Shock Wave

by Walt & Leigh Richmond
Reviewed date: 2020 Dec 6
Rating: 3
127 pages
cover art

This is a fun little story. Terry Ferman hikes out to a remote canyon to help his friend Cal track down the source of some strange radio broadcasts. He inadvertently triggers an alien transposer built into a cliffside and it transports him to a station on a faraway planet.

The station is abandoned. Everything runs on automatic, controlled by the Computer, and the Computer refuses to do anything useful--like send Terry back home--until a Supervisor arrives to give it orders. The Computer has been waiting over 6000 Earth years for a Supervisor. The civilization that established the galaxy-wide network of transposers is extinct.

Terry is not the only individual at this remote station. There is Grontunk, a saurian who triggered a transposer and was transported from his own planet much as Terry was. There is Tinkan, a robot formerly controlled by the Computer but who is now an independent entity. Later, the Computer introduces Murtag, a Student who had been in suspended animation--cooled--and who claims to have been a student in the times before the collapse of the galactic civilization.

Terry convinces the Computer to give him training and access to a research lab. He reverse-engineers the principles behind the transposer, and then he explores the galaxy with Murtag, Grontunk, and Tinkan.

Galactic civilization is dead. Many planets are devoid of intelligent life. Others have civilizations at various stages of development, usually pre-industrial. On one planet they find an account of the disaster: a lack of adequate safety margins in the transposer network resulted in an overload and cascading failure. Every active transposer in the galaxy exploded simultaneously, destroying in one blow the entire galaxy-spanning civilization.

Terry is suspicious though. Some things aren't adding up. The Computer has clearly been testing him, trying to turn him into a Supervisor. Furthermore, Murtag is a problem: there's no way she can be a student from the days of the galactic civilization, as she claims. Finally, his friend Cal, back on Earth, is not who he seems.

Terry confronts Cal and Murtag. They represent two different factions: Cal's group is holding civilizations back and preventing them from developing far enough to re-establish Galactic civilization.

Murtag's group is encouraging civilizations to develop so they can skim the best individuals off to turn into Supervisors. They are also trying to breed a new superior race capable of Galactic Civilization. They force an "evolutionary upcurve," strain off the best individuals, so that "each race reverts time and again to savagery." (Terry has visions of "a little man with a paint-brush mustache screaming to a hypnotized audience the doctrine of the 'Master Race,' while millions went to the gas chambers. The ghostly echo from the hypnotized populace came back to him: 'Sieg Heil!'")

Terry isn't a fan of either group, and determines that he and Earth will go their own way. Murtag, who is in love with him, agrees to join him. It's a happy ending.

Overall it's not a bad little story. It could have used some copy editing and maybe tightened up in a few spots, but I found it enjoyable.

People, places, and terms: Terry Ferman, Cal (Calvin Thorpe), Grontunk (saurian)
Galactic Citizen, General Citizen, Supervisor Class, Grade One Galactic Citizen, Basic Citizen, Citizen Supervisor Class
Tinkan (independent entity), Pietra Murtag
Student Technician, Citizen Technician, Computer, Student observer
Transposer, Cooling
Mouse trap
Hey-you, Big Fellow

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