Randall Garrett, TAKEOFF!

There's plenty of silliness in the world of science fiction that makes it a ripe target for parody. Randall Garrett took a more subtle -- but quite humorous -- approach to his beloved genre in Takeoff! This collection of stories, and a few poems, lovingly mimics and spoofs some of the sci-fi classics.

The stories here range from the subtle to the extreme. His "The Horror out of Time" adopts the style of H.P. Lovecraft, never really going for comedy until the final, dramatic, italicized reveal. The same is true of the Asimov-inspired "No Connection" and the Western-based "Mustang."

On the flip side, I may not have read E.E. Smith's Lensman books, but I didn't need to in order to appreciate Garrett's "Backsgtage Lensman," with its over-the-top intergalactic Boy Scout, extra-dimensional villains, and casual violence. Likewise, the difficulties of transporting mutant ducks in "Look Out! Duck!" become very goofy very fast -- and not just because two of the main character are named Rouen Drake and Donald MacDonald. There are also aliens who flip back and forth between British nobility and the American beat generation ("The Cosmic Beat"), a different take on history ("Despoilers of the Golden Empire"), and poems that summarize everything from Who Goes There? to The Caves of Steel with rhyming verse.

Takeoff! is, first and last, fun. Garrett shows great affection for his source material (often in the forewords to the tales) while simultaneously delighting in spoofing it. A few of the entries are a litle dated, and I didn't care for the shameless punning of "Through Time and Space with Benedict Breadfruit." Still, Takeoff! is a lighthearted, enjoyable take on some of the classics of science fiction.

Overall grade: B+
Reviewed by James Lynch

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