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.
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