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Jack Williamson

(1908-2006)
John Stewart Williamson (April 29, 1908 – November 10, 2006), who wrote as Jack Williamson, was an American science fiction writer, often called the “Dean of Science Fiction” after the death of Robert Heinlein in 1988. Early in his career he sometimes used the pseudonyms Will Stewart and Nils O. Sonderlund. Jack Williamson has been in the forefront of science fiction since his first published story in 1928. Williamson is the acclaimed author of such trailblazing science fiction as The Humanoids and The Legion of Time. The Oxford English Dictionary credits Williamson with inventing the terms “genetic engineering” (in Dragon’s Island) and “terraforming” (in Seetee Ship). His seminal novel Darker Than You Think was a landmark speculation on the nature of shape-changing.

The Legion of Space

The Legion of Space — (1934-1982) Publisher: They were the greatest trio of swashbuckling adventurers ever to ship out to the stars! There was giant Hal Samdu, rocklike Jay Kalam and the incomparably shrewd and knavish Giles Habibula. Here is their first thrilling adventure – the peril – packed attempt to rescue the most important person in the galaxy, keeper of the vital secret essential to humanity’s survival in the deadly struggle against the incredibly evil Medusae… The Legion of Space is the first self-contained novel in Jack Williamson’s epic Legion of Space series, an all-time classic of adventurous science fiction to rank with ‘Doc’ Smith’s Lensman saga and Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy.

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The Legion of Space: A true page-turner in the best pulp style

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The Legion of Space by Jack Williamson

The Legion of Space
, the opening salvo of a tetralogy that Jack Williamson wrote over a nearly 50-year period, was initially released as a six-part serial in the April-September 1934 issues of Astounding Stories. (This was some years before the publication changed its name to Astounding Science-Fiction, in March 1938, and, with the guidance of newly ensconced editor John W. Campbell, Jr, became the most influential magazine in sci-fi history.) It was ultimately given the hardcover novel treatment in 1947.

One of the enduring classics of swashbuckling "space opera," The Legion of Space is a true page-turner, written in the best pulp style. Though Williamson had only sold his first story, "The Metal Man," some six years before, by 1934 he showed that he was capable of coming out with a blazing saga of space action to riva... Read More

The Cometeers: A smashing sequel

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The Cometeers by Jack Williamson

The sequel to The Legion of Space (one of the most popular serialized sci-fi novels of the 1930s), The Cometeers, to author Jack Williamson's credit, is not only a better-written book, but does what all good sequels should: enlarge on the themes of the earlier piece and deepen the characterizations. First appearing in the May-August 1936 issues of Astounding Stories magazine (two years after The Legion of Space made its first appearance therein, and two years before Astounding Stories would morph into the renowned Astounding Science-Fiction), The Cometeers finally appeared in hardcover book form in 1950. Anyone familiar with the earlier novel (in what was to become a tetralogy of Legion books), which featured space battles, jellyfishlike aliens, nebula storms, assorted alien flora and fauna, and nonstop sw... Read More

One Against the Legion: A prime example of a Golden Age sci-fi/mystery

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One Against the Legion by Jack Williamson

The third installment of Jack Williamson's LEGION OF SPACE tetralogy, One Against the Legion, initially appeared in the April, May and June 1939 issues of Astounding Science-Fiction. A short, colorful and fast-moving novel, it reacquaints us with the Legionnaires Jay Kalam, Hal Samdu and Giles Habibula; John Star and his extended family only make cameo appearances in this one.

Whereas in book 1, The Legion of Space, the Legionnaires had defended our solar system from the jellyfishlike Medusae invaders, and in book 2, The Cometeers, from the threat of a 12,000,000-mile-long comet, here, the threat to mankind is of a more human nature: the Basilisk, a criminal whose theft of a secret weapon enables him to accomplish seemingly miraculous feats of teleportation (acr... Read More

The Queen of the Legion: A worthy addition to a legendary space opera

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The Queen of the Legion by Jack Williamson

Fans of Jack Williamson's LEGION OF SPACE series would have a long time to wait after part 3 of the saga, One Against the Legion, appeared in 1939. It would be a full 28 years before a short story featuring any of the Legion characters came forth, 1967's "Nowhere Near," and it was not until 1983, almost 50 years after part 1 of the series (The Legion of Space) was released, that the final novel of the tetralogy, The Queen of the Legion, was delivered.

Taking place several generations later than the earlier books, The Queen of the Legion tells the story of Jil Gyrel, the only woman to take center stage in a Legion epic. A lonely child growing up in the backwater Hawkshead Nebula, Jil's life takes a decided turn for the worse at age 7, when her starship-pilot father di... Read More

Humanoids

The Humanoids — (1949-1980) Publisher: “To serve and obey, and guard men from harm” on the far planet Wing IV, a brilliant scientist creates the humanoids — sleek black androids programmed to serve humanity. But are they perfect servants — or perfect masters? Slowly the humanoids spread throughout the galaxy, threatening to stifle all human endeavor. Only a hidden group of rebels can stem the humanoid tide … if it’s not already too late. First published in Astounding Science Fiction during the magazine’s heyday, The Humanoids — science fiction grand master Jack Williamson’s finest novel — has endured for fifty years as a classic on the theme of natural versus artificial life.

