Archive for Sixth Column


Posted in Comparisons with tags , , on April 2, 2009 by Aaron

Christophe, my Gnome collecting friend from France send us pic of the French edition of Sixth Column.  I’ll let him fill us in:

…a pic of the French edition for Sixth Column (a softcover with dj). It’s interesting because it was published in 1951 which makes it one of the first SF books published in France.  It was released in a detective fiction collection and was – as far as I know- the first attempt for a mainstream publisher to publish a series of SF books. They also released Death’s Deputy by Hubbard and…stopped there.

Good stuff, we can compare the two covers below.


You can see a couple of flat-faced monkeys getting the death-ray treatment there from a Priest of Mota.  Sterling use of the Ledbetter Effect.  Check out the Review if you aren’t sure what I’m talking about.

In addition, I mentioned a few days ago about him having a book with the same book plate as I have in one of mine.  He sent me a pic of that as well.


Mine is on the left, out of my copy of The Survivors by Tom Godwin.  Christophe’s comes out of Robert Randall’s The Dawning Light.  I know, I know… for all you know I could be pulling a fast one and they both could be out of the same book.  Well, I can assure you they aren’t.    It’s a small world in Gnome Press collecting circles.


I envy those…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , on March 31, 2009 by Aaron

…who can think, organize those thoughts and express them coherently in writing.  I just discovered another very interesting blog by one James Wallace Harris: Auxiliary Memory.  Along with (one of) his companion site(s) The Classics of Science Fiction, these represent all that is good in SF.  Sharp and insightful analysis expressed in a logical and eminently digestible way.  I’m going to nab a term from my good friend Adrian the Sesquipedaustralian, and refer to myself as “a crackpot wordsmith with a poor grasp of what constitutes good narrative structure or flow.”  Or probably more accurately I have the ability to painstakingly add bare coherence to a stream-of-consciousness rant that flows like molasses.

Anyway, it’s well worth checking out James W. Harris – I put him over in the links section on the right.  Some great reading there.

In other news, I scored a near mint copy of The Thirty-First of February by Nelson Bond.  Well, the seller described it as such.  We’ll see when it arrives.  A dust jacket for Sixth Column, which I recently reviewed, went for $56 on eBay yesterday, an inferior dj to what’s on my copy too.  Interesting.  Also, my Gnome collecting friend Christophe discovered that he has a book plate in his copy of The Dawning Light.  Not especially interesting, apart from the fact that it’s from the same personal library as my copy of The Survivors!!  How about that??  If he sends me a pic, I’ll post it.

I’ve been mulling over how to handle the review for The Complete Book of Outer Space.  It’s a fiction book, or really a combination of fiction and speculation.  The content doesn’t really lend itself well to a conventional review, so I think what I’ll do is pull a page or two from the book every so often.  There is some interesting stuff in there, especially about how they imagined space travel and exploration.  Remember, this came from the viewpoint of 1953.

This has been too long with no pretty pictures.  Here’s a sample from ‘Outer Space’

Review: Sixth Column

Posted in 1949, 3:Lunar, Review with tags , on March 31, 2009 by Aaron

Robert Heinlein

I think I mentioned elsewhere that I love reading early Heinlein.  I do.  There is nothing complex about his writing.  It’s very simple; the dialogue is simple, the plots are straightforward and the ideas are not challenging.  These are the reasons I could enjoy books like Starman Jones and Farmer in the Sky so much when I was 10 years old.  How fond are the memories of going to the Napier Public Library after school to pick up another Heinlein story, or another science fiction adventure from Hugh Walters.  Yet underneath the stories and adventures with which Robert Heinlein captivated my young mind, bigger ideas were waiting; social commentary and (sometimes harsh) critique of institutions such as religion and government.  Ideas that wouldn’t bring themselves to the fore until I was older and (somewhat) wiser.  Of course, in Heinlein’s juvenile novels, the protagonists were about my age back then and I could readily identify with the issues and feelings that they often had to overcome.

