A tremendous war is raging on Earth, and the future of mankind hinges on a chemical known to the ancient, venerable, and supremely intellectual and logical Martians. The chemical will control human adrenal glands the way iodine controls the thyroid, you see, making humans less aggressive. (Need one add after all this set-up that the chemical turns out to be the element bromine, iodine’s upstairs neighbor in the periodic table?)
Well, an earthman goes to Mars to find out what the chemical is but the Martians refuse to give it to him. So he sneaks into their super-secure super-science super-base, wanders about for hours more or less aimlessly without being caught, confronted, or even seen, and manages eventually to stumble across what he’s after—only to find out that the Martians have set him up all along.
This is not, perhaps, quite down to the level of “Half-Breeds on Venus,” but darn close.
This is one of the truly awful stories Asimov wrote very early in his career involving interplanetary aliens, a staple of sf of the time. The aforementioned "Half-Breeds on Venus” is of the same genre, as are "The Secret Sense,” "History,” and the original "Half-Breed.” This one, however, wasn’t included in The Early Asimov because Asimov literally forgot that it had been published. He didn’t like it at all himself; it appeared (for some reason) under a pseudonym when it did get published; and he didn’t save it. It was only when going through his diary in the course of preparing In Memory Yet Green that he discovered that it had, in fact, seen print.
The fact that Asimov forgot its having been published, then, makes me feel an awful lot better about having forgotten that I'd read it. I’ve read In Memory Yet Green some three or four times, but it was only in the course of re-reading it recently that I stumbled across the story and realized that I'd totally forgotten about it myself.
In truth, it deserves oblivion. First of all, it’s written early in Asimov’s career when he was writing trash like “Robbie,” "Reason,” and "Nightfall”—oops. Anyway, it was written early in Asimov’s career. His interplanetary alien stories were never his best, and this one adds to the form he heavy and obvious moralizing and topicality that was to plague such awful stories as “Hell-Fire” in the 1950’s and “The Winds of Change” in the 1980’s. Added to this is the fact that the plot is implausible from start to finish, and I'm not going to say anything about the biochemistry.
(Ironically, of course, I learned all my biochemistry from the Good Doctor in classic books like The Chemicals of Life and Life and Energy. Of course, he hadn’t taken any yet himself in the early 1940’s, so one might possibly forgive him. —Nah.)
Anyway, this is a truly, truly, truly awful story. It isn’t Asimov’s worst, one is sorry to say—but it’s w-a-a-a-a-y down there toward’s the bottom of the heap.
|In Memory Yet Green|