New Worlds #91, February 1960

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

Fiction:
Enigma • novelette by Colin Kapp ♥♥
The Destiny Show • short story by Derek Lane ♥
Survival Demands • short story by E. C. Tubb ♥♥
Static Trouble • short story by Francis G. Rayer ♥♥
The Shrine • short story by E. C. Tubb [as by Alan Guthrie] ♥
Time Out of Joint (Part 3 of 3) • serial by Philip K. Dick ♥

Non-fiction:
Time Out of Joint • cover by Brian Lewis
New Worlds Profiles: E.C. Tubb • essay by John Carnell
My Own Petard? • essay by John Carnell

The fiction in this issue leads off with Colin Kapp’s Enigma. Just like his novelette from #89, Breaking Point, this is dated, clunky stuff but it makes considerably more sense than that previous work and is quite a readable piece.
It is set in a near-future Britain, and concerns a ‘Ne’, a booby trapped nuclear bomb that has been fired at the country. The dubious premise as to why the enemy are sending booby trapped nukes rather than ones that just explode is that it denies the UK territory that the enemy may later want, and also avoids generally increasing the level of radiation (some nukes have exploded—indeed if the enemy detect any tampering with, or human activity in the proximity of these multi-sensor devices, they will detonate them).
The story is centred on a bomb disposal team who are sent to defuse the device. On the debit side this involves a lot of problem solving involving signals that are sent and received from the bomb, phase differences, time delays etc. , and generally this material sounds like an extract from Radio Ham Monthly. On the other hand, there is a sense of humour present: the initial briefing given to the officer in charge of the bomb disposal unit ends like this:

“Major Gruman, it’s your pigeon. Disarm that bomb and we’ll name a day of the week after you.”
“Nobody’s ever succeeded in disarming a Ne before.” Gruman slyly glanced at his watch. “We’d better get moving, it’s nearly Grunday morning.”

And when the team are talking about their radio conversations being monitored:

“I can imagine them sitting at a receiver and listening to every bloody curse and every prayer. They wouldn’t learn half as much about our methods as they’d learn about blasphemy and Christ.”

So OK, overall.

The Destiny Show by Derek Lane is the first of four short stories and belongs to that highly unlikely sub-genre that involves a profoundly paradigm-changing piece of technology being used to—­yes, you guessed it­—make a TV show. The technology in this case is a future-time viewer that is used to show the ‘guest’ what kind of life they are going to have. After differences between the producer and presenter a normal show is cancelled and that of a hardened criminal scheduled. This is all told and worked out well enough but the central concept is so ludicrous that it undercuts the story. And you can see the end coming from a mile away.

Survival Demands by E. C. Tubb is a story set in a mental health facility that houses people with psi powers. A spaceman goes to visit a telepath and recounts what happened when Earthmen came into contact with the telepathic Frenzha.  Agreeable enough, considering it isn’t much more than an extended anecdote. Tubb also has a pseudonymous second story in this issue, The Shrine.  Earthmen are transported by aliens to a shrine in a distant part of the Galaxy. Before they get there they have no pride, after the visit they are changed in a very positive way. There are one or two hints about what they have seen or who they have spoken to, but this went straight over my head leaving me with no idea of what happened to them.

Static Trouble by Francis G. Rayer is potentially the best story of the issue. It has the novel setting of a planet where the surface dust of silicates, quartz and mica become so electrically charged that they remain suspended in the air. The poor to awful visibility caused by this makes matters very difficult for an Earth expeditionary team. We start with Joe Merity, the captain of the ship, meeting a returning research team in a sandstorm to find that their science officer has been killed by a lightning strike.
This story has a number of things going for it initially: original setting, realistic characters and group dynamics. It is therefore a shame that it is spoilt somewhat (spoiler) when Merity sees an alien and then sets off with another team to find it. With weather and circumstances deteriorating, they are joined by yet another team (due to frictional internal politics). Matters worsen, and they lose yet another crew member. Eventually they stumble onto an alien city in clear air. So, to summarise, the expedition wanders about on the surface getting people killed and then they are saved by dumb luck. If Rayer could have worked out what to do with this premise it could have been a stand-out story. Still, it is of interest for the parts he does get right.

As predicted last issue, this instalment of Time Out of Joint by Philip K. Dick ends disappointingly. In no particular order (spoiler), Ragle finds that the town he is in is a fake construct built so that the authorities could use him to predict strikes on Earth from Luna colonists who are engaged in a civil war with Earth. Ragle’s allegiances also flip-flop during this period. An awful pulp end to an intriguing novel.2

There is very little non-fiction in this issue. Apart from a rather ‘whither SF’ profile of E. C. Tubb (supposedly back from two years away from writing SF), Carnell gives over his editorial column to a letter from a Dr Arthur Weir, who writes in to challenge the former’s ‘Plot-Nots’ from the last editorial. Well argued too, although, like Carnell, I don’t entirely agree with Weir’s alternative plot-nots, either.

A disappointing issue, with a particularly poor end to the serial and little else of note bar, with some caveats, the Rayer.

  1. This volume does not lend itself easily to issue by issue examination but here are some Kindle locations for the fiction above bar the Dick novel which was given in the review for New Worlds #89 (searching on (91) worked best): Kapp (898/14%), Lane (1572, 25%), Tubb (865/14%), Rayer (1252/20%). Again, there may other commentary on the non-fiction, etc.
  2. Donald Wollheim published many of Dick’s early novels at Ace Books. His reaction to Time Out of Joint is worth noting. This is from the Lou Stathis afterword in the Gollancz SF Masterwork’s 2003 edition of Time Out of Joint, p.216:
    “Wollheim got the novel in the spring of 1958 and, according to Dick, ‘denounced it’ in a letter to him, calling it unpublishable and requiring the deep-sixing of the opening 150 pages and expansion of the final Earth-Luna war section into a standard sf novel. Luckily, Dick had already received word of Lippincott’s acceptance, and thought happily that he’d spewed out his last bit of sci-fi hackwork. Silly boy.
    As disagreeable as Wollheim’s suggestion of editorial ampu­tation might have been, he was right about one thing – those two sections of the novel just don’t fit together.”

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