The old saying goes, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” As you know, I am rarely reserved when I don’t like a piece of work. Every once in a while, I get a gentle chiding. One reader said he didn’t want to hear about stories I don’t like–just the ones I do. Another opined that my fans might tire of my consistently negative reviews of a certain author.
I don’t want to discount these criticisms as I think they are valid. On the other hand, if I am unreserved in my scorn, I am similarly effusive about what I like. My columns are rarely completely negative. Moreover, I recognize that even the works I don’t like often appeal to others, and I love receiving letters from folks who disagree with my judgments.
Besides, you good folk likely come here to see me as much as to get reading recommendations. Alfred Bester said in F&SF last month that he prefers English non-fiction to American as English authors will intrude into the text. There are only so many ways to package facts; the only distinguishing character is the personality of the packager. Certainly, I read Asimov as much for the science lesson as for the fun anecdotes.
So, enjoy all of me, even the kvetching. And if you don’t, feel free to tell me just how much you dislike me. I may even agree with you…
On to the task at hand–reviewing the first half of the February 1961 Galaxy!
Evelyn Smith (formerly Gold, same name as the editor, natch) takes up most of it with Sentry in the Sky, a story about a malcontent in a futuristic caste system who is enlisted to become a long-term spy mole on a more primitive world. It’s not bad, but it is awfully simplistic, and the point meanders. Moreover, it relies on awfully human aliens. Of course, it’s satire as much as anything else–the primitive world has a culture that is immediately familiar to 20th Century people. Let me know what you think. Three stars.
Finally, we have what may be the very first piece from a new writer, Volume Paa-Pyx by Fred Saberhagen. It’s a fun twist on the future where those with specific aptitudes get placed in appropriate professions. When is a police state not a police state? Three stars.
It doesn’t take a slide rule to calculate this issue: Three stars across the board! Nothing exceptional, nothing horrid. Satisfying, but ummemorable. Let me ask you–is it better to be delivered a dose of strong ups and downs or a steady, bland mean?