Short Reviews – Double Trouble, by Carl Jacobi

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Double Trouble by Carl Jacobi appeared in the Spring 1945 Issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

“When Annabella C. Flowers, that renowned writer of science fiction, visiphoned me at Crater City, Mars, to meet her here[on Callisto], I had thought she was crazy. But Miss Flowers, known to her friends as Grannie Annie, had always been mildly crazy. If you haven’t read her books, you’ve missed something. She’s the author of Lady of the Green Flames, Lady of the Runaway Planet, Lady of the Crimson Space-Beast, and other works of science fiction. Blood-and-thunder as these books are, however, they have one redeeming feature—authenticity of background. Grannie Annie was the original research digger-upper, and when she laid the setting of a yarn on a star of the sixth magnitude, only a transportation-velocity of less than light could prevent her from visiting her “stage” in person.”

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Short Reviews – The Silver Plague, by Albert de Pina

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Silver Plague by Albert de Pina was the featured cover story of the Spring 1945 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

I’ve got to admit that I’m a little bit disappointed with The Silver Plague. Sharing the cover with Brackett as well as glowing accolades in subsequent issues’ letters section led me to hope for better from Albert de Pina. The Silver Plague is a story with mountains of potential that just fails to come together as a cohesive and coherent story.

The idea is that wars on Earth created a race of albino Khan Noonien Singh-esque Mutant supermen whose intellect and self-determination put them at odds with a socialist global superstate, so said superstate booted them and other non-Mutant freethinkers off to the moons of Jupiter. The societies and states on the moons of Jupiter have a nominal perpetual peace, except they’re actually in a state of perpetual strife and intrigue acted out via agents. Honestly, the first comparison that came to my mind was Morrowind’s “House Wars”, in which the Great Houses present a united front while undercutting one another with disposable agents and sanctioned assassinations to maintain the façade that the province is not in a state of perpetual civil war. The hero of the Silver Plague is one such agent.

The Plague itself is an engineered viral agent that has been affecting the moon states (except for Ganymede, where the Mutants were resettled despite the presence of an existing native populace). The symptoms involve a physical transformation to those traits that mark the Mutants, however, one of the symptoms is sterility. While the victim comes to physically resemble the Mutants, true Mutants are able to reproduce.

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Short Reviews – The Happy Castaway, by Robert E. McDowell

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Happy Castaway by Robert E. McDowell* appeared in the Spring 1945 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

Jonathan Fawkes wakes to a beautiful woman standing over him. He’s crashed on an asteroid while hauling seeds from Mars to Jupiter. Turns out he’s crashed on the same rock where over two-dozen women being sent to the outer system to be wives for colonists have been stranded. Fawkes risks being torn apart by the twenty seven women who haven’t seen a man in three years or by the alien centaurs that roam the flat-lands.

I’m tempted to write this off as “a typical example of the man stranded on a world of women” subgenre, but is it? I don’t really know, because after thinking about it for a bit, I realize that while I’m aware of several examples, haven’t really read many(any?).

It’s a kind of story that can provide some interesting tidbits that contrast with what one might expect from notional harem comedy.

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Short Reviews – The Vanishing Venusians, by Leigh Brackett

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Vanishing Venusians by Leigh Brackett appeared in the Spring 1945 issue of Planet Stories. It can be found here at Archive.org.

I almost wonder if Peacock was going for a theme, running two stories with plant-aliens in a row. While the Sorogasters of Rocklynne’s Sandhound story are truly alien in both form and behavior, Brackett’s plant aliens are uncanny, bearing a strong enough resemblance to humans that their physical differences and behaviors are menacing and horrific.

The aliens of Brackett’s The Vanishing Venusians are elves. Not Vulcan homo-superior Space Elves, but weird and creepy Fey Elves (in space!).

A ship of human colonists on Venus are trying to find a new home on the swampy planet. Many are getting sick, dying and desperate as they sail the Sea of Morning Opals in search of a new home. Matt Harker, one of the first generations of colonists, Rory McLaren, a young expectant father with a native wife, and Sim, a spiritual-singing sailor, go off to explore the land they’ve spotted. Many colonists are pessimistic about the chances (everywhere they’ve found has been swamp and mud, breeding-grounds for fever), but McLaren is desperate for his family’s sake. If there’s good arable land on the plateau, they may be able to finally settle. Unfortunately, the land is already inhabited by “plannies”—the strange plant-animals that are native to Venus.

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Short Reviews – The Sandhound Strikes, by Ross Rocklynne

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

The Sandhound Strikes by Ross Rocklynne appeared in the Spring 1945 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

The Sandhound Strikes is a great example of why it’s such a shame that Ross Rocklynne has become one of the forgotten greats of science-fiction, supplanted in the pantheon by Campbell’s Big Three. His work that I have read has covered a wide range styles and narratives, ranging from straight-ahead ray-gun romance, to blue-collar space adventure, to even the sort of thinky-stories that would become staples of magazine sci-fi.

The Sandhound is a caped-crusader/masked vigilante character, and The Sandhound Strikes is Rocklynne’s second story featuring the character. Superheroes, but on Mars. The Sandhound is less gritty than the Shadow, so maybe a Batman or a Green Hornet, but on Mars.

The Sandhound himself is named for the clever Martian fox creature that hunts among the dunes. He’s got a doofy sidekick named Bozo Dullard who is strong and telepathic and prone to needing long naps until his adventure/danger sense starts tingling (Bozo’s a walking “I Sleep” meme). Sandhound’s also the kind of superhero who is not afraid of leaving the scene of a crime in a stolen police car.

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