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


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

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