Category Archives: Harry Harrison

Free Science Fiction Nook, Kindle Gems: Planet of the Damned

Review By KEN KORCZAK

The prolific SF writer Gordon Dickson was called the “Book Doctor” because he was so good at advising other writers on how to make their books riveting page turners. His advice was that a great SF book should have the sound of a metaphoric ticking bomb that could go off at any time, and that the reader should start hearing that ticking on the first page.

In HARRY HARRISON’S pulp offering “Planet of the Damned” the bombs are not metaphors, but literally part of the plot — in this case, a cache of nuclear cobalt bombs in the hands of a planet occupied by the worst kind of violent, savage “cave men” you can imagine. How did such a bunch of primitive grunts get their hands on nuclear weapons, and how do they have the ability to drop them on the neighboring planet in their solar system? Well, like all clever SF writers — and Harrison is among the most clever — he finds a way to make this scenario at least plausible

The savages on the planet Dis want to drop their bombs on the planet Nyjord, populated by a gentle race of passivist philosophers. Only one man stands in the way of this nefarious plot — the incredible Brion Brandd — a super Olympian-style athlete — who finds himself an unlikely draftee to lead the effort to avert the nuclear annihilation of Nyjord. Brandd is not just a jock — he’s incredibly smart, and an empath to boot.

Anyone judging this short novel today must do so keeping in mind that it does not pretend to be anything which it is not — it’s a classic pulp fiction offering, first appearing in Analog SF magazine in 1962. Fast books with a hot premise like this were the bread and butter of pulp-era writers such as Harrison, and he was among the best in delivering genre fiction of this sort, and doing a credible job.

So it’s not great literature, it may not even be stellar science fiction, but it is what it is: A fast-paced, intelligent thrill-novel set in the far future and outer space. Harrison knows his science well, and gives the reader a lesson in exobiology that is interesting and educating, without stalling the plot. That’s no easy task!

Download this free science fiction ebook here: PLANET OF THE DAMNED

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA

Forgotten Books Rediscovered: Here’s a Gem For you — “Captive Universe”


Review By KEN KORCZAK

A used book store was having a sale, offering all the paperbacks you could stuff into a plastic grocery bag for 25 cents. I loaded up my bag, plunked down a quarter, and went home to sift through my haul.

Among the musty paperbacks was this book, “Captive Universe,” by HARRY HARRISON. Previously the only other Harrison book I had read was his “Make Room! Make Room!” which became the movie “Soylent Green.” Anyway, I was expecting that, you know, pulp fiction “B Novel” experience, but as the pages turned, I realized that here was book of more depth and intelligence, and masterfully crafted.

I can’t give away a primary element of the book and thus spoil the premise, but it involves a troubled young Aztec boy, Chimal, who is aliented from his society. He has the terrible feeling something is wrong with life in the ancient Aztec world. Yes, it’s ruled be despotic rulers, there are monsters and superstition, but something more insidious is amiss. Our hero attempts an escape from his valley to find answers and a better life — and what he finds is mind boggling.

When Chimal uncovers the truth, well, what we have is just amazing science fiction fun.

I wish more of today’s books were tightly written like this compact novel. My old paperback is 160 pages of tiny print. It’s a 1969 copyright edition issued by Berkley Publishing. It seems that today’s publishers are trying to sell books by the pound. They think that if a person is going to cough up $9 for a paperback, they want something with 700 pages, with some heft to it. But the result is a lot of egregiously overwritten books filled with dead weight print, pages that one can skim and still pick up enough of the flow to get through the book. But the penalty is flabby books that are bulky, without punch and over written.

Do youself a favor and get a copy of “Captive Universe” for a short, punchy science fiction experience like it was meant to be — a gift from the Golden Age of science fiction. “Captive Universe” is an obscure diamond waiting for you to enjoy its sparkle.

Ken Korczak is the author of: MINNESOTA PARANORMALA