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It had to happen some day--Astounding has pulled itself out of a nose dive, for now.

Last time, I discussed the most excellent serial, Deathworld. Still, a single good serial does not a good issue make. Thankfully, Campbell has at long last, and after a merciless rough patch, delivered a quite readable book.

J.T. McIntosh can always be relied upon to provide entertainment; his lead novella, Immortality for Some is no exception. In the future, society's most worthy, the 10% with sufficient talents and/or accomplishments to make the cut, are allowed to undergo "Rebirth." This process erases all memories and restores the body to an adolescent stage of physical development. The special person gets to live again in a sort of cloned reincarnation.

But what happens when one of the world's intellectual elite doesn't want to cheat death? This is a world that doesn't want to lose a cultural treasure, and it takes an exceptional person, indeed, to evade Rebirth.

Strongly written, with the first half written from the point of view of an aged woman pianist of superlative talent giving her last concert before Rebirth; the second stars the aforementioned fellow—a seemingly unremarkable caretaker whom the musician befriends. It's worth your time.

And now, I shall surprise my audience by saying with a straight face that I actually enjoyed Randall Garrett's contribution to this issue: In Case of Fire.... In this far future, the sprawling Terran Empire cannot afford to send its best and brightest as ambassadors to less-esteemed stations. The story opens on a remote, unimportant world whose embassy is staffed with barely functional neurotics. Yet in that insanity lies the key to ending an interstellar war. Garrett manages to be somewhat clever and to not offend. Quite an accomplishment for him.

Chris Anvil's Shotgun Wedding is another of his unremarkable space-fillers about an alien race whose plan to disrupt humanity by flooding the market with clairvoyant television backfires. One bit I liked, however, was the depiction of pen pals from different countries using their television screens to correspond across thousands of miles. When the world is finally wired into OMNIVAC, decades from now, I imagine we'll see such a phenomenon.

Editor Campbell has been trying to make a go of the slick non-fiction section of his magazine for several months. This issue is the first with readable articles, the first of which is Mars: A Summing Up by R.S. Richardson (perhaps better known by his nom d'plume, Philip Latham). Mr. Richardson does an admirable, if slightly dry, job of comprehensively summarizing the current state of knowledge regarding the mysterious Red Planet.



We've enjoyed three relatively close approaches to Mars over the past six years, the likes of which will not recur until 1971, by which time we will probably have sent at least one probe to investigate close-up. As a result, scientists have amassed a bonanza of information. Yet it is still unknown whether or not Mars has life, though if it does, it must be of a very low order. The most exciting work has been done by the astronomer A. Dolfuss, who has determined the nature of Martian soil to examination of its polarization (the non-randomness of the angle of vibration of light that reflects from it). That we've learned so much about Mars is, of course, a marvel in and of itself. To quote the author, "To tell anything about a body that never comes closer than thirty-five million miles taxes your ingenuity to the utmost."

Dr. Asimov was also tapped to provide an article after a long hiatus from Astounding's pages. Microdesign for Living, about the biochemical synthesis of proteins, is not one of his better pieces, which is to say that is readable but not memorable.

Poul Anderson (as his Astounding alter-ego Winston P. Sanders) wraps things up with a short piece called The Barrier Moment. Scientists may not know why one can't go back in time more than three years, but a philospher believes he has the horrifying answer. Perhaps there isn't any time to go back to...

All told, the March 1960 Astounding clocks in at a respectable three-and-a-half stars. That is the best this magazine has been since I started rating the issues in January 1959. I sincerely hope Campbell can keep this up!

---

Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you're waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!







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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!

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