A Galaxy Trilogy: Volume 1
By Poul Anderson, George H. Smith and Stanton A. Coblentz; Read by Tom Weiner
12 CDs – 13.5 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Blackstone Audiobooks
Themes: / Science Fiction / Politics / War / Aliens / Space Travel / Galactic Civilization / Telepathy /
“Long before Arthur C. Clarke, Ray Bradbury, or Isaac Asimov, there was an earlier generation of dreamers and writers who defined the science-fiction genre, in what today is affectionately known as the pulp era. Heralding back to the early television days of Flash Gordon and the earlier tales of Jules Verne, Bram Stoker, and H. G. Wells, these great science-fiction writers of the 1950s and 1960s included among their ranks such icons as Poul Anderson and the prolific Robert Silverberg, who would write some of the hippest genre literature of its era. Now you can experience this unique moment in genre literature with three exciting, imaginative short novellas from some of the pioneers of pulp science fiction.”
In Star Ways a mysterious plot my be behind the disappearance of a number of ships in the Terran sphere. This is the best of the three short novels in a fun collection. Star Ways posits a familiar ‘nomads in space’ idea and chucks in a plot about some truly totalitarian aliens. This short Science Fiction novel allows us to tag along on an interstellar nomad ship, with fascinating folkways. Also on board thanks to Poul Anderson’s magnetic writing are your regulation intergalactic troubleshooter, a wily space captain, a rustic crew of wanderers, an alien with telepathic powers and even a bit of romance. The tale’s end doesn’t go exactly where you’d expect, and that makes it all the more interesting.
In Druid’s World Adam MacBride is the stiff backbone of a sprawling empire, his Empress is smart but acts dumb, her lover scorns MacBride openly. When the novel begins MacBride has set his mine to retiring home to his fjords and his three wives and only an imminent threat to his beloved fleet and his unwarranted loyalty to his Empire keep him from returning home immediately. This novel is jammed to the rafters with swashbuckling action, ship-to-ship broadsides, many volleys of grapeshot, at least two rebellions and sickle wielding druids. What’s not to love? All these elements swirl about in a swift but realtively simple plot. I love the way this book was written, it’s small but denser than a neutron star. My guess, George H. Smith had just finished reading a stack of history books before sitting down to write this rollicking hodge-podge of science fiction, pre-Roman religion, and 18th century Imperialism. Druid’s World is a scattered but worthy listen – the kind of pulpy material you can crave on dark winter evenings. Druid’s World could happily sit on your audiobook shelf between The Green Odyssey and Star Surgeon. Druid’s World was the first book in Smith’s “Annwn” series and was first published in 1967.
The Day The World Stopped is set in 2020. In it the United States and “Red China” are deep into a new cold war when the testing of some super-weapons that can automate human destruction on an unprecedented scale are nearing the cusp of completion. This tale feels like a combination of The Manchurian Cantidate and The Day The Earth Stood Still. Clearly the worst of the three tales collected in A Galaxy Trilogy I’m sad to say The Day The World Stopped is weighed down by too much hokey dialogue, not enough thought given to pacing or plotting and a “deus ex-machina” ending that makes it feel like a bad Hollywood version of itself. First published in 1968 it was written at the beginning of the tail end of Coblentz’s writing career.
Narrator Tom Weiner lends a gravitas to all three novels, The Day The World Stopped needed it the most, given its weighty dialogue and scene after scene of back-room politics there was dozens of voices to work. The “Omegriconians” especially spoke English with a strange accent, Weiner does his best with it, to little avail. In Druid’s World the admiral MacBride character predominates the thoughts and dialogue of most of the novel. This works out well, Weiner’s got range but his natural growl fits just this kind of character. Star Ways has several strong characters all of which are distinctly rendered. Overall Weiner’s narrative authority elevates what really are three unremarkable pulp adventures into a worthy package.
Posted by Jesse Willis