I poke a lot of fun at John Campbell’s magazine, Astounding for its overfeaturing of psionics and Randall Garrett, two things of which I’ve gotten very tired–so imagine my surprise when I found myself enjoying a serial that intimately involves both!
For the last three months, Astounding‘s serial has been Out Like a Light, the sequel to the actually-not-bad That Sweet Little Old Lady. Both stories were co-written by the team of Randall Garrett (who seems to be getting better these days, at least prose-wise) and Laurence Janifer (who may be the real talent behind the operation). Together, they go by the monicker of “Mark Phillips.”
Lady introduced two investigating agents of the FBI in the nearish future, Malone and Boyd, who are stand-ins for the authors. I think. Boyd certainly shares Garrett’s physical similarity to Henry VIII as well as his penchant for girl-chasing. And Janifer, if he cut his hair into a Mohican, would look a bit like Malone. Their first misadventure involves tracking down a gaggle of psychics and enlisting their aid to fix a security leak in the government. The sanest of the bunch or telepaths, despite believing herself to be the not-so-late ex-Monarch, Elizabeth I, ends up being the lynchpin to the agents’ success. As the title suggests, she really is a sweet little old lady. Who can read minds.
Out Like a Light is essentially a solo adventure, with Malone sleuthing around after a spate of carjackings. All of the cars are red Cadillacs, and the investigating officers tend to get nasty bumps on the side of the head. Yet, no trace of the perpetrators is ever seen. Of course, psionics are involved, and Her Majesty serves an important supporting role in solving the mystery.
It’s about 10% too long in the droll recounting of things, but it moves swiftly and entertainingly, features a couple of strong female characters (shock!) and is a reasonably executed “how-dunnit.” I say “how” since the “who” is determined fairly early on.
I found myself actively looking forward, each month, to reading more of the story. It’s not literature for the ages, but it is genuinely amusing. If my meter allowed for half increments for individual stories, I would give it three and a half stars. Since it doesn’t, I suppose I’ll be generous and give it four.
Astounding can use the charity, especially after the non-fiction “article” featured in this month’s issue… but more on that later.
Pick up a copy, and enjoy!