Science Fiction Though the Decades

Friday, May 20, 2016

1973: Tomorrow Lies in Ambush (Shaw, Bob)

More wit and gadgets than depth of plot or people (2.5/5)

I surprise myself by saying that I’ve actually read quite a bit of Shaw, totally 5 novels, two of which I liked—Ground Zero Man (1971) and One Million Tomorrows (1971)—while only one really failed: Orbitsville (1975). The last time I read Shaw was back in 2013, so it’s been a while since I’ve picked up one of his books, but I’ll quote myself from December, 2013: “His [Shaw’s] ‘best’ novel [Other Days, Other Eyes] I would attempt with hesitation... a collection of his I would be eager to try!” Ah the words from 2013 haunt me. I still have Ship of Strangers on my shelf, which I now eye with trepidation.

Shaw has had sixty-three short stories published, about 40% of them before the 1973 publication of this collection. When the book’s back cover declares its contents as “of the best”, yet only delivers one story above a 3.5-star rating, you could say I’m a bit disappointed. Shaw’s style of delivery harks back to the Golden Age where juvenile wit trumps philosophy and where a novel gadget overshadows characterization. In addition, similar to Orbitsville, his portrayal of women is quite negative: they’re emotional, submissive, and borderline superfluous.


“Call Me Dumbo” (1966, novelette) – 3.5/5
Dumbo is the wife of Carl. That’s pretty much all she’s ever been in addition to the mother of three boys. Their farm land is vast but the village isn’t too far. Though she’s happy being the housewife of a farmer, she begins to feel uneasy about her name and her past. When she voices these concerns, Carl forcefully shoots her with a drug, which her boys tell her they tried to boil as an egg. For want of something new, Dumbo follows Carl to town. Instead of a town, Carl visits a metallic cylinder and her memories begin to trickle in. 23 pages

“Stormseeker” (1972, shortstory) – 2.5/5
Born of World War 3.333, he was gifted with an unusual power. Two people rely on him, one for what h has, the other for what he could be: respectively, Archbald the scientist and Selena the woman. As a stormcell broods and approaches his vicinity, he takes Selena up through the sky toward the negatively charged cloud, thus leaving the positively charged earth. The earthborn and skyborn threads of the first lightning strike form, so he moves into position to align the strike. 6 pages

“Repeat Performance” (1971, shortstory) – 3/5
Jim runs a theater in a small Midwest town. It’s always been his life goal and now he can stand proudly watching his customers come and go from the movie. Wednesday nights take on a tinge of mystery as he sees a minor actor from the same movie exit one of the screenings, the film technician complains of an electrical dimming, and an elderly complain of a seaweed-like smell. The next Wednesday offers the same three coincidences: a small-part actor, a light dimming, and the smell. As Jim’s baffled, only a local reporter can offer an implausible excuse of alien mimicry. 15 pages

“…And Isles Where Good Men Lie” (1965, novelette) – 3/5
Uninvited alien immigrant ships keep landing on Earth every twenty-two hours and the world keeps killing them off as they disembark by the hundreds. Looking outward to the depths of space, it seems like they’ll keep coming for the next century, only no one knows why they have chosen Earth and why their generation ships’ robotic systems don’t focus elsewhere. Lt. Col. John Fortune has the right contact and the right amount of money to find the pesky answer, but his wife and colleague stand in the way of ending the influx of aliens.

“What Time Do You Call This?” (1971, shortstory) – 3/5
When casing a bank from across the street, Abe is immediately jolted by the unexpected arrival from thin air of the man-scientist-looking man wearing a large metallic belt. The learned man speaks about alpha and beta timestreams while Abe just nods his head and thinks about what he had been doing: planning his bank robbery. Abe clonks the wordy scientist, steals the belt, and sets off to rob the bank with the perfect get-away, but not before the scientists delivers a word of warning. 8 pages

