LESTER del REY, Editor – Best Science Fiction Stories of the Year: Second Annual Edition. E. P. Dutton, hardcover. 1973. Ace, paperback, December 1975.

   #7. ROBERT L. DAVIS “Teratohippus.” Novelette. First appeared in Worlds of If, November-December 1972. Never reprinted elsewhere.

   If you looked to see who the author of this story was and couldn’t recognize his name, all is forgiven. No one else reading this review will have either — you can bet on that. This was the only SF story that Davis ever had published. The only other story that comes close was “Once Upon a Were-wolf,” which appeared in the November 1969 issue of an obscure horror magazine entitled Coven 13.

   A teratohippus is a gigantic slug-like creature the size of a football field which by means of several external layers of armored exo-skeleton is the only creature that can survive the now frigid climate of the once totally temperate planet of Betul.

   Not much is known about the creatures, but for some as yet unlearned reason they seem to take long migratory treks across some of the most inhospitable expanses of the planet. and of course when a skimmer filled with members of a scientific exploration from Earth is forced to come down in such an area, they do not know how lucky they are that a teratohippus is making such a journey nearby.

   Perhaps I am revealing more than I should, but I will tell you anyway. What they do is to find a refuge in a cavity inside the creature. What’s more, they discover they can change the direction the teratohippus is going from working inside it. This causes a huge dilemma, of course. Saving their lives will come at the expense of the creature’s, not to mention its soon to be born offspring.

   I can’t tell you that I believe all of the alien biology that’s involved, but that’s only the superficial trappings of a good, solidly-told story that happened to catch Lester de Rey’s eye, if no one else’s at the time. And now mine as well, even at this late date.


Previously from the del Rey anthology: R. A. LAFFERTY “Eurema’s Dam.”