“Those Men from Mars” by Robert Spencer CarrJanuary 9, 2011
The Book: “Those Men from Mars” by Robert Spencer Carr. Dated 1949, possibly published in the Saturday Evening Post, but my only source on that is Wikipedia. Read in Beyond Infinity by Robert Spencer Carr, published in 1951 by Dell. At 75 pages, this is firmly in novella territory.
The Setting: Earth, Washington D.C., the White House lawn
The Story: A newspaper man, a bio-chemist, and a secretary walk into the first encounter with life from Mars. The Martian just wants a little place for the last of his race to call home, but he and his brother have to figure out whether the US or the USSR will offer a better deal. They disagree on the answer to that one and end up fightin’ round the world.
The Science: In this story, a synthetic uranium atom, blown up to the size of a beach ball, hooked up to an unknown power source (possibly cosmic rays) produces impenetrable “air armor.” This is the first story I remember reading that has force field armor, and I thought it was pretty cool. As for the actual mechanics of the stuff, it sounds pretty fishy to me – solar powered energy shield? I was also delighted to find that there is ongoing research into deflector shields using plasma. I wonder where that research is now.
The Reaction: I went back and forth on this story. At first I was really distracted by the narration. It’s very corny and very 1940s. It’s either fantastic or horrible and I can’t decide which. Then I was distracted by the cartoonishness of the Martian ship, as it was described developing facial features. But I think it’s still a good story, if a bit simplistic. The Martians go from a peace loving, telepathically linked pair to a death duel in about 24 earth hours. It seems too fast to be reasonable.
The Cover: Same as last time.
Next Up: Earth Abides by George R. Stewart.