Archive for the ‘Theodore Sturgeon’ 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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“There is No Defense” by Theodore Sturgeon

January 23, 2012

The Book: “There is No Defense” by Theodore Sturgeon. Originally published by Astounding Science Fiction in February, 1948, the edition read was in 3 in 1: Three Science-Fiction Novels, (by which they mean somewhat longer short stories) edited by Leo Margulies, published by Pyramid Books (F-899) in 1963.


The Setting: Space, sometime in the future.

The Story: An unknown ship enters the solar system. Big, dark, scary, and it kills everything that attacks or scans it. Nothing seems to hurt it. A coalition of governments from Earth, Mars, and Jupiter, decide to use their ultimate weapon on it (a weapon long outlawed because of its effectiveness). But that doesn’t really work.  Blah blah blah, political intrigue, cross species suspicion, and the whole thing wraps itself up tidily.

The Science: The solar system fights the invader with what they call The Death. The Death is an ultimate weapon which destroys life and from which There Is No Defense… Anyway, it works by focusing a very powerful and random vibration on an enemy. This vibration then breaks down all organic matter and spins out into space. Can a vibration be so strong that it breaks down life at the cellular level? Uh, maybe. Personally, I feel vibration strongly – at a loud concert, I can feel it in my core. Extrapolated, I think it could do serious harm. So this seems plausible. Also, kudos to Sturgeon for creating good sounding explanations of many of the scientific elements of this story.

The Reaction: Not a fan of this story. Didn’t hate it, but wouldn’t mind never reading it again. I can’t put my finger on exactly why, because I appreciated some items, like Sturgeon’s science-y bits. But overall, it just didn’t come together for me. Hard not to read this story without thinking about it in a post WWII context.

The Cover: Cover art by EMSH. This cover is pretty cool. We’ve got three different species all trying to fix a space thing, and they’re all in specialized spacesuits. Different from a lot of other cover art I’ve seen and I like it.

Next Up: “West Wind” by Murray Leinster.

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The Synthetic Man (The Dreaming Jewels) by Theodore Sturgeon

March 26, 2011

The Book: The Synthetic Man (The Dreaming Jewels) by Theodore Sturgeon. Originally published in 1950, the edition read was published in 1957 by Pyramid Books.

The Setting: The United States, Earth, a mid-century present.

The Story: A young boy runs away from a cruel adoptive family with only the broken remains of his toy jack-in-the-box and ends up joining the circus where he hides from the mean circus-master by disguising himself as a female midget. He reads voraciously and is loved by Zena, a real female midget, for many years. Meanwhile, the circus master is conducting research on sentient crystals which produce life. His aim is to destroy mankind by forcing the crystals to create evil and poisonous things instead of, say, little boys *coughcough*. After a decade or so, the boy (now a young man who, as the product of the crystals is able to control his shape) and the circus master face off in a battle which may determine the future of mankind. Or not.

The Science: The crystals, or dreaming jewels of the original title, represent a truly alien form of life. The crystals can work singly or in pairs, and create life, copies of other life (not always very accurate or pretty). But creating life is merely a by product of whatever sort of thought life they lead. Horty, the boy in the book, is ultimately able to enter into that thought life and force his impressions on the crystals, but they’re not all that interested. Definitely an original life form for a novel, and one which we would not be able to recognize if we were to encounter one.

The Reaction: I liked this story. It’s original and readable. The evil characters are REALLY evil and the good ones are REALLY good, but it’s a sort of fairy tale that centers on the idea of what it really is to be human. And Horty, in the middle, has to decided what that means to him. Not a stellar book, but enjoyable.

The Cover: Cover art by Art Sussman. Crazy looking broken face, guy holding up red hand missing three fingers. Important plot elements and a cover that makes you go WTF? Seems to be out of the mystery novel school of covers. I’m not in love, but I’m not complaining.

Next Up: “Silence Please” by Arthur C. Clarke