This issue of The Wonder Spyglass - Retrospective Reviews of Science Fiction and Fantasy will cover the stories published three decades ago: in October 1976.
The idea of these time trips is to highlight the particular stories throughout SF&F history (all 100 years of it). Each Spyglass issue will give selective reviews to stories, collections, original anthologies and novels, with the emphasis on the short fiction. We will be taking jumps of 10 years in SF history, making it a fun perspective on the development of the genre. Please keep in mind that these notes reflect only my personal reading experience and do not necessarily correspond with the impact a story had on SF field in general, or with the generally accepted verdict from the critics
"I am rated at fifty kilotons, -the bomb said with a trace of pride". This is how this story starts - not with a whimper, but with a bang. Not just one thrilling bang, but many (you are going to get a lot of bang for your buck, said the cheesy metaphor expert). You also are going to get vintage Varley at the top of his form, which is a lean mean concept car form, not your average soccer wagon blob. When Varley's good, he is very, very good (and maddeningly controversial).
When he is bad, you get such rambling and conceited stuff as the "Steel Beach", for example. Here, he has a ball... a bagatelle (a game akin to billiards, with nine balls) with a nuclear terrorism threat. Nothing funny about that, except a lot of black, chocolaty-dark humour, which recedes into an ultraviolet "mad scientist" laugh, resonating over a classic terrorist thriller plot - prepare thyself, for this is going to happen sooner or later. Almost as mad as doctrine of "assured mutual destruction" is the story's concept of "getting rid of conventional armaments and replacing them with reasonably priced hydrogen bombs that would be distributed equally throughout the world."