1954


Untouched by Human Hands: Sheckley’s stories are sharp and insightful

Untouched by Human Hands by Robert Sheckley

After reading Robert Sheckley’s Dimension of Miracles, I was eager to read more of his work. That novel was intelligent, creative, thought-provoking, and entertaining. So I picked up Untouched by Human Hands, a collection of Sheckley’s short stories published in the 1950s in the various pulp magazines.

My edition is the audiobook produced by Skyboat Media and read by Gabrielle de Cuir, Stefan Rudnicki, and Harlan Ellison. It’s almost 6 hours long. The stories are:

"The Monsters" (Fantasy & Science Fiction Magazine, March 1953) — This is a first contact story in which friendly humans arrive on a planet inhabited by friendly aliens who h... Read More

Brain Wave: A fascinating idea

Brain Wave by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s Brain Wave has a great premise — for millennia, unknown to scientists, the Earth has been under the influence of some sort of field that dampens the speed of neurons in the cortex. But now the Earth has suddenly passed out of the field and immediately neurons start working faster, making everyone’s IQs (man and animal) escalate dramatically. This sounds like a good thing to me, but perhaps it’s not in Poul Anderson’s mind. In his story, human civilization changes drastically, and mostly not in positive ways.

The story follows several characters: a physicist named Peter Corinth; Sheila, his timid and dull-witted housewife; a mentally-handicapped farmhand named Archie Brock; and an official named Felix Mandelbaum. Each of these characters experiences a large jump in IQ which causes a change in their circumstances. Each of them deals with this change differently as Poul Anderson... Read More

The Star Beast: A great story buried under a lot of politics

The Star Beast by Robert A. Heinlein

The Star Beast (1954) is one of Robert A. Heinlein’s “juveniles.” When I was a kid in the late ‘70s / early '80s, I loved these and can still remember where they were located in the library of my elementary school. My dad had some at home, too, and probably still does since I’ve never known him to throw out a book. I can’t say that I love all of Heinlein’s work — in fact, I absolutely loathe some of his novels for adults — but I can give him credit for inspiring my life-long love of science fiction, so I’ve enjoyed listening to the audio versions that Blackstone Audio had recently been producing.

The Star Beast is about a teenage boy named John Thomas Stuart (the eleventh) and his pet named Lummox, a six-ton eight-legged brontosauru... Read More

The Broken Sword: A dark fantasy classic

The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson

Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword (1954) was selected by David Pringle in his Modern Fantasy: The 100 Best Novels, and is highly praised by Michael Moorcock, whose character Elric of Melnibone and his demon-possessed sword Stormbringer are directly inspired by The Broken Sword. The audio version is narrated by Bronson Pinchot, who has an amazing vocal range and narrates with passion.

To get right to the point, this book is amazing and deserves a much wider readership. It’s one of the most powerful, tightly-w... Read More

The City and The Stars: Restless in a perfect future city

The City and The Stars by Arthur C. Clarke

The City and The Stars is a 1954 rewrite of Arthur C. Clarke’s first book Against the Fall of Night (1948). There are plenty of adherents of the original version, but the revised version is excellent too.

As one of his earlier classic tales, this one features many familiar genre tropes: A far-future city called Diaspar, where technology is so sophisticated it seems like magic, a young (well not exactly, but close enough) protagonist who curiosity is so strong it overcomes the fear of the outside that all the other inhabitants share, and a gradually expanding series of discoveries by our hero Alvin (actually, would anyone really have a name that is shared by an animated chipmunk, one BILLION years in the future?) as he strives to discover the reality of his world,... Read More

The Forgotten Planet: You want BEMs? Look no further!

The Forgotten Planet by Murray Leinster

There is a wonderful old term used to describe a feature of Golden Age science fiction novels: BEM, an acronym for “bug-eyed monsters.” Back in the 1930s and ‘40s, you see, the covers of many sci-fi pulp magazines featured illustrations of bulbous-orbed, invariably menacing aliens and other creatures; just do a Google Image search for the Thrilling Wonder Stories periodical and you’ll see what I mean! But anyone wanting to actually READ a book with more BEMs than any 10 other sci-fi books of the era combined would be well advised to pick up Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten Planet. This Golden Age classic not only features bug-eyed monsters, but also monsters — and scads of them — that just happen to be giant bugs! Leinster (1896 - 1975), who was born William Fitzgerald Jenkins in Norfolk, Virginia, would go on to write some 40 sci-fi novels a... Read More

Revolt on Alpha C: Inaugurates the start of one of Sci-Fi’s most beloved careers

Revolt on Alpha C by Robert Silverberg

A quick glance at The Quasi-Official Robert Silverberg Web Site will reveal that the author, during the course of his 60-year career, managed to somehow come out with no fewer than 75 science fiction novels, 180 “adult” and crime novels, 450 (!) sci-fi short stories and novellas, 125 adult/crime short stories, and 70 books of nonfiction… not to mention the 130 or so anthologies for which he served as editor! But all great writing careers have to begin somewhere, and for Robert Silverberg, that beginning was his 1954 novel Revolt on Alpha C.

Actually, Silverberg had already seen one of his short stories, “Gorgon Planet,” released earlier that year, but Revolt on Alpha C was his first full-length work to see publication. Originally printed as a hardcover book by a company called... Read More

I am Legend: Not really about vampires

I am Legend by Richard Matheson

I don’t like vampire novels much, so I wasn’t planning to read Richard Matheson’s classic vampire story I am Legend which was published in 1954, is also known by the title The Omega Man, and is, of course, the basis for the movie I am Legend.

But then I recently read and was enthralled by two other books by Matheson: The Incredible Shrinking Man and Steel and Other Stories. I realized that The Incredible Shrinking Man wasn’t really so much about a man who was losing his height as it was about a man who was losing his manhood. Likewise, the novella “Steel,” the titular piece of Steel and Other Stories and the premise for the movie Real Steal, isn’t so much about a fighting robot as it is about a man who, similar to ... Read More