Friday, December 3, 2010

Well Of The Worlds by Henry Kuttner

Thankfully the fire whips had nothing to do
with BDSM.. Enough of that!

Clifford Sawyer, investigating ghosts in a mine, finds ancient beings from another world and gets swept up in a titanic struggle between for control of a parallel dimension. description

When the curiously exotic millionaress Klai Ford started telling him about ghosts in a uranium mine, Sawyer knew he better be ready for anything in his investigations. But he didn't count on being drawn into a passage between dimensions and tossed adrift in a world of islands floating in the sky, where strange brutelike creatures were attacking the cities in a vast struggle for power. Lost in the new [missing section] realized that the key to [missing section] mysterious Well of the Worlds [missing section] the future of the universe [missing section] secret.
-The back cover, which is pretty damn mangled.

Ace Books F-344, published 1952. 40c cover price. 142 pages.

The old Ace Books from the 50s and 60s have been a lot of fun in my experience, andThe Well of the Worldsdoes not disappoint. Set in the (then) very near future of 1953, the story begins in fictional city of Fortuna, which is located at one of our planet's poles (Kuttner doesn't specify). The Earth's poles were discovered to be loaded with uranium, so Fortuna is a boom town with an economy centered on the lucrative mining of the radioactive substance.

Clifford Sawyer, an agent of the Royal Atomic Energy Commission (by Toronto), is sent to investigate the bizarre allegations being made by Klai Ford, who inherited her large section of the mine only a few months ago under strange circumstances. Klai tells Sawyer a panicky story about how the mine has been overrun by ghosts, and that she believes the man who owns the rest of the mine, William Alper (total rich guy name), is trying to kill her.

Sawyer is, of course, skeptical of such a bizarre story, but he becomes a true believer when Alper surgically implants a kill switch into his brain, divulges that he has been communicating with an inter-dimensional being, then get the three of them sucked into said other dimension. All of this takes place within the first 30 pages!

This is why we can't have nice things!
The remaining 100 pages ofthe Well of the Worldstake place on an alternate Earth where humanity is enslaved by the nearly immortal, serpentine, and extremely pretentious Isier. In this second phase of the book, Kuttner's imagery almost reaches the limits of the surreal, as the alternate dimension he paints is vividly colored and extremely ornate. The story meanders here and there, but the action is taut and Sawyer is an interesting character whose hand in the human uprising kept me interested throughout.

I would highly recommend this novel to those interested in SF from this time period. This is one well-written book that abandons many formulaic tropes for excellent storytelling and plenty of adventure.The Well of the Worlds effortlessly captures the sense of wonder that many genre books of the 1950's sought to capture, and I am glad to have stumbled upon it in a musty book reseller in Houston.

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