Wednesday, 2 September 2015

SOS from Three Worlds


Murray Leinster SOS from Three Worlds (1966)
I've not yet digested a huge wealth of this guy's work, but on the strength of this and a short story collection read a few years back, I suspect there may be some grounds to consider the Leinster overlooked in terms of the history of science-fiction literature. In some senses he was probably your archetypal pulp author, and it perhaps isn't too surprising that he also wrote adventure, historical, western, sea, and suspense stories according to the blurb inside the front cover. Perhaps unsurprisingly, SOS from Three Worlds scores low as poetry, but nevertheless demonstrates considerable craft - a beautifully constructed hand-tooled sideboard rather than a mass-produced formica carbuncle. Furthermore, it's hard science-fiction in the Asimov sense, at least providing you keep in mind that space travel may actually be impossible so we have to make a few allowances otherwise we won't have a story; and as hard science-fiction, Leinster does a great job, communicating all sorts of fancy ideas about space travel, extraterrestrial medicinal practice and xenobiology with infectious and engrossing enthusiasm. The three episodic tales assembled here share a certain hokey quality as basic transpositions of the frontier doc riding his horse from town to town curing whatever may ail ye, but it's an amiably hokey quality rather than an obvious assemblage of familiar clich├ęs, even with the cute animal companion providing routinely good-natured goofy chuckles.

Shoving my eyes up the internet, I notice that the Leinster actually hasn't been overlooked and seems well remembered as a popular author of a million novels, some ground breaking ideas, and a few tie-ins to shows such as The Time Tunnel; but from reading this one, and considering some of the more recently published shite presently clogging up the shelves of Half Price Books, and the fact that people still worship fucking Heinlein, I'd say Leinster's legend deserves to loom at least a little larger, and not least because you really get the sense of him having had a great time writing this one, and considering recent developments, it's always nice to remind oneself of golden age authors with stated progressive views, such as are found here.

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