[February 10, 1961] Two for two!  (March 1961 Analog)

Analog (my errant fingers keep wanting to type “Astounding”) was even better than last time.  This particular copy is a seasoned traveler, having ridden with me to the lovely shores of Kaua’i and back.  At long last, I’ve finished reading, and I can tell you about it.  A sneak preview: there’s not a bad piece in the book!

In lieu of a serial, nearly half of the issue’s pages are taken up with Mack Reynold’s novella, Ultima Thule.  My nephew, David, was so enamored with this one that he specifically recommended it to me in a recent letter.  It’s the story of Ronny Bronston, an agent employed by the mysterious Section G, responsible for maintaining mutual non-interference between the 2000 member planets of the Galactic Federation.  Bronston is sent on the trail of “Tommy Paine,” an elusive agitator who travels from planet to planet, upending the various status quos.  Can you figure out who Paine really is?  I particularly liked Bronston’s ‘assistant,’ the highly capable, and delightfully reproachful Tog Lee Chang Chu.  Reynolds never has trouble writing good female characters.  Three stars.

Cliff Simak is back with another rustic-themed story, Horrible Example.  Can a robot programmed to be the town drunk rise to be more than the sum of his code?  A sensitive piece in that inimitable Simak style.  Four stars.

G. Harry Stine used to be a professional rocketeer—until his calls to action in response to Sputnik rubbed his superiors the wrong way.  Now, he is a technology evangelist.  In his latest piece, Sub-Mach Rockets, he explorers the much neglected field of rocketry at speeds below the speed of sound.  Makes me want to build a baby missile or two!  Three stars.

The next piece was written with tongue firmly in cheek, a bit of engineering fluff by Maurice Price descriptively entitled, An Introduction to the Calculus of Desk-Cleaning.  See Price illustrate the correlation between engineer output and desk-based chaos; it’s surprisingly informative!  Four stars.

Next, we’ve got one of those “non-fact” articles, though it’s just billed as fiction.  The Four-Faced Visitors of Ezekiel, by Arthur W. Orton, is a science fictional interpretation of the biblical book of Ezekiel.  It’s as good an explanation for that bizarre book as any!  Three stars

Now, I admit it.  I am biased toward stories of interstellar travel with ships and captains and interesting situations.  Poul Anderson’s Hiding Place is a wonderful puzzle cloaked in all the trappings I like: a refreshingly multi-racial starship crew finds itself trapped in deep space between a pirate fleet and a quickly diminishing provisions supply.  Only by making contact with a friendly alien ship do they have a hope of seeing the fires of home.  Unfortunately, said alien ship, a zoological vessel with a menagerie of beasts for its cargo, takes the humans for pirates and hides in the animal cages.  Can the terrestrials discern the sentient creatures from their beasts and plead their case in time?  Five stars.

That all adds up to a 3.5 star issue—well worth the half dollar you’ll fork over at the newsstand (less if you buy a subscription, which, if the quality continues to be this good, might be a fine investment).


4 thoughts on “[February 10, 1961] Two for two!  (March 1961 Analog)”

  1. “Ultima Thule” was an absolutely terrific story. I think I’d even give it one more star than you did. Reynolds has laid the groundwork for a whole series of really interesting stories where agents go out and try to bring in planets. Sort of Piper-esque but with Mack’s unique take on economics and politics. I also think you could argue that this is set in the same universe as last August’s “Adaptation”, which none of us much cared for.

    I also really liked the Anderson. Nice to see that we’re getting a run of “good” Anderson. He was really off his game for a while there. I’ve enjoyed his other stories about van Rijn and I hope we see more.

    I was rather less enamored of the articles, but at least we didn’t get yet another exploration of the Dean drive or one of Campbell’s other bugaboos. The Ezekiel article came close, though. Trying to impose a rationalist explanation of esoteric symbology that meant something to an initiated priestly class 3000 years ago is doomed to failure. Imagine somebody trying to interpret a set of today’s political cartoons 3000 years from now, with all those elephants and donkeys and bears, without knowing what those symbols mean to us.

    1. Re: Ezekiel, I completely agree, and if I had any suspicion that the article was meant to be taken seriously, I’d drop it to one star.

      I’m not sure why Ultima Thule didn’t hit it out of the park for me; perhaps it was the writing, which is was a bit workmanlike.  Also, something about the premise was both implausible and oversmug. 

      Anderson’s been great since 1959.  I look forward to him these days!

  2. “Ultima Thule” was a pretty good story.  It’s a bit talky, but at least it’s interesting talk.  I was a little disturbed by the way that Section G operates, but maybe I’m supposed to be disturbed by it.  Food for thought, anyway.

    1. Maybe.  Reynolds is pretty good about being evenhanded.  Perhaps there will be something sinister about Section G revealed in a later story–sort of like the behind-the-scenes impurity hinted at in Anderson’s Time Patrol series.

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