Tag Archives: richard sabia

[May 4, 1962] Cleft in Twain (June 1962 Galaxy, Part 1)


by Gideon Marcus

A few years ago, Galaxy Science Fiction changed its format, becoming half again as thick but published half as often.  196 pages can be a lot to digest in one sitting, so I used to review the magazine in two articles.  Over time, I simply bit the bullet and crammed all those stories into one piece – it was cleaner for reference.

But not this time.

You see, the June 1962 issue of Galaxy has got one extra-jumbo novella in the back of it, the kind of thing they used to build issues of Satellite Science Fiction around.  So it just makes sense to split things up this time around.

I’ve said before that Galaxy is a stable magazine – rarely too outstanding, rarely terrible.  Its editor, Fred Pohl, tends to keep the more daring stuff in Galaxy’s sister mag, IF, which has gotten pretty interesting lately.  So I enjoyed this month’s issue, but not overmuch.  Have a look:

The Deadly Mission of Phineas Snodgrass, by Frederik Pohl

Instead of an editor’s essay, Pohl has written a cute vignette on overpopulation without remediation.  Old Man Malthus in a three-page nightmare.  Apparently, good old Phineas didn’t think to pack Enovid when he brought perfect health back in time to the Roman Empire.  Anyway, I liked it.  Four stars.

For Love, by Algis Budrys

Budrys strikes a nice balance between satirical and macabre in this post-alien-invasion epic.  The last remnants of Homo Sapiens, driven underground after a tremendous ET tetrahedron crashes into the base of the Rockies, launch a pair of daring attacks against the invaders.  But at what cost to their humanity?  Four stars.

The Lamps of the Angels, by Richard Sabia

I viciously panned Sabia’s first work, I was a Teen-Age Superweapon; his latest is an improvement.  A thousand years from now, the human race is on the verge of reaching out for the stars, and one Mexico City-born pilot is selected for the honor of scouting Alpha Centauri.  But if humanity was meant to explore beyond the sun, surely God would have given us hyperdrives at birth.  A bit clunky in that “translated foreign languages way” (and I can be guilty of the same charge), but also compelling.  Three stars.

For Your Information: Names in the Sky, by Willy Ley

Every now and then, Ley returns to his former greatness and gives us a really good article.  This one, on the origins of the names of planets and stars is filled with good information pleasantly dispensed.  Of course, I’m always more kindly disposed towards articles that deal with etymology and/or astronomy… Four stars.

On the Wall of the Lodge, by James Blish and Virginia Blish

The latter portion of the magazine takes a sad turn for the worse.  Lodge is an avante garde piece about (I believe) a fellow whose life takes place in a television show.  It tries too hard and doesn’t make a lot of sense.  More significantly, it lost my interest ten pages in.  Thus, I must give it the lowest of scores: one star.

Dawningsburgh, by Wallace West

A cute piece about a callow tourist on Mars, who resents the other callow tourists of Mars, and the attempts to revive departed Martian culture with robots, to make a few bucks for the callow tourist industry.  Three stars.

Origins of Galactic Philosophy, by Edward Wellen

Wellen’s Origins series has deteriorated badly.  This latest entry, involving a space entrepreneur and the robot society he finds, is utterly unreadable.  One star.

Dreamworld, by R. A. Lafferty

Last up is a whimsical piece on a literal nightmare world with an telegraphed ending made tolerable by Lafferty’s unique touch.  Worth two or three stars, depending on your mood (and on which side of the bed one woke).

***

I’ll save The Seed of Earth, by Robert Silverberg, for next time.  Here’s hoping it is in keeping with the first third rather than the second third of the magazine.  In the meantime, stay tuned…and try not to get drafted.

[Oct. 24, 1959] Bleah! (November 1959 Astounding–the worst yet!)

I’ve found the bottom, and it isn’t the Mariana Trench.

They say fifty cents won’t buy you what it used to, and that’s certainly true of Astounding, a science fiction digest.  The November issue, which has a hastily pasted price of four bits on its cover (replacing the original 35 cents) is, without a doubt, the worst pile of garbage I’ve read in a very long time.

I’ll spare you the gory details and give you a quick thumbnail sketch of its contents.  Opening the ish is the first part of a two-part story, The Best Made Plans.  I didn’t even make it through the first half of this first part.  So dull was the tale, so linearly and prosaicly was it told, that I can’t even remember what it’s about.  I’ll read the summary next month and, perhaps, try again.

Eric Frank Russell’s Panic Button features two exploring aliens who happen across a lone Terran on an otherwise uninhabited planet.  Upon finding him, the human pushes a blue button, which frightens off the aliens.  This is all part of a brilliant human scheme to seed the planets of the universe with convicts equipped with panic buttons.  The assumption (proven correct, of course; aliens are so dumb, says editor Campbell) is that the button must do something and the lone humans must be there for a reason, and the overactive imaginations of the would-be conquering aliens do the rest. 

And this is one of the book’s better stories!

Then you’ve got A Filbert is a Nut, by newcomer Rick Raphael.  In this one, a crazy person makes atom bombs out of clay that work.  Or does he?  Passable–for 1953 Imagination, perhaps.

Randall Garrett’s The Unnecessary Man should have been titled “The Unnecessary Story.”  Young man learns that democracy is a sham and the galaxy is run by a dictatorship.  But it’s a benevolent one, so that’s okay.  Bleah.

I’ve never heard of Richard Sabia before, and if his I was a Teen-age Secret Weapon is any indication, I hope I don’t see him again.  Yokel causes harm to anyone around him.  He is eventually inducted into the army, dropped off to be captured by the enemy, and Communism’s collapse ensues.  Lousy.

Finally, we have Robert Silverberg’s Certainty, which is almost decent.  Alien ship lands on a human outpost planet, and the crew of the garrison ship is helpless against the intruders’ mind-control powers.  Again, it’s the sort of thing I’d expect from a decade-old lesser mag.

As for the Analytical Laboratory for the far-superior August issue, the readers’ results are well in line with mine, with Leinster’s The Alien’s a clear winner.

I’m sorry I don’t have anything cheery to report.  It took me most of the month to get through this awful, 1.5 star book.  I’m about ready to cancel my subscription…


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