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 technician named Sledge on planet Wing IV. The ro... Read More
Sandy FerberOn FanLit’s staff since April 2014 (but hanging around here since November 2012)
SANDY FERBER is a resident of Queens, New York and a product of that borough’s finest institution of higher learning, Queens College. After a “misspent youth” of steady and incessant doses of Conan the Barbarian, Doc Savage and any and all forms of fantasy and sci-fi literature, Sandy has changed little in the four decades since. His favorite author these days is H. Rider Haggard, with whom he feels a strange kinship — although Sandy is not English or a manored gentleman of the 19th century – -and his favorite reading matter consists of sci-fi, fantasy and horror… but of the period 1850-1960. Sandy is also a devoted buff of classic Hollywood and foreign films, and has reviewed extensively on the IMDb under the handle “ferbs54.” Film Forum is Greenwich Village, indeed, is his second home, and Sandy at this time serves as the assistant vice president of the Louie Dumbrowski Fan Club….
The Humanoids by Jack Williamson
Heart of the World by H. Rider Haggard
Although I had previously read and hugely enjoyed no fewer than 40 novels by H. Rider Haggard, I yet felt a trifle nervous before beginning the author's Heart of the World. I had recently finished Haggard's truly excellent novel of 1893, Montezuma's Daughter — a novel that deals with the downfall of the Aztec empire in the early 16th century — and was concerned that Heart of the World, which I knew to be still another story dealing with the Aztecs, would necessarily be repetitive. As it turns out, however, I needn't have worried. Despite the Aztec backdrop, the two novels are as dissimilar as can be; whereas the first deals with an Englishman witnessing the Indian conflicts with Cortes from 1519 - 1521 and the fall of the Aztec capital, Tenochtitlan, Heart of the World takes place a good three centuri... Read More
The Creature From Beyond Infinity by Henry Kuttner
The Creature From Beyond Infinity was the first novel published by Henry Kuttner, an author who was one of the half dozen or so pillars of the Golden Age of Sci-Fi. It first saw the light of day in a 1940 issue of "Startling Stories" magazine under the title A Million Years to Conquer, and finally in book form in the 1968 Popular Library paperback that I recently completed. Although that original title may perhaps be a more accurate descriptor, the pulpier Creature title gives a truer feel for what this book is: pulpy as can be!
In it, we meet Ardath, the sole survivor when his Kyrian spaceship crash-lands on Earth while our planet is still in the throes of its infancy. Ardath is instructed by his dying captain to repair the ship, put it into orbit around Earth, go into hibernation stasis for several aeons, and await the coming of genius... Read More
When the World Shook by H. Rider Haggard
In 1916, as World War I raged, Henry Rider Haggard, then 60 years old, started to compose his 48th novel, out of an eventual 58. Originally called The Glittering Lady, the novel was ultimately released in 1919 under the title we know today, When the World Shook, and turned out to be still another wonderful book from this celebrated author, in which many of his old favorite themes (lost civilizations, reincarnation, love that survives beyond the grave) are revisited, but with a new spin.
As in his first success, King Solomon's Mines (1885), we meet three intrepid Englishmen — Arbuthnot, Bastin and Bickley — and follow them on their amazing adventure. The three are quite a mixed trio, to put it mildly, Bastin being an upright, priggish, highly religious pastor; Bickley being a hardheaded materialist, a doctor and man of science (hi... Read More
Son of Man by Robert Silverberg
Back in the 1970s, there was a certain type of film that, whether by chance or design, became highly favored by the cannibis-stimulated and lysergically enhanced audience members of the day. These so-called "stoner pictures" — such as Performance, El Topo, Pink Flamingos and Eraserhead — played for years as "midnight movies" and remain hugely popular to this day. Well, just as there is a genre of cinema geared for stoners, it seems to me that there could equally well be a breed of literature with a genuine appeal for those with an "altered consciousness." That we don't hear of such books is perhaps due to the fact that reading requires more in the way of active mental work than does film gazing; reading is not as passive an activity, generally speaking, as watching a film, and entails more of an exercise of the imagination.
