History of the hypospray

I’ve been reading Jack Vance’s The Narrow Land lately. When it comes to imaginative SFF and, uh, breadth of word choice, I just can’t find a better author. Seriously the guy was a grandmaster and it’s criminal that he’s not more well known. I obviously can’t gush enough about him.

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At any rate, I was making my way through the book’s second entry, “The Masquerade on Dicantropus,” when something jumped out at me.

“Hypo-spray”? Weren’t those ubiquitous in the Star Treks?

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It doesn’t really surprise me anymore when I discover threads in modern(ish) works that lead back to older stories and writers, but it is rather cool.

My interest piqued, I did a little Googling. And I was informed by Wikipedia that the hypospray is actually a real (though flawed) thing. In reality, “jet injectors” haven’t made it because the risk of contamination from the transfer of blood and other biological material hasn’t been eliminated. But the technology of injecting a high-pressure jet of liquid through the skin without a needle is a real thing, and it goes back quite a while. Amazing, the things I don’t know.

According to Wiki, the first of such injections were accidentally administered in the 19th century by factory grease guns.

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“Hmmm…Hey Henry, come over here a sec, I wanna try something.”

The first recorded use of the tech in SFF appears to have occurred in a 1947 radio episode of The Shadow. Amazingly, that seems to have been the same year that the first “hypospray” was introduce for clinical evaluation.

Script writer Herb Baumgartner must have been up on his reading to have known about this promising, new, up-and-coming technology, and I think that’s a good lesson for aspiring writers of any kind – lots of cool ideas to be harvested and cultivated from things that are going on in the world around us.

Wikipedia credits Vance with having mentioned the devices in his 1956 novel To Live Forever, but the short noted above was actually written in 1951 (unless the “hypo” bit was edited in for the Narrow Land collection).

Then Asimov mentioned such a device in The Naked Sun (which I’ve read, but apparently missed this).

Either way, the concept was well-established before Star Trek got to it, and yet the Roddenberry legacy was the first employer to come to mind for me. Kind of reminds me of how Star Wars has eclipsed anything and anyone before it to have used laser swords.

 

-Bushi

bushi

 

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Suikodens

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Suikoden, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, is a JRPG series inspired by one of China’s “Four Great Classical Novels,” Water Margin. From what I know of it, Water Margin tells the tale of 108 outlaw-heroes who form an army to fight against an oppressive government.

Suikoden, likewise, tells the tale of 108 “Stars of Destiny.” In the first installment (PS1), these heroes band together to rebel against a corrupt government and bring about a peaceful new order. As far as JRPGs go, it’s quite a standout. All of these 108 stars can be recruited. Some of them join you automatically as the story advances, but many of them have to be sought out and found, either by completing some task, satisfying some condition, or simply by virtue of having found them in a strange or hidden place. These characters then populate your base. Many of them can join your party and participate in regular battles, some of them will open shops or provide other services, and some will also take part in “army battles.” More on that later.

I’ve played through Suikoden several times, but I had never gotten the “good” ending. That is, there’s a tragedy that occurs at one point in the story, and it can only be rectified by collecting all 108 Stars of Destiny by a certain part of the game. If you miss any recruits, you miss this “good” ending. In addition, the Suikoden series allows you to carry over data from previous games to influence the proceeding installments. Yes, games were doing this before Bioware! If you get the good ending, so much the better for your playthrough of the next game.

Suikoden 2 (PS1, available through the PSN shop) has been sitting on my PS3’s hard drive for a while now, and so a few months ago I decided the time had finally come. I am a big fan of the original, and I’ve read that many people consider 2 to be the peak of the series.

So I played through the first Suikoden again, to get the good ending this time. I’ve actually gotten pretty quick at getting through it. I think I beat it in about a week, and I finally got the optimal outcome (following a recruitment guide very carefully, of course). It’s interesting how successive playthroughs can be fun in different ways. Now that I was very familiar with the story and characters, I found myself swapping more minor characters into my party to try them out in battle. And man – the main character + Kai is a sick combo! They’ve got a team attack that lets them damage all enemies!

Suikoden 2 was next. I beat it a few weeks ago. How did it hold up? I must say, my impressions were mixed. Let me try to break things down a bit.

 

Graphics

Ok, Suikoden 2 wins handily here. We’ve still got late SNES/Playstation era sprites going on (which is actually a draw to some of us, but not beloved by everyone), and the CGI cutscenes are pretty terrible. But the character animations are a lot better than Suikoden’s.

