Sunday, February 13, 2005

A Lab may be fun, but an Alien is better: Raymond F. Jones Son of the Stars (Philadelphia: John Winston Company1952).

The book comes with a rather touching preamble is a dedication to backyard scientists, kids who experiment in their back yard:

“Fortunately, that great wonder is in most of is, in the beginning at least. Unfortunately, it survives in only a few of us. In the fury of living, a sunset becomes just a sunset, and seeds and leaves a nuisance to be raked and burned.” (vi) – this might make a nice epigram for the book.

The oddity is that the book fails to represent the prologue.

Bob, an amateur meteor hunter, finds a crashed space ship and rescues the only survivor who is brown with six fingers on each hand. The brown skin turns out to be an injury so eventually we have a white guy, a bit taller and stronger than the average, with an extra couple of digits.

The book is about the struggle of the military for control, and their nasty suspicious minds, and Bob and his girlfriend Anne who want to protect this adolescent from the stars whose father and brother have been killed. In the end Bob and Anne help Clonar get in touch with his race who turn out to want to destroy Earth after all, and they believe (and this is never contradicted) that Earth shot down the ship. Clonar talks them out of it, and the Earth military let him go.

What the book does best is to demonstrate how easily we disregard the rights of others. There is a lot of discussion between the honourable military man about the necessity of his suspicions in the name of the rights that—as Bob and Ann point out—he is denying Clonar. And a note for Karen Traviss: the first thing the military do, even though they know that some of the dead are Clonar’s relatives, is to pickle and dissect them.

But the book never really takes off as more than the sketchiest sf. There is no discussion of science, and the moral problem presented would apply as well if Clonar had been a stranded Soviet sailor.


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