Reviews by Rich Matarese

The Cosmic Computer

by H. Beam Piper

Grown from the short story "Graveyard of Dreams," The Cosmic Computer is an element in H. Beam Piper's terrohuman future history series, with specific attention on the beginning of the end for the Federation.

The story begins decades after a massive orgy of authoritarianism, in which the Federation had fought an interstellar war to suppress the secession of a number of human-settled star systems, inflicting upon its remaining member populations (as well as the conquered worlds) enormous devastation, both military and economic. The people of one loyalist star system had enjoyed the heated artificial "prosperity" of serving as the logistic hinge of the Federation offensive, followed now by a dismal and long-sustained interplanetary postwar "bust."

Thus the stage is set for an effort on the part of the largely abandoned locals to construct for themselves some kind of viable economy out of the discarded resources wasted by the Federation in this foolish reconquista.

Piper proves here his insight into macroeconomics while providing well-paced action in his plotting and the wholly credible characters through whom he tells this story. All elements function believably within the context the writer has created for them, and those familiar with Piper's structured future history series of novels and shorter fiction will find in The Cosmic Computer an important component of the great galaxy-spanning multi-millennial tale he had devised and presented through the 1950s and 1960s.

Reviewed on 2010.11.26

Day of the Moron

by H. Beam Piper

Given the year of its publication (1951), "Day of the Moron" is quite understandably inaccurate with regard to the potential for nuclear explosion in a facility such as is described, but then Piper was neither a physicist nor formally educated in any of the sciences.

As it stands, he did about the best he could. Bear in mind fiction about nuclear fission written by his contemporaries, notably Robert A. Heinlein ("Blow-Ups Happen" in 1940) and Lester del Rey ("Nerves" in 1956).

What makes "Day of the Moron" particularly memorable today is the regard in which Piper held the average working man, as a creature of marginal competence and application at best, and extremely dangerous when allowed to indulge himself in the aggressive stupidity which has - if anything - grown more pervasive and pernicious in the years since Piper's death.

I quote from his protagonist in this story:

"The moron I'm afraid of can go on for years, doing routine work under supervision, and nothing'll happen. Then, some day, he does something on his own lame-brained initiative, and when he does, it's only at the whim of whatever gods there be that the result isn't a wholesale catastrophe. And people like that are the most serious threat facing our civilization today, atomic war not excepted."

Reviewed on 2010.11.26

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