Dead Giveaway
by Randall Garrett

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Astounding Science Fiction, August 1959

collected in —

Psichopath and Other Science Fiction Stories
The Randall Garrett Megapack
March 2014


"Dead Giveaway" is a short novelet by Randall Garrett, a fairly simple concept-puzzle story of the kind that editor John W. Campbell relished in Astounding Science Fiction. While I'm sure I'd read it once or twice previously, it had left no traces in my memory — yet upon a recent rereading, a key Nietzschean theme leapt out at me, which I'll get to in a moment.

The story opens with the protagonist, a young academic, worrying about the disappearance of a former instructor and mentor of his, a very senior scholar. Research that the missing scholar had been pursuing apparently involved —

The Centaurus Mystery. That's what the explorers had called it back in 2041, nearly a century and a half before, when they'd found the great city on one of the planets of the Alpha Centaurus system. Man's first interstellar trip had taken nearly five years at sublight velocities, and bing! — right off the bat, they'd found something that made interstellar travel worthwhile, even though they'd found no planet in the Alpha Centaurus system that was really habitable for man.

They'd seen it from space — a huge domed city gleaming like a great gem from the center of the huge desert that covered most of the planet. The planet itself was Marslike — flat and arid over most of its surface ...

From the very beginning, it had been obvious that whoever or whatever had built that city had not evolved on the planet where it had been built. ...

How long the city had been there was anyone's guess.

Randall Garrett's plot in "Dead Giveaway" is slight, so I will reveal no more about it. Instead let's return briefly to its theme, which I consider implicitly Nietzschean in this story's treatment: that of the gift, a present, perhaps an offer or exchange; with of course the participants who are giver and receiver. So common a practice and simple a notion that we take it for granted.

When your heart flows broad and full like a river, a blessing and a danger to those living near: there is the origin of your virtue.
Friedrich Nietzsche
"On the Gift-Giving Virtue"
Thus Spoke Zarathustra, I.22.1  (1883)
translated by Walter Kaufmann
in The Portable Nietzsche


© 2014 Robert Wilfred Franson

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with the original illustrations:
"Dead Giveaway"

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