A Columbus of Space by Garrett P. Serviss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Columbus of Space by Garrett P. Serviss
This is an interesting piece that seems to have been written before Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis Adebert Kline wrote their famous Venus series. This is a trip to Venus on a craft that can travel a tremendous speed and is powered by something that sounds possibly nuclear. Another interesting thing, since this is written after H. Rider Haggard's She, is that the main female character is described as having a presence that reminds me of Ayesha from She. And though she is not quite as dangerous as Ayesha, Edmunds fixation on Ala and the wonders of Venus might lead the expedition into danger.
Edmund has come up with a process that taps what he calls inter-atomic energy and he applies it to a special car shaped like a boiler, that he has created to take him into space. In a fit of anger at their remarks about his work he takes his friends with him without their consent. It takes about two weeks to get to Venus and there's some neat calculations behind it all though the ship itself has some potential design flaws.
Because of the peculiar rotational aspects of Venus Edmund chooses to land on the darker side where he figures there should be no one living, since it would be too cold. But they find a race of somewhat intelligent ape like hominids whom Edmund is able to communicate with through Telepathy. Because of dense atmosphere speech on the planet is amplified and though the beings do speak, they only do so on rare occasions. Learning about these creatures or people, creates some tension; but the real adventure comes when they traverse to the warmer sunny side of Venus.
On the warmer side there are more human-like hominids who also communicate through telepathy much the same as the apelike beings, though Edmund theorizes these people have tapped some other aspects of the difference in atmospheric pressure and possibly have a strange sensitivity to color and sound that is pretty interesting. Eventually he creates a device that helps them hear as the Venusian's do and they explore the wonderful strange way the Venusian's commune with nature. Here they meet the friendly, intelligent and beautiful Ala; and Ingra, Ala's jealous and dangerous fiance.
Edmund knows that they are in constant danger and they should leave soon, but he puts it off both because of his desire to explore Venus and that he enjoys teaching Ala; who seems to have an insatiable curiosity.
But there is some other portending catastrophe ahead that he ignores.
If I have any qualms about the story it's that of the other characters traveling with Edmund, only Jack and the narrator, Peter, seem to really get involved while Henry seems to mostly be going along for the ride, though every so often he votes they should go home or at least try doing some less dangerous things.
As it turns out this is another Dying World novel and this fact could get our heroes killed. But beyond that there are plenty of other dangers from the inhabitants and our heroes own miss-understanding of customs.
This is once again an interesting Classic in SFF and though the author has credentials that would support his knowledge of the science, there are still some things that might have been questionable back when he wrote this and certainly have a rough time surviving even the most rigorous of suspension of disbelief. Still for those who like to examine the roots of the craft of writing SFF, this is one more steppingstone to add to the genre.
Though I didn't quite get as much enjoyment from this as I have from Edgar Rice Burroughs and Otis Adelbert Kline. there's still enough excitement to get me straight through to the end; and now I wonder if those other authors read any of Garrett Putman Serviss's work before they ventured onto Venus.
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