Archive for the ‘Planet Mindfuck’ Category

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“-And He Built a Crooked House-” by Robert Heinlein

July 4, 2010

The Book: “-And He Built a Crooked House-” by Robert Heinlein.  Story originally published in 1941 by Astounding Science Fiction.  Read in the anthology Where Do We Go from Here? edited by Isaac Asimov published by Fawcett Crest in 1972.

The Setting: Hollywood, California, Earth

The Story: An architect builds a house in the shape of an unfolded tesseract, but does it a little too well and an earthquake shakes it into an actual fourth spatial dimension.

The Science: Tesseracts, as a geometric figure, are a thing.  And you could build a house in the shape of an unfolded tesseract.  But would is an earthquake capable of shaking such a thing into an actual fourth spatial dimension?  I very much doubt it…  UNLESS THE EARTHQUAKE WERE IN THE FOURTH DIMENSION.  Yeah, or not.  When has an earthquake ever shook an unfolded cube into a cube?  If that’s happened, maybe we can talk.

The Reaction: Neat idea, good characters, great story.  Lots of fun, and makes your brain hurt too.

The Cover: A generalized science fiction anthology cover with what may be planets or molecules or whatever.  But mostly, ASIMOV.

Next Up: “Proof” by Hal Clement

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Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

May 26, 2010

Oops.  This should have been posted May 5th.  It was read in order.  Guess I didn’t hit publish.

The Book: Thuvia, Maid of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Originally published in 1916 as a serial, the edition read was published by Ballantine Books in 1976.

The Setting: MARS!  BARSOOM!  It’s the same place!

The Story: Carthoris, son of John Carter and Dejah Thoris, loves Thuvia, maid of Mars, who figured into the previous volume (Warlord of Mars).  But, alas!, she is betrothed to another.  And then she is kidnapped!  Carthoris seeks to rescue her, gets lost due to treachery, gets lucky and finds her again.  They find themselves at Castle Mindfuck (another undiscovered race, this time with vast mental powers) and, wouldn’t you know it?, in terrible danger.  But they get away, Thuvia gets herself kidnapped again, and Carthoris is in the right place at the right time and saves her.  Then he saves her fiance.  The fiance witnesses their superior love and releases Thuvia from the betrothal.  All is well with the world.

The Science: Two bits of science.

  • Autopilot.  Carthoris has developed a very clever and tamper-proof autopilot and obstruction detector device for his flying machine.  (Which, of course, is tampered with, sending him off on the story of the book.)  Autopilot, as we know today, exists!  And works!  “Obstruction detectors” exist as well, in the form of radar and what have you, but automatically avoiding those obstructions, as Carthoris’ device does, is something I don’t believe has been developed, at least not for commercial use.  So I think this was a pretty neat thing for Burroughs to develop.
  • MIND POWERS.  Carthoris and Thuvia encounter a fair skinned, auburn haired race of people who can conjure armies, food, pretty much anything by the power of their minds.  Not just phantoms, but physical beings which can fight wars and then dissipate when they are no longer needed.  Individuals of this race also can plant ideas in the minds of their enemies and effect mind control.  While I will not say that such a thing as telepathic mind control exists, it has certainly been a point of much interest throughout history.  The CIA was involved with mind control experiments, although maybe not in the way one might imagine initially.  So it’s a tantalizing idea, but one which science lacks evidence for.

The Reaction: A good story, but not as good as its predecessors.  The recipe is kind of the same.  True love + kidnapped love interest = high adventure.  This book suffers from a less distinct point of view.  It jumps between the view of several characters, sometimes confusing me, while the previous volumes had a single point of view.  Still, worth reading.  And the prose, while still fun, is not as fun as the last book.

The Cover: Cover art by Gino d’Achille.  Thuvia poses with a banth.  Well, we assume it’s a banth, since those are the beasts that Thuvia can magically control.  This beast doesn’t have enough legs, and it’s teeth are too thick.  But not bad all around.  Well done!

Etc: Special note on Planet Mindfuck.  A term which has evolved from watching a great deal of Star Trek and Doctor Who (yes, of course I’m that kind of nerd), both shows which frequently put their characters in situations explained by the presence of a GIANT BRAIN WHICH CONTROLS REALITY.  Or something.  Castle Mindfuck is a manifestation of Planet Mindfuck, just on a less than planetary scale.

Next Up: The Chessmen of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.