“Star, Bright” by Mark Clifton — A single father observes that his four-year-old daughter, Star, has an impressive intelligence level. He doesn’t understand exactly how high it is until she begins to use telepathy.
The story has an interesting premise, but I’m not sure I liked where the story went. It seemed a bit too far-fetched at points.
“Wailing Wall” by Roger Dee — The crew of the Marco Four interacts with the colony on Sadr III. The Sadrians had been under the control of an alien race known as the Hymenops, which could explain their odd behavior. Since the crew’s landing, over a hundred people in the world’s only village have died as a result of murder or suicide.
I think the story would have been better without the initial flash-forward. Otherwise, it was a good read. Roger Dee is a pseudonym for Roger D. Aycock. The crew of the Marco Four return in “Pet Farm” (published in the February, 1954 issue of Galaxy) and “Control Group” (in the January, 1960 issue of Amazing Science Fiction Stories).
“Origin of Galactic Slang” by Edward Wellen (illustrated by David Stone) — This is a compilation of fictional anecdotes around “galactic” terms and phrases.
I’m not sure if this qualifies as a story, but I found it amusing. It’s listed in the table of contents as a “Non-Fact Article”. Wellen wrote eight such “Origins of Galactic X” articles.
“Dumb Martian” by John Wyndham — A brutish man named Duncan Weaver stops at Mars before beginning a five-year contract. His assignment is managing a sporadically-used wayload station on a satellite that orbits one of the Jovian moons. To keep himself sane, he pays a Martian family for their daughter, Lellie. He’s not attracted to Lellie and believes she lacks any intelligence. It’s simply a matter of avoiding complete isolation, provided he can stand living with her.
I think most readers would immediately dislike Duncan Weaver, and that’s obviously by the author’s intent. So it’s interesting to watch Lellie emerge as a character through Duncan’s point of view. It works rather nicely.
“Shipshape Home” by Richard Matheson — Ruth tries to convince her husband that their apartment is too good of a deal. She’s certain that it’s front of some kind, no doubt run by the creepy janitor. Her friend Marge, another tenant in the building, agrees. Despite his best efforts to stay level-headed, Ruth’s husband decides to investigate the matter with her, and the truth is unbelievable.
Matheson does a great job of character interaction. The dialogue feels real, and I really empathized Ruth as she struggles to the point of losing her sanity. I do wish they hadn’t included artwork on the final page that illustrated the ending — such a spoiler.
Gravy Planet, Part 2 by Frederik Pohl and C. M. Kornbluth — Mitchell Courtney finds himself on a ship bound for Chlorella plantations in Costa Rica. The social security number tatoo on his arm has been amended with extra digits, giving him a new identity. When he tries to prove who he is, he learns that Mitchell Courtney is officially dead — that someone placed a dead body with his identity in Antarctica.
At the plantations, Mitch performs menial tasks and finds himself a victim of an endentured society. No matter how much income he earns, it’s never enough to pay back the constant debt for food or other necessities. And the food he’s given only leads to an addiction to those ingredients so that he must continue to pay for them.
To escape, Mitch befriends a seasoned worker named Herrera, hoping he can learn how to move up the ranks and possibly earn freedom. Herrera, however, turns out to be an agent for the conservationists, a group that does what it can to oppose consumerism. Though he’s appalled at what they stand for, Mitch agrees to join the group because it seems to be his only method to return to New York.
When he’s able to get back to the city, Mitch tries to contact Fowler Shocken, only to learn that his boss went to the moon. So Mitch tries to improvise his plans, doing his best to stay one step ahead of his enemies.
This was my favorite piece of the issue. I normally don’t gravitate toward the novel serializations, but this has so much engaging action. I kept waiting to see what would happen next, and I couldn’t get through the pages fast enough.
Gravy Planet was published as a novel under the title The Space Merchants in 1953. It concludes next issue.
Matthew Wuertz’s last retro review for us was the June 1952 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.