by Murray Leinster



602pp/$7.99/June 2005

A Logic Named Joe
Cover by Kurt Miller

Reviewed by Steven H Silver

Eric Flint has done an excellent job collecting classic science fiction authors whose work is out of print and prepared them to be read by modern readers in inexpensive, mass market editions.  A Logic Named Joe, his third collection of stories by Murray Leinster, contains three novels and three short stories.

The titular story, "A Logic Named Joe," is one of Leinster's most famous stories as it is oft-cited as being the only science fiction story to accurately predict the internet. In Leinster's story, which in many ways is very dated socially, logics, which are now known as computers, are connected to each other through circuits.  When one logic manages to develop a form of sentience, Leinster's narrator, a logic repairman, realizes that logics are now offering detailed instructions on committing crimes and must figure out what has happened and how to stop it. If it hadn't predicted the rise of the internet, "A Logic Named Joe" would be seen as a dated story rather than as an important work of science fiction, although still an enjoyable story.  Leinster's technician realizes the problem and knows that he must solve it quickly without word getting out and causing a panic, making the story a problem solving and warning.

One of the common themes of time travel is the idea of going backwards in time and killing your grandfather.  Leinster turns the Grandfather paradox on its head by having his protagonist travel several centuries into the future in order to meet his great-to-the-nth power grandson and steal his girlfriend.  "Dear Charles" is an epistolary tale written by the time-traveling grandfather to his descendant outlining what he has done.  There is little action in the story, which is most notable for its different view of traveling into the future.

Three of the stories in A Logic Named Joe were previously published as parts of the old Ace Double series. The first of these is Gateway to Elsewhere, the story of Tony Gregg, a young man in New York who has had it drilled into his head that he must become an executive in order to be successful.  After finding a strange coin from the unknown kingdom of Barkut, Gregg finds himself in an Arabian Nights

The Duplicators, the second story published as an Ace Double, takes place on a planet which has been cut off from the rest of the galaxy.  Link Denham finds himself on a spacecraft belonging to Thistlethwaite after the latter rescued him from a lengthy prison sentence on the planet Trent for disturbing the peace.  On the planet, discovers humans living in a symbiotic relationship with the native Uffts.  Manufacturing has been lost and the humans are entirely reliant on their Ufft servants and almost magical duplicators which were invents long before.  Denham sees the potential for the duplicators to destroy the galactic economy and works to thwart Thistlethwaite's plans to form a trade agreement with Old Man Addison.

Nearly thirty years before writing The Duplicators, Leinster focused on the idea of duplicator machines with his story "The Fourth Dimensional Demonstrator."  In this case, rather than building an entire planet's economy based on the duplicator, Leinster focused on the individual who first invented the machine and plays the situation mostly for laughs as he finds his beautiful girlfriend duplicated by the machine, with each version believing herself to be the original.

The Hugo Award nominated The Pirates of Zan introduces Bron Hoddan, a Heinleinian protagonist who is jailed after he is accused of creating a death ray.  Hoddan escapes and flees the planet, with the aid of an ambassador who believes that he was just trying to improve the planet's energy output.  Hoddan flees to the planet Hoddan, where his lack of knowledge of local customs gets him in trouble, but his competence and knowledge allows him to recruit a following, eventually rebuilding his life and amassing a fortune.  As with a lot of science fiction, the biggest suspension of disbelief necessary for the enjoyment of this story is with regard to the hero's omnipotence rather than the exotic locales or the super technology. 

Flint, perhaps, has done Leinster a disservice by including both The Duplicators and The Pirates of Zan in A Logic Named Joe.  The stories, while very different in plot, contain several similarities.  Both have a space-faring protagonist landing on a secluded, and backwater, planet which has reverted to a form of feudalism.  In each case, the traveler falls afoul of local customs but comes out ahead because of the natural intelligence. Read in proximity to each other, the similarities stand out and give a sense of repetition which would otherwise be lacking.

The society depicted by Leinster in many of his stories, particularly those set on Earth, such as "A Logic Named Joe," "Dear Charles," and "The Fourth Dimensional Demonstrator," is dated...a world before woman sought political and economic equality.  However, if the reader can get past those weaknesses and enjoy the stories for the escapist literature they were written to be, the stories in A Logic Named Joe will still provide the entertainment they did when first published as well as provide an insight into the science fiction of the golden age.

A Logic Named Joe (1946) The Duplicators (a.k.a. Lord of the Uffts) (1964)
Dear Charles (1953) The Fourth-Dimensional Demonstrator (1935)
Gateway to Elsewhere (a.k.a. Journey to Barkut)  (1952) The Pirates of Zan (a.k.a. The Pirates of Ersatz) (1959) 1960 Hugo Nominee

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