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Birthday Reviews: Eric Frank Russell’s “A Great Deal of Power”

Birthday Reviews: Eric Frank Russell’s “A Great Deal of Power”

Fantastic Universe August 1953-small Fantastic Universe August 1953-contents-small

Most days in 2018, I’ll be selecting an author whose birthday is celebrated on that date and reviewing a speculative fiction story written by that author. 

Cover by Alex Schomberg

Eric Frank Russell was born on January 6, 1905 and died on February 28, 1978. His story “Allamagoosa” was awarded the second Hugo Award for Short Story and in 2000, he was inducted into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame. His story “A Great Deal of Power” was originally published in Fantastic Universe in August/September, 1953, edited by Sam Merwin, Jr. It has been reprinted several times, occasionally under the title “Boomerang.”

Russell sets “A Great Deal of Power” in a twenty-first century in which Germany is governed by a Sixth Reich, three scientists have determined that the way to avoid bloody wars is to create a way of causing the death of powerful men who refuse to give up power. They have successfully done so, building their technique, which they don’t actually understand, into a humanoid robot named William Smith. They dispatch Smith to kill a short list of powerful men by simply asking them to give up power. If the men refuse, Smith’s mystical ability will automatically cause the men to die, apparently from natural causes, in a short time.

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