1946 had been a very good year indeed for Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore, with a full dozen stories published plus three fine novels (The Fairy Chessmen, Valley of the Flame and The Dark World), and in 1947, science fiction’s preeminent husband-and-wife writing team continued its prolific ways. Before the year was out, the two had succeeded in placing another 15 stories into the pulp magazines of the day, in addition to the novel for which Kuttner is best remembered: Fury. A classic of Golden Age science fiction, Fury originally appeared in the May, June and July issues of Astounding Science-Fiction under one of the pair’s many pseudonyms, Lawrence O’Donnell. The story goes that legendary editor John W. Campbell needed a quick novel from the team, and that Part 1 of the serialized novel was in print before the story was even close to being finished. Fury was finally released in book form in 1950. Though hurriedly composed, the tale betrays no signs of its rushed origins, and is indeed an elegantly written (I love that line about libation inducing libration), fast-moving novel that is nevertheless multigenerational and epic in scope.
It tells the story of the Landside colonization of Venus in the 27th century, long after Earth has been destroyed by atomic wars. Mankind now lives in Venusian undersea cities known as Keeps, as the surface of the planet is virtually uninhabitable, with deadly forms of plant and animal life in riotous abundance. The book’s hero (or should I say antihero?), Sam Harker, is born into one of the families of Immortals that rule the Keeps. When his mother dies during childbirth, Sam’s enraged father has the infant genetically altered so that he looks nothing like the tall, graceful folk of the Immortal clans. Sam grows up in foster care, with no knowledge of his background, his heritage, or even the fact that he will probably live to be 1,000 years old. The story of how Sam climbs up the criminal ladder, inadvertently becomes one of the most despised and influential men on Venus, and ultimately causes mankind to migrate out of the undersea Keeps, is the story of Fury, a book whose title refers not only to the vengeful force inherent in its lead character, but to the Landside Venusian environment as well.
But a capsule description of Fury‘s plot really doesn’t do the book justice; it’s like saying that Gone With the Wind is a story about a Civil War gal trying to get her house back. Kuttner & Moore generously supply the reader with an abundance of interesting characters, colorful backdrops and unforeseeable plot developments. Among those interesting characters are Sam’s Immortal foes, Zachariah Harker and Kedre Walton; Robin Hale, a mercenary Immortal determined to colonize Landside; the Slider, a Fagin-like underworld figure who helps Sam in his illicit projects; and the Logician, an immensely old man given to dispensing homespun, commonsense oracles. Among those colorful backdrops, of course, are the Keeps themselves, nestled on the Venusian sea bottoms under their impervium domes, and the surface of Venus. Readers who are interested in seeing the various terrible life-forms alluded to in the novel’s early sections will not be disappointed in the book’s latter half, as the Landside settlers encounter giant lizards, foot-long beetles, the monstrosities known as the mud-wolf and the siren web, etc. (Indeed, the life-forms of Venus seem to be so very aggressive in Fury that they might cause the reader to wonder whether or not Harry Harrison was influenced here when he wrote his first novel, Deathworld, in 1960. Likewise, this reader was compelled to entertain the possibility that the vengeful Gully Foyle, of my favorite science fiction novel of all time, Alfred Bester’s 1956 classic The Stars My Destination, might have been patterned after the driven Sam Harker character here, in addition to Bester’s admitted debt to The Count of Monte Cristo.) As for those unforeseeable plot developments I mentioned… well, the less said, the better. I would be the last to deprive potential first-time readers of any of the many surprises that this cleverly plotted book dishes out.
I should also add at this point that I recommend all potential readers of Fury to search out the Magnum Library edition, as this volume contains an introduction by C.L. Moore herself. In it, Moore tells us how she and her husband were accustomed to work; a fascinating look at how this famous team operated. While most of the Kuttner-Moore pieces of fiction were indeed collaborative, Moore confirms in this intro that her actual contribution to Fury was minimal, adding up to perhaps 1/8 of the novel’s total word count. If I read her correctly, her contributions here deal mainly with colorful descriptions and sections pertaining to male-female relationships. Still, as usual, the melding of talents is quite seamless, resulting in one of the best pieces of science fiction that I’ve read in a good long while. The novel concludes with a two-word epilogue that is just wonderful, certainly opening up the possibility of a Fury sequel. Sadly, that sequel was never to be. Kuttner, who writes somewhere in Fury that “the life-span of an ordinary man was too short,” died of a heart attack in 1958, at the age of 44. Though the man himself was far from immortal, I’d like to think that his works may indeed be….