Happy New Year’s Eve! ^-^
Since I missed my Reading Journal for November, I thought it would be nice to do a special extra one this month. This special is all about a classic Sci-fi writer that I really think more people should know: Harry Harrison. He was a popular science fiction writer in the 50’s and 60’s, known for his sharp wit and satirical treatment of common space-opera themes. His best known works are the novel ‘Make Room! Make Room!’, on which the movie ‘Soylent Green’ was loosely based, and his ‘Stainless Steel Rat’ series.
I first heard about Harry Harrison during a NaNoWriMo a few years ago. I did one of those “what author do you write like” tests, not expecting any great variety or anything… and was surprised to get Harrison. A quick google search proved enough to intrigue me; and when I bought myself a kindle this year, I just could not resist getting the Harry Harrison Mega-Pack for it. ^-^ A well spent dollar! All of the works covered in this special came from that collection, and I heartily encourage everyone to check it out.
And now, to the stories!
Originally Published/By: 1960 / Analog Science Fiction
Genre: Science Fiction
Thoughts: The basic plot is that the main character, Jason dinAlt, hears about a planet called Pyrrus which seems almost engineered to kill people. He is so intrigued by the challenge that he decides to go there and give surviving it a try. The natives of the planet think this is a pretty poor life choice, but they are persuaded to take him home anyhow.
Harrison does a good job of properly introducing the reader to the previously hinted at dangers of Pyrrus. It’s not a planet I would like to tangle with! Perhaps he is not quite as convincing about Jason’s motivations in going to ‘Deathworld’, and persisting in his attempts to prove he’s worthy of being there; but I can give that a pass. Discovering Pyrrus through Jason’s eyes is fascinating; and the plot unfolds pretty well.
I reminded me a little of ‘Princess Mononoke’, with Jason dinAlt being the outsider who can view the entirety of the situation “with eyes unclouded by hate”, and ultimately come up with a solution. ^-^
The last note in my journal says, “Can’t wait to read the next one!”
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars (lots of fun discovery ^-^)
The Ethical Engineer
Originally Published/By: 1963 / Analog Magazine
Genre: Science Fiction/Satire
Thoughts: The continuing adventures of Jason dinAlt! The originally title was simply ‘Deathworld 2’, and it is certainly fitting.
This time around we find our protagonist kidnapped from Pyrrus by a gentleman who believes him to be the most evil man in he galaxy… for reasons I found rather hilarious. This new character is what my husband Lucas would call lawful-stupid. Various discussion arise throughout the book where Jason is trying to explain to him the subjective nature of morality. Of course, not one makes a dent in the man’s thought process, even given the most extreme circumstances. Interestingly Jason himself doesn’t seem to follow his own claimed beliefs, acting quite decently throughout, unless pressed by matters of survival.
There is a lot of thoughtful dialog in this sequel; and the new ‘Deathworld’ is almost as fascinating as Pyrrus, in a horrible way. At the same time, the satire is very close to the surface in this one. I found it quite funny. In fact, my journal note says, “I was really sick, and this book made me laugh.” ^-^
Overall Rating: 3.5/5 stars (so much giggling…)
Planet of the Damned
Originally Published/By: 1961 / Analog Magazine
Genre: Science Fiction
Thoughts: The book starts with our protagonist, Brion, being recruited to go to the crazy desert world of Dis and find some stolen warheads; thus saving the planet from eminent destruction by it’s normally peaceful neighbors. He is chosen because the unique adaptations evolved by the people on his own home world make him an ideal candidate to actually survive on Dis long enough to be of use.
This story was pretty riveting. I really enjoyed the look at how various human societies might adapt to hostile environments; especially when lacking influence from the outside. There is also a lot of thought given to both the noble and ignoble sides of human nature. I think that the thing which struck me most was in the very end, where a character named Ulv makes a very startling decision. It’s one that I didn’t see coming at all.
The characterization in this book is also quite well done, especially the interesting and complicated Brion. Equally complex and fascinating are Brion’s home world and the doomed planet. They are almost characters in their own right! ^-^ Much like Pyrrus, actually… and I wouldn’t want to live on either of these planets either! lol
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars (very thought provoking, will read again)
Originally Published/By: various
Genre: Science Fiction/Fiction/Satire
Thoughts: Aside from the novels, this mega-pack also included several excellent shorts. They vary in length, and level of satire, but are all pretty enjoyable. They weren’t all simply fun or funny stories either; some of them are quite thoughtful. Harrison has an excellent range.
My favorites were definitely “Navy Day”, “The Repairman”, and “The Misplaced Battleship”.
“Navy Day” is the most obviously satirical of the group. It made me giggle to myself, and I enjoyed it so much that I read it out to Lucas later.
“The Repairman” is just a good adventure story, with some great characterization.
“The Misplaced Battleship” is a both the above. I realized after reading it that the main character, Jim de Griz, is actually the protagonist of the Stainless Steel Rat series. I like him already. ^-^
Overall Rating: 4/5 stars (very enjoyable!)
Well now, I hope you’ve enjoyed this brief introduction to Harry Harrison. I know I have! ^-^ I actually have a collection of the first three Stainless Steel Rat books sitting on my shelf for next year’s reading. I have a feeling it will be a great new year! Cheers!