Top positive review
133 people found this helpful
Before you buy this...
on March 14, 2004
Before you buy "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell Jr., you should first consider "A New Dawn: The Complete Don A. Stuart Stories" by the same author. It contains all the works of short fiction that are in this book, and it includes 9 more, as well as two articles. The price of "A New Dawn..." is just a little more than the cost of this book. As for this printing of "Who Goes There?", it is well put together; the binding and paper are high quality. They could have done a better job in proofreading though, as there are several places where there are missing letters, or spaces that appear in the middle of a word. It does not occur so often as to make it a big problem, but I found it to be noticeable.
This printing, from Buccaneer Books, is a reprint of the 1948 book of the same name. It contains seven short fiction pieces originally published in "Astounding Science Fiction" between November of 1934, and August of 1938. They were originally published under the pseudonym Don A. Stuart. This collection was tied for 13th with four other books on the Arkham Survey in 1949 as one of the 'Basic SF Titles'. In addition, on the 'Astounding/Analog All-Time - Book' polls in 1952 and 1956 it was rated 5th and tied for 13th respectively.
John W. Campbell (1910-1971) was undoubtedly best known as the editor of "Astounding Science Fiction" from 1937-1971, but he also wrote quite a few books and short fiction pieces along the way. This collection includes perhaps his best known stories: "Who Goes There?", "Twilight", and "Night".
"Who Goes There?" is the classic story of a group of scientists in Antarctica who discover an alien who was frozen there millions of years ago. The "Thing" revives when thawed, and due to telepathy and the ability to take other shapes it replaces members of the group as well as their animals without being easily detected by the remaining humans. Fear and paranoia spread through the outpost as the remaining humans try to wipe out the aliens before they are able to escape out into the rest of the world. There were two films based on this story: "The Thing From Another World" (1951), and "The Thing" (1982). The story was first published in "Astounding" in August of 1938, and is probably Campbell's best known work. The story was tied for 6th on the 'Locus All-Time Poll - Novella' in 1999. It tied for 1st (with Twilight) on the 'Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll - Pre-1940 Short Fiction' in 1971, and was 26th overall for Short Fiction regardless of year. This story works as well today as ever.
"Blindness" was first published in March of 1935. It is the story of a scientist who wants to leave a legacy by solving man's energy problems by discovering how to produce atomic energy. He determines that to solve the problems he has encountered in his research, he needs to examine the Sun more closely. He works through the problems of getting a spaceship close enough to the sun for his research, and he and his assistant spend over 3 years in isolation studying the Sun before he finally finds a solution. This story does suffer from its age, but putting aside the historical and scientific problems, the story still delivers its message. There is more than one kind of blindness.
"Frictional Losses" was published in July of 1936. It is the story set in a post-apocalyptic Earth, where an old man tries to keep civilization and technology alive. Humans were nearly wiped out by an alien invasion, and there is rumored to be a second expedition of aliens coming. Old Hugh, spends his time searching through ruined cities for old tubes, pieces of metal, whatever he can find to keep his radio transmitter working and keep communications alive between the few outposts of humanity that still have the technology. He accidentally makes a discovery that could save the human race. This story is a bit dated as well, but not too bad.
"Dead Knowledge" was published in January of 1938. Three human explorers to another world find that all the inhabitants have killed themselves. They are unable to determine the reason why, as they cannot decipher the alien culture's written language. When one member of the crew commits suicide, the other two fear that he learned the secret of what drove the inhabitants of the planet to suicide, and that they too are all doomed to the same fate.
"Elimination" was published in June of 1936. A patent attorney tries to explain to a close friend's son why a fantastic invention would be better forgotten. He relates the story of the greatest invention in the history of man, which ultimately destroyed its inventors and could never be used. The premise for this story is definitely contrived, and it doesn't work well. However, the story related within the story is quite well done, and that makes this an enjoyable read.
"Twilight" was the first piece in this collection to appear in "Astounding", published in November of 1934. It finished tied for 1st (with "Who Goes There?") on the 'Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll - Pre-1940 Short Fiction' in 1971, and 21st overall for Short Fiction of any era. It is a story related third hand, about an experimenter who is sent forward 7 million years in time after an accident. He has returned to "modern day" (1934) in an attempt to get back to his own era. He relates to a man who gives him a ride the tail of his adventure where he witnessed the twilight of humanity.
"Night" is the sequel to "Twilight", and was published in "Astounding" in October of 1935. It was rated 5th on the 'Astounding/Analog All-Time Poll - Pre-1940 Short Fiction' in 1971. In this sequel, an experimenter in current times (1935), gets sent far forward to the future, he relates his adventure when he returns. The future he witnesses is the "night" to the previous story's "twilight", after man has disappeared, and only machines remain at the death of the universe.