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Brief Reviews of Science Fiction by
Raymond F. Jones


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"Rating" awards up to 5 stars based on how good I thought the book was (primarily based on how much I liked it).
The Non-Statistical Man
by Raymond F. Jones

Anthology of four Golden Age science fiction stories by Raymond F. Jones:

The Non-Statistical Man
     This may be the definitive science fiction tale about intuition. The story is completely about intuition, and little else. This is an impressive and thought provoking tale about a statistician who becomes, as the title suggests, non-statistical when his natural human potential for intuition is unlocked.
     This story thoroughly contemplates the impact that the possession and use of powerful intuition would have on individuals and society. For example, the main character first encounters the world of intuition when investigating a statistically improbable run of short term insurance claims: dozens of people have purchased insurance just weeks before actually needing it. The only connection between these people is they have all participated in a seminar by a seemingly quack scientist whose program actually does unlock people's powerful intuitive abilities.
     This is a very focused science fiction tale: there are no aliens, no new inventions, nothing science fictional except the central elements pertaining to intuition. This story has a very "Twilight Zone" feel to it. This is definitely recommended reading for anybody unafraid to confront a startlingly alternative viewpoint.

The Gardener
This is a warm and wrenching story of a young boy born with phenomenal intellect and mental abilities. The focus of the story isn't so much on his abilities as on how he does and does not fit into common society. This story is notable for its early use of the term "Homo superior", pre-dating the appearance of the term and concept a few years later in Stan Lee's "X-Men."

The Moon is Death
This is perhaps the weakest piece in the anthology, in part because it is the most anachronistic. Written before the first moon landing, the story tells of many disastrous attempts to land a man on the moon. Mars, in fact, has been visited by the time this story takes place. Launched from an extensive space station orbiting the moon, two closely monitored astronauts try once and for all to discover nobody has ever returned from the moon. Somewhat "puzzle oriented," as were so many science fiction stories of the period. But the story is short, well told, and worth the read, despite its flaws.

Intermission Time
This is a surprisingly powerful and interesting story. Although conceptually less revolutionary than "The Non-Statistical Man", it may be the best story in the volume in terms of character and emotion.

This is essentially a romance set against the backdrop of an interesting and massive experiment in human colonization. After wars of mass destruction, humanity's survivors have learned how to travel interstellar distances. One nearby planet (dubbed "Planet 7") has habitable regions near its poles, which are colonized with different closely watched types of society. The goal is to use these experiments in sociology to determine which social structure is best for the continued survival and improvement of humanity.

John is a concert pianist who has volunteered to be a colonist because his sister is going. They are assigned to Alpha Colony, which is dedicated to aesthetic pursuits. En route, John meets and falls crazy in love with Lora. Unfortunately, she's in the "Control Group", not assigned to one of the colonies and consigned to eke out a living in the habitable jungles of the colony planet. Contact between the two groups is forbidden, but John can't forget her.

The plot sounds incredibly hackneyed, but the details and characters are fresh and surprising (yet very believable) at every turn. Perhaps the story is an old one, and even the sociological speculations may be found in other stories (most of which post-date this one). The story's strengths are the insightful characterization of its grasping, sometimes desperate characters, along with the twists and turns in their relationships and understanding of each other. This is a powerful and tightly told tale with unexpected emotional impact.

Who should read this: Everybody who appreciates John Campbell-era s.f. Fans of Orson Scott Card, Zenna Henderson, Philip K. Dick, etc.
Rating: ****


Renegades of Time
by Raymond F. Jones

Joe Simmons finds himself completely lost in time and space in a jungle that definitely is not on Earth. His only company is Tamarina, an enchanting young woman from a culture that regularly wanders through countless planets. But she has no idea where they are now, and blames Joe for stranding them there. This is the breezy beginning of Renegades of Time, a fast paced, adventurous jaunt through imaginative, alien settings.

In large part, this may seem to be just a very silly fantasy-adventure story, harking back to the Warlords of Mars fantasies of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Mostly that's all it is -- harmless and colorful fun. But some of the ideas are creative, such as the method of travelling to other planets using not the space, but the time aspect of the time-space continuum. And the thoughtful look at the ramifications of extreme individualism are interesting: The Algorans who are the primary fictional culture of the novel can travel to any of countless planets. But they've ended up neglecting their homeworld to the point of almost losing their own culture, while living as parasites on other planets.

The book is never preachy, but it does make a case for home and hearth, family and friends as opposed to pure, isolating individualism. And perhaps few books have ever imagined access to so many different worlds. The novel doesn't take us to them, but the Algorans describe the places they can go to: truly worlds without number, populated by an endless variety of cultures.

Who should read this: General readership.
Rating: ***


Web page created 19 July 2000. Last modified 15 August 2000.