Music

I actually thought the original Suikoden’s soundtrack was a lot better than its sequel. This could be because I’ve played it so many times, for sure, but not only do its songs stick in my head, but I always enjoyed listening to them. There’s a good variety of music, and individual tracks fit a variety of moods as needed for any given scene.

Interestingly, some of Suikoden’s tracks struck me as kinda Eastern European-sounding. Not that this is an inherently good or bad thing, just kind of unusual and attractive to me.

Suikoden 2 reuses music from Suikoden, but its arrangements didn’t really impress me. Frankly I just didn’t find its soundtrack as catchy or stirring.

Plot

Both games are decent on story, setting up and exploiting conflicts and relationships fairly early on. In Suikoden, there are many smaller stories going on, but the main relational focus is on Tir McDohl (the protagonist) and his father, who is a general for the emperor. Tir’s friendships with the other members (servants? hirelings?) of his household also feature prominently. In Suikoden 2, the focus is on Riou’s relationships with his sister, Nanami, and his best friend, Jowy.

Let’s be honest, neither one of these games is Lord of the Rings or Game of Thrones. There is political intrigue, betrayal, and the like (not much romance, though, for what that’s worth). The stories move and engage. They are pretty good by JRPG standards, but there are weaknesses for sure. On plot, I favor Suikoden. The story just felt like it flowed better and more naturally. In Suikoden II, I had trouble understanding the motivations of some characters (including the ultimate antagonist). A lot of it seemed to boil down to stupidity, simplicity, or just being evil (which can be okay, but usually evil has some ultimate selfish motive such as power or wealth).

Combat

Both games feature three distinct battle systems. In normal fights, you’ve got your party of up to 6 characters. They can attack, use items, use runes to cast magic or employ special attacks, and perform team attacks. In duels, you basically play a rock-paper-scissors in which you can predict the enemy’s attacks based upon what he says between each round. Then there are army battles, which make use of your characters on a grander scale.

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I must say I have a clear preference for Suikoden’s army battles. The graphics, music, and system itself (which is basically another rock-paper-scissors but with special units that can be employed to spice things up) were much more enjoyable than the tactics-style army battles of Suikoden II. Suikoden II’s system was close to being fun, but most of the battles don’t even matter – they’re prescripted and your decisions have little impact over whether you win or lose. The battles also drag on longer and feel less satisfying.

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Characters

Again I prefer Suikoden here, but this isn’t by a huge margin. Both games have some fun characters (I’m sure favorites will vary from person to person). In Suikoden, Mathiu, Pahn, Viktor, Gremio, Valeria, Kasumi, and Krin are among my most liked (some of them are quite minor, but still). In Suikoden II, I was a fan of Eilie and Rina, Shu (who’s basically just Mathiu II), Nanami, Flik and Viktor, and Miklotov. Minus points for Freed – he sucks.

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Ah Rina…
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Fuck you Freed!

One of the strong points about both games is that of all the recruitable characters that can be placed in your immediate party, there are many viable choices. Sure, as you get toward the end you pick up a few OP individuals who are super strong, but there are plenty of solid choices if you have other preferences. Also the way experience works, it’s a pretty simple/quick matter to catch up characters who are severely under-leveled, if you haven’t used them in a while or ever but want to try them out or use them in a boss fight or something.

Overall

I don’t want to say Suikoden is flat-out better than its successor, but I do like it better in most ways. Another thing, neither here nor there, but worth pointing out, is that like many games from Japan, they’ve both got localization issues. And like many games from anywhere, they’ve got glitches. I’ve run into all this stuff. One thing that got to me in Suikoden II wasn’t a glitch but a design flaw. If you import Tir from Suikoden, you can use him, but he isn’t a recruitable Star of Destiny. This means that any time there’s a party shuffle (which is quite often), you lose him and have to go pick him up again. If you could teleport straight to Gregminster this wouldn’t be a big deal, but you have to trek through a long dungeon first. Pain in the ass!

Anyway, I’ve avoided spoilers in the hope that anyone who hasn’t played these games may decide to give them a shot. Suikoden shows its age, but if you’re a fan of SNES and early Playstation RPGs, chances are you’ll really enjoy it. There’s a lot of really cool stuff, like a magical rune that transforms itself into a sentient, vampire-killing sword!

