galacticjourney: (Default)
Sorry about the wait, friends, but I promise to make it up to you. I had a lovely night at the drive-in that precluded my fingers hitting the typewriter keys, but I'll have movies to discuss in short order as a result.

In the meantime, let's wrap up this month's Astounding. shall we? After all, new issues come out in just a couple of days, and I have to have the boards clear before pressing on.


(illustrated by Martinez)

George O. Smith, science fiction's A-lister of latin descent, turns out a fine story for animal lovers with History Repeats. In the far future, canis familiar has been given enhanced intelligence to rival that of humanity's, but their loyalty to their bipedal companions remains undiminished. In this tale, Terran agent, Peter, and his furry companion, Buregarde, are sent to Xanabar, a sort of latter-day Byzantium, to rescue a kidnapped damsel in distress. It's worth reading just for Buregarde--Smith always writes a fun, poetic story.


(illustrated by van Dongen)

Operation Haystack, by Frank Herbert, is an interesting political thriller set about a thousand years from now. It involves a centuries-old plot by the descendants of nomadic Arabs to seize political control of the galaxy. What makes the story special is that the orchestrators of the plot are women--and they pretty much win in the end. That said, it's a little disappointing that these powerful women generally rule through their husbands, who hold the political offices (though the women pull the strings). I'd like to think that the future lies in the equality of the sexes rather than the eternal struggle, with one side or the other side enjoying supremacy for a while. Still, I suppose Herbert's is as plausible a future as any, and at least the women are getting their say in it.


(NASA photo)

Philip Latham's Disturbing Sun is written in the form of an interview, the kind of transcription you often find in NASA press releases. It's one of those non-non-fiction pieces, and it is not un-clever. Psychologist Dr. Niemand describes the untoward effects increased sunspot activity has on the psyches of people during the sunlit hours. Given that we still don't know what sunspots really are (well, we know they are cool spots, but we don't know why they exist or how they're made), I suppose Latham's fancies are to disprove. Interestingly, Latham (who appears in the story as the interviewer) is actually the alter-ego of real-life astronomer Robert Richardson; Richardson was even the technical advisor on Destination: Moon, so I imagine he knows whereof he speaks. Even if you don't buy the sunspot/neurosis connection (I doubt Richardson does either), the style is captured with verisimilitude and is a fun read.


(illustrated by Summers)

Last up is Hex by Larry M. Harris. This is a story I would have expected to find in Fantasy & Science Fiction (that's a compliment) dealing as it does with witchcraft, a do-gooder welfare worker with fine intentions but creepy, eldritch methods, a scheming Russian ex-patriate who wants to bilk the system rather than be magically compelled to find work, and a gypsy witch in over her head. Interesting, whimsical, disturbing. Good stuff.

Gosh, where does that leave us? I guess this really wasn't a bad book, all told. 3.5 stars? Worth getting, particularly if you want to catch Dorsai in serial form.

Next up: The last issue of Satellite! Stay tuned!

(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)


galacticjourney: (Default)
It is still truly a man's world, at least between the covers of Astounding magazine. I recognize that we live in a culture where men aren't allowed to take cooking or shorthand classes (these are women's topics, after all), but I'd like to think that science fiction writers are more progressive.

Perhaps I'm the one who's wrong, however. Maybe women will remain "separate but equal" into the foreseeable future...

Ahem. Where was I? Ah, yes. The rest of February 1959's Astounding. To be fair, the remaining four stories actually range from decent to good. They are typical in their construction: an interesting set-up, a presented conundrum, and then a "gotcha" ending, but the execution is generally competent. Each had an interesting tidbit that stood out to me, a place where the writer dared to dream--or failed to do so. I'll point each one out as I go.



Hi Diddle Diddle is by Calvin M. Knox (Robert Silverberg--why he needed a pseudonym, I'm not sure; perhaps Campbell wants us to think more than one person writes for his magazine). I think Campbell would call it a "funny" story, but it's pretty decent stuff about the crew of a small moonbase trying to come up with a way to synthesize food for provisions on the moon. There are no women in the small crew, of course, though there is a line to suggest that is not always the case. And, of course, everybody smokes. Even on the moon, where air is (presumably) at a premium.

What I found compelling was Silverberg's conjecture that, by 1995, there would be eight moon bases: three American, three Soviet, one Chinese, and one Indian. Moreover, by then, the Cold War will have thawed considerably. I'm happy when any writer remembers there is more to the world than the Eagle and Bear, and I think the timeline is quite plausible. As for the story, well, as I said above, it's pretty formulaic, but competently written. Like all of Silverberg's stuff.

So far as I can tell, Peter Baily, author of the next story, Accidental Death, has not written anything else. That would set up alarm bells that he is someone's pseudonym, but none of my reliable sources can tell me if that truly be the case. In any event, Baily's tale is of Earth's first interstellar ship, and the first contact it makes with a race of creatures that possesses the ability to adversely affect probability. A "Jinx" race, if you will. Not a bad story, but the part that stuck out to me is when the protagonist, dictating his last thoughts for posterity, suggests that his memoir would make big news if someone could get it to a radio station or a newspaper office. Baily's story takes place in a future with starships, but media is stuck in 1940. It just goes to show that science fiction writers need be careful to avoid the intrusion of current (or even latter)-day items and technologies lest they kill the verisimilitude.

Frank Herbert is a newish writer. His Missing Link is nothing special. A Terran spacer is involved in first contact with an alien race with delusions of superiority. The Earther soon puts the alien in its place with go ol' Terran ingenuity. Lest I forget what magazine I'm reading.

Finally, The Professional Touch by "Leonard Lockhard" (actually the duo, Charles L. Harness and Theodore L. Thomas) is a fascinating, satirical piece on patent law, and its many current deficiencies. It's worth reading just as a treatise on the subject, particularly on the topics of "obviousness" and "flash of genius," and just how arbitrary are those tests that determine the worthiness of a patent.

All told, 3 stars. Nothing terribly offensive. Nothing strikingly original. I'm looking forward to further installments of the Leinster series, though.





(Confused? Click here for an explanation as to what's really going on)

Profile

galacticjourney: (Default)
galacticjourney

September 2017

S M T W T F S
      12
3 45 67 89
101112 1314 1516
17 1819 2021 2223
24252627282930

Links

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Most Popular Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Sep. 23rd, 2017 01:57 am
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios