By in Sci Fi & Paranormal

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 » by WikiImages

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MegL wrote on June 8, 2015, 3:15 PM

Another great review of a story I will have to read sometime. The author's name seems familiar, as does "riverworld".

msiduri wrote on June 9, 2015, 10:04 AM

Thanks for the kind words. "Riverworld" was a series of novels and some short stories. Some were really good and funny, some were less so.

CalmGemini wrote on June 10, 2015, 9:44 AM

I read the above story.I think we need to read it at least three times.(What with Philosophy of Descartes thrown in.He said '' Cogito ergo sum''-_Latin_meaning'' I think , there for I am.'' We know we exist because we can think. He believed that science could explain everything with logic and reason. I have read about him while reading European Philosophy. It is funny that I read lot of philosophy and Psychology during the ages 18 to 25 and not now when I am much older.)

msiduri wrote on June 10, 2015, 10:34 AM

Yes, there's a lot in this short little story. I forget how many times I read it, but each time, I found something. It really is a very well written and subtle piece.

Thank you, as always, for your comments.