This is a collection, so I should break down my rating.
"A Logic Named Joe" ***** Murray Leinster not only predicted the internet, Google, and Amazon wi...moreThis is a collection, so I should break down my rating.
"A Logic Named Joe" ***** Murray Leinster not only predicted the internet, Google, and Amazon with remarkable accuracy in 1946, he did it in a hilarious story that also examined what an AI with a sense of humor but no desire to be sociable might mean in our world.
"Dear Charles" **1/2 Frankly, I read this story more than 6 months ago, and do not recall it. But I don't recall hating it, either, so it gets a gentleman's C.
Gateway to Elsewhere *** A delightful piece of alternate history, science fantasy fluff. A man comes into possession of an odd coin minted in a country that never existed, and uses it to get himself there. Turns out to be a land of genies and maidens, and while the genies have powers, they are bound by certain physical laws. For instance, a genie can talk any shape, of any size, but always retains the same mass. Fluff, but good fun.
The Duplicators**** Golden Age SF in the grand style, and a delightful exploration of economics, without ever seeming to be so. Link Denham, a ne'er-do-well, finds himself on a planet with Star Trek-ish duplicator technology -- and it's the worst thing that could possibly have happened. The planet has had duplicators for hundreds of years, and has lost all knowledge of how to actually make things because of it. Why farm when you can just duplicate food without any effort? Denham sees very quickly that letting such technology get out to the rest of the galaxy would destroy civilization as we know it, and sets to work neutralizing (but not destroying) the menace. An entirely entertaining romp, with more food for thought than one would expect, and keener understanding of how economics works than you get from any ten writers today. (And I haven't even mentioned the Uffts, the planet's native race!)
"The Fourth Dimensional Demonstrator" * The only clunker in the collection. Strains entirely too hard to be fun, and makes no sense at all. Literally none.
The Pirates of Zan **** Another brilliant example of economics in SFnal form, as well as some interesting sociological explanation. But that makes it sound boring, and it's anything but. Bron Hoddan was born and raised on the pirate planet of Zan, but left because the pirate life was boring and restrictive. Boring because in any year, there is only about 30 seconds of excitement, and restrictive because everyone on the planet has to appear (and, in fact, to be) poor and simple to avoid getting hanged for piracy. He goes to Walden, the most civilized planet in the galaxy, and gets himself arrested and sentenced to life in prison for using his brains. Escaping local authorities, he gains diplomatic protection at the Interstellar Embassy for political persecution, and goes on from there to, eventually, deciding that piracy -- of a sort -- might be just what the civilized planets need. This one is laugh-out-loud funny, non-stop entertaining, and a fine example of "the good old stuff". Bron Hoddan, I think, would have gotten along rather well with Ragnar Danneskjold, though they'd probably bicker a bit.
So, two excellent short novels, one very good short novel, one all-time classic short story, one inoffensive short, and one clunker of a short, adds up to an entirely worthwhile reading experience.
[This review is copyright 2012 by D. Jason Fleming and available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 (CC BY-SA 3.0) license.](less)