Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Three to Conquer, by Eric Frank Russell

Rating: 4/5
202 pages
Publisher: Penguin
Source: Borrowed from family
(Note: Does not seem to currently be in print, at least in the US.)

Cover: I don't know what's up with the cover of the edition I read. The flowers don't have anything to do with the story, and it hardly sets the tone for the book.

Description: 'Wade Harper--Forger'. 

That was the cryptic inscription on his card. But it was lucky for the F.B.I. and the world that this tough, thick-set micro-instrument maker who first discovered the dying state trooper just off highway one April afternoon in 1980. For Harper possessed the uncanny telepathic power of 'hearing' thoughts which alone could track down the killers and crack a staggering interplanetary plot to grab world control through men's minds.

How he does it, his desperate fight to convince police and Pentagon of his own innocence and the Venusian threat, and the urgent America-wide manhunt that follows make a skillful scary blend of science and fiction at their best.

Review: This is a fun quick read, but it hasn't aged well.

Most of the books problems are a problem of science making discoveries the author couldn't predict, such as the atmosphere of Venus, or technology going, or not going, in ways he couldn't have seen coming. (The rotary visi-phone is a rather amusing combination of both.)

However, there are some rather glaring issues that don't make much sense. The idea that the F.B.I. could convince all law enforcement, across the U.S., to drop every other case and go looking for three people, with no explanation, seems really unlikely.  As does the idea that a spaceship, that wasn't designed for stealth, could land with no one noticing it.

I have no idea if this book was ever scary, despite the promise of the description and one of the cover quotes. ('Russell tells a good story at a fast pace. If this one doesn't scare you nothing will'--Brian Aldiss in the Oxford Mail)

Overall, if you can overlook the quaintness of the whole thing, its still a pretty decent read.

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