A stage hypnotist who plays interstellar dives is such a great idea that the reviewer is determined to stop right there. It sounds like a lost series by Henry Kuttner or Fredric Brown, or maybe a radio hero forgotten by everybody but Harlan Ellison.
In the "Buffalo Dogs," the Arconi jealously guard their main export, domesticated animals that fart oxygen and are thus in demand by the deep-pockets terraforming industry. Fortunately the Arconi are both telepathic and congenitally honest: only screened couriers can be trusted to escort sterile specimens offworld, and getting caught with a black-market diatomic-outgasser is a serious matter.
The Amazing Conroy starts the plot careening, not to mention a show-biz scandal, when he discovers that not only can a human be hypnotized into believing that she is a buffalo dog, but that if the literal-minded Arconi read her mind, they’ll believe she’s one, too.
Trouble, as they say, ensues. Conroy gets accused of trying to export a fertile buffalo dog to Earth, even if said dog is only an embassy secretary who wants to go home. He gets involved with big-time smugglers, and how he uses talent and wit to exploit his would-be exploiters, to say nothing of loopholes in Arconi business regulations, makes for a fun ride.
“Telepathic Intent” is just as entertaining, if a bit darker. Conroy, now a wealthy man, appears to have met his match in the form of a lover. She’s a noble of a humanoid species called the Traken, whose ruling class has the power to impose suggestion. Jealousy-fueled court intrigue leads to murder, and of course our hero is the prime suspect. But what does criminal intent mean in a society of mind-controllers? Come to think of it, what does love mean?
Even if you’ve never touched a pulp magazine, you’ve been conditioned to like this sort of thing. You can’t help it, present company decidedly not excluded. Because Lawrence M. Schoen plays fair with the reader, it’s fairly easy to see where both these stories are headed. Fortunately, the author doesn’t take unfair advantage of our reflexive good will. Like his hero, he somehow manages to get away with two diverting capers out of two.
Publisher: SRM, Publisher (www.korval.com)
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