Two nuclear missiles
The concept and main character of this story are outstanding, worthy of inclusion in any collection. Unfortunately, the writing and editing don’t rise to the same level, dragging the Asimov/Clarke class concept down to produce a story which is just average. The story also goes on a bit too long; I don’t mean that it’s a long story, rather that there is a really “wow” ending about 85% through, so tacking on an extra 15% of epilogue actually lessens the story’s impact.
The main character in the story is a juvenile member of a god-like race. Each member of this race owns a universe, and their status within society is at least partially dependent on how well they manage that universe. Unfortunately for this child, he enjoys a minimalist, “hands-off” approach, simply observing how his humans progress. (It is implied that Earth is within his universe) He is under strong peer pressure to introduce additional races and instigate interstellar wars in the name of “progress”, but he feels sympathy for his humans, and is reluctant to do so.
That setup and the ending (which I won’t reveal here; the story is free right now on Amazon if you want to grab a copy) elevate the story towards greatness, but the problems which should have been noticed by the editor range from minor to distracting to major.
Minor problems include mistakes such as repeatedly using “spec” instead of “speck”.
The distractions mostly revolved around the use of the word “alien”. In one scene, there is interaction between a human from Earth, a human who isn’t from Earth, and the god-like child. When an “alien” does something in the scene, it’s the human who isn’t from Earth. It’s technically true, since he has just arrived on Earth, but it doesn’t read well. In another scene, the god-like child meets a group of humans on Earth; even within the same sentence he is an “alien”, while the humans are also “aliens”. When members of two races meet, they might both be alien to each other, but the author needs to pick a point of reference.
A major problem with the story was a section of two entire paragraphs that didn’t make any sense; I had no idea what they were referring to. Once I finished the story and went back to them, I understood easily, but on first reading I couldn’t make anything of them. I can understand how an author could make a mistake like this, because obviously he knows the story inside out, but an editor should have caught this.
I’d love to see “Toy Planets” rewritten into a top-notch story, or see what else the author could come up with, as long as it had a little more editing.