This book is not a juvenile novel (it lacks a young character for a start) but it reads like one:  Invading bad guys.  The last outpost of hope.  Wondrous secret technology.  The simplicity of it all as I alluded to earlier.  The content is a little more mature, however.  The characters don’t turn a hair at killing, and killing masses of people at that.  Indeed, one individual’s execution is described quite graphically.  These things are certainly out of bounds in Heinlein’s juvenile fare.

The US has been invaded and defeated by the ‘PanAsians’.  It’s not made specific who the PanAsians actually are, but I assumed them to be a bloc of countries including the likes of Japan, China and Korea.  They are of mongoloid extraction – that at least is made clear.  The military has been utterly wiped out, except for a research group under a mountain in The Rockies somewhere, and they have just all but eliminated themselves via an inadvertently uncontrolled use of the Ledbetter Effect (Dr Ledbetter himself didn’t survive) – a mysterious new force that isn’t fully understood.  This is where we pick up the story.  Our tiny group of heroes recognizes the powerful force they have on their hands and has to somehow utilize it to free America from the domination of the PanAsians.

In the Close Up of this book, I commented on the bizarre cover.  I also said that the cover is quite an accurate description of what is inside.  Our little band decides to set up a religious cult, capitalizing on food shortages and unemployment to attract followers, while assuaging the fears of the PanAsian authorities by dishing out gold coins – gold that is obtained by transmutation (one of the numerous and very handy uses the Ledbetter Effect can be turned to).  Other things are in their favor also, such as the occupiers reluctance to police things such as religious organizations and the worship of Gods.  The great God that is invented in this case is called ‘Mota’ – the reverse spelling of atom.  Under the guise of worshiping Mota, the cult travels freely around the country, and sets up a network of ‘churches’ that waits for the right time to rise up and use the Ledbetter Effect at it’s most devastating.

The Ledbetter Effect is truly a marvelous thing.  Just a little too marvelous to my way of thinking.  Cool looking divine halo; check.  Impenetrable force field; check.  Undetectable communications channels; check.  Transmutation; check.  Tractor and repulsor beams; check.  Fear-inducing subsonics; check.  Disintegrator; check.  Laser-like cutting focus; check.  Release surface tension on cell walls leading to explosive decompression of human bodies; check.  And get this one folks – race-selective death ray; double-check.  The last is especially useful when your country is occupied by a race that are referred to as monkeys, flat-faces, apes, baboons and slanties at various points throughout the book.

Apparently the book generates a bit of controversy regarding the depiction of the PanAsians in this way.  Too rascist or something.  I don’t have a problem with it at all.  To my way of thinking, it fits very well within the context of the book.  I’m sure if anyone was occupying my country, putting people in concentration camps, engaging in genocide and generally being a nuisance, I would think of much worse things to refer to them by.

I’ll leave the considerable scope for social and institutional commentary analysis to others who are smarter than I.  Before I wrap this up, I just want to mention the pacing of the story.  It breezes along at a good pace.  There is never a dull moment and the dialogue heavy exposition that characterizes some of Heinlein’s work is absent.  As I mentioned earlier, this has an RAH juvenile feel, and it all wraps up neatly in the end.

I have two major criticisms of the book.  One is the Ledbetter Effect, it is just too powerful and I struggled to take it seriously even in a science fiction setting.  The other is in a similar vein to one thing I said about Silverberg’s Starman’s Quest.  The end comes too quickly.  Not as quickly as ‘Quest’ but more time should have been taken over unfolding the climax of the story.

A rather obscure work from Mr Heinlein, Sixth Column (retitled as The Day After Tomorrow is some subsequent editions) is good brisk fun from an author who has always been very enjoyable for me to read.

Close Up: Sixth Column

Posted in 1949, Close Up with tags , , on March 27, 2009 by Aaron

closeupRobert Heinlein

Another Heinlein 1st edition.  I just love saying that.  Sixth Column is rather an obscure book in terms of Heinlein.  To me at least anyway – I hadn’t heard of it prior to my Gnome Press awareness.  This isn’t in as good condition as ‘Hoag’ but it’s not too bad.  Actually there are a couple of flaws which I’ll highlight later, but first lets have a look at the cover.  The cover artist is Gnome Press stalwart Edd Cartier and the subtitle proclaims that this is “a science fiction novel of strange intrigue”.  Well, the cover image certainly engenders ‘strange intrigue’ at the very least.  Check it out.

