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Jack Williamson

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 Stone From the Green Star: “Dark star crashes, pouring its light into ashes”

The Stone From the Green Star by Jack Williamson

As I mentioned recently in my review of Edmond Hamilton’s 1930 novel The Universe Wreckers, this Ohio-born author was just one of three writers who helped to popularize the genre now known as “space opera,” the other two being E.E. “Doc” Smith and Jack Williamson. I’d recently experienced Smith’s seminal six-book LENSMAN series, written between 1934 and ’48, but it had been a good number of years since I’d read anything by Williamson, one of my all-time favorite sci-fi p... Read More

The Birth of a New Republic: Of Lunarian bats and atomic vortexes

The Birth of a New Republic by Jack Williamson & Miles J. Breuer

In his 1966 novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, author Robert A. Heinlein gave his readers a tale of a penal colony on the Moon that rebels and declares its independence from Earth. The book went on to win the coveted Hugo Award and probably didn’t hurt Heinlein’s chances of being named sci-fi’s very first Grand Master, in 1974. But, as it turns out, this was not the first time that a writer had presented his fans with such a literally revolutionary scenario. A full 35 years earlier, sci-fi’s second-named Grand Master, Jack Williamson, in collaboration with Dr. Miles J. Breuer, had come out with a novel entitled The Birth of a New Republic... Read More

Golden Blood: Durand of Arabia

Golden Blood by Jack Williamson

I’d like to tell you about a terrific book that I have just finished reading. In it, a 2,000-year-old Arabian woman, living her immortal existence in the heart of an extinct volcano after being endowed by a mysterious force of nature, waits patiently for the reincarnation of her dead lover to reappear to her. “Hold on,” I can almost hear you saying. “I know that book … that’s She!” And if that is indeed your reaction, a gold star for you, my friend, for being familiar with one of the most classic, and indeed seminal, works of fantasy literature of the past 150 years. But no, it is not to H. Rider Haggard’s 1886 classic that I refer to here, but rather to a work that came out almost a full half century later: Read More

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

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 rival those of E.E. "Doc" Smith himself. That elusive "sense o... Read More

The Cometeers: A smashing sequel

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

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

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

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

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

Darker Than You Think: A mighty gripping read

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 Humanoids: A great novel

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 robot... Read More

The Humanoid Touch: A marvelous sequel

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, we flash forward a good 1,000 years or so, to fi... Read More

Dragon’s Island: Part noir, part jungle adventure, all great fun

Dragon’s Island by Jack Williamson

The five-year period from 1948 – ’52 was one of superlative productivity for future sci-fi Grand Master Jack Williamson. Although he’d already written some 75 short stories since his first sale at age 20, in 1928 (“The Metal Men,” in the December issue of editor Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories magazine), that five-year stretch saw him produce some of his most fondly remembered longer pieces: the novels Darker Than You Think (1948), The Humanoids (1949), The Cometeers (1950), Seet... Read More

The Trial of Terra: Fun and amusing

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 being to ensure that no planet makes first contac... Read More

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

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... Read More

Dreadful Sleep: Some kind of ultimate pulp mash-up

Dreadful Sleep by Jack Williamson

At the end of my recent review of Jack Williamson’s 1933 novel Golden Blood, which initially appeared as a six-part serial in the pages of Weird Tales magazine, I mentioned that the author had later placed another serial in that same pulp publication, and that I meant to seek it out. Well, I am here to tell you MISSION ACCOMPLISHED! That later serial, Dreadful Sleep, was a three-part affair in the March - May 1938 issues (although it didn’t cop any front-cover illustrations, as had Golden Blood, the great Virgil Finlay did contribute drawings for the interior spreads), and I was happy to lay my hands on what I had thought was the novel’s only subsequent publ... Read More

The Stonehenge Gate: Jack Williamson’s final novel

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 really is true what they say regarding practice, p... Read More

Thoughtful Thursday: Rename this horrible cover!

Time for another "Rename This Horrible Cover" contest!

This story by Jack Williamson was recently reviewed by Sandy. Apparently, the story is not nearly as bad as the art.

But we feel like the cover needs a new title. Can you suggest one?

The creator of the title we like best wins a book from our stacks

Got a suggestion for a horrible cover that needs renaming? Please send it ... Read More

The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction: Of Stark and Crag and Court and Cord

The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction edited by Oscar J. Friend & Leo Margulies

For the past five years, all the books that I have read, be they novels or short-story collections, and whether in the field of sci-fi, fantasy or horror, have had one thing in common: The were all written during the period 1900 – 1950; a little self-imposed reading assignment that I have often referred to as Project Pulp. But all good things must come to an end, and to bring this lengthy series of early 20th century genre lit to a close, I have chosen a most fitting anthology, incorporating as it does no fewer than 10 of the greatest authors of that period. The collection is entitled The Giant Anthology of Science Fiction, an apt name considering the hardcover volume’s near-600-page length, and was released in 1954. Compiled by editor and anthologist Leo Margulies and pulp author, anthologist and literary ... Read More

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

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. Dziemianowicz and Martin H. Greenberg (who had put... Read More

The Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories: Humane science fiction

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 become the problem and human factors the solutio... Read More

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

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 or less alternates between recent stories by moder... 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


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.