Vintage Science Fiction
Date Finished: January 2, 2018
A Federation pilot, Jim Horne, is framed for the crash of his freighter by the new second pilot, an alien from a planet torn by factions both for and against Federation membership. In order to clear his name, Horne escapes imprisonment and travels to that planet, Skereth, to find the second pilot, who has secretly escaped the crash. The anti-Federation faction turns out to be running slaves to the world to help build a secret giant computer brain within a mountain range, violating a number of Federation laws. The pilot joins up with other pro-Federation people and a number of escaped slaves to fight for truth, justice and the Skereth way.
Originally published in truncated form in the December 1957 issue of Imagination, it received full publication in this 1965 Ace Double. The magazine version skips the first few chapters, where Horne first visits Skereth and the second pilot is recruited to replace an injured human pilot, and only summarizes the space crash and Horne’s escape back to Skereth. The middle sections are largely the same, word for word, so I’d guess that the first sections were edited out by the Imagination editors, rather than being new additions by Hamilton for the Ace publication. That could be wrong, though.
The adventure is well done, though much of the trek across Skereth and underground fight could be in any genre, not just science fiction. The writing is better than I remember for Hamilton, though it has been a long time since I read anything of his other than comic books.
As for the rest of the issue of Madge, as the letter writers called it, “The Fall of Archy House” by Tom W. Harris features a 3-D television promoter whose projected images take on a life of their across the nation, with cowboys, circus acts, and cartoon cereal pitchman in 3-D life in every home. “Hero From Yesterday” by Robert Randall brings a 20th century gunman to the 26th century to fight a criminal, as everyone else in the century is peace-loving and has forgotten how to fight. Unlikely. “Rescue Mission” by Robert Silverberg has two secret agents, one human and the other Venusian, sharing a telepathic connection, trapped on a hostile planet and looking for an escape. Disappointing. Just explaining the setting and situation takes half the story. “House Operator” by S.M. Tenneshaw is a poker story with a futuristic twist. “Satellite of Death by Randall Garrett is set aboard an international space station, manned by five crew men of different nationalities. A space ship piloted by an unseen alien docks to the station and takes control of one of the crew.
Rounded out by a letter column, book review column, and a rather sad pen pal request column, the issue is adequate, though somewhat disappointing, as none of the stories provide the spark of fun or excitement that should be in a title called Imagination.