Prologue To Analog

By John W. Campbell Jr.

Rating: 4 stars

I must confess that it was only after reading the introduction to this collection of stories from the last decade of Astounding Stories that I really understood the new name for the magazine: Analog. It had never occurred to me that it was Analog in the sense of analogous, but I’d always read it as continuous/opposite of digital. I must say that this makes much more sense!

Turning to the stories themselves, we have a number of excellent ones. The anthology kicks of with an Isaac Asimov warning tale about what happens when scientists get too fixed in their thinking, which a fun wee story. Next up is Pandora’s Planet, about an alien invasion that goes horribly wrong, and the hope for forging a new future. There’s a lot of humour in this one, as the aliens are baffled by the fact that they’re having so many problems with their new world. Randall Garrett and Robert Silverberg then deliver Sound Decision, a grim story about a space rocket that malfunctions on a return from Mars to Earth (somewhat reminiscent of Tom Godwin’s The Cold Equations) and J. F. Bone shows us a military man with the courage to stand up to the entire chain of command to do the right thing.

The last few stories are perhaps less interesting, although Ralph Williams gives us an interesting spin on the old question of what would happen if humanity was just gifted a matter duplicator (his intriguing answer: not an awful lot) in Business as Usual, During Alterations.

However, for me, the stand out story of this collection has to be H. Beam Piper’s Omnilingual. I really enjoyed this story of the first archaeological team on Mars, excavating the remains of the dead Marian civilisation, not just for the story but for Piper’s treatment of women. Not only is his protagonist a woman (of some intelligence and determination), but his space force has female officers as well, all of which are introduced matter of factly, without making a fuss about it. Nowadays, of course, we wouldn’t expect anything less, but this was written in 1957, a period when, especially male writers, routinely ignored women in their stories, or, if they were present, were just wives of (or prizes for) the hero. I also like the story as its focus isn’t on the military or obvious heroics, but the hero is an archaeologist puzzling over the Martian language.

So a good read for any fan of SF’s Golden Age, with (to my mind) at least one stand out contribution.

Book details

ISBN: 9780586022559
Year of publication: 1962

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