“Communication” (1970, shortstory) – 3/5
Ripley is a pathetic door-to-door salesman who makes up for poor sales with rather creative reports back to headquarters. When a man knocks on his door asking to buy an expensive computer with cash, Riley is, course, taken by surprise. So, too, is headquarters who want to publish an article about the sale in its newsletter, only the purchaser is an obscure man using the computer for an obscure yet oddly detailed sociological experiment.  As Ripley’s interests pique, he tracks down the man to a church. 25 pages

“The Cosmic Cocktail Party” (1970, shortstory) – 3.5/5
Colonel Crowley is actually dead and buried, but his mind lives on within the digital brain-equivalent of the Biosyn system. Great minds are stored there, which are consulted by university heads or heads of state, like Martin M’tobo who wants to consult with Crowley about his country’s unrest. Unfortunately, the colonel is indulging in a fantasy of hunting dragons and subsuming other minds in the system. Only when the powerful mind of Crowley is distracted by news of an alien invasion does he pause the fantasy. 28 pages

“The Happiest Day of Your Life” (1970, shortstory) – 3.5/5
Philip, Theodore, and Boyd are Jean’s three sons, all aged under twelve. As she tightly holds her youngest son Philip to her bosom, her two other sons and husband Doug look upon the act of maternal concern with detached amusement. Philip’s innocence moves his mother as she streams tears down her face, again to the amusement of the male trio. They all know, however, that, like the two other boys, Philip is ready to cram ten years of education in only two hours’ time. 6 pages

“Element of Chance” (1969, shortstory) – 4/5
Though a millennium old, Cytheron is merely a juvenile of his species. He bides his time in wonder of his basic abilities of matter and energy transfiguration. When he’s called to the collective of elder minds for union, Cytheron flees near-space in favor of individual freedom, only to find himself trapped in the gravity well of a quasar. His ability to jump through space is hindered by the immense forces, but the elders off him help, of which will trigger off a supernova that Cytheron feels guilt about is destructive results. 8 pages

“The Weapons of Isher II” (1971, shortstory) – 2.5/5
Jack has a fairly peaceful yet rewarding job as a small-time news reporter on a non-Duello planet covered in rice fields, that is until the day Afton Reynolds becomes the editor and has Jack running around on errands, dead-end stories, and minor news. When Jack’s grandfather Vogt’s mechanical duck is shot from the air, Jack discovers that the galaxy’s most famous gunslinger is the cause. When confronting the man, Jack learns that the number two gunslinger is in the area, too. Both the gunslinger and Jack’s own boss are up to no good. 16 pages

“Pilot Plant” (1966, novella) – 2.5/5
Tony Garnett is the second generation owner of Pryce-Garnett Aircraft Company. The research and development of this company has thus far produced the T.6 orbital interceptor and is currently testing a twenty-foot wingspan of a new energy-induced wing. When Tony narrowly escapes death by witnessing the crash of the experimental aircraft, he’s left with a metal plate in his head and the conviction that all production must stop. Eventually back at work, he discovers the project secretly continues, but love and further mysteries hinder his investigation. 62 pages

“Telemart Three” (1970, shortstory) – 3/5
Ted Trymble spends his personal time in sport and fitness while his new wife bides her time spending their money on luxurious items they can barely afford: a giant Cadillac, a fur coat, and a Venusian old bracelet. To stop her from wandering about making further purchases, he pushes her off a balcony. Unfortunately, for Ted at least, his wife survives and is limited to a wheelchair, but Ted makes one concession to her happiness: he’ll buy any TV she wants: of course she chooses the Telemart Three. Soon, his money dwindles as his rage rises. 11 pages

“Invasion of Privacy” (1970, novelette) – 1.5/5

Like every small town, George and Mary’s quite town has a creepy house that’s the stuff of childhood lore: the old Gutherie house. Their son Sammy relives the legend when he says he saw his two-week-old dead grandmother sitting with others in the house. Soon, the son falls ill so George calls Dr. Pitman who takes a personal interest in the boy’s deteriorating condition. Curiosity gets the best of George so he visits the old house only to see the same thing his son saw—supposed dead people in animation—along with some curious equipment in the basement. 31 pages

No comments:

Post a Comment