Archive for the ‘Fletcher Pratt’ Category

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The Outer Reaches edited by August Derleth

December 22, 2012

The Book: The Outer Reaches: Favorite Science-Fiction Tales Chosen by their Authors  edited by August Derleth.  Originally published in 1951. The paperback edition contains 10 of the 17 stories from the hardback edition. Published  by Berkley Books, G-116.

The Outer Reaches

The Stories:

“Co-Operate—or Else!” –  A. E. van Vogt, 1942 – A man and his mortal enemy, a super-intelligent, telepathic, space panther, must survive on an extremely hostile planet.

“Good Night, Mr. James” – Clifford D. Simak, 1951 – A clever little story about a scientist who made a mistake and now must remedy it. Much fun.

“The Critters” – Frank Belknap Long, 1945 – An old man lives high up in the hills, away from an alien invasion. Didn’t care for this one.

“Death Sentence” – Isaac Asimov, 1943 – The government takes over the operations of a rogue archaeologist who has discovered an ancient civilization of robots-who-don’t-know-they’re-robots.

“This Is the Land” – Nelson S. Bond, 1951 – The children of the last survivor of a nuclear holocaust bury him on the surface.

“Ylla” –  Ray Bradbury, 1950 – From The Martian Chronicles. I skipped it here.

“The Green Cat” – Cleve Cartmill, 1951 – No one questions that there’s anything weird about a green cat with leaf-shaped ears.

“Pardon My Mistake” –  Fletcher Pratt, 1946 – A man, mad with jealousy, makes a mistake.

“The Plutonian Drug” –  Clark Ashton Smith, 1934 – Space travel leads to new medicines and drugs, including one that might just let you see into the future…

“Farewell to Eden” – Theodore Sturgeon, 1949 – A man and a woman, awakened from a long cryo-sleep, leave a bomb ravaged earth for a better home.

The Evaluation: These stories are all pretty good. And, if not, they’re pretty short. The idea of authors choosing a favorite tale is quite nice. “Good Night, Mr. James” is my favorite of the group as it hits a nice balance of clever, pacing, and length.

The Cover: No credit for the cover art. Sadly, the scene on the cover isn’t from any of the stories, but it is a fine science fiction scene. Though, I have to say, is seems a bit dangerous to have pick axes in a low atmosphere environment.

Next Up: The Weapon Shops of Isher by A.E. Van Vogt.

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Alien Planet by Fletcher Pratt

December 7, 2012

The Book: Alien Planet by Fletcher Pratt. Published in 1962 by Ace Books (F-257), this book is an expansion of the novella “A Voice Across the Years”  (written with I.M. Stephens) published in Amazing Stories Quarterly, Winter 1932.

Alien Planet

The Setting:  Earth, Venus, and Murashema, around 1920-1924

The Story: A couple of guys are hanging out at their remote cabin in the woods when a meteorite strikes the nearby lake shore.  Not actually a meteorite, some guy eventually emerges from the rock. This is Ashembe, space alien, smart guy, and transmuter of metals. Stuff happens. A quick escape is necessary and one of the guys, Alvin Schierstedt, ends up in the space capsule with Ashembe, ready to blast off for adventure. However, adventure ends up being stuck in a space capsule for a couple of years… Then adventure! They land on the alien planet, Murashema, and Alvin has to learn the language (guess he didn’t have time on the way there) and learn how to live in a new society on an ALIEN PLANET.

The Science: One of the things I liked about this book is that it acknowledges that space travel can take a really long time and might, actually, be really boring once you’re doing it. Alvin takes the time to learn a Murasheman game from Ashembe, and to get really good at math, but not to learn anything about Murasheman society or language. Sigh.

The Reaction: Not bad, but not great. Definitely out of the 1930s mold. And it has footnotes, sometimes saucy footnotes. I like that. In fact, that’s one of my favorite things about this book.

The Cover: Cover art by Ed Emshwiller. I love this cover. Dude in a space suit, wibbly wobbly city, and giant-headed human-faced sky-octopus.  Imagine my disappointment when there was never a terrifying sky-octopus in the story. Beautiful cover with a spunky font, but misleading.

Next Up: Beyond Infinity by Robert Spencer Carr