Monday, September 06, 2010

REVIEW: THE BEST OF EDMOND HAMILTON

By Edmond Hamilton

Edmond Hamilton is one of the forgotten pioneers of science fiction. His career began in the pulps back in the 1920s and carried on for over fifty years. This 1977 anthology, edited by Hamilton's wife, the multi-talented Leigh Brackett, brought his best short stories between one set of covers.

It seems Hamilton was at his peak in the 1930s and 1940s since that’s when most of these stories date from. In truth that’s an illusion since by the ‘50s the pulp markets for short stories had greatly diminished and Hamilton was concentrating on novels. For me it’s a bonus that this anthology focuses on the early stuff since I find that na├»ve and sometimes crude sf can pack more of a punch than much more polished recent work.

Some real standouts here are "The Monster-God of Mamurth", a story about an explorer trapped in an invisible city and stalked by an invisible monster (it's an interesting example of the influence of The Arabian Nights on early sf), and "Exile", a very simple short-short about a writer and the imaginary world he is trapped in. "A Conquest of Two Worlds" tells of an earthman so disgusted with the hypocrisy and cruelty of Earth’s conquest of the backward races of Venus and Mars, that he throws in his lot with the rebellious BEMs of Jupiter. This is very much an upside-down version of the typical “alien conquest” tale. "Thundering Worlds" is Hamilton at his wide-screen planet-smashing best, a trick he was pulling off well before Doc Smith got in on the act. "He That Hath Wings" is a take on bad boys, the girls who love them, and what happens when they try to pull them back to earth.

As I said, in many ways this is NOT the most polished work of Hamilton, but perhaps it is the most representative. As a time capsule of early pulp sf, it hits the spot.


-Dave Hardy

1 comment:

Jordan179 said...

I've reviewed "The Monster-God of Mamurth" at http://fantasticworlds-jordan179.blogspot.com/2011/04/retro-review-monster-god-of-mamurth.html and "A Conquest of Two Worlds" at http://fantasticworlds-jordan179.blogspot.com/2012/08/retro-review-conquest-of-two-worlds.html . "Mamurth" is very good for a first publication: it's creepy, exotic and strongly written. "A Conquest of Two Worlds" is a great story that stands up well today especially if considered as alternate-world (not merely history) science fiction, and its moral message is bleak and amazingly-powerful.