Thursday, November 26, 2015

Astounding Science Fiction, August 1959

Stories in this issue were fairly well written, but the attitudes were extremely strange from a modern viewpoint. By the way, I'll give away this issue. Ask for it in comments and I'll mail it to anywhere in Earth. If there are more than one asking for it after a week, the winner will be selected in random. (the copy in question is tattered – strictly a reading copy only)

The Aliens • novelette by Murray Leinster

A human spacecraft encounters an alien ship for the first time. The humans behave extremely paranoid and eventually fire torpedoes at another ship on the flimsiest of excuses. The aliens respond extremely violently—they deflect the torpedoes back to the human ship. The humans, at least, consider this a very violent and aggressive response....Luckily the self-destruct mechanism of the torpedoes still works. Somehow the two ships collide and fuse together. It turns out that the ship is built from brass and pure metallic sodium and potassium and it is inhabited by chlorine breathers. (Somehow that particular chemical combination doesn't sound most likely...) In spite of rampant paranoia and xenophobia among some of the human crew (apparently there is no psychological evaluation for members of the space navy), humans and aliens finally manage to work together. It is pretty strange when the aliens feel less alien than the humans...and I get the feeling that it wasn't meant to be like that. The writing was OK, but the attitudes were really, really strange. ***
Dead Giveaway • novelette by Randall Garrett
A man returns from a long journey. Several messages from his friend are waiting. The first few are pretty frantic and hint at a significant discovery, but the last one takes everything back, though not very convincingly. And the friend can't be reached. Is there some sort of fool’s play going on? A giant alien city which was found years before seems to be involved somehow; a city which was built for an unknown purpose. It was an overlong story, where the "payback" was pretty poor and everything was just explained as a lecture by the disappeared person, after he was not-so-surprisingly found. **½
The Outsiders • novelette by A. Bertram Chandler
The crew of a spaceship gets a salvage reward and decides to buy a spaceship for themselves. On the first voyage, one newly-drafted member of the crew is a drunkard, who is very afraid of going towards the less-explored regions. He hints that he has experienced something horrible there. Soon he drinks himself to death. The rest of the crew ponders whether they should try to find out what was so strange. They first decide against it, but years later, when there is a slow spell in the business, they still remember... It's a very long setup for a fairly small payoff. (The secret is an alien device that tests if visitors are psychologically worthy. If they pass the test, there is a technological bounty to be had.) The writing was OK for its time, but the story could have drastically shortened. ***
Familiar Pattern • novelette by A. Bertram Chandler [as by George Whitley ]
A ship on sea encounters a spaceship, which has landed on water for minor repairs. The captains befriend one another and start trading things. The aliens are willing to trade only luxury items; they won’t even talk about space drives or any serious scientific inventions. The aliens eventually establish a trading mission, but soon things go badly, when an alien church is looted for being far too open-minded (they preach that all earthly pleasures should be enjoyed as much as possible) and things go then very, very badly. It was an okay story, but the set-up is very slow and then the end comes very suddenly in a few paragraphs. ***+
Day of Succession • shortstory by Theodore L. Thomas
An alien spaceship lands. A general orders that as soon as the hatch on it is opened, all possible firepower is to be turned on it. The ship is completely destroyed. Then a second one lands and the same happens again. When the third ship lands, the president prevents the attack. Not so surprisingly the third ship attacks everything nearby - which naturally “proves” that the aliens were hostile to begin with. And as the president slightly hesitates at the launch of an all-out nuclear strike against the ship, (which would destroy a significant part of the country) the general must take leadership to his own hands. A jaw-droppingly strange story. Apparently it is meant as it is, not as parody or irony. **
A Matter of Proportion • shortstory by Anne Walker
A war is going on, apparently against aliens. During a mission a commander notices that one of his rookies is performing very well—in fact, suspiciously well. It turns out that he is a famous war hero, who was paralyzed in action. His brain was transplanted to a new body and now he was able to fight again. The rest of story is the soldier telling his story. A surprisingly dull and longwinded story. I had trouble finishing it and I retain no memories of it even though I tried to read it twice. It was a pretty bad story with not-so-good writing. **-

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