Here is the review I did at Goodreads a few days ago:
Planets Three is a collection of three Frederik Pohl novellas originally published in the early postwar period under his "James MacCreigh" pseudonym: Figurehead, wherein three humans are taken by aliens to their native Ganymede for study and experimentation; Red Moon of Danger, set in a mysteriously accident-plagued uranium mine on the Moon; and Donovan Had a Dream, which shows political and military intrigue on a Venus dominated by a quasi-religious/scientific sect of human women.
All of the novellas are decent, though I confess that sometimes--especially in Figurehead--I caught myself forgetting that these works came not from the mid-Thirties but from significantly later. This first piece, while still entertaining, is perhaps the weakest of the three; the first-person narrative is glib and rather wisecracking, but it seems a little superficial, as if, despite a very nice "sense of wonder" moment when enormous Jupiter is first seen rising on the sky, the characters are simply running through an escape story that could have taken place in a pulp crime magazine instead of SF. By POV and predicament I was reminded somewhat of Eric Frank Russell's "Symbiotica," anthologized in Healy and MacComas's 1946 Adventures in Time and Space, but I found Figurehead half a notch inferior.
Red Moon of Danger is simple but decently fun bare-knuckled adventure, and although the source of the cave-ins and accidents is nicely played, I wish the villain directing them were not so damned transparent and obvious in his villainy. The rather unfortunately titled Donovan Had a Dream is likely the best of these three, and while even it may creak just a little bit here and there, we must remember that it was written comparatively early in the history of modern SF, and that we have seen 60-odd years of succeeding print, film, and television schlock make cliches of things that once were new. Like the other works, this one ends with a man of action getting "his girl"; none of these females, however, needs rescuing by someone in lace-up engineer's boots and jodhpurs--all have some spunkiness and bravery of their own.
Is this the best that Fred Pohl has written? No... But, at least for someone interested in revisiting the earlier, simpler days of the genre, these novellas are still worth the read.
4 July 2014