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BOOK REVIEW – JOHN W. CAMPBELL – WHO GOES THERE? 1938 The Mammoth Book Of Short Science Fiction Novels.

 

A classic science fiction novella that inspired two science fiction horror movies, A 1950’s version called The Thing From Another World, directed by Christopher Nyby in 1951 and starring James Arness Jar as the Thing, and John Carpenter’s 1982 film, The Thing, starring Kurt Russell as the hero.  The story is much closer in spirit to the later film version, though with a less nihilistic conclusion, in that the heroes survive and defeat the alien.

 

A team of scientists, at a very isolated Antarctic laboratory, discover the remains of a giant flying saucer under the ice.  It has been there for twenty million years. Examining it, they conclude that the occupants are malevolent and so they destroy the vessel. Soon afterwards, the men experience strange unsettling dreams and there are various acts of sabotage being committed in the laboratories and other facilities.

 

The men realize that an alien parasite has either infected some of them or actually taken over the bodies of some of the men, but no one is sure which men are still human and which are infected.  Mistrust spills over quickly into sheer paranoia, which intensifies as the leader of the team conducts complicated blood tests to test for the infection. The men infected are killed off. As the last infected man is cornered, the heroes realize that he is trying to build an anti-gravity devise that would help him escape from our planet, but they kill him before he can activate it.

 

There is a genuine creepiness to the story, and the remote location makes it more claustrophobic as the tale progresses. Campbell went on to is a leading magazine editor, responsible for Astounding Tales, which launched the careers of many of the giants of science fiction, including Isaac Asimov. More controversially, Campbell was also the first publisher of The Dianetics Handbook, the veritable Bible of the Church Of Scientology.

 

Copyright. Arthur Chappell                                  

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