MT VOID 09/04/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 10, Whole Number 1874

MT VOID 09/04/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 10, Whole Number 1874

@@@@@ @   @ @@@@@    @     @ @@@@@@@   @       @  @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
  @   @   @ @        @ @ @ @    @       @     @   @   @   @   @  @
  @   @@@@@ @@@@     @  @  @    @        @   @    @   @   @   @   @
  @   @   @ @        @     @    @         @ @     @   @   @   @  @
  @   @   @ @@@@@    @     @    @          @      @@@@@ @@@@@ @@@
Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society 09/04/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 10, Whole Number 1874

Table of Contents

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper, Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper, Back issues at All material is copyrighted by author unless otherwise noted. All comments sent or posted will be assumed authorized for inclusion unless otherwise noted. To subscribe, send mail to To unsubscribe, send mail to

Dilemma (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

An American is someone who does not know whom to consider more credible, a radio astronomer or a TV doctor. [-mrl]

The Ace Double (comments by Mark R. Leeper):

Here's a riddle for you, particularly for older science fiction fans. What kind of a book would you rarely find open to a page in the back half of the book? Well, you probably saw the title of the article, which was a huge hint. The answer, at least for science fiction fans, is the Ace Double. For the benefit of you who do not know what I am talking about, this was a series of books published by Ace Books from about 1953 to 1974. The company known best to science fiction fans for using this format was Ace Paperbacks and the books are the old Ace Doubles.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they were pairs of books bound together, back to back. When you finish with one of the two sub-books you turn the book over, top to bottom, and you are looking at the front cover of the other sub-book. The reason you rarely would open to the back half of the book is because what you would find there is the other book, printed upside-down. These were rarely full-length novels, certainly not as we think of them today. They were what the Hugo Awards calls "novellas". That is, it would be short novels. Perhaps they were one-night reads.

This format is called in French "tête-bêche" or "head-foot". You still see some magazines printed this way to effectively tell the buyer that he/she is getting two different magazines for the price of one. A short education in the history of Ace Doubles can be found in the article "Donald Wollheim and the Ace Double Novel" by Andrew Liptak in the August 16, 2013, issue of Kirkus:

Pairs of books bound this way are something of a novelty today, but back in the 1960s most of the science fiction fans I then knew or would later know would have a soft spot in their heart for these short trippy science fiction books that were so portable.

The format caused some problems. The book would have two fronts. That means it could be put on a bookstore shelf two different ways and the book would at first look like two entirely different novels. That promised the publisher the possibility that the book could end up with twice as much display space. But at the same time the customer could accidentally buy the same book twice. Of course the customer gets the joy of opening the front of a brand new book twice. Other publishers would publish their own doubles, but only Ace would use tête-bêche style.

Ace doubles were extremely hard to catalog since they have two different titles. If you wanted to use your catalog for reference it was not clear which title a double should be cataloged as. If you looked up the book under one title you might be looking for the wrong title. You might not even remember the title you have a given novel cataloged under. Usually you would have to give up and have two entries in your catalog for a single double book.

Truth be known the stories were more of the quality that would be found in pulp magazines than they were like the best science fiction being written. The covers were also somewhat pulpish. See:

But many of the authors were already or would become some of the major writers of science fiction. Looking through my collection I see Brian Aldiss, Poul Anderson, Leigh Bracket, John Brunner, Philip K. Dick, Gordon Dickson, Andre Norton, H. Beam Piper, Eric Frank Russell, Robert Silverberg, Clifford Simak, Wilson (Bob) Tucker, A. E. Van Vogt, Jack Williamson, and last but certainly not least Donald A. Wollheim.