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The Humanoids: A great novel

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The Humanoids by Jack Williamson

The late 1940s was a period of remarkable creativity for future sci-fi Grand Master Jack Williamson. July '47 saw the release of his much-acclaimed short story "With Folded Hands" in the pages of Astounding Science-Fiction, followed by the tale's two-part serialized sequel, And Searching Mind, in that influential magazine's March and April 1948 issues. Darker Than You Think, Williamson's great sci-fi/fantasy/horror hybrid, was released later in 1948, and 1949 saw the publication of And Searching Mind in hardcover form, and retitled The Humanoids. "With Folded Hands" had been a perfect(ly downbeat) short story that introduced us to the Humanoids, sleek black robots invented by a techn... Read More

The Humanoid Touch: A marvelous sequel

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The Humanoid Touch by Jack Williamson

In Jack Williamson's classic short story "With Folded Hands" (1947), the inventor of the Humanoids — sleek black robots whose credo is "To Serve And Obey, And Guard Men From Harm," even if that means stifling mankind's freedoms — makes an unsuccessful attempt to destroy the computer plexus on planet Wing IV that is keeping the many millions of units functioning. In the author's classic sequel, the novel The Humanoids (1949), another unsuccessful stab is made, 90 years later, by a "rhodomagnetics" engineer and a small group of ESP-wielding misfits, to stop the Humanoids (which now number in the billions) and their campaign of relentless and smothering benevolence. And in Williamson's much belated follow-up, 1980's The Humanoid Touch, w... Read More

Darker Than You Think: A mighty gripping read

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Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson's Darker Than You Think is a one-shot horror-novel excursion for this science fiction Grand Master, but has nonetheless been described as not only the author's finest work, but also one of the best treatments of the werewolf in modern literature. It has been chosen for inclusion in David Pringle's overview volume Modern Fantasy: The Hundred Best Novels  ("a relatively disciplined and thoughtful work," Pringle writes, in comparing it to the author's earlier space operas) as well as in Jones & Newman's Read More

The Trial of Terra: Fun and amusing

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The Trial of Terra by Jack Williamson

Jack Williamson's The Trial of Terra made its initial appearance in 1962, as one of those cute little Ace paperbacks (D-555, for all you collectors out there). The book is what's known as a "fix-up novel," meaning that parts of the book had appeared as short stories years earlier, and then skillfully cobbled together by the author later on to form a seamless whole. Despite this, the book is a stand-alone novel in the Williamson canon, with no relation to any of the other books in the author's substantial oeuvre.

The Trial of Terra tells a very interesting story, and one that might strike my fellow Trekkers as a bit familiar. It seems that there has been a galactic Quarantine Service in effect for many millennia, its job be... Read More

The Legion of Time: Highly recommended for all fans of red-blooded, Golden Age sci-fi

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The Legion of Time by Jack Williamson

The Legion of Time consists of two novellas that Jack Williamson wrote in the late 1930s, neither of which have anything to do with his wholly dissimilar LEGION OF SPACE novels of that same period. Both of these novellas are written in the wonderfully pulpy prose that often typified Golden Age sci-fi, and both are as colorful, fast moving and action packed as any fan could want. That elusive "sense of wonder" that authors of the era strove for seemed to come naturally for Williamson, and if the style is a bit crude by today's standards and the descriptions a tad fuzzy at times, the author's hypercreative imagination more than compensates.

The first novella in this volume is "The Legion of Time" itself, which first appeared in the May, June and July 1938 issues of Astounding Science-Fiction, scant months after John W. Campbell, Jr. began his legenda... Read More

The Stonehenge Gate: Jack Williamson’s final novel

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The Stonehenge Gate by Jack Williamson

What do you plan to do when you're 97 years old? Me? If I'm fortunate enough to attain to that ripe old age, I suppose I will be eating pureed Gerber peaches and watching Emma Peel reruns on my TV set in the nursing home ... IF I'm lucky. For sci-fi Grand Master Jack Williamson, the age of 97 meant another novel, his 50th or so, in a writing career that stretched back 77 years (!), to his first published story, "The Metal Man," in 1928. Sadly, the novel in question, 2005's The Stonehenge Gate, would be the author's last, before his passing in November 2006. Impressively, the novel is as exciting, lucid, readable and awe inspiring as anything in Williamson's tremendous oeuvre. Few authors had as long and productive a career as Jack Williamson, and I suppose it rea... Read More

Rivals of Weird Tales: Nary a clinker in the bunch!

