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The Wanderer Paperback – December 1, 1964
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A network of beacons allows ships to travel across the Milky Way at beyond the speed of light. The beacons are built to be robust. They never fail. At least, they aren't supposed to. Learn more
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However, other factors act against the novel's success. There are far too many characters and many of them are handled in such sketchy fashion that not even Leiber seems interested in them. For example, the high jacking of an ocean-liner, which could have generated some genuine excitement, is instead summarized in flat declarative sentences in a couple of paragraphs. In addition, I don't want to give away the ultimate nature and purpose of the Wanderer, so suffice it to say that by the time one of our heroes became involved in a love affair with a green-furred cat woman from outer space, certain plot elements had turned decisively away from the hard-SF depiction of global tragedy that I had begun to enjoy. Finally, the dialogue and relationships among the characters has become terribly dated. I know that it's not fair to expect an author to anticipate what will make his story seem stale forty years later; nevertheless, it does remain a distraction and an obstacle to complete enjoyment.
I'll be looking at all my future purchases carefully to make sure they are not e-reads editions.
There are perhaps two dozen characters in the book, scattered all over the world (the "multiple viewpoint" approach). Many of them in the course of their conversations mention the names of real-world science-fiction authors (Heinlein, Wells, Clarke, Burroughs, etc.) as if those sci-fi authors are universally regarded as authoritative celebrities and are guiding philosophers for humanity. Why did Leiber do that? Was he intentionally sucking up to his peers? Trying to elevate his field? That was a poor device to include in a work of fiction. The effect is to remind the reader, "Don't forget, you are reading a science-fiction novel right now."
When the feline alien gave her big speech about the need to rebel from authority in order to live life to its fullest, it was as if Leiber were reaffirming (sucking up) to the youth of the 60's and telling them they are correct in their rebellious urges. But at the same time, he depicted the human teenagers in the book as wild, drunken savages bent on destruction and menacing society. Mixed message? There is also a parallel between the second visiting planet (described as the "police") and the human police on Earth who are engaged in battle with the rioting teens.
I didn't like the extreme coincidence that the one person the cat-alien snagged from the Earth's surface was also the friend and colleague of the astronaut who was pulled from the moon, and both happened to be romantic interests of the female protagonist who was carrying the vital spacegun to the Earth authorities. I hate it when authors get lazy with coincidences like that.Read more ›
The characters are colorful enough, all met on the eve of a lunar eclipse. They include a group of "saucer students", an American astronaut on a lunar base, a man sailing solo across the Atlantic, a has-been actor on a mission to bomb the Presidential Palace of Nicaragua, a sex-crazed couple in New York out to compose a musical, a couple of poets in the UK, a would-be treasure hunter off the seas of Vietnam, a captain ferrying fascists on an atomic-powered liner en route to a coup in Brazil, a science fiction fan who falls in with a dying millionaire, and a German scientist who absolutely will not accept any evidence of the apocalypse apart from his own instruments. The Black Dahlia killer just may put in an appearance too. They are all interesting, colorful, their segments generally at the right length.
The plot? After a lunar eclipse, another big object appears in the sky, the moon starts to get ripped apart, and massive tidal devastation - along with volcanic eruptions and earthquakes - is caused by that object. The first hundred pages mysteriously dragged for me, though.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I’ve read my fair share of old science fiction. (By old here, I generally mean things written before 1980.) I acknowledge this line is relatively arbitrary, but so am I. Read morePublished 11 months ago by Wombat the Bookworm
This is one of those books I discovered through Sci Fi book-of-the-month club, and I have to say I was non-plussed. Read morePublished 13 months ago by Michael Mueller
Fritz Leiber is known for Fantasy, both Swords and Sorcery and Urban Fantasy (a genre he practically invented), but The Wanderer is a mixture of disaster/apocalypse and first... Read morePublished 17 months ago by Michael Dea
A new planet appears in Earth orbit, and turns out to be a spaceship from a mature Type III (almost a "Type IV") civilization. Read morePublished on June 13, 2013 by firstname.lastname@example.org
What a letdown. Seriously. The little Penguin Books penguin on the spine of this book should be covered with a black tape.
And I like Fritz Leiber. Read more
Fritz Leiber's notion of a planet-sized visitor (the "Wanderer") to the Earth had huge potential but falls flat. Read morePublished on August 31, 2010 by zdevil
This is a great..no, a FANTASTIC story, with a deep philosophical issue behind its cosmic disaster theme: the conflict between any society's quest for perfection, and the... Read morePublished on July 27, 2010 by Ulf Claesson
I guess I am not a fan of Fritz Leiber's writing. I first tried reading "The Big Time", but could not finish it (only made it a third of the way through the book). Read morePublished on March 16, 2010 by Neil Kiser
Always a master of the language, Leiber, author of the "Grey Mouser" stories, won a Hugo for this quintessential disaster novel when it first appeared in 1964. Read morePublished on September 8, 2008 by Michael K. Smith