Thursday, July 31, 2008

Men Martians and Machines

Men Martians and Machines (Classics of Modern Science Fiction Volume 1)
by Eric Frank Russell
Hardcover: 216 pages
Publisher: Random House Value Publishing (February 1, 1984)
ISBN-10: 0517551853
ISBN-13: 978-0517551851

Find this on Amazon.

A fascinating read! Interesting how dated the writing is. There are tentacled Martians as first order heroes, but no female characters. The narrator doesn't seem to have his tongue in cheek when referring to the only black character as a Negro. Every planet they go to has a challenging range of flora and fauna which they un-failingly get to have a right old punch-up with! Radio is still an advanced technology, as is plate photography. Morality is explored often in terms of how the intrepid adventurer's exploration impacts upon the cultures they find, and on the differences between the aliens they encounter and the humans and Martians doing the exploring - yet in every encounter they still drop a few mini-nukes on the aliens in order to get away rather than finding some less violent solution.

This was originally published in the 50's in serialised form in an SF magazine, and this fascinates me most - wondering how it was accepted at the time. The irreverence of the narrator is refreshing to me, giving the story a comedic style that doesn't get in the way of drama and the more philosophical musings. The problem is that the drama and more philosophical musings aren't as effective as I wanted them to be - something about the way they reveled whenever they dropped a few mini-nukes just bothered me.

Two particular elements I was very fond Of: Jay, the seven foot tall predecessor to Data. And the Martians: tentacled, chess-loving, they can't stand the smell of humans and need a lower pressure atmosphere than we do. The Martians really made the story for me - and I would have liked more just for them.