I’m sure you’ve all been waiting like caught fish (with baited breath), so I shan’t keep you in the dark any longer regarding the October 1960 Galaxy. The second half of the magazine is better than the first, but it is not without its troubles.
Neal Barrett is back with his sophomore effort, The Stentorii Luggage. This engaging little tale highlights the dangers involved in running a hotel for dozens of disparate (and mutually incompatible) alien races. It also justifies the “no pets” policy common to most places of lodging.
A Fall of Glass gets my nomination for the best story of the issue. This is also a second effort, by Stanley R. Lee, in this case. Breezy, light touch tales are hard to pull off, but I think Lee has managed in this one, a romance set inside a climate-controlled, post-apocalyptic dome. Superficially similar to World in a Bottle in subject matter, but far better in execution.
That brings us to Edward Wellen’s “non-fact” article, Origins of the Galactic Short-Snorter. It’s an unwieldy title, to be sure, and these droll attempts at humor generally fall flat. But this one, about a museum of obsolete currency, isn’t bad.
The one familiar name in the issue is Gordon Dickson. He can usually be counted on to turn in a decent story; his The Hours are Good is rather masterful. It’s not the vaguely futuristic setting or the details of the plot that stand out. What distinguishes this thriller is the measured, deliberate way Dickson reveals what’s going on in, culminating in a nice kicker. I like stories that show rather than tell, and it’s all show in this one.
Sadly, the issue doesn’t stop there. It’s final tale, David Duncan’s The Immortals, is a loser. In brief: the inventor of immortality wants to know the effects his efforts will have on civilization. He enlists the aid of a computer simulations expert. When the projection shows that everlasting life leads to cultural torpor, the pair insert themselves into the simulation to learn more.
Duncan’s story is B-Movie fare. The idea that a computer could predict the future with perfect accuracy, so long as it is fed sufficient data, is silly on its face. Anyone with a background in mathematics knows that even single equations often have several answers; many have an infinite number. Add to that implausibility the idea that one could wander around this virtual reality and interact with its denizens using computers of current vintage…well, let’s just say I’ll need a splint for my strained credulity.
It’s really too bad. The societal impacts of everlasting life are worth exploring. So is the notion of creating “life” within the memory banks of a computer. Either would merit a novel of development. Both get short shrift in this clunky novelette.
In more positive news, my family enjoyed a lovely, sunset stroll down Grand Avenue in nearby Escondido a few days ago. I picked up copies of my reading material for this month, so you can expect reviews of Sheckley and Sturgeon in short order.