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If you do give it a play, feel free to drop a comment to let me know what you think!

-Bushi

bushi

 

 

Return of the Koshinbun: Tolkien, Final Fantasy IV, Rampage

Is anyone else tired of reading about The Last Jedi yet, or is it just me? Here are some other things that have been going on in nerd world lately:

 

  • A whopper of a Tolkien post at A Pilgrim in Narnia. There’s a lot to explore here – a great roundup in honor of JRR’s birthday.

 

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Heck yeah

 

 

Capture3

 

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Also: Mighty Thor JRS is getting into some great stuff these days

 

 

 

  • I am late to the game on this by a couple months, but apparently we’ve got a Rampage movie coming. This looks like it will be a garbage film. It also looks like it will be a lot of fun.

 

-Bushi

bushi

Musing On Writing, Pt 1 of Series of 3 Million

  • by Gitabushi

I’m currently reading “Date with Darkness” by Donald Hamilton.

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I’m beginning to think Donald Hamilton* might be my favorite writer of all.  You really should read his work. Dark at times, the protagonist is always pragmatic, sometimes to the point of brutality.  But it works.  The protagonist is always a hero…it’s just that sometimes his principles do not allow him to be the Gentlemen he prefers to be.  If that makes sense.

Anyway, in “Date with Darkness”, there is a low-level menace surrounding a vulnerable damsel.  There is no direct threat of death, much less violence.  Yet there is an undercurrent of both, like a steaming volcano set to erupt.

At the point I want to draw attention to, however, everything is still quiet, all the troubles are still only potential.

The protagonist faces the antagonists on a train, with all pretense dropped.  Important information is given.

And then he skips to the next scene.

What else happened?  What else did they talk about?  How did he get out of the face-off?  Did he just say “See you around!” and leave?  Did they leave?  How did he get through the next several hours on the train with the antagonists present (even without overt hostilities)?  Why didn’t he try to pump more information out of them?  Why didn’t they try to pump more information out of him?

So many questions.  All ignored. And for some reason, it works.

I think I would have screwed that up.  I think it would have been a sticking point in my writing, and attempting to resolve it, would have created a weak point in my story. Or, not knowing how to resolve it, I would have decided I had painted myself into a corner and abandoned the story.

In a short story I recently wrote, I cheated.  I left an important issue unexplained. I put a bare fig leaf to cover the omission with the throwaway line of “there have been so many changes”

One or two people had a problem with my sleight of hand. And sure, it could have been done better.  But three or four others had no objection at all, even resolving that problem with their own explanation, and probably far better than anything I could have suggested. And, perhaps more importantly, each personal resolution was different.

In writing a story, you need to tell that story (duh). You need to put words on paper that explain the action, thinking, motivation, implications, etc., of the story and its development.  This is positive space.

But in art, there is also negative space.  What you leave out can often be as important as what you put in.  Some very effective paintings don’t have borders, or don’t take the image all the way to the borders.  Some spaces are defined not by their own edges, but by the edges of the objects around them.

I think that’s what Hamilton did.  There are certain things the reader needs to know to propel the story forward.  There are things they don’t need to know, that would bog down the story.  Sure, that’s obvious.  You don’t include detailed accounts of characters going to the bathroom, normally.

But knowing how to apply that suddenly doesn’t seem as straightforward to me as it did just a few days ago.

I really need to think about this.

*Donald Hamilton is known, of course, for the Matt Helm series…when he is known at all. Matt Helm is a spy’s spy. Just so much better than James Bond could ever hope to be. The novels are twisty and tricky. Sometimes a mystery, often action-filled, things happen throughout the novels you simply don’t expect.

And then they ruined the reputation by making a parody of the character with a drunken Dean Martin.  His films use the Matt Helm name to parody the 60s’ secret agent guy every bit as much as Austin Powers did.  It sucks to have such a great character and such a great series slimed by such a shoddy treatment.

I recommend you try to get “Death of a Citizen” by Donald Hamilton.  If you like that, you’ll like everything Hamilton writes, I think.  Or if you want a more heroic hero, try “Assassins have Starry Eyes,” “The Steel Mirror,” or “Date with Darkness”.

“50 Games Like” Website

Interesting.  I found a website that specializes in finding games similar to other games.  So if you finish one, you can look for other, similar games.

To be honest, I’m struggling to find a way to explain that doesn’t involve just repeating the title, and I probably don’t need to do that.

