Saturday, December 7, 2019

Review of "Imagination: Stories of Science and Imagination," September 1954

Review of

Imagination: Stories of Science and Imagination, September 1954

Four out of five stars

 This issue is a look back deep into the past of the science fiction genre. In 1954 there was talk of space flight, yet it was still a dream and it was thought that it would remain so for some time. Sputnik 1 was three years in the future, so the stories having space travel as a premise were based completely on intelligent speculation.

 The title story (“Vengeance From the Past”) has some prescient aspects, it is based on the premise that there are in fact members of the Neanderthal species still intermingled and interbreeding with Homo Sapiens. They have banded together and are attempting to take over the launching of a massive satellite so that they can gain power over the Earth.  Recent advances in DNA research have suggested that 20 percent of Neanderthal DNA has survived into the modern human genome. Given the reality of genetic recombination, it is certain that there are people having a higher percentage of Neanderthal DNA than this. With this backdrop, I found the story plausible in ways other than what the author intended.

 The second story, “The Battle of the Bells” is amusing and is based on a hilarious practical joke based on the old-style outhouse. It is located in a rural area and the locals have placed a handle on a chain that dangles into the building. When curiosity overwhelms the patron and they pull the handle, a bell is rung. The goal is of course to embarrass the weary traveler. However, the consequences lead to an amusing battle between good and evil.

 However, the most interesting segment of the magazine appears in the book reviews section that was written by Henry Bolt. One of the books examined is “The Caves of Steel” by Isaac Asimov. Bolt is ruthless in his criticism as can be seen in the following quote. “This venomous condemnation of the story will not be shared by everyone, but then perhaps everyone has not read through the jungle of this sort of writing.” Harsh words indeed of one of the masters of the craft.

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