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Search tags: Robert-Silverberg
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review 2019-12-06 13:15
A mixed pair of Golden Age SF novels
Across Time/Invaders from Earth - Robert Silverberg,David Grinnell,Donald A. Wollheim

Recently while shopping at a used bookstore I found a battered collection of Ace Double science fiction novels from the 1950s in their giveaway bin. While they were published before my time, seeing them brought back fond memories of the cheap mass-market paperback novels I enjoyed as a youth, some of which were reprints of these Ace Doubles split into in single-book format. The combination of availability and nostalgia proved too irresistible to pass up, so I decided to pick them up and indulge in a trip down into the past's future.

 

I started with this pair of novels. The first one I read was Across Time, which was written by Donald A. Wollheim using his pen name "David Grinnell." It was an appropriate place start for reasons I didn't appreciate until afterward, as Wollheim is the editor who invented the Ace Doubles series. He is regarded as one of the most important, perhaps even the most important, figure in the history of science fiction publishing, and has been recognized for all he did in that area (his daughter credits him as well with kick-starting the modern fantasy field by publishing the first edition of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in paperback, so there's that, too). Wollheim was modest about his skills as an author, though, and (to borrow from Churchill) he has much to be modest about, as his novel is a rather pedestrian tale involving flying saucers and a love triangle between two brothers and a woman. While there are some nifty elements in the book — including a sentient warship that is probably the first of its type in science fiction — overall the outcome was so predictable as to rob the book of narrative tension.

 

After finishing Wollheim's novel I flipped the book over and started Robert Silverberg's Invaders from Earth. And once I began it, I found myself drawn into a fantastic story in which a 21st century expedition to Ganymede finds both an inhabited world and one with valuable minerals, and an advertising firm is hired to pave the way for exploitation. The plot revolved around one of the men spearheading the campaign, whom the firm sends to Ganymede to give his ideas added verisimilitude, only for him to have a crisis of conscience when he realizes just what he's done. There's a nice Mad Men vibe to the tale (unsurprising for a novel written in 1957 that's set in an ad firm), as well as an anti-imperialist commentary that is unusual for science fiction novels of the time. It was definitely the highlight of the pair, and it left me eager to see what other gems I might find in my newly-acquired trove.

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text 2019-11-26 15:55
Reading progress update: I've read 198 out of 319 pages.
Across Time/Invaders from Earth - Robert Silverberg,David Grinnell,Donald A. Wollheim

I'm really liking the second novel. So far Silverberg's story is focused on the development of an ad campaign by the protagonist's agency designed to justify the subjugation of the Ganymedeans, involving their dehumanization and the creation of fictional atrocities. This alone makes the book interesting reading, but in spite of its 2044 setting there's also a enjoyable Mad Men vibe to the setting, which makes sense for a book published in 1957.

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text 2019-11-26 15:06
Reading progress update: I've read 171 out of 319 pages.
Across Time/Invaders from Earth - Robert Silverberg,David Grinnell,Donald A. Wollheim

I started the second novel, which is Invaders from Earth, and though I'm only 21 pages in it has a far more interesting opening: a 21st century expedition to Ganymede finds both an inhabited world and one with valuable minerals, and an advertising firm is hired to pave the way for exploittaion. For a premise like that it seems to be developing in a far more anti-imperialist direction than I've come to expect from novels from the period; usually they're only anti-imperialist when Americanized humans are the ones being subjugated.

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text 2019-11-26 04:42
Reading progress update: I've read 150 out of 319 pages.
Across Time/Invaders from Earth - Robert Silverberg,David Grinnell,Donald A. Wollheim

I'm done with  Across Time, which is the first of the two novels in this Ace Double. Written by Donald A. Wollheim (using his pen name, David Grinnell) it's about a test pilot who is dragged a million years into the future after his brother and sister-in-law (for whom the protagonist pines) are seemingly annihilated by flying saucers. The story conforms to a lot of what 1950s science fiction novels were like, with plot to burn but little in the way of character exploration and the stoic square-jawed hero practically guaranteed to get the girl at the end.

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text 2019-11-25 15:10
Reading progress update: I've read 68 out of 319 pages.
Across Time/Invaders from Earth - Robert Silverberg,David Grinnell,Donald A. Wollheim

As I read this I'm working out how I want to manage my little Ace Doubles reading project. I've decided that I'm not going to pick up a new one until I've finished both books in the set I'm reading. This will help me to both clear them out (a problem I have when I read things like magazines, where they hang around for months because of that one unread article) and to ensure that any reviews I might write up will be with both stories fresh in my head.

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