I emphasize Wollheim because he was, in some senses, the founder of the feast. He together with his partner Aaron Wyn founded Ace Books in 1952. Immediately they started publishing tête-bêche format books. The first Ace Double was a mystery on one side and western on the other. That may have been a mistake. A reader who liked westerns might not want to buy a mystery novel and vice versa. Wyn and Wollheim soon decided that it made more sense to put two science fiction novels together since if a customer wanted one science fiction book would be likely to like another. In October, 1953 Ace tried their first science fiction double: A.E. van Vogt's THE WORLD OF NULL-A and the same author's THE UNIVERSE MAKER. Soon they were publishing a double a month. Ace continued to publish doubles until August 1973. Wollheim had left Ace 16 months earlier and gone on to found DAW Books.

Ace had problems finding authors willing to write novella-length stories and they could not well fit two novels in a book the size of one. It may be that I am just the right age, but Ace Doubles were popular when I was in my teens and I have a strong feeling of nostalgia for them. I am hoping some of my readers feel the same way.

What brings this up now is my discovery that the Ace Double format is not dead. A new publisher is making double novels in what looks like a close imitation of the Ace Double style. Sadly the price is not as modest as they used to be. A few look like they are a direct borrowing from actual Ace Doubles. See the ad at

This is in no way an endorsement, by the way.

[By the way, there is *another* book that would rarely be open to the second half of the book. It is Vega's Logarithm Tables. You might want to look up Benford's Law to find out why. See]


Time Is Relative, and the Beloit Mindset List (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

We think we understand timespans in history, but we haven't a clue: Sometimes two events that seem far apart in time are really much closer than we think:

On the other hand, some things we think of as very recent are really much older, or seem that way to others--which is my lead-in to this year's Beloit College Mindset; my favorite entries are:
0. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa have always been dead.
1. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.
6. Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.
12. Ellis Island has always been primarily in New Jersey.
23. Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate change.
26. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.
31. Fifteen nations have always been constructing the International Space Station.
34. Scotland and Wales have always had their own parliaments and assemblies.
42. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have always been members of NATO.
50. ...and there has always been a Beloit College Mindset List.

(And to show how out of touch I am with professional football, I thought there still *was* a team called the Houston Oilers.)

[The full list is at]


THE TOP OF THE VOLCANO: THE AWARD-WINNING STORIES OF HARLAN ELLISON (R) by Harlan Ellison (copyright 2014 Edgeworks Abbey in association with Subterranean Press, Deluxe Hardcover Edition $45, 520pp, ISBN 978-1-59606-634-2) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices: a book review by Joe Karpierz):

Harlan Ellison is simply one of the greatest writers of our day. Since the 1960s, Ellison has been churning out mind-boggling, thought-provoking, and award-winning fiction. Not just science fiction, not just fantasy, but *fiction* in general. Much of what he has written has fallen into the speculative fiction arena, and we claim him as one of our own. He certainly is one of the most decorated writers in speculative fiction, and The Top of the Volcano collects all his award winning fiction into one massive volume. The awards include the Hugo, Nebula, Locus Poll, Edgar, Bram Stoker, Writers Guild of Canada, and inclusion in the Best American Stories of 1993.

So yeah, he's pretty good.

It's interesting to note that even with all the stories that are included in THE TOP OF THE VOLCANO, the collection is not necessarily a "best of", as there are another few dozen or more stories from his catalog that could be included in a book with that title. In fact, there are any number of collections of Ellison's works that include many of the stories that are here as well as many other memorable stories.

So, what's here? Well, there are twenty-three stories in all, starting with 1966 Hugo- and Nebula-winning "Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktockman", and ending with the 2011 Nebula Award winning "How Interesting: A Tiny Man". That's right--45 years after that first Nebula, he won his latest for a story he wrote when he was 76 years old. In fact, in this day and age of the Internet anyone can find out what stories are in this book without me having to list them out for you. What's more interesting is the variation and evolution of his writing style, what he chose to write about, and how he chose to go about writing it. Ellision is, and never was, afraid to take risks. The early stories here, such as "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", about a sadistic computer that has trapped the last of humanity within itself and is torturing them, but not to death--a sort of metaphor for hell, I suppose - or "A Boy and His Dog", are relatively straightforward tales that can be taken on multiple levels, but they really don't make you work that hard. Later stories, like "Deathbird", or "Croatoan", have layers upon layers; "Deathbird" is about the end of the world, but there's so much there that when it's done the reader finally realizes there was a lot more going on there than is obvious, at least at first, and "Croatoan" clears up a colonial legend in a heart-wrenching fashion.

