1949


The Cosmic Geoids and One Other: Take your vitamins!

The Cosmic Geoids and One Other by John Taine

It was Polish biochemist Casimir Funk who, in 1911, isolated the substance now known as vitamin B3. In 1912, Funk wrote a book called The Vitamines (he’d coined that term as a contraction of the words “vital amines”), in which he spoke of other, similar substances and their abilities to prevent various ailments. And then, the vitamin ball really got rolling, with sales of vitamins A and C rising steadily in the 1920s and ‘30s. Before the onset of WW2, it was learned that fully 1/3 of America’s enlisted men were suffering from assorted illnesses due to malnutrition, resulting in FDR convening the National Nutrition Conference for Defense. And in 1943, the very first “one-a-day” multivitamin was introduced to the U.S. populace. So yes, vitamins were indeed very much in the spotlight at this time, and it was perhaps these news reports that caused Scottish-born mat... Read More

The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories: Historical horror done to a turn

The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories by Marjorie Bowen

At the tail end of my recent review of D. K. Broster’s Couching at the Door, I mentioned that I so enjoyed this volume of creepy stories that I was minded to immediately begin another book from British publisher Wordsworth Editions’ Tales of Mystery & the Supernatural division … and I’m so glad that I followed through on that! My latest discovery from this wide-ranging series is Marjorie Bowen’s The Bishop of Hell and Other Stories, and in retrospect the two books have happily paired quite well together. Both were released in the 1940s (1942 for the Broster book, 1949 for the Bowen) and are the products of British authoresses more well known for their historical fiction ... Read More

Tomorrow’s Yesterday: Unearthing a true obscurity

Tomorrow’s Yesterday  by A.M. Stanley

I don’t think I’m going too far out on a limb in making the following sweeping statements about a certain book that I just read, A.M. Stanley’s Tomorrow’s Yesterday: You have never heard of this book, or of its author. You’ve never read anything about the book, either in print or online. This, my friends, is a lost book; one that, since its initial publication in 1949, has plummeted stone-like to the bottom of the literary pool. Not just a book that is currently out of print but is easily researchable ― there are tens of thousands of those ― but rather, a book for which virtually no information is to be had at all. Even the usually infallible Internet Speculative Fiction Database offers no help when it comes to this volume, and indeed, I do believe that this review here may well constitute the only substantive words to be found regarding this novel ... Read More

Red Planet: A children’s adventure on Mars

Red Planet by Robert A. Heinlein

I’ve mentioned several times how much I loved Robert A. Heinlein’s “Juveniles” when I was a kid. I found them on my dad’s bookshelves (I don’t think he’s ever gotten rid of a book) and I read some of them several times. If you had asked me last week which was my favorite, I would have said “Red Planet.” I remember loving this book, though all I could recall about it was a cute fuzzy round alien named Willis who bounces around like a basketball, and a couple of boys crossing the desolate landscape of Mars.

Last week, with much anticipation, I downloaded Red Planet (1949) from Audible so that I could listen to it with my 12 year old daughter, Tali. I was so excited to share this story with her. In the opening scene we met Willis, and Tali loved him as much ... Read More

Earth Abides: Not with a bang, but a whimper…

Earth Abides by George R. Stewart

George R. Stewart’s Earth Abides (1949) won the International Fantasy Award and was selected as one of David Pringle’s Best 100 SF Novels, but I’m guessing many SFF readers have never heard of it. You may have heard of pastoral SF (ala Clifford Simak), and this book may be best classified as post-holocaust pastoral SF, perhaps even "bucolic SF" (similar books include Leigh Bracket's Long Tomorrow and Pat Frank's Alas, Babylon). In Earth Abides, civilization is wiped out by a mysterious and never-explained virus, but our intrepid protagonist Isherwood Williams ("Ish" to his buddies) makes the best of a primitive existence, first surviving alone by scavenging from the bountiful remains of grocery stores, hardware shops, and gas stations, and eventually gathering together a few stragglers t... Read More

Nineteen Eighty-Four: A powerful and prescient warning

Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell

Along with Yevgeny Zamyatin’s We and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, first published in 1949, is the one of the most powerful and important dystopian novels ever written, and unquestionably a work of science fiction thanks to its depiction of a future totalitarian regime that controls every aspect of its citizens’ mental and physical existence. It’s hard to imagine any educated person in the English-speaking world who hasn’t heard the terms Big Brother, doublethink, thoughtcrime, and Newspeak, even if they’re not sure exactly what the terms mean. It’s also likely that many readers were exposed to Nineteen Eighty-Four in high school English or Humanities classes,... Read More

The Fox Woman and Other Stories: Several short pieces by a master of the form

The Fox Woman and Other Stories by Abraham Merritt

The Fox Woman and Other Stories is the only collection of Abraham Merritt's shorter works, and contains seven stories and two "fragments." These short stories span the entire career of the man who has been called America's foremost adventure fantasist of the 1920s and '30s. Several of the tales boast the lush purple prose of Merritt's early period (as seen especially in his first two novels, The Moon Pool and The Metal Monster), but all seven are finely written little gems. They run the gamut from full-blown fantasy to lost-world adventure to outright science fiction, and abundantly demonstrate that Merritt was a master of the concise short form as well as the full-length novel.

The collection kicks off with one of its strongest ta... Read More

The Time Axis: Exciting, but not fully satisfying

The Time Axis by Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore

Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore's sole novel of 1948, The Mask of Circe, was a very way-out excursion in the fantasy realm, and in early 1949, the pair followed up with an equally way-out piece of hard sci-fi. The Time Axis, which initially appeared in the January '49 issue of "Startling Stories," finds science fiction's foremost husband-and-wife writing team (my apologies to Damon Knight and Kate Wilhelm!) at the top of their game, but perhaps giving their seemingly limitless imagination too free a rein. The book is well paced, finely and at times humorously written, exciting and colorful, but ultimately, unfortunately, not fully satisfying. Read More

The Ship of Ishtar: A fantasy for the ages

The Ship of Ishtar by Abraham Merritt

The Ship of Ishtar, one of Abraham Merritt's finest fantasies, first appeared in the pages of Argosy magazine in 1924. An altered version appeared in book form in 1926, and the world finally received the original work in book form in 1949, six years after Merritt's death.

In this wonderful novel we meet John Kenton, an American archaeologist who has just come into possession of a miniature crystal ship recently excavated "from the sand shrouds of ages-dead Babylon." Before too long, Kenton is whisked onto the actual ship, of which his relic is just a symbol. It turns out that the ship is sailing the seas of an otherdimensional limboland, and manned by the evil followers of the Babylonian god of the dead, Nergal, and by the priestesses of the Babylonian fertility goddess, Ishtar. A forc... Read More