Tuesday, October 29, 2013

“Goblin Night” by James Schmitz

Yesterday I read James Schmitz’s “Lion Loose” and was disappointed that it did not live up to the accolades SF authorities Malzberg and Dozois had accorded Schmitz.  Today I read Schmitz’s “Goblin Night,” which first appeared in a 1965 issue of Analog, and was pleased: it is better than “Lion Loose” in every way.

Telzey Amberdon is a 15 year old college student, on a camping trip in a vast and thickly wooded park.  Schmitz deftly sketches out an interesting milieu for Telzey and her adventure: before this planet, whose night sky is rarely dark because of the multitude of bright stars in the planet’s vicinity, was colonized by humans this forest was home to powerful creatures the settlers called spooks, dangerous predators which the colonists were forced to wipe out of the area.  Unknown to her fellow students, Telzey is a talented telepath, and her powers bring to her attention the fact that something horrible is going on in the park: an intelligent man, driven insane by a terrible disabling accident, has been using the park as a hunting ground for that most dangerous of game, his fellow humans.  Soon Telzey herself is the quarry in a deadly chase through the woods, contending with the sadistic villain’s both high tech and savagely primitive methods.
 
This is a hoary old plot, but Schmitz, by adding numerous SF elements, creating in his villain a compelling character, and by setting a fast pace and sticking to it, makes it work, and I quite enjoyed “Goblin Night.”   
   
I read the free e-text available at the Baen Books website; “Goblin Night” is the fourth chapter of the book Telzey Amberdon, which includes illuminating afterwords about Schmitz’s career and the setting of most of Schmitz’s stories by Schmitz fans Eric Flint and Guy Gordon.

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