The Stochastic Man (1975) by Robert Silverberg

TheStochasticManA mathematical and political twist to the predictable oracular tale, the 1976 Hugo- and Nebula-nominated The Stochastic Man at first sight appears to be Robert Silverberg’s effort to legitimize one of SF’s favorite tropes, though he’s certainly not the first to try. Portraying telepathy as random probability forecasting in a political setting explains away many of the fanciful notions that might hinder the believability of yet-another SF work about preknowledge and predestination, but, considering earlier SF writers explored the same ideas with a similar conceit of logic, Null-A, and psychohistory, which, as Max Cairnduff cleverly reminds us in his review, is now called consulting, the attempt to blend superpowers with real-world reasoning is neither new nor fresh. What makes The Stochastic Man different from its pseudoscience ilk, aside from a gritty ‘70s essence, is that Silverberg draws from far older inspirations, adding a decidedly Faustian framework to this tale. Continue reading

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Missing Man (1975) by Katherine MacLean

MissingMan1Rescue Squad regular crews go into fire and gas to rescue people. I go into their heads. Sometimes fire is better. (31)

Katherine MacLean’s telepathic cop tale set in a future New York is as technologically inventive as it is futuristically imaginative, where every page brims with a fresh take on the futuristic police procedural, along with plenty of nods to classic SF influences. It’s rare to find a forty-year-old SF novel that feels so buoyant, especially considering the depths she chooses to explore. MacLean is a resourceful writer, loyal to the genre style, but she adds a layer of psychological and sociological depth, relevant to the social discourse of her day. Much like Bester and Brunner before her, it’s an exciting, critical read, with her own blend of individualism and progressivism, though misguided at times. Continue reading

Three to Conquer (Call Him Dead) (1955) by Eric Frank Russell

More Chandleresque sci-fi detective fic. It’s everywhere!

ThreetoConquer3

A great scene. That never happened.

“Because I made mental contact with Jocelyn Whittingham and she promptly called me an insulting name. So I shot her.”

“You considered that adequate motive for murder?” prompted Jameson.

“In view of the name, yes!”

“What did she call you?”

“A terrestrial bastard,” informed Harper, hard-eyed. (60)

Murderous Venusian pathogens always give themselves away with their planetist epithets. An important lesson for all: Never, NEVER, call someone a terrestrial bastard.

The guy doing the shooting is the hero detective, by the way. Continue reading