Looks like a couple of refugees from a carnival somewhere.  Bizarre.  Before getting into the story (I’m reading it at the moment) I would have thought that this would bear little relation to what was contained within, as book covers are want to do.  However, much to my mild surprise, it is very appropriate.  But that’s a topic for the review.

You can see on the spine there has been an abrasion of some sort.

Luckily it didn’t break through the dust jacket there.  Must have been a close thing.  The results of this can be seen under the covers.  Actually, the book looks as though it’s taken a few knocks.  Lets get the jacket off and take a peek.

We can see several issues here.  The most prominent of which is the dent on the front.  This is I think connected to the graze I just pointed out.  It looks as though something weighty has been dragged across the book while it has been lying flat before dropping off and grazing down the front of the spine.  You might be able to tell that the book isn’t standing quite straight – the spine is a bit loose.  Cool atom device with the chains on the front board there though.  Nice.

It’s had a bump on the bottom front free corner too.  And somebody has carelessly dropped something on to the back of the book at some stage.

Ouch.  These dings all look worse than they actually are.  I’ve purposely held them at an unflattering angle to the light so as to highlight the dents and things, making them easier to see.

Lets put the wrap back on and zoom in on the spine extremities.

The dust jackets a bit worn, but nothing too serious there.  Actually apart from that abrasion on the spine and the scratch on the back which I’ll point out in a minute, the jacket is good.  No tears to speak of at all.  Some minor rubbing to the bottom edges there.  Lets zoom out now and take in the ends.

Still sits quite square despite the looseness in the spine.  The back is nice, unlike any Gnome book I have thus far.

Looks great.  Nice and clean, the edges of the jacket look great.  But wait, what’s that??  Step closer.

A bit of a scratch there.  Luckily it hasn’t made it all the way through.  To finish on a positive note, I like the gnome astronaut on the back.  Very cool.

Year: 1949
Paid: $180
Art: Edd Cartier
Quantity: 5000 copies
Binding: Black cloth with red lettering to spine with a really cool red atom & chain device on the front.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: The book has survived some close scrapes well – it’s been very lucky by the looks of it. Very clean internally and a great price for a Heinlein 1st edition too.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


And they certainly were…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on March 22, 2009 by Aaron

…survivors.  I finished The Survivors last night.  Great tale.  The review should be up sometime in the next couple of days.  And because I enjoyed reading Heinlein so much recently, I’ve selected Sixth Column as my next read.

Oh… Joy!!

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , , , , , on March 15, 2009 by Aaron

happyjoyFinally!!  They have arrived.  After a circuitous and torturous (for me) route to from St James, New York to Seoul, South Korea via Napier, New Zealand, they are here.  My latest three additions of 1st editions to the library.  All significant and sought after editions too.  The Survivors by Tom Godwin, Wilmar ShirasChildren of the Atom and my second Heinlein 1st edition, Sixth Column.  They all look great but all have minor flaws apart from the usual and expected, but I’ll get into those when I do the Close Ups.

Finally on their way…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 24, 2009 by Aaron

Jean, the very kind and patient person off whom I got The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag, finally received a cheque the other day that I had sent from NZ.  It took 3 weeks to arrive!!  No wonder they call it snail mail…  So, posted to me yesterday were Sixth Column by Robert Heinlein, Tom Godwin‘s The Survivors and Children of the Atom by Wilmar Shiras.  I’m especially looking forward to another Heinlein 1st edition.

Also yesterday I won The Complete Book of Outer Space, a collection of non-fiction edited by one Jeffrey Logan.  I think this is about the only thing he ever did.

Finished Starman’s Quest yesterday too.  I’ll have the Close Up posted soon and the Review probably by the weekend.