Archive for Tom Godwin

Close Up II: The Survivors

Posted in 1958, Book Care, Close Up with tags , on March 27, 2009 by Aaron

closeupTom Godwin

I have to add an addendum to Close Up: The Survivors. I pointed out that the state of the browning on the pages in this book was quite extreme.  Along with this extreme browning goes brittleness.  Something I could see and feel, and had emphasised the hard way.  I always try to take great care when I read my GP books because of their age and value, but on one occasion I was a bit careless with this one.  I just brushed my finger carelessly across the left page edges when reaching to turn the right hand leaf, and this happened:

Moral of the story:  Be very careful with your older books.  Especially those that exhibit severe browning of this nature.  The pages become very brittle.

Take note and take care.


Review: The Survivors

Posted in 1958, 4:Stellar!, Review with tags , on March 24, 2009 by Aaron

Tom Godwin

I like his style. Tom Godwin writes from a very dark perspective. I mentioned in the Close Up that the cover looked dramatic and impressive, and that it gave me a good feeling for the content. My feeling was correct. This book is dramatic. It’s dark. It’s filled with that kind of obsessive resentment that you harbor over a lifetime, single-mindedly planning, watching and waiting for the opportunity to unleash against the unfortunate but deserving object of your vengeance.

I get the impression that Tom Godwin wrote this story while dressed in moldy rags, hunched over a dirty scrap of paper with a rat-gnawed stub of a pencil that he had to keep sharpening with his teeth, while starving in the clammy corner of a dank, dark, locked room.

The story starts under a cloud of fear, fugitives broken through the blockade around Earth, running silent at at the limit of their ships capacity, hellbent for safety and refuge on a distant planet.

But it all turns to custard.

The alien antagonists find and cripple the ship, take the fit for slave labor and dump four thousand Rejects (as they call themselves), apparently doomed to a very short and brutal life on the hell planet of Ragnarok.  But, as you know, the name of the book is The Survivors, and survive they do.

The scope of this book is big,  too big for it’s 190 pages.  If this was written today it would be of Helliconian dimensions.  Alas, in the 1950s, people weren’t really envisaging multi-volume science fiction epics.  Actually, the backdrop of the Helliconia Trilogy is very similar, so similar in fact that I could be tempted to say that Mr Aldiss drew some inspiration from this novel.  Ragnarok – like Helliconia – orbits a star.  That star in turn orbits another in a binary system.  This leads to an unusual seasonal rotation.  The planet’s primary orbit around it’s star maintains an Earth-like minor seasonal cycle, and the secondary orbit around the other star induces major (longer and deeper) seasons.  This of course means that the major winter and summer are killers.  Fortunately, the major seasonal cycle on Ragnarok is much shorter that the two and a half thousand years that Helliconia is immersed in it’s major seasonal cycle.

If the climate of Ragnarok is brutal then the fauna is equally so.  Between the wildlife, the climate and the ‘Hell Disease’, our few thousand castaways are whittled down to less than a hundred in short order.  There is no romanticism here.  As the tale progresses through the generations of those that eke out an existence on Ragnarok, characters who are shaping up to play major roles are killed quickly throughout the book.  A little disconcerting from the point of flow perhaps, but it lends a certain amount of realism, especially in this environment.  I like it.

I only have two major issues with this book, one is that the brevity doesn’t do the story justice as I mentioned, the other is the seeming ability to conjure something out of nothing in the way of manufacturing processes and technology.

Example:  Becoming fed-up that their traditional-style bows and arrows are too slow and unwieldy to effectively combat the aggressive wildlife, they somehow manage to put together a magazine fed bow and arrow system that is cocked in the style of a semi-automatic shotgun that can release 10 arrows in less than 10 seconds.  A generation after that, they are smelting aluminum and have built a powerful generator to power a hyperwave transmitter.  Uhhh… ok.

I have to nit-pick about the ending a little too, a ‘sail off into the wild blue (black) yonder’ closure didn’t really sit well given the grim nature of the bulk of the story.

All that aside, this is a very enjoyable book – if you appreciate gritty realism in terms of suffering and consequences and don’t mind that no one is considered too essential to the story.  I don’t, and I find it very refreshing given the space opera fare that was popular back then.

