L. SPRAGUE de CAMP & FLETCHER PRATT – The Carnelian Cube. Lancer 73-662, paperback, 1967. Cover by Kelly Freas. Previously published by Gnome Press, hardcover, 1948.

   While on an archaeological expedition, Arthur Finch discovers a magical red cube of stone that gives its possessor the ability to dream himself into any world he pleases.

   Unfortunately, dream worlds do not always satisfy the wishes that produce them. A perfectly rational world stifles ambition and progress. A world where individuality is supreme is full of conflict, with cooperation nearly impossible. A world of scientists has no feeling for human life. But Finch dreams on, looking for his ideal world.

   A disappointment. The wacky adventures promised merely struggle against dullness. As a vehicle for social commentary, this story creaks and sputters. Lots of ideas in satirical form, but interest lags. In fact, the only thing that maintains this series of adventures as a novel is the underlying prospect of finding a return to Finch’s original world.

   But even this is denied the reader. Lots of questions are never answered (is this typical of fantasy?), not the least of which is the possible physical existence of these dream worlds with histories which seem closely identical to our own. Collapse in real life must be inevitable, if not immediate. Such is the substance of dreams.

Rating: **

–September 1967