As we speak, my nephew, David, is on the S.S. Israel bound for Haifa, Israel. It’s the last leg of a long trip that began with a plane ride from Los Angeles to New York, continued with a six-day sea cruise across the Atlantic to Gibraltar, and which currently sees the youth making a brief landing in the Greek port of Piraeus. He’s about to begin a year (or two) in Israel on a kibbutz. An exciting adventure, to be sure, though I will miss our discussions on current science fiction, even if his tastes were, understandably, a little less refined than mine.
So I hope, dear readers, that you will make up for his absence by sending me even more of your lovely comments!
Of course, you can hardly prepare your posts until I’ve reviewed this month’s set of magazines. First on the pile, as usual, is the double-large issue of Galaxy, the biggest of the science fiction magazines with 196 pages packed with some of the biggest names in the field.
But is bigger always better? Not necessarily. In fact, Galaxy seems to be where editor H.L. Gold stuffs his “safe” stories, the ones by famous folks that tend not to offend, but also won’t knock your socks off.
So it is with the April 1961 Galaxy, starting with the novella, Planeteer, the latest from newcomer Fred Saberhagen. It starts brilliantly, featuring an interstellar contact team from Earth attempting to establish relations with an aboriginal alien race. Two points impressed me within the first few pages: the belt-pouch sized computer (how handy would that be?) and the breakfast described as, “synthetic ham, and a scrambled substance not preceded or followed by chickens.”
The race, however, is disappointingly human; the tale is a fairly typical conundrum/solution story. On the other hand, the alien king does show some refreshing intelligence—no easy White God tactics for the Planeteers! Three stars.
Fritz Leiber offers up Kreativity for Kats, an adorable tale of a feline with the blood of an artiste. Now, any story that features cats is sure to be a cute one (with the notable, creepy exception of The Mind Thing…) It’s not science fiction at all, not even fantasy, but I read it with a grin on my face. Four stars.
Galaxy’s science fact column, For Your Information, by German rocket scientist Willy Ley, continues to be entertaining. This bi-month’s article is on the Gegenschein, that mysterious counterpoint to the Zodiacal Light. There’s also a fun aside about the annexation of Patagonia by a bewildered German professor as well as silly bit on Seven League Boots. Three stars.
Last up for the first half of the book is James Stamer’s Scent Makes a Difference, which answers the question on everyone’s mind: What if you could meet all the alternate yous—the ones who took different paths in life? Would you learn from all of your possible mistakes? Or would you merely commit the biggest blunder of all? I didn’t quite understand the ending (or perhaps I overthought it). Three stars.
That’s that for now. Read up, drop me a line, and I’ll have the second half in a few days!