If Tom Godwin sounds appealing to you, and you can’t get hold of this book, I recommend you visit Rusty over at Best Science Fiction Stories and take in Godwin’s very highly regarded short story The Cold Equations online.

Close Up: The Survivors

Posted in 1958, Close Up with tags , , on March 18, 2009 by Aaron

closeupTom Godwin

There are a lot of issues with this book. There are a couple of interesting points also. I picked it up as part of a package that included The Unpleasant Profession of Jonathan Hoag and Sixth Column, both by Heinlein and Shiras’ Children of the Atom.  The four books together (once I subtracted shipping) cost $490.  $210 for Hoag + the remainder for the other three.  I budgeted $180 for Sixth Column and split the difference on the other two: $50 each.  $180 is certainly a great price for a 1st ed Heinlein that’s in pretty good shape as you’ll see in a future Close Up, so I think $50 for The Survivors and the same for Children of the Atom represent excellent buys.  These are all sought after GP titles.  By way of comparison, an inferior copy of The Survivors went for $75 on eBay several days ago.

I like this cover.  It’s impressive, it’s dramatic and it bodes well for the content.  There is no artist credited for this in the book, but Wikipedia suggests that one Wallace Wood is responsible, a very well known illustrator and comic artist.  Well, at least to those in the know, I hadn’t heard of him before.

Well, it all looks good until we get under the covers…

A stain near the spine there and that nasty darkening is caused from reading the book without a dust jacket on.  Oil and dirt from the hands gets into the boards after too much handling.  How do I know this??  Because I have done it myself to another of my Gnome Press books, van Vogt’s The Mixed Men.  Here’s a closer view.

So let’s get all the bad stuff out of the way.  While we’ve got it stripped like this, we’ll continue to check out the exterior.

There is a split beginning to form along the fold (I don’t know the correct term for this feature) down the spine and when the book is handled, you can feel the looseness in this area.  The top and bottom of the spine are likewise damaged.

Some wear and a chip off the top there.

And some significant chipping at the base.

Enough of that.  When we put the clothes back on it doesn’t look so bad.  The top and the bottom check out ok if we ignore the aforementioned issues.

There is a little wear along the bottom edges of the boards, and you can see that the spine still sits reasonably square despite being rather loose.

The jacket looks great too.  Nice and clean with very little wear except two problems.  A closed tear at the top…

…and that unsightly open tear at the bottom.  You can see as I mentioned that otherwise the dust jacket looks great.  Once we look inside it gets interesting.

There is some debate as to how a bookplate actually affects a books value.  Some think it doesn’t matter and others consider it a blight.  Personally, I love them, as long as they are cool, like the one in this book.  I have one other with a bookplate – The Mixed Men, and I think the plate on that book is even better than this one.  You’ll see it sometime.  They add real character to the books and are a point of attachment from whence those lost days of classic science fiction, when people actually maintained their own libraries are tangibly brought forth.   I often talk about the provenance of a book and here is a fine example of what I’m talking about. I can feel the ’50s when I see things like this.  Great stuff.

Another thing I always mention especially in connection with GP’s later books is the browning of the pages.  There is very significant browning here.  You can see the extent of it when you contrast the pages against the front paste-down.

Wow.  I think this is the worst in my library thus far.  One cool thing that Gnome Press did in their books was to individualize them.  What I mean by that is applying nice touches such as the half-moons I illustrated in Agent of Vega, and in this book we have a nice array of stars helping to introduce each of the four parts.

Nice.  Some people think it looks tacky, and I guess from a contemporary perspective it does, but it’s classic ’50s.  I love it.

The rear of the jacket looks fine, it’s nice white aspect helps to hide the serious issues underneath.

This is the longest Close Up I’ve done thus far – a reflection of the poor condition of the book.  So, let’s finish on a high note and have a closer look at that book plate.

Beautiful.  But just who are Dorothy Jane and Marvin A. Eaton??

Year: 1958
Paid: $50
Art: Wallace Wood
Quantity: 5000 copies (1084 remaindered)
Binding: Sky blue cloth with dark blue lettering to spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: The jacket is excellent despite those couple of issues but it hides some damage in the loose spine and obvious mishandling. Still, for a title such as this for $50, a nice acquisition.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


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.