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Rivals of Weird Tales edited by Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemianowicz & Martin H. Greenberg

From 1923 – ’54, over the course of 279 issues, the pulp publication known as Weird Tales helped to popularize macabre fantasy and outré horror fiction, ultimately becoming one of the most influential and anthologized magazines of the century, and introducing readers to a “Who’s Who” of American authors. I had previously read and reviewed no fewer than six large collections of tales culled from the pages of “the Unique Magazine,” and had loved them all. But Weird Tales, of course, was far from being the only pulp periodical on the newsstands back when, as amply demonstrated in the appropriately titled, 500-page anthology Rivals of Weird Tales. In this wonderfully entertaining, generous collection, editors Robert Weinberg, Stefan R. Dziemia... Read More

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

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The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories edited by Tom Shippey

I read Tom Shippey's other excellent collection, The Oxford Book of Fantasy Stories some time ago, so it was only a matter of time before I sought out this one. Like its stablemate, The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories consists of a chronological collection of stories from a variety of authors with an introduction by the editor. I was struck by the idea of "fabril" literature, which is discussed in the introduction: a form of literature in which the "smith" is central. Certainly, a great deal of early science fiction in particular involves a clever engineer solving some sort of problem, and I'm sure many careers in engineering and the sciences have been launched in this way. I'd say that there is some tendency, though, as the genre matures, for technology to beco... Read More

Science Fiction Super Pack #1: A generally above-average anthology

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Science Fiction Super Pack #1 edited by Warren Lapine

Like the companion fantasy volume, Science Fiction Super Pack #1, edited by Warren Lapine, only has one story I didn't think was good, and it's a piece of Lovecraft fanfiction. H.P. Lovecraft's overwrought prose doesn't do much for me even when Lovecraft himself writes it, and much less so when it's attempted by imitators. And Lovecraft's stories at least have something frightening that happens in them; these two stories (in this volume and the other) only have visions of aspects of the Mythos and crazy people ranting, which isn't scary or interesting. Everything else was good, occasionally even amazing.

Again like the fantasy volume, it more ... Read More

Science fiction by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson

Undersea — (1954-1958) With Jack Williamson. An omnibus edition is available. Publisher: When Jim Eden’s uncle, the inventor of a valuable undersea device, disappears while testing a new undersea mining process, Eden heads for the undersea mining colony to investigate on his own.

Frederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Undersea Eden 1. Undersea Quest 2. Undersea Fleet 3. Undersea City Frederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Undersea Eden 1. Undersea Quest 2. Undersea Fleet 3. Undersea City Frederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Undersea Eden 1. Undersea Quest 2. Undersea Fleet 3. Undersea City


Starchild — (1964-1969) With Jack Williamson. An omnibus edition is available. Publisher: Earth in the near future is governed by the Plan of Man — a complex set of laws enforced by a worldwide computerized security network, necessary for the survival of humankind. Or, so the authorities say. But one man knows better… The mysterious being, Starchild, threatens to extinguish the Earth’s sun and destroy its ruler, the Plan of Man.

Frederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Starchild 1. The Reefs of Space 2. Starchild 3. Rogue StarFrederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Starchild 1. The Reefs of Space 2. Starchild 3. Rogue StarFrederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Starchild 1. The Reefs of Space 2. Starchild 3. Rogue Star


The Saga of Cuckoo — (1975) With Jack Williamson. An omnibus edition is available. Publisher: Ben Pertin traveled the galaxy on life-and-death missions — but never left Earth!

Frederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Saga of Cuckoo 1. Farthest Star 2. Wall Around a Star Frederik Pohl science fiction book reviews Saga of Cuckoo 1. Farthest Star 2. Wall Around a Star


Stand-alones:

fantasy and science fiction book reviewsLand’s End — (1988) Publisher:  When Comet Sicara brushed near enough to strip the ozone layer form the Earth’s atmosphere, civilization effectively ended–in fact, life on Earth was nearly extinguished. But the underwater cities survived, and some heavily protected land enclaves as well. When the “ozone summer” years were ending, submarine captain Ron Tregarth rediscovered his lost love, Graciela Navarro. but their triumph against all odds was only the beginning, for the alien known as the Eternal stood between them and threatened to destroy all they held dearest. The Eternal’s goal was to absorb the minds of every living thing, to create a death-in-life to enslave the planet.fantasy and science fiction book reviews


The Singers of Time — (1991) Library Journal: A race of turtle-like creatures conquers Earth, imposing a gentler set of values on humankind, outlawing destructive technology, and denying the validity of human scientific theories. When their home planet disappears into a black hole, however, the aliens’ only hope for the future hinges on the possibility that humanity’s flawed sciences might contain a glimmer of truth. Two veteran sf authors combine their strengths to produce a novel that both explains and explores the ”mysteries” of modern science.


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