Thursday, June 29, 2017

Turn Left at Thursday

By Frederik Pohl

Seven science fiction stories:

  • Mars by Moonlight — Are they criminals? The small group of colonists on Mars have no memory beyond a set point of their past lives. They have been told they are in a penal colony and have had their memories erased as part of their rehab and punishment. But when a stranger turns up dead, the whole lie begins to unravel.
  • The Richest Man in Levittown — Harlan finds himself suddenly wealthy due to the death of his rich Uncle Otto. Now the whole world is beating a path to his door with a variety of investment opportunities. But Harlan is not interested and turns them all down, including an old friend, McGhee. McGhee has created a pill that lets a person remember everything.  He just needs a backer. As they are talking, the pills fall on the ground and Harlan's baby eats a handful. Nothing good will come from this.
  • The Seven Deadly Virtues — Life on Venus is hard. It's way too hot, way too muggy and power is concentrated in the hands of the elites. Step out of line and the consequences are terrible.
  • The Martian in the Attic — A  man figures out the secret of a man's great success: all his fabulous inventions are really the product of a Martian the man holds captive. The  man tries to use the information as blackmail only to have it all blow up in his face.
  • Third Offense — Using time travel, a criminal is sentenced to various terrible locations in the past in an attempt to rehabilitate him.
  • The Hated — Astronauts returning from a trip to Mars have so much animosity for their fellow crew members that they are required to live in restricted areas to protect each other from their murderous wrath.
  • I Plinglot, Who You? — Plinglot, posing as a human, is meeting with various factions on Earth with the goal of setting off world war and destroying humanity. But maybe we humans are not quite as easily manipulated as he thinks.
These stories were pretty good, even for someone who generally tries to avoid short stories.

A common theme in the stories is people sweating or shivering.

  • From Mars by Moonlight: "...he shivered and his breath made a white mist in the thin air." "...he was sweating like a hog..." And more.
  • From The Richest Man in Levittown:  "He was sweating—you could see the black patches on his blue shirt."
  • From The Seven Deadly Virtues: "I felt her shiver in spite of the fact that the temperature was one hundred and ten." "...even inside the thermosuit I was wringing wet."
  • From Third Offense:  "They marched off in the shivering cold." "...a cold place that stank...of sweat and sickness."
  • From The Hated: "I began to sweat, although this place was air-conditioned too." "And I was drenched with sweat."
  • From I Plinglot, Who You?: "...sweating, his forehead glistening..."
Only one story doesn't have its characters sweating or shivering, The Martian in the Attic. 

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