[originally posted here at Castalia House]
The Double Minds by John W. Campbell was originally published in the August 1937 issue of Thrilling Wonder Stories and was the featured novelette in the Winter 1954 issue of Fantastic Story Magazine. It can be read here at Archive.org.
So, John W. Campbell wrote a high-octane madcap action raygun adventure, and, well… Bless his heart!
There’s a lot happening in The Double Minds. I think I could list several of the things that occur and the order in which they occur, but I would have a very difficult time concisely conveying the reasons for why things are happening. I found it a bit hard to follow, but hey, things happen!
The basic premise is a first-contact story wherein a Ganymedian alien species, the Lanoor, has created a new subspecies of itself called the Shaloor. They did this by figuring how to, uh… make both halves of the brain work together at once [it apparently mucks up their eyesight, too]. With their supreme smartness, they have made themselves rulers of Ganymede.
The story starts in media res, and first-contact has already landed two earth-men, Rod Blake and Ted Penton, in jail on Ganymede. Penton, with the help of a Martian mind-reading trick he picked up, has convinced one of their Lanoor jailors, P’holkuun, a member of the dissident party, to start a revolution.
They bust out of jail, steal a vehicle get chased by and fight knock-off shoggoths [the creatures are amorphous blobs that were engineered by the aliens to be servants], fight with Lanoor against the galaxy-brained Shaloor, etc.
Honestly, the concept was not all that bad. The execution was just kind of messy, ponderous, prone to digressions to the point where it was hard to stay focused on what was going on. A lot of it is written like a two-man comedy routine with clever science facts thrown in.
It’s not a great story, by any stretch, but it’s more than a hair better than some of the worst stories I’ve reviewed, and I found that it improves with a few subsequent reads (not too daunting, either, given its novelette length).