Here’s the website, with a sample game searched.

Interestingly, you can’t use the search bar they provide.  All it will do is return a list of games and the overall rating.  I checked the original versus a game searched using their search bar, and the difference is, the search bar goes to a URL that includes “/games-search/” whereas what you really want is the URL that includes “/games-like”. Moreover, the search bar has the game name as “game%20name”, but when it is actually searching for games like what you want, it does the search using “game-name”.

So ignore the search bar.  Go up to the URL bar and type in the name of the game you want, but with dashes instead of spaces.

I hope that is clear.  If not, poke around until you figure it out, or ask me to clarify.

Must Play SF&F Pulp Retro-Gaming: Jagged Alliance

  • by Gitabushi

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The Review, and some Thoughts:

Jagged Alliance is a turn-based, squad-based, top-down, tactical combat and resource management game.  It is clearly inspired by and based on the original X-Com game, but really runs with the concept, to the point of being a unique game.  Jagged Alliance has been called “X-Com with Personality” and I think that fits.

You are a mercenary, and you are hired to fight a traitorous former employee of a scientist and his daughter.  They had discovered how to make a regenerative serum from the sap of some trees that had been exposed to a nuclear explosion.  The trees were sterile, and the daughter was on the brink of being able to make them reproduce, ushering in an era when no one would have to suffer from disease, and when people at the brink of death can be brought back to health with just an injection.

(That’s the SF&F aspect).

You are fighting the bad guys to help protect a beautiful woman and her father from a true villain.

(That’s the Pulp part)

If you’ve ever played the original X-Com, it is a hard game.  You equip your troops and go out and fight aliens.  You explore a map, trying to find hidden aliens, and then kill them. They often see you first, and can kill your soldiers with one shot.  The main challenge in X-Com is to minimize your deaths so you don’t have to waste money hiring new soldiers. You come to care about your soldiers when they develop skills and levels and become good fighters, and when you personalize their names.

Jagged Alliance is hard, too.  Every battlefield is covered with trees, and the occasional building. You have to explore the sector, looking for the enemy.  They sometimes see you first.  The AI is very good, as the enemy will try to outflank you, will make good use of cover, etc. You have to move closer to the enemy to get a good shot, but you have to preserve action points so you can get a reaction shot…which usually has much higher chance of hitting; maybe because your character spots the enemy soldier moving in the open?

In Jagged Alliance, the difficulty is in keeping your players uninjured, because you have to keep them back in camp (and not helping on missions) for a full day to heal them up. That costs money, and wastes their useful time.  I haven’t yet tried firing injured characters, because, well, they take it personally.

And that is the beauty of Jagged Alliance. Every character has personality. They talk back to you if they don’t like their orders, and sometimes ignore you.  They don’t like each other, and will quit (or refuse to be hired), if you have someone on the team they don’t like.  They will tattle on each other.  If they pick up some money on the battlefield, it might not all make it back to fund future operations as it should, depending on the character of the person who picked it up.  The better mercenaries won’t work for you if you don’t have any experience, if too many of your mercenaries die, or if you won’t pay for a funeral for them.

So like X-Com, it is very, very difficult to avoid taking damage.  Like X-Com, you want to be extremely careful to manage the damage for the purpose of preserving future resources, and because you come to like your soldiers. Unlike X-Com, your soldiers don’t die with one shot, and the soldiers are likable just for their inherent personality.

It is a great game. Still fun to play now, decades after it was first made.  It is no wonder it became a cult classic and still spoken of with respect.

It is just too bad that the companies making it never had a bona fide hit on their hands to preserve their existence and ensure a successful and ongoing series.  Jagged Alliance is great. Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games is a much lighter, easier add-on.  Now that I’ve played the original, Deadly Games doesn’t seem like a full game of its own, but merely supplementary material.  Still fun, it adds several innovations (like snow, where your players can fall down as they rush toward the enemy).  And Jagged Alliance 2 is perhaps the best game in the history of computer gaming.  But after that, it gets kind of sketchy.  Several companies have attempted sequels with varying success.  I’ll provide reviews for those in the future when/if I get around to playing them.

The long, rambling background story of my experience with Jagged Alliance:

A long time ago, I found Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games in the bargain bin of a computer game store.  I played it, and it was fun.  It might have been replayable, but I never did.  A friend borrowed it, and by the time he gave it back, I moved on to other games.  And only a year or so later, I found Jagged Alliance 2 in a bargain bin, and purchased that.

