Sunday, August 24, 2014

Astounding Science Fiction, December 1958

Pretty old fashionable stories, especially the attitudes of some were “slightly” odd.

Ministry of Disturbance • [Federation] • novelette by H. Beam Piper
A king of an interstellar empire might be threatened by a coup. His childhood friend who is the leader of military forces seems to get troops to places and is gaining influence and power. Then a riot starts for apparently fairly small reason and it seems something fishy is going on. It turns out that there is a coup, but not the obvious one. A talky, slightly overlong story which has quite a few unneeded side-plots. ***
Triggerman • shortstory by J. F. Bone
A lone man sits alone in a room with a red button. He is in charge of an ultimate decision: whether to launch nuclear missiles or not when the country is attacked or seems to be attacked. It seems a lone missile is closing to the Capitol. The antimissile attacks all fail, as the invader moves far too fast. Should the counterattack be launched? It is pretty clear from the start what the “attack” really is. In reality there would have been no question of even an attempt of counter measures – meteors move too fast for any of them. Not bad story, one of the better ones in the issue. ***+
Pieces of the Game • shortstory by Mack Reynolds
Russia has invaded most of Europe. A diplomat goes to Vienna for a cover mission. As Russian allow only very old, very fat or very weak attachés to arrive at their territory a weak man is faced quit a task. A standard James Bond style adventure story. Writing ok and plot adequate but nothing really unique. ***-
The Queen Bee • novelette by Randall Garrett
A small spaceship crash-lands on a new unknown and uncharted planet. Apparently, the space ships are extremely unreliable (or I wonder if they are purposefully rigged?) as there are set rules of conduct for such situations. Every man is supposed to get a child, preferably two children, a boy and a girl, with every woman surviving to ensure as much genetic variation as possible. This expedition has seven members, three women and four men. One of the men is an older doctor who for “obvious reasons” isn’t included in the eugenic plan (if you go by the disturbing logic of the story, that’s totally inexcusable. They are losing one seventh of the genetic variability, which is extremely limited to begin with. There is no set upper limit for male fertility – as he is the oldest and most likely to die first, he should have been the first one to get his chance with the women.) The women are horrible caricatures, one is a young nice girl from an agricultural planet who can sew and cook, one is a neurotic, who is scared of sex and getting children and only after some beating and light raping comes to her senses, and the third one is an extremely rich heiress who has always gotten everything she wants and is used to men following her every wish. And who is very narcissistic or even psychotic person. But what can’t be cured with some prefrontal lobotomy? Just as unbelievable story it sounds. The writing itself is about average for its’ time, but the attitudes and events are EXTREMELY creepy and uncomfortable. *½
Seller's Market • [The War with the Outs • 2] • shortstory by Christopher Anvil
Attack to an alien base through snow. A lot of description of journey and fighting, a few small plot twists. (the aliens are able to influence minds, but apparently not very efficiently) but nothing really special. A longer form with more actual details and not just action might have worked better. **+

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