Archive for October, 2011

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The Alien by Raymond F. Jones.

October 31, 2011

The Book:  The Alien by Raymond F. Jones.  Originally published in 1951, the edition read was published by Belmont in 1966.

The Setting: Earth, space, a distant planet, in the future.

The Story: Scientists bring an alien creature back to life and then fight said alien creature when it takes over planet Earth with charisma and mind powers.

The Science: Space archaeologists find the craft holding the life force of the alien, but have to decipher the language to learn more. Which they do, using a made up linguistic principle called Carnovon’s frequency. Which I think has to do with the frequency of concepts in a language, but it’s kind of unfortunate that the author didn’t explore actual properties of language. Also, that the so called language experts didn’t realize that one set of characters represented numbers and mathematical principles. It took the main character to realize that.

The Reaction:  Not a fan. I had hope for the book, briefly, early on, but that hope was dashed for good when a motley crew of scientists who hate everyone else fight their way out of the solar system and then procure amazing mind powers. The societal side of the story is very unfortunate. Not a classic of science fiction, despite what the cover asserts.

The Cover:  No cover art credit. A bunch of folks in bubble helmets look at a great big naked guy. Of note is the fact that there are two women on the cover and only one woman in the entire book. And I don’t think she, an important scientist, was running around in that outfit.

Next Up: “Son of Two Worlds,” by Edmond Hamilton.

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“And It Comes Out Here,” by Lester del Rey

October 23, 2011

The Book: “And It Comes Out Here,” by Lester del Rey.  Originally published in 1951 in Galaxy Science Fiction, the edition read was in the anthology Mortals and Monsters published by Ballantine in 1965.

The Setting: Earth, present and future.

The Story: Wibbly wobbly, timey wimey… stuff.

The Science:  Time machines and miniature atomic engines. Nope, we don’t have that yet. What this story does nicely is put forth the notion that time travel is complex and has a great many implications that will get even more complicated.

The Reaction: Yes, so my story and science descriptions don’t do a very good job at convincing you to read this, but you probably ought to if you end up with a copy of it. It’s kind of fun, kind of familiar, but also a little… timey wimey.

The Cover:  Same as the last one

Next Up:  The Alien by Raymond F. Jones.

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“The Years Draw Nigh” by Lester del Rey

October 16, 2011

The Book:  “The Years Draw Nigh” by Lester del Rey.  Originally published in Astounding Science Fiction in 1951, the edition read was in the anthology Mortals and Monsters published by Ballantine in 1965.

The Setting:  A far future, Mars.

The Story:  The last of a fleet of intergalactic exploration ships returns to home base.

The Science:  This story starts with the idea that the human race has developed a way to rejuvenate itself – no one need grow old. People can live forever returning to youth when old age begins to creep back. The interesting thing about the idea as played here is that people are no longer choosing rejuvenation. The world, apparently, is dying and there’s no hope for anything better. So people are choosing to let their lives end naturally when they could have it otherwise. An interesting take on the eternity machine idea.

The Reaction:  This is a nice story. It worked well, with good characters and ideas. It’s melancholy, even morose, but it’s the right tone. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that the tone should be morose, ultimately. I didn’t follow the leap the story made of 1+1=failure when it seemed to me that 1+1 could= a new hope.

The Cover:  ISFDB says the cover is Richard Powers, and it is even signed on the side, but it doesn’t have that cool feel Powers usually has. It’s got a collage feel and a sort of clockwork robot. This cover means nothing to me.

Next Up: “And It Comes Out Here,” by Lester del Rey

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“The Screaming Woman” by Ray Bradbury.

October 9, 2011

The Book:  The Screaming Woman” by Ray Bradbury.  Originally published in the magazine Today in 1951.  The edition read was published in S is for Space by Bantum in 1970.

The Setting:  Middle America.

The Story:  A girl hears a screaming woman and tries to save her, despite skepticism on all sides.

The Science:  Not really a science based story – more what they might call “a blood chilling tale of crime.”

The Reaction:  It’s a fine story. Not exceptional.

The Cover: Still unremarkable.

Etc: I once saw the Ray Bradbury Theatre version of this story, starring Drew Barrymore. It was also unremarkable.

Next Up: “The Years Draw Nigh” by Lester Del Ray