Nobody Saw the Ship
by Murray Leinster
  

Review by
Robert Wilfred Franson

Future, May-June 1950
  

collected in —
Monsters and Such
First Contacts
April 2009

  
An alien survey

"Nobody Saw the Ship" by Murray Leinster is a simple but nicely-drawn short story of an alien survey of Earth for a particular resource. The alien starship is small, with a single, tiny pilot; but the danger to Earth is great because the resource its race is searching for — and will have the power to take, if the survey report is positive — is to be found in all mammalian nervous systems.

As a science-fiction plot this is pretty straightforward; the quality is in the telling.
  

Shepherd and sheepdog

The Qul-En ship drops unseen into isolated national forest territory where the only inhabitants are an assortment of wild animals, the old shepherd Antonio Menendez and his flock of two thousand sheep, and his sheepdog Salazar. The Qul-En kills and dissects a mountain lion, and then assembles a localized vehicle for itself in the shape of a mountain lion, visually unremarkable but mechanically very strong and with hidden armament for its occupant-operator.

Here's the real problem Leinster has set. Antonio Menendez is ignorant and superstitious, so a mountain lion which can walk on its hind legs, leap great distances, not merely kill animals but dissect them medically — this not only reasonably scares the hell out of him, but seems some sort of supernatural being. While to his dog Salazar, the mechanical mountain lion has no smell, so he also faces a dangerous opponent he doesn't understand.
  

Murray Leinster's smooth storytelling works very well in "Nobody Saw the Ship". The characterizations of shepherd and sheepdog are very nicely done in this short space. The Qul-En's survey is a deadly adventure for the protagonists, and Leinster relates it engagingly and grippingly.

  

© 2009 Robert Wilfred Franson


 

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