Attention, 21st century Earthlings! This is Captain Blastoff, coming to you from the Galaxy Gallery in the future, talking about a great popular art form of the past: Cheap Science Fiction Paperback Book Covers!
This transmission Ace Double Book D-255, “Star Ways” /”City Under Sea.” (1956)
First, “Star Ways” by our perpetually featured pal, Poul Anderson:
The first book in the Psychotechnic League series, available under the title “The Peregrine” AND on Kindle, but you are really missing out if you don’t get the wonderful Ace Double Book version with the Ed Emshwiller “space kilt” cover. Gives new meaning to the term “getting your space legs,” I’m thinking…
I’m including the cover of a kiltless, later version. Just doesn’t have that same uniqueness, does it? (Mr. Emshwiller was a multi-talented guy, by the way, with a number of pioneering experimental films to his credit.)
All you Space Cadets out there may remember my earlier transmission, “Perplexed Poul’s Paradises Lost,” where I wrote of “Poul’s own sad, gradual disheartening, over the course of his life, from his early, progressive inclinations.” In “Star Ways,” poor Poul, once again creates a really believable near-Utopia, only to have his characters kill, die and lose loved ones to ESCAPE from paradise because of a vaguely described desire for strife and discord. HUH?
I don’t want to give away too much of this book, as I consider it recommended reading, but the “flight from utopia” I described even seemed somewhat rushed and abrupt, as if Poul just HAS to get away from any peaceful haven he creates. This instantaneous souring of milk-and-honey was also really noticeable in the earlier reviewed “Let the Spacemen Beware!”
Makes me wonder if Mr. Anderson didn’t have some traumatic disheartening in his past?
Anyway, don’t think that keeps me from giving this book a special Captain Blastoff posthumous commendation and virtual decoder ring. Poul creates three believable societies in this book and I enjoyed “living” in all three during this great adventure. One of the societies was a future Earth. To give you an idea how Terrian civilization evolves in this future fable, here’s how they describe art:
“Art is a form of communication. Communication is the conveyance of information. Information is a pattern of space-time, distinguished by rules of selection from the totality of possible arrangements of the same constituents, and thus capable of being assigned a meaning. Meaning is the induced state of the…” well, you get the idea!
There were also description of three separate future communities on the B side of this Ace Double delight, in “City Under The Sea” by that prolific pen-pusher, Kenneth Bulmer. But these were all “water worlds.” “Aqua-culture,” underwater farming, has become big business in order to feed the over-populated planet. And where corporations and big business goes, can slavery and greed be far behind? It takes an astronaut turned merman to “voyage to the bottom” of this perfidious predicament.
My only complaint about this amphibious agra-adventure is that so much space is spent soaking us with the predictably dreary days of sunken slaves and we just get small cups full of the humans-turned-water-breathers’ hide-out and cool, deep-sea aliens’ “Underwateropolis!” Still, dive in to this book, especially if you can find the rarer Ace Double, Ed Valigursky cover version….but don’t hold your breath until then!
This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.
Attention, Earthlings of the early 21st century! This is Captain Blastoff, coming to you from the Galaxy Gallery in the future, talking about a great popular art form of the past: Cheap Science Fiction Book Covers!
This transmission we examine the multiple covers of “Alien Planet” by Fletcher Pratt.
I bought this book because I thought the naked green boody cover (1973, Ace 01570 PB NF) by “Kirby (Josh?),” was just too good to pass up.
But after I read it, I went on line and found the even cooler Emsh cover (Ace F257, 1962) from Cadwalader Ringgold’s photostream on Flikr. I tell ya’, people like Cadwalader are doing a service for mankind, copying these ancient paperback covers before they crumble. Such gaudy glory should ever be preserved!
Murray Fletcher Pratt (1897–1956) was a science fiction and fantasy writer; he was also well-known as a writer on naval history and on the American Civil War. There was a rock band who took his name and his wiki talks more about his literary dining club known as the Trap Door Spiders (fictionalized as the Black Widowers in a series of mystery stories by Isaac Asimov) than it does about his career!
This is very, very early science fiction. It’s just a step above being Jules Verne-ish in it’s innocence. Not quite like reading steam-punk, but still there’s the feel of an “antiquated future.” An alien, who seems rather communistic, lands on Earth and takes the narrator on a ride to a few of our solar systems planets and then on to the alien’s own, very structured society on his home world. The last half of the book is particularly sociopolitically satirical, as the utopia there is not entirely enjoyed by the hapless Earth man….but I certainly enjoyed Fletcher’s strange and fantastic imagination. I loved his description of the wild “space car” the alien drives, and the world he lives in is a caricature, but still rather believable as it’s described in such detail.
I should add, tho’, that you need to be a fan of a much earlier type of sci-fi story telling. The pace is a bit slower. There’s a lot of attention to details that don’t actually forward the plot, but do add color and diversion, like random events on a road trip to a past future…
This has been Captain Blastoff, ending transmission.
Extra: A funny, “Half Read Review” about this book in another blog.