Mission to the Heart Stars — James Blish (1965)

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Publisher: Avon

First Avon Printing, 1982

Cover Art: ISFDB has it as Wayne Barlowe, and the artist isn’t credited, but I’d be surprised if this wasn’t Rowena Morrill again.

Plot Synopsis (of cover): It had been several months since Hugh and Barry had crashed on a remote planet. In the course of that time, Barry gained his nickname (Hugh’s butchery of Barry’s native moniker wore thin rather quickly), the duo had resigned themselves to never being rescued, and Hugh finally began dancing on Barry’s last nerve. “Hey, Blue Barry!” Hugh chimed in a singsong falsetto. “How’s it goin’, buddy?” Barry said nothing, as he knew that what would follow would run its course faster without input on his part. “Aww, what’s wrong, pal? You sad? You gonna cry about it?” Hugh, warmed up now, continued, “Hey, when you cry and have to blow your nose, do you use a tissue or a tampon?” Barry sighed as Hugh proceeded to amuse himself. “And hey, when you have blackheads, do you strip those off with a pore strip or a Maxi Pad? Does it suck having a nosebleed every month? Maybe it wouldn’t bleed so often if you stopped sticking your finger in there—then again, far be it for me to keep you from having a good time. Do pro-life protesters picket your face when you sneeze? After a long night, do you suffer from post-nasal drip? When you stop to smell the roses, do they call you the next day? Say, how does your nose smell? Like fish! Get it? Like fish!” At that one, Barry had had his fill. “You know what, Hugh?” Barry boomed. “If you keep making fun of it, I’m gonna stop letting you stick your dick in it.”

Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: For those of you keeping track, yes, I bought the previous book in this series solely because I had to review this one (for obvious reasons). I’m absolutely miffed every time I wind up going out of sequence for want of research on my part. In this case, I’m quite glad that I did, because 1) giant brains are gross and funny, and 2) the first novel was better than the second one. I wouldn’t say “better by miles,” though I wouldn’t begrudge those who would. Most of the elements that made The Star Dwellers great are present in Mission to the Heart Stars, but aren’t executed as well. What was once inspirational comes off as preachy, and what was once well-executed scientific background… well, I’ll put it this way. When you’re making a hollandaise, one of the things you have to do is let your butter cool to warm, and then slowly whisk it into your eggs. If you add too much hot butter to your sauce all at once, you’re going to end up with scrambled eggs. Whereas The Star Dwellers had a perfect mix of plot and lecturing, giving explanations as needed in the quantity required for development, Mission to the Heart Stars is scrambled eggs, with treatises on evolutionary biology and political science that feel protracted and stick out inelegantly. Now, this isn’t necessarily bad, but the feel of the second novel isn’t as smooth as the first. You get the idea that Blish (a biologist in real life) wanted to shove more science into this one, and he did, perhaps to its detriment. Still, this should not discourage readers from continuing the series, especially if they found the first novel as compelling as I did. It’s still great fun, it’s clever, it’s friendly, and it’s low-calorie-high-fiber.

Rating: 8.8 Androgynous Alien Dongs Exposed In Rage

Questions for Critical Cover-Viewing:

  • Who knew Georgia O’Keeffe did pulp work?
  • Is Easter Island missing its adult section in the rear?
  • In Soviet Russia, does nose blow you?
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