We left off on a cliff-hanger of sorts, half-way through my review of the second issue of IF under Gold and Pohl’s management. In brief, it ends as it began: with a strong start and a fairly middlin’ finish.
Gordy Dickson is back to form with Homecoming, a quite nice novelette about a fellow running afoul of Earth customs agents when he tries to declare his pet. If you had a beloved companion, would you sacrifice your chances at immigration by refusing to part with it? The deck is extra stacked in this case—said “animal,” an enhanced kangaroo, is near-sentient. It’s a page-turner, and over too fast.
I’ve never heard of Kirby Kerr, but his An Honest Credit, about a down-on-his-luck fellow with nothing to his name but a priceless, ancient coin (with which he refuses to part) is pretty good. A bit maudlin and short on much that would identify it as science fiction, but I enjoyed it.
I normally don’t include book-review columns in these reviews, but Fred Pohl takes his column a step further, making it a sort of essay. Worlds of If discusses the appearance and non-appearance of gadgetry in science fiction stories, and whether or not it adversely affects the story (or makes it less “science-fictiony.” What do you think? Do you require whiz-bang inventions, or do you prefer a more subtle kind of s-f?
The penultimate tale is Escape into Silence by Australian Wynne N. Whiteford. I enjoyed most of it, this tale of a colony world that has slowly but inexorably ended up under the strict and paternalistic dominion of another colony, one that has risen to supremacy. The protagonist tries to escape, is given the opportunity to emigrate lawfully, but ultimately embraces the confined, noisy enclosures of his home town. I suppose people are loathe to give up what they know, even if they have a chance at something better. Something about the end rang false, however.
Finally, we have Hornets’ Nest by a Mr. Lloyd Biggle Jr. (which suggests there is a Lloyd Biggle Sr. roaming about; that makes me smile). Nest could have been written in the 1930s. A human starship returns to the solar system and finds all of humanity dead for having DARED TO PROBE THE HEART OF JUPITER, THE PLANET WITH THE BALEFUL EYE OF DEATH! It’s not quite so hackneyed; it’s actually a decent read, but I take my amusements where I can.
IF continues to be a solid, if uninspiring, magazine. Lacking the utter dreck of Astounding, it is, nevertheless, not as consistently good as its sister, Galaxy. It feels like what it is—a repository for the second-rate Galaxy stories (though, to be fair, they are not bad so much as often mediocre, and some are quite good). Three stars, and that makes it one of the better mags this month, sad to say.
P.S. Galactic Journey is now a proud member of a constellation of interesting columns. While you’re waiting for me to publish my next article, why not give one of them a read!
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