Short Reviews – Tepondicon, by Carl Jacobi

Friday , 19, January 2018 2 Comments

Tepondicon by Carl Jacobi appeared in the Winter 1946 issue of Planet Stories. It can be read here at Archive.org.

A great empire on Ganymede has fallen. Its last emperor has placed a curse on its seven cities, riddling each with a horrible plague. The people of these cities revel and debauch in their wretched state. But did the last emperor intend to visit wrath on his own people or were his plagues a devious means of protecting the ancient treasures that had been plundered from Io and Callisto from outsiders?

Medical-intern-turned-treasure-hunting-rogue, George Dulfay, plans to find out the truth to this legend after he hears the story from an old mental patient, Hol-Dai. Hol-Dai, one of the early terran colonists and an expert in xenomedicine, had perfected a plan to recover Ganymede’s treasure but hadn’t been able to pull it off before he had been committed.

The greatest plunder still in possession of the Ganymedians is the Jupiter Stone: made of highly concentrated phlebotinum that could be used as an inexhaustible power supply, the Jupiter Stone is “kept” in the old emperor’s palace protected by nothing by a glass case…and a minute spatial distortion that makes it impossible to lift. To negate the warp field, one would have to visit the seven focal points at the seven plagued cities and set up the special transmitters Hol-Dai had devised to disrupt the ley lines. To accomplish the work, Hol-Dai had developed a compound that would grant the user temporary immunity to the plague.

Dulfay uses his credentials at the hospital to access Hol-Dai’s notes and his immunity tablets. What he doesn’t realize, until he’s well into his quest, is that he may be fulfilling the prophecy of the Tepondicon: Ganymedian legends speak a brave warrior that would enter each of the seven cities to fight the disasters which had befallen them.

While Tepondicon wasn’t a bad story, it’s something that I wanted a bit more from. And I suppose it’s a sign of a good story that it leaves you wishing there were more to it, but in this case, what I wanted was a bit more depth to the world-building and a bit more adventure within the adventure. What was here teased at greater possibilities, particularly the idea that the Tepondicon could be used as a pawn by various factions to further their intrigues, and I wanted more. A great scene where a girl working at one of the cities’ power stations tries to wine and dine him and get him to linger awhile ends up being just that—a scene. It’s a story I’d like to see in the hands of a Brackett or a Moore; Jacobi offers a great skeletal structure upon which a truly epic story could be built, but there’s not enough meat to really flesh it out.

2 Comments
  • deuce says:

    Jacobi was a good writer, but he didn’t always hit it out of the park. Also, I’m not sure SF–as opposed to weird/horror/adventure–was his strong suit.

    • Alex says:

      This felt a bit rushed; if he’d had more time to develop it and bump it to novelette or novella length, it could’ve been great. I mean, seven cities is a lot to hit in just a couple of pages.

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