And I’ve been replaying it ever since.

But I never played the original Jagged Alliance.  I always wanted to finish JA2 first, but I was always starting the game over…sometimes because I wanted to try to develop a different set of mercenaries, or try a different overall strategy, but most of the time because I missed the stress and enjoyment of the early game, when your mercs are weak and armed with weak weapons, and stumbling across a good rifle is a source of excitement.

But I digress.

Along came Windows 10, and it made it impossible to play Jagged Alliance 2.  I finally found a work-around (delete the Intro file), but it played extremely laggy.

This Christmas, my son was talking excitedly about the original X-Com.  Since Jagged Alliance was born as an X-Com copy, that made me think about the old games.  This was a perfect time to see if the old Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games and original Deadly Games might work in DosBox on Windows 10.

Spoiler: They didn’t.

So I went on a quest to resolve that problem. I was able to resolve the issue with a download from Great Old Games for Deadly Games first. I played the tutorial and the first mission, but decided that it was imperative I play the original game.

I finally succeeded…by buying a compilation off of eBay that had four games in the series: Jagged Alliance, Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games, Jagged Alliance 2, and Jagged Alliance 2: Unfinished Business.  All on one CD.

And sure enough, they all worked fine. Even Jagged Alliance 2 (after, again, deleting the intro file that crashes the startup on Windows 10).  JA2 wasn’t even laggy.

So I started Jagged Alliance.

Let me back up.

Jagged Alliance 2 has a high learning curve. One reason I enjoyed the early game so much is that it was easy to learn some new tactic or technique that, had you known it from the beginning, would make the game more fun and more successful. So it was easy to start over. And start over again.  And again.

In fact, even after playing it for 10 years (although off and on in the last 3 years of that decade), I was still learning some new tactics and wrinkles of the game (Hey, if you stop punching the cows before they die, they’ll heal up for more punching the next time you pass through the sector!).

Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games also had a pretty high learning curve.  One thing I didn’t know until after I finished the whole series of scenarios is you can keep mercs back to rest, heal, etc.  That saves money.  What I did was hire some more expensive mercs, run out of money, have to backtrack to weaker mercs, and then have to play them injured with only 30% remaining health (or less). I thought everyone had to go on the mission every time.  Now I know better.

Knowing that now, and going back to play the original game, you’d think it would be easy.

Discussion of Gameplay and Strategy of the original Jagged Alliance:

Nope. This is one of the hardest games I’ve ever played.

It’s possible I don’t know some effective tactics.  I did choose the harder difficulty of not being able to save at all during combat.  Which means if you take unacceptable losses in a battle, you have to start over.

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You hire up to 8 mercenaries to do the fighting (in Jagged Alliance and Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games, you don’t actually have a character who fights).  Unfortunately, you are a newbie, so few of the skilled mercenaries will help you.

Also, you have limited timeframe (I think just 65 days), and you need to conquer sectors to re-capture trees to harvest, so you have the money to continue to pay your mercenaries.  That pushes you to attack more sectors per turn. I’ve seen some people say you need to conquer 3 territories on average, per day.

But you have to avoid having your mercs get hurt.

I started with 6 mercs, conquered 3 territories. 3 people were injured. So I hired a doctor to heal the two significant injuries, then kept the mechanic back to repair some better quality guns that were in poor condition (so jammed easily).

I can see where you need to have a doctor who never goes on missions and just heals up your people, and a mechanic that just keeps your stuff in good repair.  That means you have just 6 people who can fight, and less if you hold them back to get healed.

Now, a minor wound (10 points or less) will heal up on its own in what seems like 2 days.

But since the accuracy is difficult to figure (you can miss when someone is standing right in front of you), you need to mass your mercs on any opponent to ensure you kill them before they shoot at you.  Trees are great cover…but there are times where the angle means the bad guys can shoot right past it, whereas your merc’s shot gets caught in the branches.

Now, I’m sure much of that is because you start with low level mercs with poor marksmanship.  But that’s where you start.

So, anyway, just getting through that first day took me 3 real days (playing an hour or two in the evening). Then I was getting chewed up on day 2 with just 4 mercs available to fight.  And I also realized that I probably had had enough time to take a fourth sector.

So…you guessed it!  I restarted.

