Archive for April, 2010
Mike Moir kindly commented on the previous blog entry Killer Planet, and provided some excellent information that gives a little more personal depth to the book in particular and Bob Shaw in general.
‘You might like to know that Killer planet was originally commissioned as an intro to a game! Sadly that never happened – eventually Bob decided to rework it as a ’short’ Juvie,’ adding ‘Many of the names in the story are people who used to meet with Bob in Warrington at the local SF group in the early Eighties.’
‘The Gemmel drive was named after Ron Gemmel.’ Mike himself also had his name taken – slightly in vain – when it was used as the surname of the main female character. ‘Bob knew I’d be a little miffed (yet strangely honoured) as one of the opening lines of the book was ‘Grown ups! Listen to old Granny Moir’ (p5),’ Mike said.
It may be a good solid piece of work from Bob but perhaps it was issued partially to help pay the bills: ‘Bob, was struggling a little financially at this time – Luckily it would change a little bit with the Ragged Astronauts -but alas he was never very rich and could not afford to let something like this ‘Game into’ languish un published.’
Bob also dedicated his non fiction book, How To Write Science Fiction to Mike and his wife Debby, ‘after (Mike) helping him a bit with the book (just checking facts -nothing clever) he did my wife and I the great honour of dedication it to us -Mike and Debby.’
And lucky Mike has a full Gollancz collection of Bob’s books.
‘I still miss him’ Mike states.
Everyone who has said they knew Bob Shaw always has something good to say about him. Nothing has been negative. Bob Shaw was not only one of the best writers to come from the UK but also one of the most loved.
A little confession here: I bought a second hand copy of Killer Planet in hardback sometime in the early nineties but I never got round to reading it. When bought the book was put at the bottom of my reading pile, and it sort of stayed there. As books moved from room to room when space was needed here and there I never actually got round to reading it.
When I started completing my collection of Bob Shaw Gollancz hardbacks again (I briefly tried years ago with little success) the book Killer Planet was brought to my attention again as I looked through the books to see what was still to get and I put Killer Planet further up my list of books to read. But, again, it never made it to the front row – even though I found time to skim trough his other books while creating these reviews and on a couple of occasions completely re read some of Shaw’s books.
So. I set aside some time and decided to concentrate on this book. Unique among Shaw books in that it is for a specific audience. Killer Planet is a Young adult novel from Bob Shaw and so is a very slim book, coming in at just over one hundred pages.
Published in 1989 the brief prologue sets us up for many dangers, telling us that after mankind learnt to cross the distance between stars with the Gemmell drive he came across Mother Nature at her fiercest, with new dangers everywhere he turned.
The most dangerous of these was Verdia, nick named the Killer Planet. Many people had gone to the planet never to return, including the brother of Jan Hazard. Hazard’s father, Donn, had spent the last few years working toward sending an expedition to the planet to rescue his son. A mission he intended to do alone. Jan though has other ideas; he knows his father would not be up to the job and is adamant that he will take his father’s place, go to Verdia and rescue his brother.
Unfortunately Donn Hazard has neglected to pay the bills during his quest to build a spaceship to go to Verdia and with the most inappropriate timing bailiffs turn up the day before the launch to confiscate all of Donn’s possessions to pay off his debts. Jan has no other option. The flight must go ahead; the rescue attempt must be made. And so Jan steals the ship and the rescue attempt is still on.
He makes it to the system where the Killer Planet is and is surprised to discover someone else on board. Petra is the love interest of the story, introduced in Chapter one as a friend. Jan is initially against her presence but as luck would have it Petra manages to take control of the ship when Jan is knocked semi unconscious at the final take off toward the planet.
The ship struggles through the cloudy atmosphere of the planet, nearly destroying the vessel – which is made out of hard plastics rather than metal due to the nature of Verdia, which attacks metal. They land on the planet and straight away are caught up in the weird and dangerous life forms on the planet as they try to investigate an old ruined city.
But it is when they discover the shattered and seared ships and equipment that the real surprise of the Killer Planet shows itself.
This is pretty much an action adventure from Bob Shaw, as mentioned geared toward the younger reader. There is a lot of vivid descriptive writing from Shaw and the characters are the straight forward no nonsense hardy type. Also, being designed for the younger reader, the book isn’t very long, in fact it is too short.
It took me a little while to get into the swing of the book, and Shaw only gave us minor glimpses of characterisation to help identify with each character in the book. The emotional attachment of going to the Killer Planet to rescue their sibling gave a good enough motive, and the action of the escape from earth forces was well written, well paced and enthralling, however the characterisation lacked a little in my opinion.
Overall it was an enjoyable read, really only picking up in pace and excitement when the protagonists actually reach the Killer planet around Chapter Five, and Shaw is very inventive in getting his heroes out of the scrapes they find themselves in on the planet. A mixture of daring do and brains keeps the two – Jan and Petra – alive to fight again. The whole story is neatly tied up with a happy outcome for all concerned following an adventurous and thrilling dénouement. This novel would make a good introduction to Bob Shaw, particularly for the target audience of the young adult.
I joined bookmooch recently, mainly to get rid of some paperbacks that have been lying around and have no chance of ever being read. But I decided also to add the SF Book club editions of the Bob Shaw novels I own. A couple I bought ages ago and a couple I bought by mistake recently – when they were advertised as the Gollancz editions. For the ones I bought years ago I now have the Gollancz editions so they are surplus.
I’ve nothing against the SF Book club – if it still exists – I just don’t personally like them. They don’t look good and their jackets are dull in my opinion.
I did belong to book clubs years and years ago but they never issued their own editions, just clipped editions from the original publishers.
So, if you’re in the market for free books have a look at bookmooch.