Monday, October 26, 2009

James Blish's "Tomb Tapper" (novelette, war, free)

It reminded me of Arthur Clarke's "Hate". In both stories, the victim is an innocent young Russian girl. In this story, she's killed by evil Soviet government that could not care less about its citizens; Clarke's version is stronger, & has the girl killed by a man from another European country who has a personal grudge against Russia & Russians. Near end, both evoke sentiments somewhat like Tom Godwin's "The Cold Equations", though neither comes anywhere close to Godwin's classic in emotional power.

Story summary.

During US/Russia war, a very unusual flying vehicle seems to have entered a railway tunnel in US with great precision, getting stuck half way through the tunnel. US officials examining what they believe is a wreck discover something unusual...


Story features a device that can pick memories from the brains of the recently dead, & is used as an espionage aid. This is I think the first story I've seen with such a device, though Isaac Asimov's novel "Fantastic Voyage II: Destination Brain" tried to achieve a similar effect with a man not quite dead yet.

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, July 1956.
Rating: B.
Download full text from Internet Archive.
Included in Ellen Datlow's SciFiction's Classics section.
Listed among the stories from John Campbell's Astounding/Analog.
Related: Stories of James Blish.