3/5 (collated rating: Average)
In the early days of my site, I reviewed Daniel F. Galouye’s best-known novel Dark Universe (1961) and A Scourge of Screamers (1966). Since then I’ve attempted to read Simulacron-3 (1964), adapted into a fantastic German mini-series World on a Wire (1973) and The Thirteenth Floor (1999), three times without success. What can I say, I’m a reader of whim and in each instance I wasn’t in the mood. Maybe it was Bill Botton’s compelling/bizarre psychedelic cover for Project Barrier (1968) or perhaps Rich Horton’s comments on twitter about the title story but I decided to give Galouye’s short fiction a go.
Project Barrier (1968) contains four uneven tales with one notable standout–“Rub-a-Dub” (variant title: “Descent Into the Maestrom”) (1961)–which I highly recommend if disturbing psychological SF is up your alley. The others in the collection exude a more run-of-the-mill feel. I found it refreshing that Galouye, a veteran greatly impacted by war injuries, tends to eschew violent conflict for peaceful resolution.
If you’re completely new to his work, check out the brilliant Dark Universe (1961) first. Tangent: I apologize for my poor Dark Universe review–one of the first I posted on my site back in 2010. I have contemplated deleting it.
Brief Analysis/Plot Summary (*spoilers*)
“Shuffle Board” (1957), 2.5/5 (Bad): First appeared in the June 1957 issue of If, ed. James L. Quinn. Vance McCune oversees the Western U.S. Sector’s Radioactivity Control (i.e. the eponymous “Shuffle Board”) (10). In-between frenetic scenes of coordinating radioactive cleanup of illegally dumped waste in Hawaii, McCune worries about his pregnant wife and the fate of their unborn child. He has hidden his wife’s pregnancy from his doctor and colleagues due to extreme anxiety over exposure to radioactivity. In the background, the media latches on to the theories of a Pakistani geneticist, Dr. Puang, who speculates that humanity is at a liminal generational moment. He argues that the new generation will thrive in the radioactive chaos created by their forefathers.
Elements of “Shuffle Board” succeed. Galouye conveys the feel of everyday chaos McCune experienced in his vital position: “McCune sprang up. ‘Send out Crews Four, Seven, Thirty Three […] He cupped his hands and shouted over the communications section, ‘Get Volcanology and find out when we can take our men into the crater'” (14). I did not care of the all-too positive ending that excuses humanity’s mistakes and dodges the real-life consequences of manmade disaster.
“Recovery Area” (1963), 3.25/5 (Average): First appeared in the February 1963 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith. On Venus, the large and horned Zu-Bach pesters his elder K’Tawa about a great danger he senses (“quazed”) in the skies. K’Tawa, desperate to retreated to a higher meditative state, attempts to indulge his kin’s whims before slipping off pondering “the Dichotomy of Endlessnesses” (24). Zu-Bach perseveres and learns of the arrival of mankind. He must mobilize the elders who eschew the material for the “Pursuit of the Spiritual Significances” (26). The narrative shifts to the duplicitous men who run a ramshackle discovery operation–an extension of Earth’s ongoing Cold War–and their encounter with the horned humanoid “aliens.” Of course, not all is as it seems, and Zu-Bach discovers a connection in the shreds of collective memories past that could avert conflict.
Galouye’s characterization of the Venusian society, prone to slip into deep meditation, is by far the best element of the story. I am a bit puzzled that a 60s short story has such an antiquated view of Venus. I am a bit uncertain what was popularly known about Venus by 1963. The first Soviet robotic space probe to Venus arrived in 1961 and the Mariner 2 mission in 1962. An interesting oddity about space exploration as an outgrowth of Cold War fears.
“Rub-a-Dub” (variant title: “Descent Into the Maelstrom”) (1961), 4/5 (Good): First appeared in the April 1961 issue of Fantastic Stories of Imagination, ed. Cele Goldsmith. Received a 1962 Hugo Award Honorable Mention for Best Short Fiction. By far the best story in the collection, “Rub-a-Dub” imagines a form of space travel to Centauri with disturbing psychological ramifications. The personalities of three crewman are impressed into the mind of a twelve-year-old girl named Vivien–“a hundred and twenty pounds was all the ship could accommodate” (82). The delicate working entendre within Vivien shatters when they return successfully to earth eight years later. The three impresses, who believe they are complete entities deserving of life, must be psychologically purged from her mind. And it is into this internal maelstrom, the narrative plunges…. The story follows the impress Craig, who has fallen in love with the now 20-year-old Vivien, who attempts to resist his own destruction. The psychiatrist Dorfman resorts to all different therapies and strategies to convince Craig to leave on his own accord. But will Vivien assist in his survival? And what happens when the real material Craig arrives?
Galouye successful writes a story from the perspective of an impress under psychiatric attack within the mind of a young woman. That’s a challenging task! I found the sketchy romantic subplot–he’s careful to emphasize Craig’s love only happened when Vivien was of age–the weakest element of the story. Like Anne McCaffrey in The Ship Who Sang (1969), I’m unsure if Galouye completely grasps the disturbing moral implications of his world (who would put a child through the trauma of space exploration?).
“Reign of the Telepuppets” (1963), 2/5 (Bad): First appeared in the August 1963 issue of Amazing Stories, ed. Cele Goldsmith. The Bureau of Interstellar Exploration enlists a team to reestablish connection with the telepuppets deposited on Adelbaran–robots with individualized planet/satellite analysis tasks. In this future, women are included in the crews due to their telepathic “radio empathy” abilities (I find this entire idea bizarre and confusing). Unknown to the team, the robots have established a rudimentary society–perhaps due to external interference? If Galouye stopped here and explored the ramifications of their partial self-awareness I might have a far more positive take on the story. But militaristic lizard aliens usurp the premise along with nonsensical plots twists and the story slips into an indistinguishable pulp morass.
Check out John Boston’s review over at Galactic Journey for a more complete look at the misfire. I struggled to finish this one.
“Project Barrier” (1958), 3.25/5 (Average): First appeared in the January 1958 issue of Fantastic Universe, ed. Hans Stefan Santesson. Galouye’s “Project Barrier” explores the philosophical concept of a “cultural corridor” in which only one advanced race can develop at a time in an environment (204). An ursine race ponders what’s on the other side of the impenetrable Cliff. Within the Cliff, two nations–i.e. Cold War parallels–engage in a fruitless conflict with each other. Savorn seeks to develop a hydrogen balloon to float across the cliff but not all agree with his plan. Soon Savorn detects external interference with his project and a far more complex plot afoot involving agents from the other side. Despite the basic SF premise–eager young adventurer discovers the “true” nature of the world by scaling both physical and metaphoric walls, Galouye manages to interject a compelling humanity to the proceedings. It’s hard not to feel for Savorn and his desire to learn about the world.
For book reviews consult the INDEX
For cover art posts consult the INDEX
For TV and film reviews consult the INDEX