Thrilling Wonder Stories, Volume 2
Edited by Winston Engle
Cover Artist: Bob Eggleton
Review by Sam Tomaino
Thrilling Wonder LLC Paperback ISBN/ITEM#: 9780979671814
Date: 19 January 2009 List Price $14.95 Amazon US / Amazon UK
Links: Thrilling Wonder Stories / Pub Info / Table of Contents /
It's been more than a year since the first issue of the new Thrilling Wonder Stories appeared and I am happy to report that issue two is here and well worth getting. It's more in the format of a trade paperback than a magazine but the square binding with a beautiful cover from Bob Eggleton only make the issue more attractive.
The issue has three new novelets and the first is by Tribbles creator David Gerrold. "Enterprise Fish" is part of Gerrold's War Against the Chtorr series and we are told is part of a projected sixth volume in the series. I read just the first volume a long time ago but was able to follow the story fairly well, even though there is some backstory involved. Our narrator is one Jim McCarthy who was once human but now has been modified in some way. He's not the nicest guy but he is an expert at fighting the Chtorr. The "enterprise fish" of the title is a giant aquatic being put on Earth by the Chtorr to aid in their invasion. This is not just one being but a "convention" and McCarthy and company must figure out how to deal with it. Even though our narrator can be a bit annoying, this was wonderfully imaginative and a good read.
In Diane Duane's "Palladium", Tillek and Elindehare are agents of a group of planets called the Aggregate and they have been sent to the planet Salimash to resolve a war between two factions. How can two people achieve this when the natives want to put them to death? Duane tells us a nice story here with engaging characters of whom I'd like to see more.
The third of the novelet is "Moon Over Luna" by David R. George III. One day, another moon appears in the sky, next to our regular one. It's about a fifth of its size and is actually revolving around the Moon. It is dubbed Aurora and we see its effect on a widower with a young daughter and also a series of other people, all who have distinctly different reactions to it. These include considering it a mass delusion, a hoax, and an object of worship. Most of the story focuses on the widower and his life, enough so that we come to care about him. This is the kind of story that it is difficult to find a satisfactory end to but George gives it a good shot. I did find it a little unsatisfying but could not come up with anything better. In that case, I'll give it my endorsement.
The issue also has four new short stories. "Manifest Destiny" by Michael Reaves & Steve Perry features the crew of a Solar Federation Navy spaceship, the Vindicator, led by Captain Lance Whitman, a self-assured, cocky type who thinks he can beat anything. His Science Officer is Raymond "Brains" Clark and also on board is George "Tex" Mason (Ship's Engineer), Jack "Doc" Santini (Medical and Biological Officer), and Clarice Jefffies (Solar Federation Representative and someone who Whitman despises). They are orbiting a planet provisionally designated Sigma Ceti II and detect an anomaly on the planet. They investigate and find a bit more then they bargained for. This was not much like a Star Trek episode and that's a good thing. It also had a great last line.
Melinda M. Snodgrass contributes "A Gift Through Small". Set in some distant future in which human culture has become one of upper and lower classes, we meet Belmanor, a tailor who wants something more for his son, Tracy. Tracy has a chance for advancement because of his intelligence. This is rarely given to one of his class and Belmanor want to find a way for him to take advantage of it. How he works that out makes for a touching and beautiful story.
"Float Like a Butterfly" by Norman Spinrad begins with two advertisements, the first for "Your Dreammaster 301" a device that allows you to control your dreams and the second for "Caravan of Dreams" which is a catalog of "dreamchips" which are software for the device. Then, we are taken on a long and winding dream of flight, presumably by someone using these things. This made for a wondrous, fun tale.
The new fiction concludes with "Dark Energies" by Larry Niven. Gordon Emery has devoted fifteen years of his life to develop what has always been his dream, the flying car. Now, he shows it to a potential investor. Niven gives us a logical conclusion in this brief, clever piece.
As the previous one did, this issue includes some classic reprints, some of which appeared in the original Thrilling Wonder Stories. One such is the "The Golden Helix" by Theodore Sturgeon which originally appeared in the Summer 1954 issue of that magazine. A group of colonists, in suspended animation and headed for the colony of Terra Prime, find themselves on a very strange planet without the option of leaving. They must make a home here and the planet has a marked effect on them. Reading this wonderful classic, you can understand why Sturgeon is so well-regarded. It could have been published today.
The "Classic Novelet" is one everyone should have already read but it's good to introduce to a new generation. "Arena" by Fredric Brown originally appeared in the June 1944 edition of Astounding Science Fiction and was adapted as episodes for both The Outer Limits and the original Star Trek. The alien that our hero must fight on a desolate planet to see which race survives is just called "the Outsider". No one on his ship is watching the human (named Carson) and he does NOT win by mixing up gunpowder. What he does is something more clever than that. "Arena" is a well-deserved classic and should be read by anyone who calls himself a science fiction fan.
The "Four Classic Short Stories" are by some of the best writers in the field. "Life Hutch" by Harlan Ellison (from IF, April 1956) is an exciting story of survival. Terence is in the midst of a battle in space, the solo pilot in a scout ship raining fire on the enemy. His ship is damaged and he is able to make his way to a "life hutch", a place he can stay until rescued. The only problem is that the hutch also has a damaged robot that will kill anything that moves. This shows how, even at the beginning of his career, Ellison showed great promise.
"The Seventh Order" by Jerry Sohl (from Galaxy Science Fiction, March 1952) is the tale of an all-powerful, all-knowing robot who comes to Earth. He is part of the apex of development on his home world and considers himself superior to all other types of beings. He and his fellow "Seventh Order" robots have used up the resources of their home world and wiped out the inferior beings who created them. Now, they want to give the people on Earth the privilege of serving them. What is Earth to do? This was a fun read from an old master.
The third classic short is from the April 1952 issue of TWS and is "F---" by Richard Matheson. Matheson was writing some great short fiction even back then, but I am afraid this is not one of them. It's meant as a joke, telling the story of a future where the "F" word is something different but the set-up for it is so unbelievable it ruins the story.
The last reprint is by George Clayton Johnson and was originally published in 1999. "Rock-A-Bye Baby, Or Die!" is a story idea for the original Star Trek about a troublesome intelligence that invades the Enterprise computers. It's an interesting look at a story that might have been.
The issue also includes some great articles and was a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience. Go to their website at www.thrillingwonderstories.com, order yourself a copy and check out all the other interesting things they have there.