But if there ever WERE such a genre of literature as the... Read More
The Face in the Abyss by Abraham Merritt
Abraham Merritt's The Face in the Abyss first appeared as a short story in a 1923 issue of Argosy magazine. It would be another seven years before its sequel, "The Snake Mother," appeared in Argosy, and yet another year before the book-length version combined these two tales, in 1931. It is easy to detect the book's provenance as two shorter stories, as the first third of the novel is pretty straightforward treasure-hunting fare, while the remainder of the book takes a sharp turn into lost-world fantasy, of the kind popularized by H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs.
In this novel we meet Nick Graydon, an American miner, who is searching for lost Incan loot with three of the nastiest compadres you can imagine. In ... Read More
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 legendary career there as editor. It is in some res... Read More
Hawksbill Station by Robert Silverberg
Although it had been over 45 years since I initially read Robert Silverberg's novella "Hawksbill Station," several scenes were as fresh in my memory as if I had read them just yesterday; such is the power and the vividness of this oft-anthologized classic. Originally appearing in the August '67 issue of Galaxy magazine, the novella did not come to my teenaged attention till the following year, when it was reprinted in a collection entitled World's Best Science Fiction 1968. Silverberg later expanded his 20,000-word story to novel form, which was duly published as a Doubleday hardcover in October '68. (So why then does the author's "Quasi-Official Web Site" list the book as a product of 1970?) It has taken me all these years to finally catch up with Silverberg's fix-up novel, but I am so glad that I did. To my delighted surprise — and I only say "surprise" because the author has long expressed his... Read More
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 disappears on a mission, her mother remarries,... Read More
Incredible Adventures by Algernon Blackwood
Algernon Blackwood’s Incredible Adventures was first released in book form in 1914, and is comprised of three novellas and two short stories. The literary critic and scholar S.T. Joshi has called this book "perhaps the greatest weird collection of all time," and while I do not pretend to be well read enough to concur in that evaluation, I will say that the book is beautifully written... and certainly weird, in Blackwood's best manner.
The five pieces in Incredible Adventures are almost impossible to categorize. They're not exactly horror or fantasy tales, but they all share one thing in common: In all of them, Algernon Blackwood — lover of Nature (with a capital "N") and ever one to seek for the ultimate reality behind the surfaces of what we seem to know — gives us characters who are bettered for their glimpses behind "reality's" curtain. This is not an easy book t... Read More
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 (across billions of miles!) and eavesdropping. Read More
Valley of the Flame by Henry Kuttner & C.L. Moore
Yeah, I know that one has to take inflation into account when computing these things, but still, what incredible deals the sci-fi lover could acquire 60 or so years ago! Take, for example, the March 1946 issue of Startling Stories, with a cover price of just 15 cents. For that minimal charge, the reader got stories by sci-fi greats Frank Belknap Long, Jack Williamson and Henry Kuttner, PLUS the entire novel Valley of the Flame, by one Keith Hammond. Hammond, as we know today, was just one of the many noms de plume used by the husband-and-wife writing team of Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, an... Read More
Doomsday Morning by C.L. Moore
By the mid-1950s, science fiction's foremost husband-and-wife writing team, Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, could be regarded more as coeds than working authors. After the release of their "fix-up" novel Mutant in late 1953, the pair released only five more short pieces of sci-fi over the next five years. And while it is true that Kuttner did come out with a series of novels featuring psychoanalyst/detective Dr. Michael Gray, for the most part, the two concentrated on getting their degrees at the University of Southern California. Kuttner, taking advantage of the G.I. Bill, graduated in 1954, while Catherine Lucille, paying her own way, took things slower and finished up by 1956. And the following year, she capped off a glorious writing career with a solo SF novel, her l... Read More
Love Eternal by H. Rider Haggard
Although English author H. Rider Haggard is popularly known today as “the father of the lost race novel,” such adventure tales of vanished civilizations were scarcely his sole concern. As any reader who has pursued this writer further than his “big 3” (1885’s King Solomon’s Mines, 1887’s Allan Quatermain and 1887’s She) would tell you, Haggard was also very much concerned with the matter of reincarnation and with what I suppose we might call “ love that survives beyond the grave.” These two themes comprise the very heart of She and its three sequels (1905’s Ayesha, 1921’s She and Allan and 1923’s Wisdom’s Daughter) and crop up in such disparate works of the author as his very first, Dawn (1884), and Stella Fregelius (1904). But perhaps the author’s most conc... Read More
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 swashbuckling derring-do, will probably wonder... Read More