Archive for the ‘John Wyndham’ Category

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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.

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“And the Walls Came Tumbling Down…” by John Wyndham

February 10, 2012

The Book: “And the Walls Came Tumbling Down…” by John Wyndham. Originally published in Startling Stories, May 1951. The version read was in Beachheads in Space, edited by August Derleth, published by Berkeley Books in 1952.

The Setting: Earth, the desert, maybe in the Southwest US.

The Story: Invisible silicate life forms land in the desert and investigate.

The Science: It’s interesting to read stories written from non-human points of view. Particularly when the life forms in question break at individualized frequencies. I’m a little unclear as to which noises are destroying these life forms, but it’s cute.  Cute idea.

The Reaction: Cute idea, but I had a little trouble following the story. I get that the reader was supposed to put together a lot of the pieces on the way, but it was a kind of a difficult puzzle, and I’m not sure I got enough pieces to complete the picture.

The Cover: Still awesome. 

Next Up: “Here There be Tygers” by Ray Bradbury.

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Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham

January 10, 2012

The Book: Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham. Originally published as Planet Plane in 1936 under the name John Beynon. The edition read was published by Fawcett (T2646) in 1972.

The Setting: Britain, Earth. Space. And Mars. Go figure. The year is 1981.

The Story: A rich daredevil jet pilot, in the spirit of Lindbergh, builds a jet plane/rocket to Mars. His small crew is carefully chosen, but there’s a stowaway… a stowaway to Mars! And the stowaway is a woman! Oh women, always stowing away to Mars, always driving men crazy by their mere presence and inviting rape by being alive. Anyway. After 6 months in space, they land on Mars and things are not what they expect. Oh, and is that a Russian rocket landing over there?

The Science: Early in the voyage, everyone is very concerned about fuel. The weight of the stowaway increased the amount of fuel used on take off, and since everything was carefully calculated, there was great concern about whether their would be enough fuel to launch them on their return journey. Turns out that a few people don’t return from Mars, so it’s really no big whoop after all. But I appreciated that bit of realism.

The Reaction: In general, this is an okay book. It’s amusing to read about going to Mars in 1981. But, somewhere during that space journey, things go south. There are a few attempted rapes on the stowaway (and there are only 5 crew members…) and then there’s a few page lecture from a sympathetic non-raper about how women are, pretty much, trouble. And I was really hopeful that the woman would get a strong rebuttal, but no. Just a very short, “no I don’t think so.” Which is something, I guess. At least the woman was strong and self reliant and smart.

The Cover: No art credit. I’m bored by this cover. It’s a space vehicle of some sort, but doesn’t seem to have any relation to the one described in the book. Yawnville.

Next Up: Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

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The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham

August 26, 2011

The Book: The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham. Originally published in 1951, the edition read was published by Crest (TI322) in 1970.


The Setting: Great Britain, sometime in a near past or present.

The Story: Civilization is destroyed and carnivorous walking plants begin the mopping up. Survivors band together and try to figure out a successful society and a potent herbicide.

The Science: The story hinges on two catastrophes. It is hypothesized in the novel that the catastrophes were not natural, nor alien in nature, but rather that they were orbital weapons accidentally detonated by one or the other of the super powers.  At a time when the Cold War was underway, it was not unimaginable for the super powers to be placing horrible, novel weapons in orbit around Earth. Both the US and the USSR had planned such devices, but the Outer Space Treaty of 1967 explicitly disallows them. So it is unlikely that we will all be destroyed by our own space guns. 

The Reaction: This is a good book. A genuinely good story, an interesting confluence of ideas, characters that are worth their salt, and angry plants. The social science of it is strong as well. Highly recommended.

The Cover: No art credit. Plant tentacles, green and yellow, and zombie looking people. It certainly sets the mood of uncertainty and fear. Not my favorite, personally, but very effective. 

Next Up: The Illustrated Man  by Ray Bradbury.