The Book: Man of Two Worlds by Raymond F. Jones. Originally published as a serial in 1944, then as a novel titled Renaissance in 1951. The edition read was published in 1963 by Pyramid Press.
The Setting: Kronweld (a distant planet?) and Earth
The Story: A man tries to prove that the religion of his society is all hocus pocus, and gets embroiled in much more than he bargained for. This includes, but is not limited to: cross dressing, political intrigue, epic journeys, military training, and leading a new and better world. Yeah, there’s a lot of story in this book.
The Science: So, a lot of this book involves hopping back and forth between Kronweld and Earth. And the mechanism that allows the hopping between the two places is called a Gateway. The book never really bothers to explain how it works, except to say that a gauge is crucial to it. It seems to be device that can rip holes in the fabric of space and allow you to step directly from one planet to another. And they do that a lot. Initially, it mostly sends babies from Earth to Kronweld. Then, at the end, there’s a lot of space hopping by war machines in both directions.
I don’t think I need to point out that this is technology which we do not possess. I do worry, based on reading stories and watching movies, that the citizens of Kronweld and Earth are possibly doing irreversible damage to the spacetime continuum, ripping it all open like that. It’s very much the same sort of holes in space as in Philip Pullman’s The Subtle Knife. It’s an awesome idea, but a hard one to really explain without magic.
The Reaction:The back matter on this book really had me worried. It declared “CALL ME KETAN” at the top, and went into a first person thingy. It sounded awful. Thank goodness it seems to be just a misguided marketing attempt. The story itself is complex, interesting, and unpredictable. Even 20 pages from the end, I had no idea what was going to happen. There’s even a female character who spends a fair amount of time being a good character before pleading with her daddy and asking Ketan for a baby. I declare this worth reading.
The Cover: Cover painting by John Schoenherr. I love this cover because there’s a big crazy bug machine on the front and a close up of the human chaos on the back. The bug machine, alas, seems to be only a product of John Schoenherr’s imagination, as it doesn’t match anything in the book. But it is an awesome machine. Points for coolness.
Next Up: “The Invisible Boy” by Ray Bradbury