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by Rosemary Benton

It's an interesting premise: what would a meeting between Apaches and Tartars be like in a “wild west-esque” science fiction setting? And what if the Apaches were American explorers while the Tartars were from the Soviet Union? Andre Norton sets out to explore this idea in The Defiant Agents, her third installment in the Time Traders series.

This time it's not agents of the future who are being sent physically into the past, but rather the minds of a select group of volunteer Apache explorers who are on a rushed mission to reclaim the alien planet Topaz from the Communists...



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Rosemary Benton

Science fiction is a wonderful genre in that it allows an author the opportunity to pick a discipline – religion, economics, etc. - and create scenarios that are free to play out completely beyond any current restrictions or known facts of nature. Consider James Blish's The Star Dwellers with its sentient energy creatures or Andre Norton's Catseye with its telepathic animals.

But then there are the science fiction authors who try to ground their scenarios as close as possible to the discipline they are examining. For H. Beam Piper, it seems as if he wrote his most recent novel with a mission to accurately play out the issues and triumphs of an anthropologist. The results is the well written (if slightly dry) young adult novel, Little Fuzzy, the story of one interstellar prospector's journey to protect the small, furry family he has adopted, cared for, and believes to be as intelligent as any group of humans.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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By Ashley R. Pollard

I mentioned last time I find December winter difficult. In January it snowed, which reminds me of the song Let it Snow! by Vaughn Monroe, though the cover version sung by Dean Martin may be more familiar to younger readers of Galactic Journey. So with the frightful weather outside I had a good reason to stay indoors and read, and thanks to the Traveller's influence I have laid hands on preview copy of Eric Frank Russell’s, The Great Explosion, soon to be available at the end of May / beginning of June in hardback from all good bookstores.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

The Earth is dead, its verdant continents and azure oceans replaced with a roiling hell. The crew of the Benjamin Franklin, humanity's first interstellar ship, gaze on the holocaust in horror. Are they only humans left? Do any of Terra's other ships (particularly the all woman-crewed Europa) still survive? And most of all, who is responsible for this, the greatest of crimes?



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Rosemary Benton

Fate has been very kind to me throughout 1961. I was able to find a niche for myself as a university archivist, and I came across many people who shared my interest in all things science fiction. I have had the pleasure of publishing my thoughts on such amazing creators as Zenna Henderson and Andre Norton, and have even taken daring adventures to the shadier side of the science fiction entertainment industry. Finishing out the year with James Blish's The Star Dwellers was the cherry on top of a very delicious ice cream sundae.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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War is still a ripe subject for fiction. It has been a constant part of the human existence since there were nations. For six thousand years, we've glorified it, hated it, resolved ourselves to it. There's no reason to expect it will go away any time soon, and it's no wonder that war is a common theme in science fiction.

A couple of years back, Robert Heinlein's Starship Troopers made a big splash with its interesting take on interstellar combat and the character of patriotism. It was a jingoistic piece that I'm sure resulted in a small spike in enlistments. Gordy Dickson's war novel Dorsai also came out in in 1959. Dorsai was a fairly straightforward war story of a genius mercenary with the temperament and training to become a renowned general. Like Troopers, it was a runner up for the 1960 Hugo (Troopers won).



Both are what I'd call "typical" of the genre. I find it interesting how often war is positively portrayed: exciting, filled with tales of cunning, guts, and derring-do. I suppose it's because World War Two was a "good" war. Democracy vs. Tyranny with clear villains to fight. Sure, we lost some of our boys, but we made the world safe again. And so we have a stream of war movies which are by turns dramatic, gripping, even comedic, but rarely overtly anti-war. A Walk in the Sun, a candid film that even included a portrayal of battle fatigue in the midst of action, is one of the few exceptions.

