Science Fiction Short Story Review: "They Twinkled Like Jewels" by Philip José Farmer
This is another in the series of “It Came from the Pulps!” where I review science fiction short stories that were originally published in the pulp magazines of mid-20th century. Many of these have become available in electronic form as free downloads, particularly from Project Gutenberg, or for a low price.
The story begins with Jack Crane lying in vacant lot. He seems a bit worse for wear, hiding from Bureau of Health and Sanity (Bohas) agents. And he’s not alone. Many young people, particularly young men, seem to be homeless or hobos, and hiding from the Bohas agents. It’s while he’s watching a wasp sting and paralyze a caterpillar so that it can implant an egg in it that he sees a pair of black boots.
He recalls a time when he was young, seeing an insurance salesman in the house, talking to his father. His father wanted to send him away, which was all right with Jack. He was busy anyway, hunting through the forest as Uncas. But the insurance salesman, who understood the importance of imagination, somehow knew he was pretending to be the last of his people. And when he took off his odd, overly thick pinkish glasses, Jack looked through them and caught a glimpse of the Garden of Eden.
From then on, he seems to never quite fit in, as if always looking for the Garden of Eden.
This is an interesting if sad story. It’s not easy to catch everything that’s going on in the first read through. Skillfully writing, the tale is really quite devastating. The end seems inevitable, but sneaks up on the reader just the same. It has some horror elements to it, but is not bloody or gory.
Author Philip José Farmer was a prolific writer of speculative fiction, perhaps most notably of the Riverworld series in which every human who has ever live is resurrected on a world that is single long river valley. His stories also explored sexual and religious themes once thought shut out of science fiction.
Title: “They Twinkled Like Jewels” first published in Fantastic Universe Jan. 1954
Author: Philip José Farmer (1918-2009)
© 2015 Denise Longrie
An earlier version of this review appeared on another site. It has since been removed and it no longer visible. It has been updated and expanded for its inclusion at PP.
Image Credit » http://pixabay.com/en/galaxy-barred-spiral-galaxy-10994/ by WikiImages