The March, 1952 issue of Galaxy opens with a word from the editor, H. L. Gold. Gold introduces Willy Ley, who’s beginning his monthly department, “For Your Information,” that will vary from complete articles to brief reports on “significant developments in science.”
Along with the introduction, Gold states that a number of readers have asked what he’s like, so shares some details. Of his name, he writes, “Named H(orace) L(eonard) after a prompt casualty in the Princess Pat Regiment. I can’t pretend to be fond of my name, but I don’t use initials to escape it; that was decided upon by an editor, though other editors have used the whole thing. Having had 32 pen names, I find the problem shrug-worthy.” 32 pen names? Was he going for a world record?
About Galaxy, Gold writes, “Galaxy, of course, is my own dream come true. I know I sometimes push too hard, but that’s because everyone wants his dream to be perfect.” I’m glad he did. It was a good dream.
“The Year of the Jackpot” by Robert A. Heinlein — Potiphar Breen is a numbers guy — statistician, analyst, or any role where he can use his skills in numbers and patterns. The latest pattern is an increasing number of odd behaviors, such as women publicly disrobing for no apparent reason. He interviews one of the women, Meade Barstow, and the two of them begin meeting routinely. When the statistics show the approach of an unknown climactic event, Potiphar and Meade flee the city, hoping to avoid becoming a statistic of their own.
I couldn’t quite buy in to the premise of the story, but I let that go. It does move along pretty quickly, and when things start to go bad, they go really bad. And by that point, the predictability of it all isn’t as important as pure survival.
“Manners of the Age” by H. B. Fyfe — Robert is one of the last humans to remain on Earth (others have left for the stars), and robots provide for all of his needs. Beyond the long-distance people Robert communicates with, he picks up a new station from a woman named Marcia-Joan. Robert decides to visit her, but the visit couldn’t seem to go worse — she doesn’t have a pool, her robots won’t listen to him, and she has the nerve to do things on her own schedule rather than his.
There was some decent humor in this tale, and I found it entertaining enough.
“The 7th Order” by Jerry Sohl — A robot lands on Earth. Its mission is to determine if there are ample supplies and an available workforce to mass produce more of its kind, as is being done on many planets across galaxy. Given its ability to read minds at the conscious level, even those hundreds of miles away, humanity seems to pose no real threat to its plan, no matter how much they try to interfere with it.
“Catch That Martian” by Damon Knight — People across New York are being sent to a different dimension. They can still see everyone, and everyone can still see them, but they can’t physically interact with the regular world. Not even sound passes between the dimensions. The protagonist believes a Martian is at fault – one who can blend in perfectly to society. He begins seeing a pattern – that anyone who crosses the Martian’s path while practicing obnoxious behavior is zapped into the other dimension. With the rewards for finding the responsible party increasing, the protagonist takes the case as a second job, hoping to cash in when he finally catches that Martian.
Knight’s had better stories, so I wasn’t that impressed by this one. It’s not that it’s a bad story; it just takes time to get going. And I felt disappointed by the ending.
The Demolished Man (Part 3) by Alfred Bester — In this final part of the novel, Preston Powell, the police department’s Prefect of the Psychotic Division, continues his quest in successfully charging Ben Reich with murder. Despite the evidence, Powell needs a strong motive for the crime, and there doesn’t appear to be one. His last chance is to ask all of the espers (people with extrasensory perception) to focus their reserve powers upon him so that he can search through Reich’s deepest recesses, hoping to finally answer the question of motive and solve the case.
The novel resolved quite well. It wasn’t a twist ending, but it was an ending that I couldn’t predict. I can see why it received the first Hugo for Best Novel. If you have the chance to pick it up, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
And here’s a bonus about Alfred Bester — in Firefly, Bester was the name of the original mechanic of Serenity. I enjoy subtle nods like that.
Matthew Wuertz’s last retro review for us was the February 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.