Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Element 79 by Fred Hoyle

'A Fantastic, frightening plunge into the future; an era of interplanetary espionage; airborne orgies; galactic extravaganzas—when man is the servant of superior creatures from different worlds.' –Front cover
'Earthlings are dominated by the Devil, manipulated by Martians, headed for extinction at the hands of nonhumans... a horror-scope of the future, masterminded by one of the foremost astronomers of our time.' –Back cover
Published 1967. 143 pages. 60c cover price.
I opted for a book of short stories this time out, and a brief one at that, as I had a busy week and a holiday weekend cutting in on my 'shitty book time'. Lame cover, I know, but the promise of 'airborne orgies' sold me on this dog eared, musty, yellowed collection when I came across it in the basement of Myopic Books. Cool store—the basement smells like dust, water damage and the frustration of pulp novelists.
Fred Hoyle seems like he was a great, albeit controversial, astronomer/astrophycisist. He might have been a pretty good writer as well, but if that is the case, then Element 79 is not a good example of his work. There are fifteen stories in all—half of them science fiction, some of them less than a page long, most of them meandering, none of them coming to a satisfying conclusion. The stories within that did have a point were usually about how human beings are stupid, sex-obsessed animals that are going to be conquered by something or someone far superior to us.
I won't bore you with too many details with this book, especially since there isn't as much sci-fi inside as there is misogyny and white people complaining. There is the story about two lesbians, impregnated by the same man, who blackmail him into supporting them and their offspring financially. Really 'sexy' stuff, if you get off on hating women and all that. There is a story about birdwatcher who accidentally runs over two rare birds he was searching for because of his shortsightedness. Two pages of tedious details about bird-watching followed by a light stab at irony. I was promised space orgies and was given a story about people being collected for a galactic zoo, which was vaguely about animal rights and only had implied sex. Next book please!

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