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I really enjoy the broadness of Galaxy's 196-page format. It allows for novellas and novelets, which is a story size I've come to prefer. F&SF has lots of stories per issue, too, but they tend to be very short. Astounding likes serials, which can be fine if they're good, but dreary if they're not. I mentioned last time that this month's issue was looking to be a star all through. Let's see if that prediction held true.


All pictures by Dick Francis

Wilson Tucker's King of the Planet certainly did not disappoint. You may remember that Tucker wrote the excellent Galaxy novel, The City in the Sea. His writing skills are on full display in the instant story, about a old old man who has outlasted all of his comrades. and now lives a solitary existence in a mausoleum, the one remaining survivor of a colony of humans. Every so often, he is visited by other humans from faraway stars. They question him, conduct surveys, and then they leave, puzzled at the self-styled king's longevity and solitude. King is the story of one such visit. There is an interesting, religious twist at the end; what is your take? Let me know, would you?



Silence, by Englishman John Brunner, is also fine reading. Abdul Hesketh has been the captive of the inhuman Charnogs, with whom humanity has been at war with for decades, for 28 years. When he is at last rescued, his mind has been thoroughly damaged by the ordeal, and his treatment at the hands of his saviors, which amounts to near-torture as they attempt to pry useful intelligence from him, is anything but therapeutic. A little let down by the ending, but a fascinating psychological exploration.



Sadly, the last two stories are not up to the standard set by the rest of the magazine. Elizabeth Mann Borgese, polymath daughter of the famed German philosopher, Thoman Mann, has never written anything I really liked, and True Self is no exception. It is a story of plastic surgery and feminine beautification taken to an absurd level. A worthy topic of satire, but not a very engaging piece.



Lastly, "Charles Satterfield" (co-editor Fred Pohl, presumably working for peanuts) has a rather mediocre novelette (Way Up Younder) set on a future colony world with a decidedly Ante-bellum Southern culture with robots standing in for Black slaves. It’s not bad; it just sort of lies there.

Where does that leave us with the star tally?

Sadly, the last two stories dropped the issue from 4 to 3.5 stars. A pity, really. What’s better? A tight, good issue, or a less-good longer issue?
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It's those haunting, evocatively written F&SF stories that keep me a regular subscriber. July's issue opens with Robert F. Young's To Fell a Tree, about the murder (mercy killing?) of the tallest tree imaginable, and the dryad that lived within. It'll stay with you long after you turn the last page, this sad, but not entirely desolate, tale. So far, it's the best I've seen by Young.

Asimov's column, this month, is a screed against the snobbery of the champions of liberal arts and humanities to the practitioners of science. I'm told that the rivalry is largely good-natured, but Dr. Asimov seems to have been personally slighted, and his article is full of invective.

Avram Davidson's Author, Author is next: venerable British mystery writer is ensnared by the very butlers and baronets who were the subjects of his novels. I found most interesting the interchange between the author and his publisher, in which the latter fairly disowns the former for sticking to a stodgy old format, the country-house murder, rather than filling pages with sex and scandal. I found this particularly ironic as my wife is a mysteries fan who appreciates whodunnits of an older vintage, from Conan Doyle to Sayers. She has, of late, become disenchanted with the latest, more cynical crop of mysteries. I suspect she would have words for the publisher in Davidson's story.

For Sale, Reasonable is a short space-filler by Elizabeth Mann Borgese about a fellow soliciting work in a world where automation has made human labor obsolete. Damon Knight's following book review column is devoted to The Science Fiction Novel, Imagination and Social Criticism, a book of essays written by some of the field's foremost authors. It sounds like a worthy read.

Jane Roberts' Impasse hits close to home--a young lady loses her last living relative, her grandfather. So great is her grief that, by an act of will, she returns him to life, though the old man is not too happy about it. The story struck a chord with me as I lost my family when I was quite young, and I can certainly identify with the poor girl's plight.

The Harley Helix is another fill-in-the-space short short by Lou Tabakow, the moral of which is There Ain't No Such Thing as a Free Lunch (i.e. the First Law of Thermodynamics). Success Story, which I reviewed last time, is next.

Raymond E. Banks has the penultimate tale, with Rabbits to the Moon, a thoroughly nonsensical tale about the teleportation of creatures (including humans). Its only flaw, that the transported arrive without a skeleton, is made into a selling point.

Last up is The Cold, Cold Box by Howard Fast. The richest man in the world becomes afflicted with terminal cancer and has himself frozen in 1959 so that the future can cure him. But the members of his company's board of directors have a different agenda, particularly after they become the world's de facto controlling oligarchy.

It's good reading all the way through, but it's the lead novella that really sells it. 3.5 stars, I'd say.

I'm off to the movies tonight, so expect a film review soon!

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