postheadericon Killer Planet, Gollancz, Hardback, ISBN 0-575-04510-8

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.

Killer Planet

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.

Killer Planet, Gollancz, Hardback, ISBN 0-575-04510-8

10 Responses to “Killer Planet, Gollancz, Hardback, ISBN 0-575-04510-8”

  • Sounds fun!!

    Have you read his Wooden Spaceships books? I quite like the sound of those when I read about them in some magazine, theyre almost steampunkish.

  • admin:

    It is a nice little romp, plenty of action for the younger reader. Yeah I have read the Land/Overland trilogy, bought the first one in hardback when it came out but paperback editions of the other two; only recently acquired the hardback editions of them. I found the first one great though I was a little more lukewarm on the subsequent two.

    (Incidentally, I don’t envisage mooching any books on bookmooch, I’m just getting rid of those that I no longer need or wont read, so there are some points available if you need them for mooching books. Don’t know how it’s done but I gather you can give your points away to other people and charities.)

  • Yea you can give points, I think there’s a link called Give in your profile, not sure tho, never tried it.

  • Mike Moir:

    You might like to know that Killer planet was originally commissioned as a intro to a game! Sadly that never happened -eventually Bob decided to rework it as a ‘short’ Juvie.

    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.

    Gemmel drive was named after Ron Gemmel -and yes there was a character called Moir (my name)

  • admin:

    Thanks for that great information Mike. If you have any more details you’d like to share I can integrate them into the post itself.

    I’ll have another look at the novel and see if I can spot you!

  • Mike Moir:

    You will find it – My name but as a woman ~(thanks Bob) first appears p4 ‘He and his two best friends -Petra Moir abd Ozburt Groom’ -Paul Groom lived opposite Ron Gemmell.

    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)

    Bob, was struggling a little finacially at this time – Luckily it would change a little bit with the Ragged Astonauts -but alas he was never very rich and could not affort to let something like this ‘Game into’ languish un published.

    I still miss him.

    Have you managed to find his book on ‘How to Write SF?’

  • admin:

    I did note that Bob had girlified you; I checked the book yesterday. As per norm with most novelists Bob introduces characters by their full name to begin with then moves on to first names thereafter – but at least ‘you’ are in the novel from beginning to end which is a little consolation – so sometimes the full name of the characters can slip by.

    With your permission I’ll put this information in as an update to the post. I like to credit people as much as possible so a link to your web site if you have one would help.

    I do have How To Write SF and I’ve done a piece on it here on the blog: have a look around at the older posts if you have the time. I have either paperback or hardback copies of all his books and I’m slowly building toward a full collection of Gollancz hardbacks – only two to get. All the books shown in the heading picture at the top of the blog are scans of my copies of his books and I have about half a dozen or so of his books which are signed.

  • Mike Moir:

    Go ahead put it in if you want

    I asked about the ‘how to book’ simply because after helping him a bit with the book (just checking facts -nothing clever) he did my wife and I the great honor of dedication it to us -Mike and Debby

    I’m glad you have such a good collection – I will admit to having all the Gollancz -only took me 20+ years to get them -I even think they are all signed -except the hardback of the book he did with David Hardy -that I didn’t find until after he died.

  • […] HomeAbout « Killer Planet, Gollancz, Hardback, ISBN 0-575-04510-8 […]

  • alex:

    Great stuff! So glad to have come across this superb Bob Shaw website.

Leave a Reply