Archive for The Philosophical Corps

Review: The Philosophical Corps

Posted in 1961, 1:No Launch, Review with tags , on March 11, 2009 by Aaron

Everett B. Cole
1961

I alluded to this looking like a space opera in a comment I made in an earlier post.  It is.  I compared it to Agent of Vega, which I had not long completed.  This is an interesting book for several reasons. The first being that this was the final volume that Gnome Press published. Second, that this is yet another book of theirs that has been cobbled together from previously published pulp fare. The third (and this one has a big impact on the book) is that though this is actually a series of short stories it is presented here as a novel.

Look, I have to give props to Gnome Press for pulling all those short stories out of pulp obscurity.  If it wasn’t for them engaging in this style of publishing we wouldn’t have, for example,  the early Foundation Universe novels.  There are however, cases where it just doesn’t work.  Agent of Vega was skating those boundaries, but managed to pull it off because of the strength of the material and the fact that it as a reader we knew what we were reading – a collection.  Another example is van Vogt’s The Mixed Men – like Corps, a collection disguised as a novel but with strong source material and good continuity between stories.  This is reflected in the longevity of these publications, the latest publication of The Mixed Men was in 1980 (as Mission to the Stars), of Agent of Vega in 1983 (also as Agent of Vega & Other Stories in 2001), and we needn’t even mention Foundation.  Contrast this to the book we are reviewing here; this is the one and only publication.  The bottom line is that it just doesn’t work for The Philosophical Corps.  This isn’t Mr Cole’s fault.  The fault for this lies at the feet of the publisher.   However, don’t let all this put you off the book.  Like anything, if you go in prepared, you will come out the other side much better off.  Go into this book armed with the knowledge that this is actually a collection, read it as such, and it will be a whole lot better and make more sense.  I went into this knowing only intellectually it was a collection, but emotionally prepared to read a novel.  As a result I was disoriented at several points during the read.

That was a long preamble.

I’ve mentioned Agent of Vega.  They are of course both firmly in the space opera genre, but aside from that there are obvious similarities between the books.

Both concern interstellar police agencies – The Department of Galactic Zones and the Criminal Apprehension Corps.
Agents in both books have psi abilities.
There is all manner of trick gear available to agents.
Both agencies and their operatives have absolute power in the course of their operations. Though to be fair, CAC agents seem to be more accountable to their superiors.
Technology just exists and works. No explanations.  Typical for a space opera though.
Both books have crappy covers.

The Philosophical Corps itself is a new arm of the CAC.  The first few chapters set this up.  What the Corps tries to achieve is the smooth eventual integration of growing and still planet-bound civilizations into the Galactic Federation.  They do this by covertly steering things like social mores, tradition and technology gradually towards those that are more amenable to being accepted as a constructive member of said federation.  These guys don’t fool around either.  If things don’t work out, or if a particular civilization is deemed to be incapable of ‘fitting in’, or be otherwise unable to play galactic happy families, they’ll eliminate it.  A modus operandi that is unusually resonant today.  I said the first few chapters set this up, it would be more accurate to say the first story.

Another function of the corps is to root out and rehabilitate Drones and Degraders – both terms for former citizens of the federation that secretly set up shop on pre-spaceflight planets to capitalize on their superior skills and technology without thought to the long-term consequences on a civilization that isn’t ready. The second story gives us an example of a Corps operation in the field where natives are recruited to the cause.  And the third is another operation on the same planet by the recruited natives.  Just harking back to the discontinuity in the book, it’s the transition between these three parts – practically seamless in print – that gives rise to that “..hang on a ‘sec, what’s going on here..?” feeling that really adversely affected my enjoyment of the book.

The concept behind The Philosophical Corps, as an organization, is sound.  Shepherding fledgling civilizations towards galactic acceptance and apprehending those that would take advantage of ‘immature’ societies are concepts that would happily stand much more detailed treatment in true novel form.  But trying to glue three loosely related short stories together to cludge novel like this left me a little less than philosophical about the result.

Close Up: The Philosophical Corps

Posted in 1961, Close Up with tags , , on March 9, 2009 by Aaron

closeupEverett B. Cole
1961

I have almost finished this book, so it’s time for the photo review. I guess the content review will be up this weekend. This is Gnome Press’s final publication before they folded.  I’m very interested to find out the full story behind GP and their woes and eventual termination.  If anyone out there has any info on this, please let me know.  Anyway, the copyright page says 1961, but several other sources claim 1962 as the actual publication date.  See the book’s entry over at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database.

It’s in excellent condition.  The dust jacket is a little discolored with some wear at the wrap-arounds.  The boards are almost immaculate.

Wonderfully clean with only very minor bumping at the spine extremities.  Nice.  The only complaint about the binding is when we sit the book flat.

As you will notice, there is a slight lean on the spine.  It’s not much, but it’s definitely there.  If we look closely at the spine extremities we can see that it is indeed in nice condition here.

Beautiful.  The dark blue paint on the spine isn’t worn at all.  The edges of the boards are likewise undamaged.  This book has been looked after extremely well.  It has obviously been kept in a clean and dry environment for all these years.  The lack of foxing is very evident and those nasty yellowed pages we are used to seeing have been minimized here.

For a Gnome Press book of this vintage the pages have stayed remarkably (albeit comparatively) white.  There are a couple of closed tears on the dust jacket just to bring us back to earth.

Just look at the edges of the boards.  Pristine.  And that’s the bottom.

To round everything off, the back of the jacket matches up well with the front – very clean with minor wear evident.

Year: Copyright page says 1961 and the ISFDB follows this.  Eshbach claims 1962 as does wikipedia.com.
Paid: $15
Art: W. I. Van der Poel
Quantity: 4000 copies
Binding: Sky blue cloth with dark blue lettering and solid painted areas at the head and tail of the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition
Comments: I think I picked this up at a very reasonable price.  The book is in wonderful condition and I think just those small closed tears on the jacket prevent an overall Fine rating on this book.  Very, very nice.
Expand Upon: wikipedia.com, Internet Speculative Fiction Database

condition

Another one down…

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , on March 3, 2009 by Aaron

Well, I finished ‘Robots Have No Tails…’ last night.  A very unusual book.  Unusual in a good way.  The review should be up sometime on or before the weekend.  I’m onto The Philosophical Corps now, a few pages in and it seems to be quite similar to Agent of Vega – space opera.  Corps was the last GP book published before they folded.

I’m looking forward to my new books arriving sometime soon… this week hopefully.

New Books

Posted in New Arrivals with tags , , , , , , on December 29, 2008 by Aaron

When I arrived at work today I had two books sitting on my desk. In a postage box, of course. Mutant by Lewis Padgett (Lewis Padgett was a pseudonym used by the husband and wife writing team of Henry Kuttner and C.L. Moore) and The Philosophical Corps by Everett B. Cole. They look great!! The Philosophical Corps is in excellent condition, a solid Fine. Mutant was listed as NF but I think it’s slightly inferior to that, perhaps VG to VG+. I have a lot of reading to do… but I like it like that.