“Repetition” by A. E. Van GogtOctober 16, 2010
The Book: “Repetition” by A. E. Van Gogt. Originally published in 1940, Astounding Science Fiction. Edition read in Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.
The Setting: Europa, Moon of Jupiter.
The Story: A famous statesman and former explorer named Thomas is to evaluate the colony on Europa, but finds himself in a struggle for life, just the same as his ancestors did, except also against a man as well as brutal natural forces.
The Science: The title of the story is the point of it – man keeps doing things the same way, so the social science is much more relevant than the hard science. In one episode, Thomas has to escape from a blood thirsty, ridiculously deadly extraterrestrial beast. So he takes a blade, cuts his hand and smears the blade with his own blood. Thomas wedges the handle of the blade into rock and hides. The beast starts licking the blood stained blade, gets excited by the taste of what is now its own blood from its lacerated tongue, and then dies. Thomas says the Eskimos killed wolves in this way.
I looked it up. The internet says this is true. Which is totally bad ass. So, 2 points for accurate ethnographic tidbits in science fiction!
The Reaction: I have a very high tolerance for poor writing. Very high. But I had a hard time getting past the second paragraph of this story. That paragraph commits many many sins against the written word. But I persevered and the writing calmed down to a more normal level. I’m intrigued by the incorporation of accurate ethnographic information into the story, but mostly I can’t recommend it. The writing is pretty poor and it’s too long for what it is. What a shame.
The Cover: Alas, no cover art credit for this book. Because it has got a really awesome spaceship on the cover, and an outpost on a hill, and is very lovely science-fictiony in general. Awesome.
Next Up: “Metamorphosite” by Eric Frank Russell. Oooohh… An interesting made up word from an author with three first names? Count me in.