But those aren't the only heart wrenching stories here. How about "Jeffty is Five", about a boy that remains five for his entire life--and no, that's not a spoiler, or one of my all-time personal favorites, "The Paladin of the Lost Hour", which is about as gut- wrenching as it gets. If you want another kind of gut-wrenching, this time the kind in which terror is involved, try "The Function of Dream Sleep", wherein our protagonist wakes up one day to find something on his body that really shouldn't be there, which eventually leads him to find out what the function of dream sleep really is: or "Mefisto in Onyx", another one of my personal favorites, which has such a nasty double twist at the end that the reader ends up blinking once or twice and shaking his or her head in disbelief.

And yet, there is whimsy, too. "Djinn, No Chaser", is as amusing a story as the title suggests, wherein a young newlywed couple comes into possession of a magic lamp--and all the trouble that entails, until the young bride comes up with a clever solution to the problem. There is melancholy, followed by joy, in the story "Count the Clock That Tells the Time", about 34-year old Ian Ross who wasted his life, but is given a second chance. And, one of my other favorite stories in this collection, "Adrift Just Off the Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38 degrees 54' N, Longitude 77 degrees 00' 13" W" about Lawrence Talbot (yeah, that Lawrence Talbot, the Wolfman), a man, unable to die, enlisting the help of his friend and scientist Victor (yeah, I'm guessing *that* Victor, but it's never stated in the story) to find his soul and thereby maybe find peace.

There are other stories here that are experimental, such as "The Region Between", or "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore" (which I guess in retrospect may not be too experimental) that I had a bit of difficulty with. But that's okay, because if I wanted easy reading this collection wouldn't be the place to go to find it, I don't think.

I continue to look back at the table of contents and I keep thinking to myself that I would love to comment on "The Whimper of Whipped Dogs" or "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World", or "With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole", or ... well, you get the idea. I could go on for a very long time and still not be finished with comments about this book. It's just that good. And it's a great place to start if you want an introduction to Harlan Ellison's work. Just imagine how good the stories are that *didn't* win any awards. [-jak]

THE HARD WAY by Lee Child (book review by Dale L. Skran):

This seems like it is the tenth "Jack Reacher" novel, but the first in the series that I have read, although I have seen the movie REACHER (which is based on a different book, ONE SHOT, the ninth in the series). My wife, who has read/listened to a lot of the Reacher stories, was not so happy with the movie, saying it diminished Reacher as a detective. I tend to agree after finishing THE HARD WAY. The title refers mostly to the difficulty of actual detective work, of which quite a bit is on display here. Unlike some TV detectives who seem to immediately leap to a potted answer, Reacher moves laboriously from one theory to the next, finally discovering the real truth of things nearly at the end. The detection/violence ratio is much higher than in the movie. There are stakeouts and investigations galore. Reacher's famous internal clock is much used and quite important to the plot, although his mathematical abilities are called into play more as applied logic.

Things do end up in a blow-out violent battle at the end, which I thought much the weakest part of the book. Child's style is breezy and engaging. Unlike Clancy, we are not bored with long descriptions of weapons and so on. It is easy to see why Reacher is such a popular character. He falls in a long line of lone self- made heroes Americans have loved, ranging from The Lone Ranger to Repairman Jack to Batman. Like these heroes, Reacher is not just a good fighter or strong man. His greatest weapon is always his mind - and his detective abilities. In his always-accurate internal clock, nearly perfect memory, and skill with numbers, we have at least the gloss of a Heinleinian superman.

