Thursday, June 22, 2017

Brought Back to Life in a Robot Body

You can never get around to reading everything. I've been aware of Neil R. Jones' Professor Jameson stories and I even knew that Isaac Asimov cited them as a big influence for his later Robot stories. But until today (which is about 6 weeks before this will post), I had never read one.

I ran across one by accident when I was reading an ebook reprint of the February 1941 issue of Astonishing Stories. This particular Prof. Jameson story is titled "Cosmic Derelict" and--because it starts with a brief explanation of the good professor's history--it proved to be a good jumping on point for the series.

When Jameson died, he asked that his body be rocketed into space, where it would be preserved forever. 40 million years then go by. With the Earth and the human race long since gone, an exploration vessel manned by a race called the Zoromes stumbles across Jameson's still intact body.

The Zoromes are all cyborgs--though I don't believe Jones uses that term in the story. He just calls them mechanical men. But the formally organic Zoromes have discovered how to preserve life by eventually transplanting their brains into robot bodies.

In fact, they are so good with brains they are able to jump-start Jameson's back into life after giving him a robot body. He joins the Zoromes and spends eternity exploring the galaxy and (when necessary) fighting evil.

That's a cool premise. In "Cosmic Derelict," Jameson and the crew are exploring a solar system when they find a space ship drifting aimlessly. Aboard the ship are seven dead aliens.

But being dead doesn't stop the Zoromes from helping you. Soon, the aliens have brand-new robot bodies.

They are from the planet Dmypr, but were attempting to bring supplies to a base on the moon of another planet. That was seven years ago, so the crew of the moon base is probably dead as well.

The Zoromes bring the aliens to the moon and find that the crew there has also died. But they also ind out the aliens are double-crossin' scum. They are, in fact, political exiles from their planet who had tried to stage a revolution and set up a dictatorship.

The aliens use a mental disruptor on the Zoromes, sending them into a coma. They plan to steal the Zorome ship (faster and more powerful then anything they have) and once again try to take over their homeworld.

But Jameson, being of human origin, has a different brain pattern than the Zoromes. Unaffected by the mental disruptor, he fakes being in a coma until he has a chance to kill one of the aliens and take his place aboard the hijacked ship. (Remember that they all have identical robot bodies at this point.) That leaves him on his own as he improvises a plan to stop the villains and eventually rescue his friends.

Jones' dialogue is sometimes a bit stilted and it's a fair criticism that the Zomores (who each have a random sequence of numbers and letters rather than a name) are not given any sort of individual personalities. In fact, though they do show some emotion and have a clear sense of moral duty, they seem to be a little too robotic in the way they act. Jones often seems to forget that they are supposed to have organic brains.

But even after acknowledging its faults, "Cosmic Derelict" is still a fun story, full of Space Opera tropes and wild super-science. Exploring the universe for all eternity in an immortal body? That doesn't seem too unpleasant a fate.

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