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Ralph 124C 41+: A Romance of the Year 2660 (Bison Frontiers of Imagination) Paperback – September 1, 2000

3.6 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Students of early science fiction will welcome the University of Nebraska Press's series Bison Frontiers of Imagination."—Times Literary Supplement
(Times Literary Supplement)

From the Back Cover

By the year 2660, science has transformed and conquered the world, rescuing humanity from itself. Spectacular inventions from the farthest reaches of space and deep beneath the earth are available to meet every need, providing antidotes to individual troubles and social ills. Inventors are highly prized and respected, and they are jealously protected and lavishly cared for by world governments. That support and acclaim, however -- as the most brilliant of scientists, Ralph 124C 41+, discovers -- is not without its price.

This visionary novel of the twenty-seventh century was written by Hugo Gernsback (1887-1964), founder of the influential magazine Amazing Stories. Marvelously prophetic and creative, Ralph 124C 41+ celebrates technological advances and entrances readers with an exuberant, unforgettable vision of what our world might become. This commemorative edition makes this landmark tale widely available for the first time in decades and features the prized Frank R. Paul illustrations from the rare first edition, a list of inventions and technological devices, and Hugo Gernsback's prefaces to the first and second editions.

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Product Details

  • Series: Bison Frontiers of Imagination
  • Paperback: 322 pages
  • Publisher: Bison Books (September 1, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0803270984
  • ISBN-13: 978-0803270985
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.8 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,439,341 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This is the seminal work in sci-fi by the man who's editing direction shaped the modern genre, Hugo Gernsback, the guy they named the Hugo Awards after.
A future where everyone wears electric roller skates, has a number instead of a last name and cities have moving side walks... One of theose travelogues of the future extrapolated by a writer from the very beginings of the pulp era. The gadgetry seems almost Victorian, the philosophy seems dated, yet somehow you'll never forget this book.
I read this book in the early 60's and it was already very quaint and dated even back then. But somehow I've never forgotten it and parts of this book come to mind even now almost 40 years later. If you've ever seen the 1930 film "Just Imagine," then this is the literary equivalant.
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I came across this title in the usual way: surfing for something almost, but not quite related. I knew of Gernsback's publications. And I'm quite familiar with the SF award that bears his first name. But it never dawned on me that the man actually wrote SF himself. I had to read this obvious classic.

Only knowing a glimmer of the book's contents, I jumped in. Fully expecting stuff so "left field" from today's technology, I was quite surprised with Gernsback's predictions. A few of them are fairly accurate, and at least one is square on target. And winding through it all is a darling, innocent love story to boot. It reads as good as any Jules Verne, or H.G. Welles story!

Don't let either the title or it's author scare you off from reading this. You'll be glad you did!
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If you were to take away the historical context of this book, and treat it as a pure piece of science fiction, it would be a poor purchase, two stars at best. Plot seems contrived at times, and overly romantic. (Perhaps because the book wasn't actually a book but orginally published as many installments of magazine story.) There are phrases that read awkward, whether due to the age or lack of focus on literature I don't know. Having said that, I still give it four-stars, and there is a reason why science fiction achievement award is named after Hugo Gernsback.

This book is widely considered the first science fiction and Hugo credited with creation of the term 'science fiction.'

It is a must read for serious fans of science fiction. But for casual readers, you'd be glad modern SF is leaps and bounds more interesting. (Then again, who knows what people will say a hundred years from now about Star Wars?)
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Hugo Gernsback was a brilliant man. But, he was not a great writer. He was also off in his predictions of the future, but no matter. This book was written in a style of utopian novel then current in literature: a future hero explains all of the wonders surrounding him to the reader with exclamation points ending every sentence (or so it seems). In any case, this is an example of a book important to the field of science fiction, but hard to convince anyone to read today. I suggest reading it for its historical importance; it's why I love it. Certainly it isn't because it's great prose.
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Hugo Gernsback (SF's "Hugo" awards are named for him) wrote this in 1911, so a big part of its value comes from campy quaintness. Set in the year 2660, everything is grander and more glorious than what we poor slobs of centuries 20-21 could possibly imagine - something that Ralph points out with remarkable frequency. The story itself has lagged the times, a formulaic romance of accidents, kidnappings, and heroic saves.

Many parts of this hundred-year-old story are decidedly dated, not least the references to the "ether" that carries light waves. Some just look silly to a modern eye, including the broadcast power distribution (sort of like a live-in microwave oven), electric roller skates, or restaurant that serves only liquid food, pumped through pipes to patrons turned off by the idea of chewing. And the daily disinfections, killing off all bacteria in the body, look positively pernicious, now that we know more about the importance of our symbiotic microbes.

A few points are strikingly prescient, though. Cable video might have been the obvious next thing, once telephonic voice transmission was common. Gernsback went even farther and predicted "video walls" tiled from many smaller video panels, and even channel surfing, albeit with patch-cord panels rather than typed URLs.

Read this if you want a quaintly futuristic, doubly-anacronistic romp, a shallow space opera, or an interesting artifact from the start of the last century. If you're looking for light, contemporary fiction, look onward. This is probably best for the hard-core SF fan or for the historian of technology trying to understand the social context of the time. The right reader will find a lot to enjoy, but it's not for everyone.

-- wiredweird
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