Monday, February 6, 2017

Galaxy Science Fiction, September 1955

A bit of a better issue than some of the previous ones.

Little Orphan Android • novelette by James E. Gunn
A man is watching TV and playing games. He gets a delivery: an android, which should be paid by cash on delivery. He doesn’t remember ordering one, but he doesn’t seem to remember anything beyond that same morning. The delivery company has binding proof that he actually did order it, and he must pay it even if it almost depletes his assets. Why has he bought it? Why he doesn’t remember anything? And why does the android he just bought not seem to have any useful purpose? It's a pretty stupid story with some pretty contrived plot points. Androids apparently work only two hours every day, for some strange, artificial reasons, but they perform all the work there is anyway. An overlong and fairly stupid story. **½
Hunting Problem • short story by Robert Sheckley
This is one of the classics. A group of alien “boy scouts” is visiting a planet as corporeal beings. Usually they live on the upper atmosphere in a non-material state, but now they are living like their ancestors. One young scout is a bit timid, but the scout leader tells him that several bulls of the almost mythical beasts, Mirash, have been seen. Maybe he could redeem himself and hunt one of the beasts? At the same time, human prospectors are trying to find valuable jewels on the planet… An excellent and fun story. ****+
One for the Books • novelette by Richard Matheson
A janitor wakes up one morning and speaks perfect French. Soon he starts to know a lot of other things too – he doesn’t necessarily understand everything, but he apparently knows everything. Why and how is this happening? There is a reason, but a pretty contrived one. (Aliens apparently somehow crammed all available information into his brain, and downloaded it from there). It's an average story at best. **½
The Freelancer • short story by Robert Zacks
A man has a job that makes most people despise him: he collects royalties from patented phrases. You can patent a phrase like, “They were made for each other”, and if someone happens to use the phrase in a conversation he is liable for a copyright fee. The protagonist carries a box which listens to conversations, and if it recognizes a copyrighted phrase it automatically bills a fee. There are some good ideas in the story, but little actually happens, only a fairly ordinary day is described. The characterization is pretty bad and rampant misogyny is even worse. **-
End as a World • short story by F. L. Wallace
The end of the world is coming, there are signposts everywhere. People seem to take that very matter-of-factly, and plan for good sightseeing spots. Of course, it turns out to be something else, other than the actual end of the world. Unfortunately, it is much more mundane and much less exiting than anything you could imagine (the first expedition returning from Mars is landing). **+

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