In any case, I'd recommend THE HARD WAY to Reacher fans and those who like this sort of thing. [-dls]

PAPER PLANES (film review by Mark R. Leeper):

CAPSULE: A boy who lost his mother in a car accident suffers from the destruction of his family. Then his fascination with flying lead him to national and international competitions for design and flight of paper airplanes. It is hard to take the film seriously with what look like CGI paper airplanes that do not seem to follow the laws of physics. The subject matter may be original, but the plot is familiar and predictable. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

There are children's films and family films. A family film has to be good for a wide range of ages. Unfortunately, PAPER PLANES makes some choices at the beginning that consign it to the children's film category. Early on a paper airplane makes a long graceful flight many times longer than the laws of physics would allow. We see the plane in flight and it looks very much CGI-ish. Children seeing this film may be able to suspend their disbelief to not be turned off by the film, but even children will know what they are seeing is not possible. If director and co-writer Robert Connolly wants to limit the film to fantasy, that is certainly his artistic right, but it weakens the film and in specific the positive messages the film has for the younger viewers. This film could have reached for the same power as Joe Johnston's OCTOBER SKY or John G. Avildsen's THE KARATE KID, but it chose to limit itself to fantasy--too little fantasy to compete with Disney but too much to be accepted as real by kids.

Dylan (played by Ed Oxenbould) had recently lost his mother to a car accident and his father (Sam Worthington of AVATAR) has imploded and now drinks and morns so that he can barely get up in the morning. At school Dylan's mathematics teacher has the class try throwing paper airplanes. Dylan's plane rises up and stays aloft almost supernaturally for many minutes doing things that paper airplanes just do not do. The teachers realize that Dylan has a supreme skill for understanding paper airplanes and put him on track for the national and international competitions for paper airplane design and flying. His understanding for flying things may stem from his special friendship with a semi-tame kite-hawk he passes on the way to school. But he has always loved planes and he fantasizes about being a World War II pilot (to the tune of Ron Goodwin's music for BATTLE OF BRITAIN). That flying fascination will take Dylan to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan. Dylan's appreciation for some of the smaller things of life keeps him off his Smartphone and instead thinking about paper airplanes. He must be fascinated by the new culture when he gets to Japan.

This film's dialog is rather patronizing to the audience. Children talk to each other giving the same advice that adults would give the children, adult arguments in children's mouths. On the other hand where the emotion of the film works best is in Dylan's relationship with his father, bringing his young wisdom to the emotionally wounded father. It seems more like talking down to the audience when Dylan and a newly found friend Kimi (Ena Imai) discuss and try to tame bully, cheater, and fellow competitor, Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke). Jason is the son of a champion golfer, but failed to learn sportsmanship.

Some of the audience in the US may have trouble penetrating some of the thicker Australian pronunciation. Also, a bit of origami in the film should interest some outside the target audience. I rate PAPER PLANES a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Did the closing credit song really say, "Shake your booty, boys and girls, for the beauty in the world."

Film Credits:

What others are saying:


Robot Overlords in New Jersey (letter of comment by Kip Williams):

In response to comments on robot overlords in the 08/28/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

Robot overlords. Oh, that reminds me! I don't recall you mentioning the Morris Museum, , which has a collection of automata. As far as I know. I've seen it mentioned from time to time at the Mechanical Music Digest (a hobbyist BBS for all tunes mechanical), and I was going to go there this summer, but we never took the NJ trip that was clearly in the cards. It evaporated, taking the cards with it. I'm hoping this won't be like 1997, when we were in York and we drove past The Museum of Automata, which I made time for, and found to have closed permanently just six months before we came along.

