – Howard & de Camp. Originally published in F&SF, February 1967. Conan and Nestor risk the unknown dangers of the ruined city of Larsha for the treasures rumored there, but their net gain is two gold coins. Nothing terribly remarkable this time. (3)

“The God in the Bowl” – Howard. Originally published in Space SF, September 1952. A museum owner is killed under strange circumstances, and Conan is accused, A bit slow at times, but it is made up for as Conan escapes and discovers the real murderer. (4)

“Rogues in the House” – Howard. Originally published in Weird Tales, January 1934. In return for help in escaping imprisonment, Conan helps a nobleman against an evil priest, then saves them both from an ape-man who has taken over the priest’s home. Fun. (4)

“The Hand of Nergal” – Howard & Carter. Conan, the sole survivor of a battle against Yaralet, is brought secretly to that city to destroy its ruler, who possesses a talisman giving him magical powers. The weakest story; Conan needs the counter-talisman to succeed. (3)

“The City of Skulls” – Carter & de Camp. Conan is captured and made a galley slave. When he escapes, a living stone god must be destroyed. Slow in the middle; ending saves story. (4)

– January 1968

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