Archive for September, 2011

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Outpost Mars by Cyril Judd

September 23, 2011

The Book:  Outpost Mars by Cyril Judd (pseudonym of C.M Kornbluth and Judith Merril).  Originally published as a 3-part series in Galaxy Science Fiction in 1951, the edition read was published by Dell in 1952.

The Setting:  The future. Mars, obviously.

The Story:  A colony of idealists are accused of stealing drugs from a drugs processing plant. Also, psychic, murderous Martian dwarves.

The Science: Okay. So. Sometimes babies die, right? Sometimes it’s genetic. Well, this book says that some people have a lethal gene, and that when two people who carry a lethal gene love each other very much and make a baby, that baby dies. On earth. On Mars it lives, eats a drug, and is psychic. The doctor in the book theorizes that cosmic rays, maybe, or gravity, contribute to the ability of the mutant baby to survive. But, frankly, it all sounds like a load of bull hockey so that there’s some cheap explanation in the closing pages of the books.

The Reaction:  Oh boy. This book. It’s something. I think there’s probably too much going on here. Too much us vs. them, too much random weirdness (oh, you’re also psychic? That’s handy for the plot!). I don’t have any good reason why you should read this book.

The Cover:  Cover art by Richard Powers. And certainly a redeeming aspect of the book. Sure, I’m not sure it makes any sense in terms of the story, but check out that landscape, and that spacesuit. Far out.

Next Up:  The Screaming Woman” by Ray Bradbury.

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“The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury.

September 16, 2011

The Book:  “The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published in 1951 in The Saturday Evening Post.  Read in the anthologyGolden Apples of the Sun, edition read was published by Bantum Books in 1961.

The Setting:  A lighthouse.

The Story:  A sea monster falls in love with the fog horn of a light house.

The Science:  The story suggests that a marine dinosaur, the last of its kind, hibernates/suspends its animation at the bottom of the ocean. While this is very unlikely, some birds (birds being a relative of the dinosaur) can initiate torpor, a sort of “hibernation lite,” with one species actually hibernating. To the extent that a single creature can survive for millions of years is, however, not likely.

The Reaction: This is a nice story, romantic almost. There’s a strong sense of place, and of loss. One of Bradbury’s better pieces.

The Cover:  Still the same.

Next Up:  Outpost Mars by Cyril Judd

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“The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury

September 12, 2011

The Book:  “The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury. Originally published in “The Reporter” in 1951. Story was read in The Golden Apples of the Sun by Ray Bradbury published by Bantum Books in 1961.

The Setting:  2053, Earth

The Story: A lone man walks the streets of a city after dark, instead of watching tv.

The Science:  Bradbury sees a future where people watch tv and no one reads. People still read, though, obviously, even if we watch a lot of tv, and even if the reading we do is on the internet, or the kindle, or the nook. One can see where Bradbury could imagine such a future, but I’m glad it isn’t here yet.

The Reaction:  Another quick bite of fiction, but not his best.

The Cover:  Same as last time. 

Next Up:  “The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury.

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City at World’s End by Edmond Hamilton

September 9, 2011

The Book: City at World’s End by Edmond Hamilton. Originally published in 1951, the edition read was published by Crest in 1957.


The Setting: Middle America in the present. A distant future Earth. A distant future distant plant. All over the place, I guess.

The Story: A small city, which could be any small city, is blasted off the face of the earth in some sort of next generation bomb attack and ends up on a dying Earth in the far future. And the Federation of Stars wants to move them to some other planet that’s not dying. The nerve!

The Science: The earth they find is cold, with a larger red sun. This suggests that the sun is entering its red giant phase, during which the Earth will be destroyed, one way or the other. Either the sun will get so big it swallows up the Earth’s orbit, or the changes in the sun will a) throw the Earth’s orbit off ending in catastrophe, or b) boil away all the atmosphere and water from the Earth – also catastrophe. So it looks like the townspeople are not going to have a happy ending for very long when the Earth is tossed out into space in a half billion more years.

The Reaction: I really liked the first half of the book, when the townspeople were finding ways to survive on the dying planet. I had rather hoped that the story would continue in that direction. But no. Space people show up with their bureaucracy and handful of alien life forms. And then the book gets less interesting. Alas.

The Cover: No art credit given. ISFDB tells me it’s Richard Powers, which seems about right. It’s a good cover. Evokes the emptiness of the planet with a stream of people headed toward a domed city and a man and a woman looking over them. Also, nice rocks.

Next Up: “The Pedestrian,” by Ray Bradbury

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The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

September 2, 2011

The Book: The Illustrated Man  by Ray BradburyOriginally published in 1951, the edition read was published by Bantam in or around 1972.


The Setting:  Rural Wisconsin, a near present.

The Story: Two guys meet on the road and have dinner. One of them has a lot of tattoos. Tattoos that each have their own special story to tell. Convenient, that.

The Science: Well, the idea is that these tattoos move and bring watchers into a story. And going into any single story is a bit silly, so let’s talk about tattoos. Tattoos have been a part of civilization since at least the Neolithic. Ever heard of Otzi, the Iceman found under a receding glacier in the Alps? He died about 6000 years ago and he had tattoos. Their purpose is unknown, but that doesn’t stop scientist from guessing (because we like to guess. It’s fun.). Imagine if 6000 years in the future archaeologists uncover a few bodies with tattoos – what will those people be? Priests? An elite caste? Healers? Or just another dude with a tribal armband?

The Reaction: The connective tissue of the illustrated man is fair, and the stories run the gamut from classics to forgettable. The book itself is a classic, and probably the Bradbury short story collection to read if you only want to do it once.

The Cover:  An illustrated man sits naked upon a poorly constructed platform in a place which is distinctly NOT rural Wisconsin. The cover bores me. I don’t want to talk about it.

Next Up: City at World’s End by Edmond Hamilton.