For those closer to Williamsburg, VA, there's a museum of automatic instruments and perhaps others, a little north of town, that used to consist of a few interesting pieces over Parker Music (back when they were in Newport News). They relocated to quarters that may have been bigger, though the old place had a cavernous second floor. I visited the store and enjoyed looking at instruments they had around the sales floor and upstairs, and they've apparently made the museum sufficiently separate that it has its own name and web page and I don't know what else, because I haven't been there to see it. [-kw]

Japan and World War II (letter of comment by Kerr Mudd-John):

In response to Mark's comments on Hiroshima in the 08/21/15 issue of the MT VOID, Kerr Mudd-John writes:

[Mark wrote:] "The Japanese people did not know at the time, but do know now, that their people committed real atrocities in Nanking, in Manchuria, in prison camps. It would be hard for them to defend a stance of moral superiority." [-mrl]

This is not so widely known. Japanese schools skip that bit when teaching history. [-kmj]


[continuing my comments from last week]

"An aspiring candidate may be tempted to build his greatness on the public confusion, but it is the interest as well as duty of a sovereign to maintain the authority of the laws. The first edict of Justinian, which was often repeated, and sometimes executed, announced his firm resolve to support the innocent, and to chastise the guilty, of every denomination and *colour*.

E: This policy has been re-affirmed by many governments established after the overthrow of tyrannies of privilege, but not always carried out. In Justinian's case, one must note that the "colour" here mentioned is not skin color, but faction color (i.e., blue versus green)!

"I am not insensible of the benefits of elegant luxury, yet I reflect with some pain, that if the importers of silk had introduced the art of printing, already possessed by the Chinese, the comedies of Menander and the entire decads of Livy would have been perpetuated in the editions of the sixth century."

E: This is the lament of the scholar, and I have to say I agree with it. One might extend this to current policies and suggest that while not being insensible of the benefits of extracurricular activities. if the time and money spent on them was dedicated to the actual education of students, we might be better off.

"... public discontent is credulous; private malice is bold; and a lover of truth will peruse with a suspicious eye the instructive anecdotes of Procopious. The secret historian represents only the vices of Justinian, and those vices are darkened by his malevolent pencil. Ambiguous actions are imputed to the worst motives; error is confounded with guilt, accident with design, and laws with abuses; the partial injustice of the moment is dexterously applied as the general maxim of a reign of thirty-two years; the emperor alone is made responsible for the faults of his officers, the disorders of the times, and the corruption of his subjects; and even the calamities of nature; plagues, earthquakes, and inundations, are imputed to the prince of the daemons, who had mischievously assumed the form of Justinian."

E: For "Justinian", write "Obama" and for "Procopius", write the name of any number of right-wing pundits, and this will sound eerily familiar.

"A magnificent temple is a laudable monument of national taste and religion; and the enthusiast who entered the some of St. Sophia might be tempted to suppose it was the residence, or even the workmanship, of the Deity. Yet how dull is the artifice, how insignificant is the labour, if it be compared with the formation of the vilest insect that crawls upon the surface of the temple."

E: Gibbon wrote after the Scientific Revolution and before Romanticism, but this passage seems to be of both: an understanding of science, yet a romantic or poetic view of it rather than merely a mechanistic one.

"Not a vestige can be found of the art, the knowledge, or the navigation, of the ancient Colchians: few Greeks desired or dared to pursue the footsteps of the Argonauts; and even the marks of an Egyptian colony are lost on a nearer approach. The rite of circumcision is practised only by the Mahometans of the Euxine; and the curled hair and swarthy complexion of Africa no longer disfigure the most perfect of the human race."

E: Well, if you had any doubt that Gibbon was bigoted, this passage would dispel it.

"The Decemvirs had neglected to import the sanction of Zaleucus, which so long maintained the integrity of his republic. A Locrian, who proposed any new law, stood forth in the assembly of the people with a cord around his neck, and if the law was rejected, the innovator was instantly strangled."

E: Well, that is one way of getting rid of lawmakers wasting time by suggesting laws they know will not pass for the sake of putting on a show for their constituents (or whomever). I will grant, however, it is a bit extreme.

