Out of the Silent Planet (1938) by C. S. Lewis

OutoftheSilentPlanetWhat is it about minorly stressful moments like get-togethers with family and sudden illness that make me want to curl up with 1930’s pulp SF? I don’t know, but it’s not something I’m proud of. Perfect timing, though, because I’m due to read some C.S. Lewis and, not counting an aborted attempt at The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950) when I was twelve or so, this is my first C.S. Lewis novel. This Lewisian deficiency may have something to do with his well-known reputation as a Christian allegorist, of which, perhaps, Mom was aware and, striving to expose me to things outside our Southern Baptist church landscape, opted to omit Lewis from the bedtime reading repertoire. I dunno, I’ll have to ask some time.

Inspired by the philosophical sci-fi writings of David Lindsay (A Voyage to Arcturus, 1920) (an author new to me and why haven’t I heard of him?) and Olaf Stapledon (Star Maker, 1937), C.S. Lewis set out to write his own version of a metaphysical journey in space, yet doesn’t come close to the transcendence he wishes to achieve. Where Stapledon expounds on humanity’s place and purpose within the infinite bounds of the cosmos, Lewis’ effort is limited to the parameters of a constrained and commonplace worldview, resulting in a mere cosmic contrivance, like so many other space tales. Continue reading

Olaf Stapledon’s Future Histories: Last and First Men (1930) and Star Maker (1937)


“This is a work of fiction.” (p. 1)

It’s unfair of me to combine reviews of Olaf Stapledon’s fraternal twin opuses, Last and First Men: A Story of the Near and Far Future (1930) and Star Maker (1937), both of which are distinct and singular fictional pieces, yet the vast scope of both novels has dazed me in such a way that all I can really do is think of them as a pair, a pair which I think of fondly, reflect upon regularly, and recommend heartily. Their metaphysical and conceptual grandeur is so significant, I am more than a bit mystified in the review department. Is there anything fresh to say after 80 publication years, two billion future history years, and one star maker mind meld? Continue reading

Odd John: A Story Between Jest and Earnest (1935) by Olaf Stapledon

OddJohn1I warned visitors in my last monthly post that my prescribed TBR as of late has wandered into more modern, mainstream fare (in other words, blah). As we know, I am a stubborn sort of reader, and I stick to my list, but I found a little extra time this month to indulge a little craving for something even older than my usual comfort zone. A sudden desire to spend my evening strolls listening to a pulpy dramatized space opera motivated me to look for that Jack Williamson retro Hugo nominee from last year—but then I stumbled across Odd John by Olaf Stapledon.

I’ve had bad luck with the childish space dramas of the 1930s but I’ve been promised by several good authorities that Olaf Stapledon is a special kind of 1930’s SF writer. They weren’t kidding. Continue reading

Galactic Patrol (Lensman #3) (1938) by E. E. “Doc” Smith

Galactic_patrol1Blinding blue blazes, if this book doesn’t clear ether, I’m going to!

It took me a week or two (maybe three?) to trudge through this serialized space opera about an honorable and righteous space police brigade that has the power to read minds. (Talk about a civil rights nightmare! Someone call the Galactic Civil Liberties Union!) I’m not sure how this novel would interest anyone other than an 11-year-old boy from the 1940’s, but that’s exactly why this series is so highly regarded. As boring as I found it, Galactic Patrol most definitely bears its signature on our most celebrated works in SF, as those 11-year-old boys grew up to become very popular SF writers and directors. Continue reading

Carson of Venus (1938) by Edgar Rice Burroughs


This barely happens.

Carson is an all-around swell guy. Muscular, with sharp reflexes, he can win any fight. With a good head on his shoulders, he can wheedle his way out of a trap with calm, cool logic. His affability charms even his enemies. His good heart and moral code guide him to make the right decisions. Upright, confident, and in control, Carson has no powers in the superhero sense, but his personal advantages bring him near the pinnacle of invincibility– and when those fail him, he taps his endless supply of cosmic luck. Continue reading

Moving Mars (1993) by Greg Bear

movingmars1stI was afraid this novel would fall short of its titular promise, a bait-and-switch piece that neglects the physical feat of relocating an entire planet from one part of the galaxy to another, for a politically-charged story about a radical movement on Mars. Sure, I love political science (it was my undergrad major, after all), but you can’t name a novel Moving Mars and not move Mars. But then the characters started talking about quantum physics, and…

*Spoiler Alert* Continue reading