Friday, August 13, 2010


By Henry Kuttner

Henry Kuttner was a prolific and popular sf writer, his career spanned from the 1930s to the 1950s when he died young from a heart attack. Destination Infinity is one of the many books he wrote under a pen name, most likely in collaboration with his wife CL Moore.

The tale is classic ‘50s science fiction, set on a Venus covered with roiling seas, and jungles full of man-eating plants. The conflict isn’t exactly about the best means to prune gigantic Venus fly-traps though. It concerns Sam Reed, an illegitimate child of a family of wealthy immortals and his rise from lowly outsider to savior of mankind. Sam is a consummate anti-hero, deliberately abandoned by his father and full of angst and ambition in an uncaring world. The tale follows Sam as a gangster, land-speculator, pioneer, and military dictator.

What Kuttner writes here is sociological science fiction, part speculation on society and part soap opera. Earth was long ago destroyed by nuclear war and mankind lives in undersea habitats on Venus. A few families have developed a hereditary trait of immortality, and live for centuries, aging little if at all. The mass of mankind has stagnated, allowing the immortals to do their thinking for them. Sam Reed blows it all apart in his relentless drive to make it to the top.

This is a book I liked despite itself. The opening is overlong and is basically a lot of exposition to set the story for the rest of the novel. Judging from the names (Reed, Harker, Hale, Delaware, Nevada, Plymouth) and dialog (‘50s Middle American) the only survivors of Earth’s nuclear wars are a bunch of WASPs from North America. I’m not sure I buy the sociology either, immortality is an advantage, but it is practical bribes and threats that keep a society in line, not spiritual intimidation. Just take a look at Eastern Europe in the ‘70s or Medieval Christendom’s struggles with heresy to find examples of orderly, stultified societies. But Kuttner pushes his logic to the end and spices it with soap opera of great verve. Overall, I wasn’t disappointed when I got to Sam Reed’s Destination.
-Dave Hardy

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