Publisher: Bantam Books, Inc.
Bantam Edition published 1958
Cover Art: Paul Lehr
Plot Synopsis (of cover): In the not-too-distant future, all practical and recreational spaceflight concerns have been transferred to private corporations, their interests dictated by their consumers and their shareholders. One such company gets into a pickle when they decide to fund their next big project on Kickstarter. An incentive offered at the $1000 level is a vote in a poll to determine the primary function of their new LEO (Low Earth Orbit) satellite. It would be some time before it was discovered that the fundraising campaign was hijacked by an elite group of anonymous super-hackers, donating stolen funds from the Church of Scientology—more than enough time to complete construction on Giant Space Bong Alpha.
Relatively Irrelevant Inside Text: It is worth mentioning that Jeffery Lloyd Castle was not a fiction writer by training. He was an aeronautical engineer. This goes a long way to explaining why half of this book reads like a testament to the Spirit of Exploration Inherent in Man, and the other half reads like a 1950s physical mechanics primer. That is to say, all of the science is solid, but it’s solid in a really strange/fun 1950s way. For instance, while most of the Newtonian principles are correct, the book is also riddled with references to centrifugal force, a phenomenon we now know to be an effect of inertia (now referred to more accurately as “centrifugal inertial reaction”). The Imperial System is used to discuss scientific principles and quantities, though this is a function of Britain at the time (they didn’t agree to adopt metric until 1965) and not a quirk of the author. Most bizarre is Castle’s strange defense of the luminiferous ether, a concept widely considered academically debunked since the Michelson and Morley experiments in the late 19th/early 20th century. I mention these anachronisms not because they detract from the story, but because the story itself is drier than Elwood Blues’s toast. People who are really going to dig this book are the people who are already into the retro-futurism bag. Don’t get me wrong—there is some Sagan-level wonder-at-the-majesty-of-creation shit happening here, as well as some delightfully prophetic predictions. That said, Castle takes a rather pessimistic view of how far mankind will progress from 1958 to the story’s native 2017, in that we have not yet sent a rocket to the moon. Star Wars it ain’t. It’s closer to 2001: ASO in pacing and storytelling, but god dammit, I just got done reading a book about fucking space bears. Forgive me for being a little jarred by the contrast. Also, click here to see my copy’s dedication page, and a great reason to buy used books over new.
Rating: 7.1 Poundals of Centrifugal Force
Questions for Critical Cover Viewing:
* Could God pack a bowl so tight that even He couldn’t take a drag off of it?
* What shitty astronaut scores did that guy on top earn in order to be assigned to squeegee the globe?
* How would the story have changed for the protagonists if, instead of a giant bong, the space station resembled a massive marital aid?