John Campbell’s science fiction magazine continues to defy my efforts to chart a trend. Following on the heels of last month’s rather dismal issue, the February 1961 Analog is an enjoyable read. Let’s take a look, shall we?
It took me a little while to get into Everett Cole’s lead novella, The Weakling, but once I understood what he was doing, I was enthralled. Cole paints a world in which people with psi powers dominate those without. It is a planet of slave-owning aristocrats who can force people to do their bidding through mental will alone. The viewpoint character is Barra, scion of a noble family. His ascension to lordhood was accidental, caused by the premature deaths of his father and brother. Without the aid of an array of potent psychic enhancers, he would be barely more powerful than the “pseudo-men” he controls.
Weakling is the account of this bitter, cruel man, contemptuous of the slaves he resembles, jealous of his psychically more powerful peers, who entices rich merchants to his estate, murdering them for plunder. The story can be hard to read at times, but it is an excellent insight into the mindset of the 19th Century slave-owner (and thus an indictment of the sentiment that still prevails over much of the modern South). Four stars.
Teddy Keller’s short, The Plague, is more typical Analog fare. When a sickness sweeps the nation, with no apparent rhyme or reason to its epidemiology, one doctor must race against time to find a cure. The solution is contrived and rather silly. Two stars.
Freedom, the latest in Mack Reynolds’ slew of stories set in the Soviet Union of the 1980s, is a horse of a different color. Once again, Reynolds expertly conveys the character of life behind an Iron Curtain where Communism has achieved its economic goals, but not its social ones. In this tale, we see how difficult it is to extirpate a desire for intellectual freedom once it has taken root. I appreciate the evenhandedness with which Reynolds evaluates both the East and West. I also liked the romantic element, portrayed as between two equals unencumbered with conservative moral values. Four stars.
Campbell trumpeted his expanded coverage of science fact in his magazine, and it seemed a worthy experiment at the start. I’m always happy to see more Asimov articles, after all. But recently, the “non-fiction” portion of the magazine has been devoted to self-penned articles on the editor’s hobbies or favorite crackpot inventions. We get a blessed break from these with a short photo-feature showing rockets of the past and present. Too short to garner a rating.
I don’t think I quite got H.B. Fyfe’s The Outbreak of Peace, a short short that takes place at an interstellar peace conference. I even read it twice. Would someone explain it to me, please? Two stars (for now).
At last, we have Chris Anvil’s latest, The Ghost Fleet. A space fleet commander is forced to ignominious flight when the enemy strikes with an unbeatable weapon. Can he recover his honor (and save the day) with an audacious gambit? It’s good, if something of a one-trick pony. Three stars.
The issue finishes off with the conclusion to Occasion for Disaster, which I previously covered. All told, the book clocks in at a slice over three stars, which is perfectly acceptable for 50 cents of entertainment.
Now let’s see if this month’s Fantasy and Science Fiction can top that.