Friday, 16 January 2015

The Secret Sense by Isaac Asimov, 1941

Review of a nice science fiction story for Friday’s Forgotten Books at Patti Abbott’s blog Pattinase.

The Martians couldn't taste and their hearing was bad, but they had a secret sense all of their own.

In The Secret Sense, renowned sf writer Isaac Asimov narrates the story of an interplanetary friendship between Earthman Lincoln Fields and Martian Garth Jan.

Fields, who hails from New York, is living with Jan in an underground city on the Red Planet. The two unlikely friends are close enough to debate over sensitive issues without ill-feeling. So when Fields boasts about the superiority of the five senses possessed by earthlings, as opposed to the apparent lack of any by Martians, Jan is visibly amused.

Unfortunately for the Martian, he lets slip about a secret sense that his highly developed and cultured race possesses and which is far superior than the single or collective sense of sound, touch, sight, taste, and smell experienced by earthmen.


Fields doesn’t believe it but he is so overcome by curiosity that he misuses a Martian law to force his friend into revealing the secret sense to him. Garth Jan does so most reluctantly but warns Fields that he’ll be able to experience it only for five minutes after which the secret sense will be lost to him forever. 

Done Vol, a Martian physician injects Fields with a hormone that activates the secret sense and when it does, after a ten-minute interval, the snickering and unsuspecting New Yorker is exposed to the most amazing and profound experience that neither he nor any earthman has ever experienced. When the five minutes are up, he wakes up dazed and bewildered, pleading with Garth Jan not to take it away from him and to let it go on forever.

Excerpt — Garth Jan was smiling—a smile of dreadful malice, "I had pitied you just a moment ago, Lincoln, but now I'm glad—glad! You forced this out of me—you made me do this. I hope you're satisfied, because I certainly am. For the rest of your life," his voice sank to a sibilant whisper, "you'll remember these five minutes and know what it is you're missing—what it is you can never have again. You are blind, Lincoln, blind!"

It takes great imagination to conceive of a story like The Secret Sense and even greater imagination to put it down lucidly on paper. Asimov was a past master at this. The Secret Sense appeared in Cosmic Stories, March 1941, and was reprinted in The Early Asimov collection, 1972.

If you’re an sf reader, you will enjoy this story. You can read it at Archive.

11 comments:

  1. Not a fan of the genre TBH, but I can you read them for me. Glad you enjoyed it, Prashant.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. please insert "let" between "can" and "you" .....

      Delete
    2. Will do, Col. I enjoy reading science fiction although I don't always understand all the stories I read.

      Delete
  2. I remember this story from that Early Asimov collection, and it's a good one. Of course we all wish we knew what that "sense" actually was like... or do we?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Richard, I liked Asimov's description of the secret sense particularly in the backdrop of Martian music.

      Delete
  3. I don't believe I've read this. I read a LOT of Asimov when I was young because he was prominently represented in our small town library. But as an adult I haven't read much more of his stuff.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Charles, I rediscovered Isaac Asimov a couple of years ago and intend to read some of his more popular novels in coming times.

      Delete
  4. Like Rick, I remember this story from THE EARLY ASIMOV. From the start, Asimov could craft a good story. He's an underrated short story writer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. George, I find similarities between the writings of Asimov and Bradbury though I'm not an expert on their sf work. I didn't know Asimov was "underrated" as a short story writer.

      Delete
  5. I don't think I have any sci fi short stories by Asimov but I have some mystery short stories. I will look for some of them. You will be surprised, Prashant, my next post is going to be on a short story.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Tracy, I look forward to reading your review of a short story, a genre I feel comfortable reading. I'm not very familiar with Asimov's mystery short stories. He's not the only sf writer who dabbled in other genres like mystery and western.

      Delete