Archive for the ‘Eric Frank Russell’ Category


Sentinels from Space by Eric Frank Russell

December 17, 2012

The Book: Sentinels from Space by Eric Frank Russell. Alternatively Sentinels of Space.  Copyright 1953, based on a story published in 1951, “The Star Watchers.” Published by Ace (First in Science Fiction), D-468.

Sentinels from Space

The Setting: Earth, Venus, sometime in the future.

The Story: David Raven, daredevil pilot, is recruited by the government to secretly end the secret war that Mars and Venus have not-declared on Earth. But Raven has other things on his mind as well. Like the fate of all mankind!

The Science: In this story there are mutants. Twelve types of mutants, each with special powers. And mostly, it seems, they use their powers for crime. Mutants, it is explained, developed especially on Venus and Mars because their folks were bombarded with cosmic rays. Fair enough. Radiation tend to have a mutagenic effect on cells. Superpowers, eh, maybe not so much.

The Reaction: I was impressed with this story. It kept me guessing, the writing didn’t distract me, and the plot felt pretty solid, if a bit jumpy. For a book with a different title on the spine and cover (of/from), I wasn’t expecting a lot. But I found myself staying up late to read more.

The Cover: Cover art by Robert E. Schulz. A man with lots on his mind – planets, black rocketships, and lots of clouds. Also, more groovy fonts. I’m a fan of this cover. Nice work.

Next Up: The Outer Reaches edited by August Derleth.


Beachheads IN SPACE

October 3, 2012

The Book: Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Stories:

“The Blinding Shadows” – Donald Wandrei

“Repetition” – A.E. Van Vogt

“Metamorphosite” – Eric Frank Russell

“To People a New World” – Nelson Bond

“The Years Draw Nigh” – Lester Del Ray (read in a different book, but featured in this one as well)

“Breeds There a Man…?” – Isaac Asimov

“And the Walls Came Tumbling Down..” – John Wyndham

The Evaluation: Worth having!  There are a lot of fascinating ideas in this book, and even a few well written stories. I remembered about half of them, which is a pretty darn good ratio.

The Cover: Cover by Richard Powers. And, like so many of his, it’s excellent. It has a really awesome spaceship on the cover, and an outpost on a hill, and is very lovely science-fictiony in general. Awesome.

Etc.: This is the second and last short story wrap up wherein all the stories of a volume are linked, as I am now moving to a new model of reading books of short stories when that volume was originally published, and blogging it as a volume.


“Metamorphosite” by Eric Frank Russell

October 17, 2010

The Book: “Metamorphosite” by Eric Frank Russell. First published in the December 1946 edition of Astounding Science Fiction. The version read was in Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Setting: A distant planet, in a distant future.

The Story: An alien is captured, ushered through a bureaucracy, escapes, then turns civilization on its head. Nothing big. Turns out that alien is what earthfolk become after serious disaster and a lot of time and the bureaucracy are lost colonists. No big whoop. Except the earthling? Now pure radiation in disguise.

The Science: I can’t even imagine trying to take on the evolutionary tangent this story ends on, so let’s tackle a relatively minor matter. The main character, Harold Harold-Myra, comes from Terra. Terra sent some settlers to a star 4.5 light years from it. So… probably Alpha Centauri, which is 4.37 lights years from Earth.  Alspha Centauri is actually a binary star, so it’s a couple of stars hanging out right next door to each other.

According to Wikipedia, Alpha Centauri is similar to Sol, so the possibility of terrestrial planets is tantalizing, particularly as current science can’t detect planets that small and no large bodies have been found orbiting the stars at optimal distances. Cool.

The Reaction: When I began this story, I was intrigued – I didn’t know anything inside the head of the character, and so it was all possibility. Then I learned more and started to get bored. I’m not sure it’s a bad story, it’s just that the story sustains itself half through action, half through random surprise, and half through not revealing the Why of anything until the end. Not the strongest story ever and I’m pretty darn sure I don’t ever need to read it again.

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: “The Fruit at the Bottom of the Bowl” by Ray Bradbury