Pacifist sci-fi novels have been similarly rare. Given the nature of Dickson's Dorsai, I was thus surprised (and delighted) to see that his recent Naked to the Stars, serialized over the last to months in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, is a thoughtful and engaging anti-war book.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

Author Harry Harrison has been around for a long time, starting his science fiction writing career at the beginning of the last decade (1951). Yet, it was not until this decade that I (and probably many others) discovered him. He came into my view with the stellar Deathworld, a novel that was a strong contender for last year's Hugo. Then I found his popular Stainless Steel Rat stories, which were recently anthologized. The fellow is definitely making a name for himself.



Harrison actually occupies a liberal spot in generally conservative Analog magazine's stable of authors. While Harry tends to stick with typical Analog tropes (psionics, humano-centric stories, interstellar hijinx), there are themes in his work which are quite progressive – even subversive, at least for the medium in which they appear.

For instance, there is a strong pro-ecological message in Deathworld. I also detect threads of pacifism in Harrison's works, not to mention rather unorthodox portrayal of women and sexual mores. Harry isn't Ted Sturgeon or anything, but he is definitely an outlier for Analog, and refreshing for the genre as a whole.



Harrison's latest novel, Sense of Obligation (serialized over the last three issues of Analog) continues all of the trends described above.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Gideon Marcus

The nice thing about writing reviews for an immediately published medium, like a newspaper or a daily column, is the currency of the information you convey. Most reviewers get their books just before release from the publishers, and by the time their reviews are in print, their subjects are several months old. At Galactic Journey, you can be guaranteed a presentation of the very newest material.



Ironically, my offering for you this time around is Raymond Z. Gallun's The Planet Strappers, which while a brand new novel, reads like something written several decades ago. I'd gotten used to the out there stuff by Sturgeon and Farmer and Henderson, so it was a little jarring to find something so old-fashioned. But it makes sense: like the legendary "Doc" Smith, Gallun is a grizzled veteran of the 20s and 30s pulps. In fact, he hardly turned out a thing in the last decade.

Strappers is the story of The Bunch, a gang of young space enthusiasts from Jarviston, Minnesota who live some time in the mid-distance future...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Rosemary Benton

Catseye is the short, but very well written, science fiction novel from the pen of the legendary Andre Norton. I'm ashamed to say that I haven't experienced much of Norton's writing myself, although her fans sing her praise joyfully and have repeatedly recommended her titles to me. Reading the back cover of Catseye while in my town's book store, I had to berate myself for not looking into her before. If half of what her book promised was true, then here was an author that I could fully invest in. I was not disappointed.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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The human experience is a visual one. While each of the five senses has its function and importance, we rely primarily on our eyes to navigate the world. Sighted people take this fact for granted – even the verb "to see" means "to understand." Inability to see is considered (by the sighted) to be a devastating plight, the resulting world of darkness unbearable.

But is it? In his latest book, Dark Universe, Daniel Galouye takes the horror out of blindness, putting us in the viewpoint (or more accurately, the "hearpoint") of a post-apocalyptic civilization of humans that has lived for generations underground without any sources of light. While their eyes may technically still work, they are useless. Hearing and smell have become the operative senses for interpreting the world. Over the generations, even the memory of sight has become forgotten, and many inhabitants of this subterranean world spend their lives with their eyes tightly shut, their hair grown long over their face. Yet they live, even thrive, in a beauty that goes beyond the visual.

It is a fascinating set-up, and it's rendered beautifully by Galouye...

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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August may have started with cool weather but it ended with a bit of heat wave for the August Bank Holiday weekend. So I did get to sit on the beach eating ice-cream and reading a good book, and in this case having the pleasure of reading Arthur C. Clarke’s latest A Fall of Moondust, of which John Wyndham has said, “The best book that Arthur C. Clarke has written.” A high praise indeed.

I have been a fan of Arthur’s work after reading his novella, which first appeared in Startling Stories, called Against the Fall of Night. I’ve also been fortunate to have had the pleasure of meeting him. For those of you who follow my writing here I can also recommend, if you want a taste of the man’s humour, his short story collection Tales from the White Hart. The title of which is play on the name of the original pub that The London Circle used to frequent.

