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

“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

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

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

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

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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Short Reviews – Dutchman’s Gold, Told by Arthur Greyslen and Set Down by Alan Burgess

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Dutchman’s Gold, Told by Arthur Greyslen and Set Down by Alan Burgess appeared in the June 1944 issue of The Wide World.

Here’s a story with some stuff to steal! Exotic location, sunken treasure, a crazy villain, and a moray eel named Little Joey.

Arthur Greyslen has been living the good life in a tiny village on Samoa. It’s warm and sunny all the time, life is a paradise of leisure and no one wants for anything—once the yams are planted, everyone can spend the rest of their time swimming, fishing, and chilling out, and life is perfect.

Until a crazy Dutchman shows up waving a treasure map swearing up and down that there’s sunken Spanish gold in lagoon, that is…

Van Meyheim, our titular Dutchman, has pulled up stakes from Rotterdam, liquidated his assets to buy what may well be a crock treasure map off a sailor and travel all the way to Samoa. While there is a wrecked ship in the lagoon, Greyslen is pretty sure that it was no Spanish treasure galleon—no one has found any gold nor has there ever been any serious rumors of it. Van Meyheim can’t concede that he’s been conned, however, and Greyslen’s willing to humor him. What will it hurt spending some time helping the old codger in his treasure hunt for a promised share?

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Short Reviews – Balu the Bear, by Blanche E. Ward

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Balu the Bear by Blanche E. Ward appeared in the June 1944 issue of The Wide World.

Sometimes you need a good diversion; a short, droll piece to fill a page.

Balu the Bear is just such a piece.

A dancing bear is sold to a rich guy who keeps it around because when you are rich, it’s nice to have things like dancing bears, especially since fancy ladies loves such conversation pieces.

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Short Reviews – Ali Baba’s Cave, by “I.D.B.”

[originally posted here at Castalia House]

Ali Baba’s Cave by “I.D.B.”(Illicit Diamond Buyer) appeared in the June 1944 issue of The Wide World.

Our next story in this issue of The Wide World takes us to South Africa during the diamond boom in 1929. The government is wanting to clamp down on illegal prospecting and has been buying up and securing prospect sites. While the bottom is on the verge of falling out, as one of the biggest sites has been sold for over a million quid and the government is in the process of getting it fenced off and patrolled, local adventurers and illicit diamond buyers are beginning to clear out. Our anonymous writer, however, is still hoping he can find a little excitement and wealth before all of the opportunities are finally gone.

During his first few weeks in South Africa, our anonymous I.B.D. has little luck in finding any diamonds. On the verge of giving up, he drives his beater down the coast to a place outside of Port Nolloth known as “the Cliffs” to get a little fishing in. It’s beautiful, picturesque, etc…. Heading down toward the water, Anon notices a water-spout shooting out of a window in one of the cliffs. Investigation reveals a fabulous seaside cave in the cliffs that can be accessed with a bit of swimming when the tide is right.

Fancy strikes Anon, and he imagines himself Ali Baba in a cave full of gems and precious treasure. Though he has no real reason to believe that he could possibly find diamonds in a cave (it goes against conventional wisdom of diamond prospecting), he starts digging with his hands in the sand and broken rocks. After several minutes of digging, Anon is shocked to actually find a diamond. It’s small—one carat, and ultimately only worth a few pounds—but it is a diamond. And it’s all HIS!

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