Archive for Robert Randall

Review: The Shrouded Planet & The Dawning Light

Posted in 1957, 1959, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , , , , on June 6, 2009 by Aaron

Robert Randall (Robert Silverberg & Randall Garrett)
1957 & 1959

I’ve been looking forward to reading these two books ever since I picked up The Dawning Light from Joe back in November (December?) last year.  Just like the Close Up for these two books, this will be a double-header review.  Both these books by Robert Randall are the joint work of two authors – Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett.  Garrett was an experienced contributor to pulp magazines and several years older than Silverberg, and acted as a kind of mentor to the younger writer.

These two books together represent one almost seamless and continuous story despite their origins as pulp fare.   ‘Planet’ was originally published in three separate parts in Astounding Science Fiction during 1956.  For the Gnome Press hardback release in ’57, linking chapters were added to aid the flow in novel form.  Something, incidentally, that was desperately needed for The Philosophical Corps, so desperately in fact that their absence effectively destroyed what could have been a much better book… but I digress.  ‘Light’ was likewise release over three consecutive months in 1957 in the same magazine. The linking chapters work very well in these books, so well that you wouldn’t know unless you… knew.

Wikipedia goes into quite a bit of detail regarding the plots of these two books (‘Planet’ here, ‘Light’ here) and has a substantial reference regarding the planet Nidor where the books are set.  However, if you want to really enjoy these books, I recommend not reading them (the wikipedia entries, I mean) if you can at all help it.  I somehow managed to studiously avoid all this information until after I completed the tales, and my reading experience was, I think, all the better for it.

So, what was the reading experience??  I’m not going to go into detail, I’m just going to gloss over the basic structure so you can enjoy it the way I did.  The biggest strength of the story is that we never find out what the real motivations of the Earthmen are until the very end.  I found myself swinging one way or the other with regards to whether they were benign or not.  But let’s back up a bit.  The planet Nidor orbits a very bright star and is perpetually covered in cloud.  Indeed, the Nidorians have never actually seen their sun, or even the sky for that matter.  This brings to mind the Murray Leinster’s The Forgotten Planet which I read recently.  In another parallel with that book, nightly rains are a by-product of all that cloud.  Since a great cataclysm some four thousand years ago, the Nidorians have lived in a static society structured around the worship of ‘The Great Light’, their sun.  Everything is in balance from the planet’s ecology, to the economy, to leadership by the oldest members sixteen tribes.  This living, yet petrified civilization is what’s alluded to by the title of the first book.  It certainly is a ‘shrouded’ or ‘mummified’ planet.  Well, it is until the Earthmen arrive and playing on being emissaries of The Great Light, shake things up a bit.

If the title of the first book gives you an indication of what the planet is like, the second title does too.

I’ve decided that I can’t comment how I want here without giving too much away, and if you haven’t read these books then I don’t want to spoil it.  The exact motivations of our brethren in the future really are skillfully witheld until the end, and in such a way that I couldn’t make a confident guess as to what they might be.  Suffice to say that there is a lot of scope for different interpretations and comment on the motivations for intervention/nonintervention in foreign (and not necessarily off-world) cultures.

The authors have created a very believable world here populated by interesting characters.  The writing is excellent and the story well paced and engaging.  I thoroughly recommend it.  The only negative aspect that is worth comment is that the revelations at the end are too hastily resolved.  Upon reflection, I think this may be a by-product of the pulp origins of the story.  Each book was published in three parts so the sixth and final installment had to provide a satisfactory conclusion as well as being reasonably self-contained in the confines of a short story.  If they went to the trouble of penning linking chapters, also fleshing out the ending to be more suitable for one long novel (which these two books essentially are) would have been a good idea.

One thing that many stories of this vintage suffer from is the curse of the outdated technology.  Not so here.  Because all of the action takes place on Nidor where the technology is relatively primitive to that contemporary to the time of writing, there isn’t much danger of attempting to describe stuff that seems odd or flat out nonsense to the modern reader.  One of the reasons why the tale holds it’s own very well today.

This is a very entertaining and satisfying read that despite being a little too quickly wrapped up at the end, I think any SF fan will enjoy.

Advertisements

Close Up: The Shrouded Planet & The Dawning Light

Posted in 1957, 1959, Close Up, Comparisons with tags , , , , , , on May 30, 2009 by Aaron

closeupRobert Randall (Robert Silverberg & Randall Garrett)
1957 & 1959

I’m doing something a little different for this Close Up. Since these two books are effectively one continuous story, we’ll examine them together.  Looking at the two together illustrates something immediately.  It illustrates one of the things I wish never happened.  One of the things I struggle to understand.  One of the things I find disappointing about Gnome Press.  This: Why did the cover art go from wonderful, colorful, imaginative and descriptive, to… crap??  I suspect there are several answers to this question, and I’ll attempt to address this issue in it’s own post sometime.  For the meantime, we can see what I’m talking about here.