Arthur C. Clarke’s latest book probably cements his reputation as one of the key science fiction authors of our age; the others being Isaac Asimov and Robert A. Heinlein. His breakout novel, if you will indulge me in describing it as such, was arguably Childhood's End, which was released in 1953. It describes the arrival of the Overlords on Earth to guide humanity and ends with the transcendence of mankind into something more than human. This was followed by my favourite novel of his The Deep Range in 1957, which tells how a former astronaut becomes an aquanaut, and describes the adventures arising from farming the sea.



So the question is, does A Fall of Moondust live up to John Wyndham’s effusive praise?

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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by Rosemary Benton

I enjoy my science fiction in the evenings, when I can open the windows and let my tortoise, Mabel, out of her cage to meander around my condominium. Both of us love these night time relaxations as a way to expunge stress and enjoy new environments. For me, I get the opportunity to stretch my mind with speculative fiction, while Mabel enjoys the more humble tortoise pleasure of exploring nooks and crannies.

On one such recent evening I looked at Mabel and felt a coincidental connection between our activities. For whatever reason, she was choosing to repeatedly walk in a wobbly circle from the couch to the table, to the wall, to the bookshelf, and then back to the couch. This wouldn't have struck me so powerfully except for the fact that I was reading Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein. Like Mabel, I was not only willingly subjecting myself to drudgery, but I was engaged in a circular story that felt like it was going nowhere.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Have you ever wanted to throw yourself into a fantasy world? Tour through Middle Earth? Plan a trip in Narnia? Who hasn't imagined themselves rubbing elbows with Robin Hood or Jason's Argonauts?

Some folks have gone so far as to write their own cross-world adventures , much to the delight of their readers. L. Frank Baum made it a common practice to feature immigrants from the "real world" to Oz. L. Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt, in their Incomplete Enchanter, detailed the travels of Earth-dweller Harold Shea through Norse Mythology and The Faerie Queen.

And now, the esteemed Poul Anderson has taken a stab at the genre with Three Hearts and Three Lions.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Girdling the Earth are bands of deadly radiation, the Van Allen Belts. They form a prison, an egg shell that humanity can never pierce. Embittered, the human race turns inward. Psychic powers come to the fore. At first, the psychically endowed paranormals ("parries") use their gifts for a lark or for profit. Over time, the world comes to hate these deviants, forcing them into ghettos and isolated towns.

All except for the rare few employed by Fishhook, an agency that has opened up the stars through other means. Fusing technology and innate power, the "Fishermen" project their minds across the light years and explore other worlds. They bring back wondrous gifts of technology, which are sold in Fishhook-owned centers called "Trading Posts." The Fishermen encounter a riot of experiences: things of incomprehensible beauty, things of unspeakable evil. The most rigidly enforced rule is that the Fishermen must retain their humanity; any taint of alien, any hint of going native, and they are cloistered in a community that is, for all intents and purposes, a gilded cage.

All of which are just abstract concerns to Blaine, a veteran Fisherman, tourist of a hundred worlds, until the day he encounters the pinkness: a sprawling, shabby, impossibly old creature who tells him, "Hi Pal. I trade with you my mind..."

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Today's article is about second chances.

The newspapers are full of scary news these days. Overpopulation. Tension between the East and West. The threat of global disaster. Some feel that we are headed toward a doomed future, one of increased authoritarian governments, of scarcity, of rationing. That we lost something when the last frontiers closed, forcing us to turn inward, toward oblivion.

Poul Anderson's just come out with a new book along those lines: Orbit Unlimited. It's a fix-up of sorts, composed of four stories, two of which I've reviewed before. There are many scenes and as many viewpoint characters, but they all revolve around a central premise: a hundred years from now, freedom is ended, humanity is stagnant, and just one sliver of hope remains – a harsh world around the star e Eridani called Rustum.

(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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There are many kinds of books. There are important books, the kind that will be remembered and discussed for decades to come, like Harper Lee's recent To Kill a Mockingbird. There are progressive books that skirt the edge of convention, like Ted Sturgeon's Venus Plus X.

