Sunday, June 11, 2006

A Recent Read Number 4

It's that time again for a review of the book I have just finished reading, or something. This time I've been reading an old Pulp Fiction Sci-Fi Two-In-One news-stand book published in 1963. This book has two full stories, fortunately by the same author (sometimes the stories are two separate authors with no connection what-so-ever). The Author is John Brunner the titles "The Space-Time Juggler" and "The Astronauts Must Not Land". The book is designed so that instead of reading it cover-to-cover you read it cover-to-middle, then flip the book over and read it cover-to-middle. The more I think about it the more I vaguely remember a news-stand near me when I was a kid having this type of paperback book, in addition to having magazines, and the comics, trading cards and candy I used to go there for. Back in the days of real penny bubble gum and five and ten cent candy bars. In more recent years I've seen this type of book in used book stores.

"...'tis reported, they say, that there is a man whom no bars will hold, who comes and goes where he will, and who has strange powers that surpass the human."
from The Space-Time Juggler

The first story of this two-in-one "The Space-Time Juggler" feels more like a fantasy piece than proper sci-fi. The main story line is medieval in nature, except that the empire is made up of six planets, and they mention spacecraft and helicopters. I'm really disappointed with this story. It doesn't get to feeling like a sci-fi story until near the end when it reads more like an acid-trip of some kind. Then the true nature of the character named Kaleb The Conjurer is revealed, sort of. Through out the story he acts like an eccentric magician, con man. He of course is the title character The Space-Time Juggler. I had started reading this a couple of years back when I had gotten the book from off of Ebay, but never got into enough to finish it. I almost should have left it unread. I didn't gain anything from reading it, yet this was the story I had bought the thing for in the first place. It did not live up to what I was expecting.

"I got the recorder out of my pocket, turned the master switch from voice to vision recording, and began to scan. My hand was shaking so badly I wasn't sure it was worth the trouble..."
From The Astronauts Must Not Land.

Now the second story "The Astronauts Must Not Land" was much better. If I didn't know any better I could swear it was a story used for The Twilight Zone or The Outer Limits, but I don't think it ever was. For a story written in the early 1960s and set in the 21st Century, (I'm not sure how far into it) it has a lot of modern references. Until I had done a little internet research I thought Fax machines were something that was developed in the 1970s (I recall a Star Trek Comic book from 1976 making a reference to fax machines), but the technology for it goes back to the late 1800s, the first fax copies (text) were sent in the early 1900s via telegraph wire, the first telephone line faxes were sent sometime during the 60s. But I digress. The story is written in the first person by the character of David Drummond a science writer, reporter and big brother to one of the sixty astronauts aboard a spaceship called the Starventure, a ship designed to travel to Alpha Centauri via hyperspace. Well things don't go as planned for the crew as their bodies are changed by some aliens in hyperspace during their trip. What diabolical plan did these aliens have for doing this? And why are these aliens appearing as gigantic monsters in the sky? I don't want to spoil these questions for anybody wanting to read this story. I will say this though this story is a highly scientific sci-fi story much of the science talk went over my head. I normally don't like the super scientific terminology stories but this one was pretty fun, but slightly difficult (as far as the science lingo) to read. In my internet adventures in tracking down info on this story, thinking it might have been used as the basis for an Outer Limits type television show or movie, I found out that an updated re-write of it had been done some ten to twenty years later. It would make a good movie.

The Space-Time Juggler/The Astronauts Must Not Land by John Brunner 1963 Ace Books, Inc. (84/138 pages)

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