On the left, nice art, attractive, makes me interested.  On the right… not.

I usually give you bigger pics to enjoy, but I’m trying to put them side-by-side on this occasion.  If you want to see in more detail, just click the image and it’ll open the appropriate page on  the Gnome Press Flickr site.

Both books are very similar in condition.  They look good from a distance, but up close not so much.  We’ll have a closer look at this later.  Let’s take the jackets off.

‘Planet’ is in a little better condition here.  ‘Light’ has a bit of spotting on the boards.  Looking at the top we can see the usual darkening of the block.

‘Planet’ is a bit ahead here too.  It’s difficult to tell from these pics, but time has been a little kinder to ‘Planet’s’ text block.

You can also see that ‘Light’ isn’t quite sitting flat.  This is because I photographed it just after putting a dust jacket cover on.  I took the pics of ‘Planet’ prior to doing so.  The spine is a little more secure on ‘Planet’, you can see a slight lean there on ‘Light’ though that is exaggerated by the Brodart cover.

The difference in the darkening on the block is a bit more evident here.  The jacket on ‘Planet’ is a little worn on all extremities.

Though the jacket on ‘Planet’ is a little worn, ‘Light is in pretty good condition around the edges.  However, if you look closely at ‘Planet’ you can see an issue that both jackets share and is also quite serious on both.  Foxing.  Let’s have a closer look at portions of the jacket now.

You can see it prominently now, especially if you check out the larger pics.  I didn’t take a pic of the inner side of the jackets, but it is worse there.  Very noticeable on the endpapers too.

‘Planet’ is obviously suffering less in this regard and ‘Light’ does have issues as you can see.  Check out a previous owner’s embossed stamping there on ‘Planet’, which also has another owner’s stamp on the front paste-down.

You also get a good view of the extent of the foxing on the dust jacket.  It’s evident all over, but this is about the worst spot on the book.

I mentioned both books have the typical Gnome block browning and ‘Light’ is the worst off.

Almost in the same league as the copy of The Survivors I have.  The back of each book is quite nice and rip/wear free, the foxing is the big turn-off.  If it wasn’t for this endemic problem on these two books, their grade would be VG to NF.

Alas, this issue relegated both of these copies down to G I think.  It’s a shame, as otherwise they are both in great condition.

The Shrouded Planet
Year: 1957
Paid: $23
Art: Wallace Wood
Quantity: 5000 copies (2038 remaindered)
Binding: Navy blue boards with sky blue lettering on spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Text block darkening and foxing on an otherwise nice copy.  Two previous owners stamps.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

The Dawning Light
Year: 1959
Paid: $29
Art: W.I. Van der Poel
Quantity: 5000 copies (1530 remaindered)
Binding: Navy boards with red spine lettering.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated.
Comments: Significant block darkening and foxing on an otherwise nice copy.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

These two books to my mind are in exactly the same condition.

condition

A little news…

Posted in Audio Books with tags , , , , , , , on May 28, 2009 by Aaron

I finished The Shrouded Planet last night and went straight on to it’s sequel, The Dawning Light.  I’m gonna do a double header Close Up and likewise for the Review.  Should be interesting.  So far, I’m enjoying the story very much.  It’s building nicely in a well constructed world.

I visited Librivox.org last night to check it out.  I posted about it a while ago, but they have a few free audio books from Gnome Press authors.  There is only one Gnome Press book – Plague Ship by Andrew North (Andre Norton).  I’ll read the book before listening to that, but I downloaded Murray Leinster‘s Space Tug, which I’m listening to at the moment.  Starman’s Quest is currently a project at Librivox, I signed up to be notified when it’s done.  I’m looking forward to that.  I’ve often toyed with the idea of doing some of the Gnome stuff for audio.  But I don’t have a clue how to determine what is in the public domain, and what isn’t.

There has been very little of interest come up on eBay lately.  Things are a little slow.

On, to a new book…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on May 20, 2009 by Aaron

I’ve started reading Robert Randall‘s The Shrouded Planet.  I think I will do a ‘double-header’ or ‘side-by-side’ style Close Up and a single large Review for that and The Dawning Light, it’s sequel.  Could be interesting.

I’m currently working on the Review for ‘Men Against the Stars’.  I’ve grudgingly come to the conclusion that I don’t (or can’t) really do a classic ‘review’, my results are often more like a synopsis with a bit of opinion thrown in.  But that’s ok.  I try to avoid giving too much away while still giving you an idea of what it’s all about and perhaps whether you would enjoy it or not.