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Breaking Point

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Author: James E. Gunn
Published: 1953
Language: English
Wordcount: 17,079 / 58 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 84.8
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 2,676
Added to site: 2007.07.03 17525

The ship was proof against any test, but the men inside her could be strained and warped, individually and horribly. Unfortunately, while the men knew that, they couldn't really believe it. The Aliens could--and did. [First published in Space Science Fiction, March, 1953.]

Show Excerpt

analyses when we have more data."

Ives went back to his desk and threw a switch.

"What are you doing?" asked the Captain.

"Don't you think they ought to be answered?"

"Turn it off, Ives."


"Turn it off!" Ives did. An expedition is an informal, highly democratic group, and can afford to be, for when the situation calls for it, there is never any question of where authority lies. The Captain said, "There is nothing we can say to them which won't yield them more information. Nothing. For all we know it may be very important to them to learn whether or not we received their message. Our countermove is obviously to make no move at all."

"You mean just sit here and wait until they do something else?" asked Johnny, appalled.

The Captain thumped his shoulder. "Don't worry. We'll do something in some other area than communications. Hoskins--are those landing suits ready?"

"All but," rapped Hoskins. He scooped up the oxygen bottle and disappeared.

Reader Reviews

Average Rating of 4 from 2 reviews: ****
Sardo Weems

Nice psychological thriller. The aliens are all the more threatening for not being seen. One by one the five man crew starts crumbling under the weight of the unknown.


It's a bit hard to describe this psychological mindbender without giving away too much. I'll try. The human exploration crew lands on a beautiful earthlike planet in a ship that is designed to be totally impervious to malfunction and attack. It is however, not capable of stopping a psychological attack on the crew from the planet's residents. What kind of how-de-do is that to visitors? What do they want, and why have they mounted telepathic attacks to break the crew down with hallucinations of their deepest fears? This is kind of a Virginia Wolf of a science fiction story as the stressed out crew start in on each other. Can the crew resolve the attack, and what does their response have to do with the psychological makeup of the crew itself?

That's enough to get started.



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