Review: Science Fiction Short Story: "Missing Link" by Frank Herbert
This is another in the series of “It Came from the Pulps!” where I review science fiction short stories that were originally published in the pulp magazines of mid-20th century. Many of these have become available in electronic form as free downloads, particularly from Project Gutenberg, or for a small price.
I-A Section Chief Umbo Stetson was for wiping Gienah III clean of every living thing. He guessed just how dangerous the inhabitants were. And he was about to send Lewis Orne, junior I-A field man with a maiden diploma down there, with its jungle canopy some 150 meters thick. His job is to find the missing ship Delphinus is he can. They would be in constant communication, thanks to surgical implant in Orne’s neck. They could extract him quickly. In five days, the powers that be would unleash the planet buster, regardless. Would it be quick enough?
Native of a heavy-gravity planet, Orne must nevertheless search a planet whose gravity is only 7/8 standard Terran because of a past association the missing Delphinus . And now there was a mob of Gienaians making a beeline for them. Stetson has to take off, leaving Orne with only a disguised air sled. He has five days to ready them for contact, to find the Delphinus if he can or the planet busting bomb is released and the archaeologists figure them out.
This was a decent, but not great story. Orne, the odd man out, is an unlikely hero, and he is cool as ice under pressure. At the same time, he’s not a simple yes man. He questions Stetson on why without hint of denying an order. He just wants to understand. Nevertheless, the depiction of the Gienaians doesn’t quite ring true and is shallow to my mind.
An irony appears in the last few lines which to my mind saves the story from being nothing but soap opera. Nevertheless, I think one would have to be a fan of Frank Herbert or of military sci-fi to enjoy this story.
Author Frank Herbert is perhaps best known for this “Dune” series of books. Before he wrote science fiction, he worked as a journalist. He also worked as photographer during WWII where he served as a Navy Seebees.
Title: “Missing Link” first published in Astounding Science Fiction Feb. 1959
Author: Frank Herbert (1920-1986)
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has since been removed from that site and is no longer visible there or anywhere else. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion in PP.
©2015 Denise Longrie
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