Ace Double Reviews, 46: The Rival Rigellians, by Mack Reynolds/Nebula Alert, by A. Bertram Chandler (#G-632, 1967, $0.50)
by Rich Horton

Mack Reynolds and A. Bertram Chandler were both regular Ace Double contributors. Chandler was the second most prolific Ace Double writer, with 18 "halves". Reynolds published only 10 unique halves, but in 1973 several of his books were reissued in new combinations, bringing his total of Ace Double books to 11, four of which featured his stories on both sides. The Rival Rigellians is about 42,000 words long, and Nebula Alert is about 33,000 words.

The Rival Rigellians is an expansion of a 25,000 word novella, "Adaptation", from the August 1960 Astounding/Analog. (This was one of the "transition" issues, with the cover featuring the "stounding" part of "Astounding" superimposed in blue over the red "nalog" part of "Analog". According to the masthead, the official title was Astounding Science Fact and Fiction.) The novel adds fairly little to the basic story of the novella. Indeed, it adds but two basic factors -- two women are added to the list of characters, providing room for a very unconvincing love story in the one case, and for some cheap moralizing in the other case. (The woman are conveniently a slut and a virtuous woman -- and both are medical doctors.)

The conceit behind the story is that humans have expanded into the Galaxy in an unusual way. They have colonized various planets with rather small groups, 100 to 1000 people, then left the planets alone for 1000 years. Now they hope to bring these colonized planets into the Galactic Commonwealth. But first, they must be brought forward from their apparent debased technological and social levels to the levels of Galactic society. A group of 16 men and 2 women are the pioneers in this effort -- they are sent to the two habitable planets around Rigel. One planet has formed a civilization much resembling Renaissance era Italy, hence it is called Genoa, and the other resembles the Aztec civilization, hence it is called Texcoco. (In the novella, the same 16 men were on the team, but no women.)

The two leaders of the expedition differ on the best means to accomplish their goal. One favors encouraging free enterprise and democracy, the other favors encouraging despotic socialism and a planned economy. Somehow they notice that since there are two planets, they can each try their way, and compare results. The whole experiment will take 50 years -- no big deal for the long lived Earthmen.

The results are not quite as expected, perhaps. The socialist group goes all Hobsbawmian from the start, killing people left and right in the belief that that will be for the best in the long run. The capitalist group begins by setting up competing companies to introduce technological and societal innovations, which works OK for a while but then runs afoul of the established powers (church and aristocracy), and also goes bad when the Earth born owners of the introduced companies start trying to live high on the hog off their earnings. Fortunately, the natives of each planet have their own ideas about what's best for their futures.

It's not really all that bad a story. Parts are just silly, and much is contrived beyond reason. (For starters, I certainly cannot believe that the Earth authorities would send such a screwed up bunch of people to do this mission, with essentially no guidelines.) But beside the silly parts, much is thought-provoking, and I did like the cynical take on the supposedly benevolent Earth people. It's nothing special, but it does have its redeeming values.

Nebula Alert is the third of three stories by A. Bertram Chandler about the Empress Irene of the Terran Federation. By this story she has abdicated and married Benjamin Trafford. Irene owns the formal Imperial Yacht Wanderer, and serves as its first mate, while Benjamin is the Captain. As the story opens they are taking cargo between various Rim planets (though this future is not the same future as the Rim World stories about Commodore John Grimes ... about which more later). They are influenced by the representative of an anti-slavery organization to ferry a number of Iralians back to their home planet. It seems Iralians are perfect slaves, because they breed like rabbits, have very short gestation periods, and inherit their parents' memories and skills. Other than that they all seem to be incredibly sexy (and very humanoid).

It turns out that ships carrying Iralians have been lost repeatedly, perhaps due to pirates trying to catch more slaves. And sure enough the Wanderer runs into pirates. Their only escape route is through the Horsehead Nebula, but space inside the Nebula is strange. The first effect is to cause increased irritability, but that is solved by pairing off all the men and women on the ship, even though that includes a couple human/Iralian pairs. The second effect is to push the ship into an alternate universe (one of it seems like several thousand times Chandler pulled that stunt). And once in the alternate universe who should they encounter but ... Grimes! Surprise!

It's all pretty silly stuff -- Chandler really never seemed to care about little things like logic. That said, it's tolerable fun in its breezy way. Nothing I'd go out of my way to find, but not a story I regret reading, either.