(Uncredited cover for the 1964 edition)
Before Robert Silverberg wrote his late 60s and early 70s New Wave masterpieces (A Time of Changes, Dying Inside, The World Inside, etc), he produced a vast quantity of pulp science fiction novels and short stories. Godling, Go Home! (1964) is a surprisingly solid collection of 50s shorts that can, at times, be surprisingly meditative (on death, exploration, civilization). That said, expect rather naive messages — à la “we travel in space because we can!” or “Alien contact requires out-of-the-box thinking” — grafted onto a by the numbers pulp plot.
A fun collection — recommended for fans of slightly more intelligent than normal pulp SF, Silverberg completes, and 50s SF. “Godling, Go Home!” (1957), “Why?” (1957), and “The Man With Talent” (1956) are the best of the collection…
Brief Plot Summary/Analysis (*spoilers*)
“Godling, Go Home!” (1957) 4.25/5 (Good): A memorable story… Human explorers land on a planet and are perceived as Gods — a standard SF trope. But, Silverberg turns it on its head in delightful fashion. Lieutenant Cartisser takes on the younger Noble in order to teach him all the ropes of contact with primitive species. Due to time dilation, Cartisser and Noble head to one of the planets that Cartisser had previously visited — 1000 years later! As expected, the people acknowledge him as their God who finally returned to bless His people. But, the leaders of the society are rather more reluctant. They consider the presence of a God as a violation of the tenets Cartisser taught when he originally visited.
“Why?” (1957) 4/5 (Good): Almost a brilliant story that ultimately resorts to overly simplistic/naive analysis of a thought-provoking question — why do we have the urge to explore? For eleven years Brock and Hammond, members of the Exploratory Corps, investigated planet after planet and never explicitly asked the other why they were doing so. Perhaps they could no longer tolerate the society and environment of an increasingly overpopulated and frenetic Earth. Or, perhaps because they are fearful of self-analysis. When a planet tries to literally keep them on its surface, Brock and Hammond attempt to provide an answer.
“The Silent Colony” (1954) 3/5 (Average): An odd little story… Skrid, Emerak, and Ullowa are immortal inhabitants of the planet of Pluto. Their settlements have stretched closer and closer to the Sun — and soon they arrive on Earth. On Earth, piles of dead greet their arrival. And soon their immortality is threatened. Earth, a planet of death?
“Force of Mortality” (1957) 3.5/5 (Good): Quantrell, and his young protegee Kendrick, are Extraterrestrial Archeaologists (what a job!). Quantrell has discovered little of any importance in his long career — a few mishaps prevented him from returning with big finds. Quantrell, in his old age, laments his lack of success and waining abilities. But, soon his luck changes when they discover alien bodies and ruins… The ending is incredibly contrived in order for the message to be conveyed. All in all a rather forced read, but, the meditation on aging is highly unusual for pulp SF.
“There’s No Place Like Space” (1959) 2.75/5 (Average): One of the weakest in the collection…. Ed Reese had worked for twelve years on remote space colonies operating a transmat device (a transportation portal that links other planets with Earth). Due to computer error, he’s not notified of his accumulated vacation time — more than half a year of vacation on Earth. But the problem is Ed loves his easy life on Crawford IX and doesn’t want to take a vacation on Earth.
“Neutral Planet” (1957) 3.25/5 (Good): Simultaneously a Cold-War allegory and a “let’s turn first contact on its head story.” Fafnir is inhabited by a primitive spear throwing race of aliens, but, due to the location of the planet, both humans and Rigellians (who are engaged in a protracted “war”) want Fafnir as an ally. Unfortunately, both the standard human and Rigellian techniques of dumping large pile of cool gadgets into the lap of the primitives does not yield positive results. But the more intelligent humans come up with an ingenious plan…
“The Lonely One” (1956) 3.25/5 (Average): Earth is wrecked by cataclysmic climate change. The few remaining inhabitants shelter themselves the best they can from the endless snows. Soon, a group of aliens arrive on Earth promising warm weather on their home world. But the humans do not want to, and more importantly, do not seem able to leave. Sinister undercurrents about — what exactly the aliens would do with the humans on their home world isn’t entirely clear — one gets the feeling that they would be “exhibited” as Native Americans and African Bushmen were in our own colonial period. Instead of exploring this further, Silverberg resorts to a mysterious forces are afoot type plot device.
“Solitary” (1957) 3/5 (Average): In an increasingly computerized future, even crime prevention is handed over to computers. Crime solving is no longer some idealistic searching for clues work…. Rather, crime solving means taking care of the machines while they do all the work. As a kid Geourge Braeuer dreamed of being a Sherlock Holmnes type investigator — all the classic novels of crime solving line his shelves. He is dismayed that the computer that does all his work. On a whim he asks the computer for all the unsolved crimes. And takes up a case of his own. Again, the fantastic premise is defeated by an all too obvious where the computer went wrong moment. A slightly intelligent criminal would be able to get away with the most horrific crimes if this futuristic computer was running the show!
“The Man with Talent” (variant title: “A Man of Talent”) (1956) 4/5 (Good): Emil Vilar thinks that he’s the last poet on Earth. Emil Vilar thinks that he’s a genius. Emil Vilar thinks that Earth is simply too stupid to understand his genius. So, his wealthy friends (whose actual intentions are probably more negative than Emil thinks) assist him in paying the transport fees off Earth. When he arrives on Rigel Seven, the first visiter since the original families settled on the planet, he is immediately pleased that he’ll have a place to work in quiet. But the inhabitants seem to be artistic polymaths…. And expect something from him.
“The Desiccator” (1956) 3/5 (Average): A short comedic story about an tentacled alien on the incredibly dry planet of Mars… This inventor accidentally invents the most useful device ever for a planet that is too dry — a desiccator. So, his promotor takes the invention to Earth in an attempt to sell it. Unfortunately, whenever the desiccator is turned on it doesn’t simply dry what is inside of it but pulls moisture from entire city blocks. Humorous, silly, fleeting…
“The World He Left Behind” (variant title: “The World He Left Behind Him”) (1959) 2.5/5 (Bad): Perhaps should be retitled, “What an Unsatisfactory Way to Leave the Collection Behind.” A portal to a parallel world…. A parallel world of gorgeous tanned bodies, endless beach life, a nice woman named Corilee…. But there’s also time dilation the further you journey from the portal. And the Beach dwellers don’t want their world ruined. But Matthews wants to get his hands on Corilee…
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