"The rude jurisprudence of the decemvirs had confounded all hasty insults, which did not amount to the fracture of a limb, by condemning the aggressor to the common penalty of twenty-five asses [a unit of currency, not the animal]. But the same denomination of money was reduced, in three centuries, from a pound to the weight of half an ounce; and the insolence of a wealthy Roman indulged in the cheap amusement of breaking and satisfying the twelve tables. Veratius ran through the streets striking on the face the inoffensive passengers, and his attendant purse-bearer immediately silenced their clamors by the legal tender of twenty-five pieces of copper, about the value of one shilling."

E: Although here the problem seems exacerbated by either the abasement of the currency or the repeated dimunition of the fine designated by law, this highlights a more basic problem: In a society of people unequal in wealth, the use of fines as a method of punishment is not really fair. Consider a parking ticket in Los Angeles. In 2014, it cost $63. Now, if Donald Trump's limousine parks illegally and he gets a ticket, is he going to care? I don't think so. But if someone getting by on minimum wage (currently $72 for a 8-hour day before taxes in California) parks illegally, it costs her almost an entire day's pay. I don't know who Veratius was, but I'm guessing he was nowhere near as rich as Donald Trump.

"[One of the] nine crimes of a very complexion are adjudged worthy of death [included] Nocturnal meetings in the city; whatever might be the pretence, of pleasure, or religion, or the public good."

E: I have no idea what constituted a "meeting," or for that matter "nocturnal." Is it possible that one could not even have a party that went past sundown? This seems unlikely, so nocturnal may have meant after (say) midnight. The mention of "meetings" for pleasure does appear to indicate that parties did count. Note this is not the same as a curfew--people could travel at any time; they just could not meet.

"The Barbarous practice of wearing arms in the midst of peace, and the bloody maxims of honor, were unknown to the Romans; and, during the two purest ages, from the establishment of equal freedom to the end of the Punic wars, the city was never disturbed by sedition, and rarely polluted with atrocious crimes."

E: Though Gibbon earlier seemed in favor of the Second Amendment, here he makes an important qualification. Namely, that while the people may *possess* arms, they do not wear them in everyday life, either concealed or openly.

"Religion pronounces an equal censure against the infidelity of the husband [as of the wife]; but, as it is not accompanied by the same civil effects, the wife was never permitted to vindicate her wrongs..."

E: The religion here is Christianity, and Gibbon's point is that while the religion may treat men and women equally in the matter of adultery, the state did not, and women were severely punished, while men were not (unless the woman they committed adultery was married, in which case, they did (supposedly) suffer the same punishment.

"After the extinction of paganism, the Christians in peace and piety might have enjoyed their solitary triumph. But the principle of discord was alive in their bosom, and they were more solicitous to explore the nature, than to practice the laws, of their founder."

E: This is one of Gibbon's main theses--that the internal disputes of the Christians, such as whether Jesus was created by God, or *of* God ("begotten, not made"), and whether he was of the same substance ("homoousis") or a like substance ("homoiousis"). On the other hand, and as many people throughout the centuries have complained, Christians rarely seemed to follow to precepts Jesus laid down.

"A metaphysical religion may appear too refined for the capacity of the negro race: yet a black or a parrot might be taught to repeat the words of the Chalcedonian or Monophysite creed."

E: Yet another example that Gibbon's opinions are not to be entirely trusted.

"During his government of twenty-five years, the penalty of death was abolished in the Roman empire, a law of mercy most delightful to the humane theorist, but of which the practice, in a large and vicious community, is seldom consistent with the public safety."

E: It does seem as though this abolition would be "practicing the laws" of Christianity's founder in a way that Gibbon seemed to be promoting just a few pages earlier, but faced with the actuality of it, Gibbon must have decided it was not expedient.

