[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]
by Gideon Marcus
Another month, another load of science fiction digests delivered to my door. Normally, they arrive staggered over several weeks (the various publishers know not to step on each other’s toes – the field is now pretty uncrowded, so there’s room for everyone to play), but since I was traveling the last week, I’d already accumulated a small pile upon my return.
Top of the month has been devoted to the magazines edited by famous author/agent Fred Pohl, e.g. Galaxy and IF — and starting next year, Worlds of Tomorrow! The first two alternate every month, and odd months are IF‘s turn. Thus, enjoy this review of the November 1962 IF Science Fiction, which was a bit of a slog leavened with bright spots:
Podkayne of Mars (Part 1 of 3), by Robert A. Heinlein
A few years ago, Robert Heinlein wrote A Menace from Earth. Unlike virtually every other story to date, it starred (in 1st Person, no less) a precocious teen girl, and it was perhaps the first blend of science fiction and romance. My 11 year-old (the Young Traveler) adored it and asked me if there was any more like it. Sadly, there wasn’t.
Until this month.
Heinlein’s new novel, Podkayne of Mars, is another 1st Person piece from the viewpoint of a brilliant young woman. Young Podkayne (Poddy) Fries dreams of becoming a spaceship captain, maybe the first to lead an expedition to the stars. But to realize her dream, she has to get off of the Red Planet, a sort of futuristic Australia colonized by the best and worst of Terra’s children.
I tore into Podkayne with a gusto that slowly but inevitably waned. Have you ever engaged in conversation with a promising raconteur only to find, after a few minutes, that her/his increasingly meandering tale doesn’t and won’t have a point? And now you’re stuck for the long haul. That’s Podkayne. Heinlein simply can’t divorce his rambly, screedy persona from his work. The result is disturbing, as if there is a creepy old man lurking behind Podkayne’s bright young blue eyes.
The story is interesting enough to keep me reading, and I appreciate the somewhat progressive treatment of women, but this is a tale that would be served best if written by someone else. Zenna Henderson might make it too moody; I suspect Rosel George Brown would render it perfectly. Two stars for this installment, with some improvement at the end.
The Real Thing, by Albert Teichner
Value is determined by scarcity. When the authentic article is easy to be had, and it is the counterfeit that is rare, we can expect the latter to climb in value. Someday, we may find plastic to be more desirable than the material it emulates; or we may deem robots to be more human than people. Teichner’s story explores the latter idea as fully as a few pages will allow, and he pulls it off. Three stars.
The Reluctant Immortals, by David R. Bunch
Bunch, on the other hand, writing of an overcrowded Earth that has become a driver’s nightmare, does a less convincing job. There’s good artsy weird, and then there’s tedious artsy weird. Guess which one this is? Two stars.
The Desert and the Stars, by Keith Laumer
IF has published a tale of Retief, that interstellar ambassador/superagent, every two months for the last year. I’m glad Laumer will soon take a break from the character. I won’t say that this particular piece, in which Retief diplomatically foils an attempt by the Aga Kaga to poach the new farming colony of Flamme, is a story too far – but I think we’re getting there. Retief’s exploits are getting a little too easy, almost self-parodying. On the other hand, there are some genuinely funny moments in Desert, and the bit where the diplomat communicates solely in proverbs for several pages is a hoot. Three stars.
The Man Who Flew, by Charles D. Cunningham, Jr.
A murder mystery in which a telepathic detective puzzles out the how and the who of the untimely demise of his client’s wife; an event with which the detective seems to be uncannily familiar. This is Cunningham’s first work, and it shows. It tries too hard at too worn a theme. Two stars, but let’s see how his next one goes.
Too Many Eggs, by Kris Neville
If the fridge you buy is sold at an unexplained deep discount, you may be getting more than you bargained for – especially if the thing dispenses free food! I don’t know why I liked this piece so much; it’s just well done and unforced. Four stars.
The Critique of Impure Reason, by Poul Anderson
Few things can ruin a bright mind like the field of modern literature criticism, and when the mind corrupted belongs to a highly advanced robot on whom the future of space exploitation depends, the tragedy is compounded manyfold. Only the resurrection of a literary genre seemingly impervious to serious analysis is the answer. Three stars, though the trip down grad school memory lane was a bit painful.
The Dragon-Slayers, by Frank Banta
A tiny, cute vignette of a simple Venusian peasant family with a dragon problem, and the gift from the boss that proves far more valuable than intended. Three stars.
In all, 2.6 stars. Once again, IF leaves the impression that it might someday be a great magazine if it ever grows up. Nevertheless, no issue yet has compelled me to cancel the subscription, and several have made me glad of it. May Galaxy’s little sister flower into the beauty of the elder and set a good example for the new baby due next January…