And then there are the just plain good reads, neither subtle nor ingenious, but worthy nonetheless--like Fredric Brown's latest novel, The Mind Thing.



(see the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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Illustrated by Van Dongen

Sometimes one plus one is greater than two, and sometimes, two authors produce a substantially better product than either of them might individually.

Take Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg, for instance. Here are a couple of fellows whose personal output tends toward the uninspiring, at best, and the downright offensive, at worst. Yet, together, they wrote the Nidor series, which was solid reading all the way through. Now, Laurence Janifer, on the other hand, writes some pretty good stuff on his own, so perhaps he is not helped by his pairing with Randy. On the third hand, Randy sure as hell writes better stuff when working with Larry (under the pen name of Mark Phillips)!

Case in point: A couple of years ago, the two teamed up to produce a serial novel in Astounding (now Analog) called That Sweet Little Old Lady. It followed the travails of FBI Agent Ken Malone as he tracked down a gaggle of insane telepaths in the early 1970s. His main partner, aside from the Garrett stand-in, Agent Boyd, is a charming grandmotherly telepath whose primary quirk is that she believes herself to be Queen Bess herself. Not a reincarnation, mind you--the real deal.

The G-Man and Her Majesty teamed up again for another serial, Out Like a Light, where the subject of interest was a gang of teleporting juvenile car thieves. By the end of this novel, Malone has picked up some psychic skills of his own, including a sense of precognition and the ability to teleport.

Three months ago, installment one of the latest Mark Phillips novel debuted in Analog. This one is aptly titled Occasion for Disaster, and it is Malone's most ambitious outing to date...

(read the rest at Galactic Journey!)
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I don't know who Ben Barzman is, but he's written an interesting little book.

The synopsis makes the novel sound as if it is composed of more cheese than the Moon. 186 million miles away, on the opposite side of the Sun, is another Earth. It is a virtual twin, to the point of having the same landmasses, the same biological history, even the same human history up through the end of The Great War. Thanks to their not having a Second World War, they are far ahead of us in the social, medical, and energy sciences (though not, apparently, in the rocket and atomic sciences). Scientists of our Earth manage to create a new ray, a ray so powerful that it becomes a living, intelligent entity, which facilitates contact with this other Earth. The counter-Earth responds by sending a delegation to our planet to determine whether or not we are worthy of receiving their technological gifts.

Sounds silly, doesn't it? Like something that might have been written in the '30s or earlier. And, in fact, if you read the story just for the science fiction, you'll be disappointed. I suspect Barzman is not a scientificitioneer by trade. Luckily, what he gives us goes far beyond the basic plot.

(see more at Galactic Journey!)
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If anyone can claim the title of “Dean of Modern Science Fiction,” it is Murray Leinster. For decades, the gentle old man of the genre has turned out exciting interstellar adventures leavened with humor and hard science.

But old men are prone to losing their faculties, and I fear we're seeing the first signs of it.

(see why at Galactic Journey!)
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I didn't start Galactic Journey with the intention of spotlighting female writers and characters in science fiction. It just happened organically. A good many of my readers are women, and their interests may have influenced me. Or perhaps I simply became bored with the status quo. Woman authors tend to be more experimental or, at least, stylistically unique. And good female characters are a rare surprise (though increasing in frequency).

For a column that emphasizes the literary contributions of the species' better half, there has been one curiously large omission. Not once have I reviewed a work by Andre Norton.

Norton, despite the masculine pen name, is a woman, and she is one of the genre's most prolific writers. I think she has escaped my ken because she tends to write juveniles and fantasy novels, so she doesn't appear in my magazine subscriptions. I also attempted to start one of her books at a reader's suggestion (Star Gate), and I found it impenetrable.



But last month, I was caught up with current publications and an Ace Double from a few years back attracted my interest: The Crossroads of Time by Norton paired up with Mankind on the Run by Gordon Dickson. I finished Norton's short novel over Thanksgiving weekend, and here's what I found:

(find out at Galactic Journey!)

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