The Book: Destination Infinity by Henry Kuttner. Originally published in 1947 as Fury, the edition read was printed by Avon in 1956.
The Setting: Venus, 600 odd years in the future.
The Story: Sam Reed, short squat and bald, lives in the undersea domes of Venus and makes a pretty good living as a criminal. He gets mixed up in some bad business with the Immortals, a race of long-lived genetic mutants, and disappears for 40 years. Wakes up and finds he’s immortal too! Hey, how about that? Through intrigue, bullying, and keen instinct he gains power and influence. He colonizes the violent, Jurassic-type surface of the planet, and gets power mad. And deposed. And put into a sleep state until he’s “needed” again…
The Science: We’ve already discussed how earlier perceptions of Venus were pretty much wrong. It’s not ocean-y. There are no jungles. And the plant life won’t eat you because there is no plant life. Kuttner also draws on the theme of plant life that’s just as vicious as animal life if not more so. Because Kuttner’s Venus is so violent, people live in undersea domes which are pretty much just cities.
Some of the story involves a metal, korium, which seems to be a very important radioactive power source, but isn’t really involved except for being demanded as ransom. The science-y bits of this book are more incidental than anything.
The Reaction: I had some trouble getting into this book. But about a third of the way through I was really drawn in. The writing in this book varies tremendously. There’s a lot of pointless foreshadowing (something like “this would be the last time he saw her alive”) and a couple instances that made me laugh out loud (“Sam searched and pondered, pondered and searched.”). But the intrigue is pretty intriguing and the character in the central part of the book is really where it comes into its own. And the epilogue might be great, or it might be horrible. I can’t tell. Worth the read, I think.
The Cover: I wish there was an art credit for this cover because I love it, even if it’s a tad inaccurate for the story. City in dome, check. Space bombers, check. Dynamic use of italics, check. Love it.
Etc: Fury is a much better title for this book.
Next Up: “The Blinding Shadows” by Donald Wandrei