It took me another three days to finish all 4 attacks on the first day with few enough injuries to be able to have 6 fighters for the next round.

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Whew!

I would almost clear a sector, and then a bad guy would come around the corner and get a head shot, knocking my guy down to 20% health.  Or I would keep my distance, keep everyone under cover, and then a bad guy would throw a grenade and take 3 of my fighters to below 50% health, plus a permanent dexterity loss.

Well, I finally did it, and I’m ready to start Day 2 now.  I have to hire more guards to protect my sectors, and more tappers to harvest the trees. I need to have the mechanic repair the 4-5 weapons I found, but I think I can let my 5 different wounded mercs heal up on their own. Only one is badly injured enough to slow him down significantly, but I’ve been dealing with him so far, so I’ll just keep him back out of danger, move him to be an extra shooter when necessary. Oh, and the Mechanic is hurt, too, but again: he can heal while he stays behind and fixes equipment.

Fun game. If you want to try it, let me know and I’ll help you find a version that works.

Here’s probably the best place to start.  This webpage also includes a fairly in-depth review of the game, in case I didn’t make it sound enticing enough.

I’d give the game a solid 8/10.  Jagged Alliance: Deadly Games gets an 8/10. Jagged Alliance 2 gets 10/10.

UPDATE: This is the game (eBay link) that will play all 4 on your Windows 10 computer with minimal modification.

Once that link expires (as it will when the game is no longer for sale), what you want to look for is “Jagged Alliance Compilation”, which has 4 games all on one disk. Disc.  Whatever.

Hard Vance: Dust of Far Suns

At our last (and first!) Bushi meetup, Gitabushi gifted me a number of old books, including a couple Vances. I also gifted him an old Vance book, but the trade was far from reciprocal, for JV is one of my favorites and Gita isn’t so impressed. C’est la vie.

Dust of Far Suns turned out to be another solid collection. Although one of the Demon Prince stories kind of dragged for me, I have yet to read a Vance story I didn’t appreciate as a work of superior quality. Dust is a pleasantly small little number with four quick and meaty short stories, unrelated so far as I could tell aside from all being set in the future.

Another notable fact is that they all seemed “hard” scifi to me. That is, Vance was never one to shy away from blending a little magic into his scientifiction if it suited a given story. These ones, though, all come across as scientifically plausible (to a layman like me, at any rate). There are parts, especially in the first and third stories, which go into some detail about futuristic technologies such as solar sails and image projection. Most of this was probably made-up science, but not being a scientist, I couldn’t tell.

The titular opening story is a cool little number about an old, hardened grump named Henry Belt, who is responsible for training space cadets. He’s bristly, he’s said to drink heavily, and everyone hates him, but he’s also responsible for turning out the best spacemen Earth has got. But he’s been informed by a prognosticator that he’s destined to die in space, and he’s getting on in years…so he tells his latest class that he doesn’t care much whether he makes it back this time. What will happen?

“Dodkin’s Job” tells the story of a Nonconformist living on a world run by the Organization, a global government run on red tape. Our hero is a man of no small intellect and ability, if he does say so himself, but he just can’t abide stupid, pointless rules and routines. But as a result, he’s been declassified (demoted in social rank and employment assignment) so many times that he’s only one strike away from becoming a “junior executive,” the lowest class comprised of the dregs of society. Still, his latest job is a drag and a new order has just come down that will cost him 3 hours of his personal time every day, just because some bureaucrat felt like flexing a little muscle. This will not stand!

“Ullward’s Retreat” is about a future in which space and privacy are at a premium. There are just so many people that a typical family lives in a domicile the size of a large closet. But not Ullward! This guy’s amassed nearly 3/4 of an acre – a veritable paradise, and he’s very fond of showing it off. But he’s about to set his eyes on something much larger…

“The Gift of Gab” was probably my favorite of this collection, and it reminded me in parts of The Gray Prince. The story starts off with the disappearance of a crewman from the raft upon which most of the tale is set. But where could he have gone?

Vance’s experience as a seaman really shows here as he describes parts of the raft and its operation, as its crewmen carry out their job of mining the sea for metals to be sent back to Earth (I presume?).

I’ve said before that I really enjoy the imaginative depiction of alien beings and environments in my scifi, and “The Gift of Gab” really delivers with its mysterious sea world the the strange life found thereon.

Overall I’d give this book a 4.5/5. Really enjoyed it!

-Bushi

bushi