When last we left off with the September 1959 Astounding, things were looking awfully bleak. The star-o-meter stood at a limp 2 stars, and I had poor hopes of raising the needle.
I am happy to report that things got better. Well, "happy" is too strong a word. I can honestly say that the quality improved, but I wouldn't have bought the magazine on the strength of its latter half.
Algis Budrys has the best story of the issue, no surprise there. His The Sound of Breaking Glass is the post-apocalyptic tale of a woman who has been holed up in a well-defended service station for twenty years as the world has slid into anarchy due to the widespread use and abuse of the drug, Lobotimol. Said medication makes the imbiber wholly vulnerable to suggestion--not the prescription for a healthy society. Originally a therapeutic pharmaceutical, it became a weapon that was cheap and ubiquitous.
Well-written and chilling, like most of Budrys' work.
The short-short article by Lt. James W. Owen, Fiction? Reality! is about the realization of arctic exploration gear that was posited as science fiction in a previous Chris Anvil story (Sellers' Market). Brief, but decent.
Amazingly, Randall Garrett's other story (under the pen-name of David Gordon), ...or your money back! is not terrible. It's actually pretty good, even though it is yet another story with the Heironymous Machine as its gimmick. In this tale, though, it is used to enhance psychokinetic powers to cheat at gambling. The sheer implausibility of the device is used as a legal defense by the perpetrator. A cute twist.
Finally, On handling the data, by newcomer M.I. Mayfield, is a depiction of one side of a correspondence exchange in which a graduate student makes an exciting discovery and then subverts it to gain his doctorate. I'm not quite sure I got the point, so I'm hoping my smarter readers can enlighten me.
All told, the latter half raised this issue into 2.5 star territory, which is as low as Astounding has gone this past year (it's never broken the 3 star mark, sadly). Read it at your peril.
In two days--the September 1959 IF! And then on to the new stuff... October!
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