I finished Invaders of Space in one day with about 20 pages left over to help me make it through the RNC last night. Since Labor day it takes me an hour or more on the bus each morning and about an hour on the way back, so I am finishing the books faster. I received another 100 books from eBay Tuesday night, I am SF rich, at least until around Christmas.
First off, the title Invaders of Space is misleading. There are no invaders. I imagine that the title was changed by some editor to make it sound more like a Man vs. Alien story. This is a very typical space yarn by Murray Leinster. It is about 65,000 words and a nice relaxed read.
Murray Leinster is the very essence of Science Fiction. When you look up Science Fiction in the dictionary you should see a picture of Murray Leinster. He wrote hundreds of stories for all of the Golden Age magazines and dozens of books. You can see some of the wonderful vintage Leinster book covers at http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/ml_gallery.html.
Invaders of Space is an adventure story complete with alien life forms on a remote planet and space pirates. I love space pirates, there should be a magazine devoted to space pirate stories.
The protagonist is the conventional well educated engineer type which is the standard for golden age fiction. These reasonable, analytic and logical white male protagonists are probably the chief flaw of the golden age of science fiction. The editors and target audience of the era were well educated engineering types and the fiction of the time reflects this. I can see why women, especially, have a problem with golden age fiction and even I, a reasonable, analytic and logical white male, find this type of protagonist a little tiring.
The plot is about an engineer who is waiting for his fiance at a space port. A ship with old engines comes in for a landing badly in need of repairs. The engineer, who happens to be a specialist in space ship engines, gives some advice. He is immediately shanghaied and forced to repair the engines. The ship is manned by space pirates and the ship they want to pirate is the one with the engineer’s fiance on it.
The plot moves forward with interesting twists and turns and the engineer manages to save the day, not by any technical feats, but by psychologically manipulating the pirates. It makes for an interesting plot.
On the plus side, the ingenuity of the engineer and the totally unexpected and interesting way in which he controls the crew makes for a unique plot. The planet where they are stranded has some interesting flora and fauna, but perhaps not that unexpected in a science fiction novel. The character of the pirate captain is truly nasty, although this is not really pursued. There is an alcoholic ships engineer, that is less interesting and more of a caricature.
On the negative side, the character of the fiance has only a few lines of dialog, no part on the plot other than a prop and is never actually described, although she is present in many of the scenes in the last part of the book. It is almost as though a woman has no place in science fiction. I don’t know why Leinster did this. The plot would have been much more interesting if the engineer’s future wife and the main reason that he was in all this trouble, could have had an important role in the book. Strong women dominated the movies in the 40s and 50s. Strong complex women characters were included in other fiction genres like detective fiction and even some westerns during this time. Why is it that SF seems to exclude women as being anything other than objects?
I love Golden Age SF. It annoys me to have to defend it against charges of sexism, especially when one of my favorite authors has written a book that is seriously flawed by what can only be seen as a sexist viewpoint.
There are at least 4 more Murray Leinster books that I have never read in the boxes out on the porch. I will be reading them soon.
Currently reading Hal Clement – Cycle of Fire.
(I am considering moving these little reviews to another blog. I am sure that no one who reads my blog really minds them, but these entries take up a lot of room. Let me know if you care one way or the other.)