[to be continued next week]


This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper):

I read THE SECRET OF THE NINTH PLANET by Donald A. Wollheim (no ISBN) in honor of the New Horizons fly-by on July 14, 2015. There is a secret on Pluto, all right, but most of the novel consists of the main characters traveling to all the other planets (or their moons) in a sort of "Grand Tour" of the solar system. It has the usual structure of a juvenile of the time--a teenage boy who somehow manages to get included in some adventure. There are actually two subsets: the youth is included because he is traveling as part of his family and accidentally gets sucked in, or the youth somehow gets included in an expedition as an adult (albeit more like a cadet than a full-fledged member). In this case it is more the latter: while on an archaeological expedition to the Andes with his father young Burl Denning accidentally acquires the power to shut down the newly discovered "sun-stealers" that are somehow sucking up the energy from the sun that is reaching Earth, and threatens to bring on a new ice age. It turns out there are such machines on many bodies in the solar system, and Burl's power means he has to go along on the expedition to shut them down. Adventures ensue, and Burl is always at the center of them. Ironically, not much time is spent on Pluto, simply because they have to visit everywhere else.

THE SECRET OF SATURN'S RINGS by Donald A. Wollheim (no ISBN), another book in the same series, is both a period piece and very contemporary, For example, the first sentence in the introduction says that only one planet in the solar system has rings. Actually, four do: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

The second sentence in the actual book says, "It was high school graduation day, a day when the boys in [Bruce Rhodes's] class came in for the last time, held their final assembly, received their diplomas and were given their entrance listings for college." Apparently girls don't go to high school in the future. (Even private schools are rarely all-male, and when they are, they are called prep schools or academies--"high school" tends to imply co- ed.) Bruce does have a mother, who says all of nine sentences to him before disappearing from the plot, which for the remaining 148 pages is resolutely all-male.

On the other hand, the events in the plot are triggered by Bruce's father's discovery that the deep-core mining being planned for the moon by Terraluna Corporation will result in the moon being blown apart. "Some bits of this lunar bombshell would hit the Earth, causing great damage. Most of these pieces would continue to fly along the moon's orbit and form a ring. But the effect would be just as terrible as if they had struck our world. With the release of the moon's pull, the tides would cease and the waters of the world equalize. This will flood great parts of the world's surface, wipe out hundreds of cities and drown millions. Great quakes will probably destroy the rest as the Earth6s bulk is released from the strain of its satellite and readjusts itself. I would say that probably nine-tenths of humanity would die; certainly civilization would be totally destroyed!"

Now, while this is a bit more drastic (and quicker) than the current global climate change predictions (and admittedly based on hand-waving science), the predictions for coastal cities is eerily familiar. And in the universe of the book, we must accept the science as part of our "willing suspension of disbelief." So when Dr. Rhodes tells Terraluna this, what is their reaction? "They refused to accept my figures, plain as they were. ... People are sometimes blinded by their own selfishness... Terraluna wants to get at that treasure at the moon's heart. Its directors are not interested in how they get it, they want only the results. When I presented my studies of what would happen, they could not bring themselves to believe it. They called it wild, imaginary, just the product of an old man's frightened mind. They had some of their scientists, men of my own staff actually, go over the figures. These men sought only for their own advancement, ... they felt they could take a chance with Earth's welfare. So these men made light of my findings, said they were extreme, ridiculed the possibility involved, and denied the discovery." After this, Terraluna fires Rhodes, spreads all sorts of lies and rumors to discredit him, and makes all sorts of legal (and extra-legal) attempts to prevent him from collecting data that might support his theory.

But while the aspects of "period piece versus contemporary story" are interesting, the actual book is not. There will be a little bit of action, then a lot of expository lump, then a little bit of action, then a lot of expository lump, and so on. And the action relies incredibly heavily on coincidence--Bruce always just happens to be looking at the absolutely right spot in the sky to see what he needs to foil the villains and move the plot along. [-ecl]

                                          Mark Leeper
Quote of the Week:
          God was satisfied with his own work, and that is fatal.
                                          --Samuel Butler

Go to our home page