By this point, I would think readers would be thrilled by this magazine. It’s amazing to consider how many of its stories were later reprinted, and how so many authors became legendary in the field (if they were not already so).
“Bridge Crossing” by Dave Dryfoos — Roddie grew up among androids and is the only human left within the city of San Francisco. There are other humans who live outside the city and raid it for supplies; Roddie views them as enemies. One night, he finds one and decides to act friendly to the woman to learn more about his enemies. Despite their commonality, he is determined to remain allied with his android friends.
Dave Dryfoos had over 20 published stories between 1950 and 1955. And that was it. He didn’t die until 2003, but I can’t find information on why he seemed to stop writing in 1955 (if that’s in fact what happened).
At any rate, “Bridge Crossing” is an interesting tale and I only had a feel for where it was going, not a definite sense (which kept it tense). And it had a great last line.
“Mars Child” (Part 1) by Cyril Judd — Mars is colonized by pioneering humans, some of whom feel like Mars is a second chance to populate a planet without all of the pollution on Earth. The Sun Lake colony depends on trade with Earth to thrive, but the colonists hope to one day sever ties with Earth — to be completely independent. Dr. Tony Hellman, one of the colony’s council members, delivers a newborn to eager parents, but his main duties include assessing the radioactive levels of their exports.
The military that enforces the law for all colonies visits Sun Lake, explaining that someone has stolen large amounts of a Martian narcotic. The tracks lead toward Sun Lake and they are presumed guilty unless they can prove otherwise.
If the colonists are unable to find the narcotics before the next ship arrives from Earth, the military would impose a six-month blockade on all imports and exports. The colonists aren’t certain if they’re being framed or if there is a thief among them. Either way, they have only a few days to find an answer.
Cyril Judd is actually a pseudonym of Cyril M. Kornbluth and Judith Merril. Together, they also wrote a serialized novel, titled Gunner Cade, for Astounding in 1952. “Mars Child” was published as a novel under the title Outpost Mars and later reprinted as Sin in Space.
I had to ignore some of the ideas — like breathable Martian air (with the help of a routine drug), but overall, it has decent plausibility. Besides, this is pulp fiction, so you have to allow for some leeway. I like the characters and the subplots seem to be working together well so far.
My only real complaint is that there were subtle clues about the narcotics theft, which I liked, but then a heavy-handed clue soon after. That dropped the intelligence level of the piece. I liked the sense that I was solving the mystery; I didn’t want it handed to me.
Granted, the mystery is still unfolding, so maybe it’s not what I think. I’ll try to reserve judgment for now.
“Hostess” by Isaac Asimov — Rose Smollett and her husband, Drake, offer their home to a visiting alien. Harg Tholan, from Hawkin’s Planet, has a bovine appearance, but he’s learned to speak English fairly well.
Dr. Tholan is investigating the cause of an unknown disease that’s killing its people. Rose, as a fellow in biology at a local institute, hopes to study their guest closely, since so little work has been done on Hawkinsites. Her husband, however, is a policeman; actually, even his wife doesn’t know his exact title — only that he wants to study their guest closely for his own purposes.
I loved the interplay between Rose and Drake. Also, Harg Tholan seemed like a well-designed alien, both in looks and needs (like the occasional intake of cyanide). It did seem a bit long, though, and I didn’t quite connect with the ending as much as I hoped to.
“Men of Destiny” by John Christopher — When Theodore Pike’s ship becomes stranded near a distant solar system, he finds a hospitable planet and lands. The natives he encounters revere him as a god, so he decides to become a benevolent one. After all, he can never return home, so he plans on making a sizeable mark where he is.
This was my favorite story of the issue. I loved Pike’s character and the way this one played out. It was definitely the feel-good story of the issue.
“Ask Me Anything” by Damon Knight — Krisch is a director on a hidden world, helping to create the perfect army — an army of men so fused with metal and technology that all of their weaknesses are removed.
But something has begun planting ideas in the younger soldiers — ideas that could lead to emotional instability. When he discovers the source, he conceives of an even greater weapon — one that could grant him immense prestige.
There were parts of this that I found chilling — for example, how humanity no longer mattered, so long as the perfect army could be created. And I was very surprised by the source of the problem. The story had a great pace to it and a slight zinger at the end.
Matthew Wuertz’s last retro review for us was the April issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.