New Worlds #90, January 1960

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Other Reviews:
John Boston & Damien Broderick: New Worlds: Before the New Wave, 1960-19641

Fiction:
O’Mara’s Orphan • novelette by James White ♥♥♥
Under an English Heaven • short story by Brian W. Aldiss ♥
Mumbo-Jumbo Man • novelette by Philip E. High ♥
Time Out of Joint (Part 2 of 3) • serial by Philip K. Dick ♥♥♥+

Non-fiction:
Time Out of Joint • cover by Brian Lewis
New Worlds Profiles: Kenneth Johns • essay by John Carnell
Plot Nots • editorial by John Carnell
The Literary Line-up • coming soon
Postmortem • reader’s letters

This issue’s cover is almost identical to last issue’s, although the background colour of the grid is different and there is some variation in the images. I would have thought that similar covers could lead to issue confusion amongst prospective purchasers.
On the inside cover there is a New Worlds Profile of two writers, Kenneth Bulmer and John Newman (who make up the occasional science columnist ‘Kenneth Johns’). Like most of the writers in these profile photos, they wear a jacket, shirt, tie and glasses, and look very serious.
John Carnell’s short editorial Plot Nots is directed at wannabe writers, instructing them what plots not to use in their stories.

O’Mara’s Orphan is a ‘Sector General’ novelette by James White, and the sixth he had published in that series. However, chronologically this is the first episode and occurs at the construction phase of the vast multi-section space hospital staffed by, and with patients from, all galactic species. The first paragraph sets up the story:

The alien occupying O’Mara’s sleeping compartment weighed roughly half a ton, possessed six short, thick appendages which served both as arms or legs and had a hide like flexible armour plate. Coming as it did from Hudlar, a four-G world with an atmospheric pressure nearly seven times Earth normal, such ruggedness of physique was to be expected. But despite its enormous strength the being was helpless, O’Mara knew, because it was barely six months old, it had just seen its parents die in a construction accident, and its brain was sufficiently well developed for the sight to have frightened it badly.

O’Mara is a labourer involved in the construction of Sector General who has been involved in the accident, and, because of this, he has been tasked to look after the orphan—a child he can’t communicate with. The first few chapters where O’Mara works out the feeding and care of the child with, latterly, only a book to help are pretty good, and it has the feel of any good problem-solving story that could have appeared in, say, Astounding.
Where it falls down is in the section (which starts at the end of chapter 4) where the Monitor, who is investigating the accident, interrogates him. This is done over a radio link while O’Mara tries to treat the child (by increasing the gravity and pressure) for lesions that have appeared on its skin. This section doesn’t convince and it is not helped by the bits of cod-psychology that are thrown around (O’Mara has been atypically acting like a jerk to help a man traumatised by a radiation accident). There is also some clunky dialog to contend with, but the story resolves not too badly.
Overall, a fairly good read I guess, but my hopes had been raised higher by the first two-thirds of the story.

Under an English Heaven by Brian W. Aldiss tells of an alien ship arriving on Earth and a newspaperman attempting to take his brother and wife and baby to see it. This is told with light, dry, English humour, e.g. they take ages to get going from the brother’s house because of domestic concerns, the baby needing fed, children packed off wherever; they are then charged to enter the field on arrival at the ship and there is an argument about over-charging—you get the idea. This is OK as far as it goes, but it fizzles out. This is Brian W. Aldiss post Non-Stop, pre-Hothouse: it would still be a few years before he became a writer of more consistent quality.

In Philip E. High’s novelette Mumbo-Jumbo Man warring Earthmen2 are surrounded by aliens on another planet and appear to be doomed. Their commander therefore decides to let an officer from The Corps of Magicians take over their defence. There is a lot of patter about the ‘magic’ being lost technology and there is some attempt to show that, even if what the officer is doing is rather vaguely explained. The problem is I wasn’t convinced about the science and whether or not it would work on the aliens.

The Literary Line-Up fills in the half-page after the Philip High novelette. This is a ‘coming soon’ filler that uses half its length saying as the next issue is going away to the printer early because of the Christmas holidays, and they are a bit unsure what is going to be included. Oh, apart from the final part of the Philip K. Dick serial, and definitely a Colin Kapp novelette and come to think about it an E. C. Tubb short story. Not much left to be unsure about after that, is there?

The back end of the magazine contains the next part of the Philip K. Dick novel Time Out of Joint. In this second instalment the strangeness intensifies. Sammy—Vic and Junie’s son—builds a crystal radio set and the whole family start listening to strange transmissions, some of which mention Ragle Gumm! At this point Gumm flees to the bus station but ends up stuck in a permanent queue and never gets any closer to the counter. By now the Kafkaesque paranoia and sense of skewed reality that are motifs of Dick’s later fiction are pronounced and quite engrossing.
Ragle decides to hitch a ride with two soldiers but they subsequently end up borrowing a truck and having to evade the police. After a long drive he ends up alone in the truck down a long track that looks like it is running out. He comes upon what he thinks is an uninhabited house but finds a woman and her son there—both identical to people he knows in his hometown. After a stand-off with the woman and son, a group of men come to collect him and he wakes up at home with no memory of what has happened.
As I said last issue this is engaging stuff, but I have a nagging feeling that the last section won’t be able to pull all of this together.

Postmortem, the letter column, is very short this month containing only a couple of letters replying to previous comments about not publishing psi-power stories. After the letters is half a page of Sales and Wants, where Stourbridge and District Science Fiction Circle are advertising their existence. That sounds like a good night out…

Not a bad issue I guess, what with the Dick serial and the flawed but interesting novelette from James White.

  1. This volume does not lend itself easily to issue by issue examination so here are some Kindle locations for the fiction above, bar the Dick novel which was given in the previous review, (searching for (90) worked best): James White (823/13%), Brian W. Aldiss (794/13%), Philip E. High (942/15%). Again, there may other commentary on the non-fiction, etc.
  2. For some irritating reason, New Worlds SF writers (and probably their American cousins) frequently used ‘Terrans’ when referring to Earthmen. I have no idea what was wrong with the latter; just part of the lazy shorthand that built up within the genre walls I guess.

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