Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, January 24, 2016

1956: The Human Angle (Tenn, William)

Some creative and absurd, others poignant and deep (4/5)

Just this month, I read my first William Tenn novel: Of Men and Monsters (1968). Though this latter book is more than ten years later than his short work in this reviewed collection, it still shows his knack for creativity, zaniness, and depth, three words of which would also describe Fritz Leiber and Robert Sheckley.

Two stories seemed familiar, but it took me a while to realize that I had them before: I had read “Project Hush” before in Asimov’s 50 Short Science Fiction Tales (1963) and “Party of the Two Parts” in Santesson’s Gentle Invaders (1969). The latter of which is bizarrely unique story of alien oddities and galactic law. This one steals the show out of the entire collection. In close second is “The Servant Problem”. This story isn’t one of blunt humor, but a cultural introspection of the familiar theme of “absolute power corrupts absolutely”—it’s poignant yet absurd.

Project Hush (1954, shortstory) – 4/5
The printed budget for the Army’s project—codenamed Project Hush—is also listed as miscellaneous and grows every year. Their grand plan: fly to the moon in total secrecy in order to establish a base. With phase one of the project complete, the scientists and top-brass unpack their crates and erect a dome, only to get word that there’s another dome on the moon. When the scout investigates, communication goes silent. Speculation stirs until the scout returns, silent about his absence. 7 pages

The Discovery of Morniel Mathaway (1955, shortstory) – 4/5
Monochromatic smudged upon monochromatic smudges—this is what Morniel Mathaway considers to the revolutionary modern art comparable to Picasso and Roualt. Popular opinion—read: everyone—thinks it’s utter garbage, yet Morniel still speaks at length about his art, his vision, and his greatness. His ego is overloaded when a time-traveler arrives to visit him, the most famous artist of all time. When the time-traveler sees Morniel’s artwork, he’s greatly disappointed and disgusted. When he shows Morniel his paintings from the future, Morniel sees opportunity. 17 pages

Wednesday’s Child (1956, shortstory) – 3/5
Fabian Balik is a micromanaging office manager concerned about the efficiency of his company’s secretary pool. One secretary by the name of Wednesday Gresham has regular absences on a week- and month-long basis every year. In order to satisfy his curiosity more than anything, Fabian invites Wednesday to lunch, where he probes with questions. In turn, she concedes and her answers are incredible: she gets her appendix removed and her teeth all fall out… every year. Curiosity turns to fascination and love as Fabian digs for the truth behind his beautiful bride. 22 pages

The Servant Problem (1955, novelette) – 5/5
More than 99% of the world’s people are reverently loyal to Garomma, who they consider to be the Slavey of Civilization, the Servant of all, and the World’s Drudge. Though they worship his supposed servitude, in reality they are all his brainwashed subjects, of whom 99% isn’t enough for complete control. Behind the megalithic ego of Garomma is his own servant—Moddo—who has his own plans to control Garomma and hence the world. Filled with stress, Moddo visits Loob the healer to allay his pain, but Loob also has plans to control Moddo, who controls Garomma, who controls the world. 32 pages

Party of the Two Parts (1954, novelette) – 5/5
Earth is under the watchful eye of the Galactic Patrol as it’s a budding civilization (Stage 15) nearly ready to join the galactic community; however, the Patrol’s existence onn Earth is a secret. Meanwhile, Gtet is at Stage 19—a primary interstellar citizen. Their worlds’ clash when L’payr, a habitual criminal with 2,343 felonies, escapes to Earth because of his most recent crime: peddling smut to the amoebae youth of his planet. On Earth, he must find fuel for his ship while not breaking any galactic laws. His crafty legal mind finds Mr. Osborne Blatch. 24 pages

The Flat-eyed Monster (1955, novelette) – 3/5
While in a pleasant evening slumber on the university campus on which he works, a comparative literature assistant professor is teleported from his comfortable bed to an alien examination table. The multi-tentacled, suitcase-sized, bulb-eyed beings ignore his spoken pleas of communication all the while Clyde Manship—the humble professor—receives their telepathic conversations and idle thoughts. Once he escapes a paper bag, he enters the alien city, where they have been put on alert about his deadly high-frequency death rays from his eyes. 35 pages

The Human Angle (1948, shortstory) – 3/5
Out in the sticks, a reporter drives through the pouring rain to find the right people to interview for the town’s big news, which is laughable to him: vampires have attacked and killed three children. The farmers are monosyllabic, so he seeks out the right kind of average Joe or Jane. In the rain, he comes across one such regular lass who’s a bit plump to be a mountain redneck, but the reporter can already envision his characterization of the sodden girl. As his cars nears her home, he cranes his neck forward. 6 pages

A Man of Family (1956, shortstory) – 3/5

With Stewart Raley’s promotion to Ganymede Department Chief over a year ago, he and his wife decided to have a fourth child in their New Hampshire home because he was entitled to it with his 9,000 territs per year salary. Unfortunately, he’s been made superfluous due to a takeover and now he finds himself demoted and under the yearly salary that allows him to have his fourth child. Without hope for entering that salary bracket again, the couple considers which child to make an orphan. 16 pages

No comments:

Post a Comment