11 May 2012

Oh, still November, re-reading yet once more

Science Fiction | Hal Clement

Currently re-reading Hal Clement's Needle

This book was first published in 1949, way before most of us were even born. Hal Clement was a school teacher of physics, and most of his books feature aliens and/or kids. This one is no different, it has both. :)

It also has these reminders of the 1940s, which are just as often double-take moments as quaint and somehow cute. A population of 2 billion. Only! 15 year olds on bicycles, who also drive jeeps and casually ask permission to go blow up something with a stick of dynamite. (What!?) And turbo-prop planes, while the biology people have created bacteria that convert vegetable matter to oil. And a school syllabus of English, Physics, Latin and French. I kid you not.

So, the alien, a virus-based lifeform with amoebic shape, crashlands on earth while chasing an alien murderer. Being a symbiote, it hunts for a suitable host. Kills a shark (unsuitable), but then finds a boy. So, now the Boy holds the Fate of Earth in his Hands. Because the alien enlists his help in hunting down the villain. Who is hidden in the haystack of 2 billion, and the needle, as the book says, has crept inside one of the straws.

The first 70 pages cover the story till the point that the alien establishes communication with the boy he lives within, and persuades him to return to Hawaii to track down the criminal. I'm about at this point.

OK, I've forgotten who is the person who ends up harbouring the villain, and whether he did it voluntarily or not, and how the villain was tracked and arrested, and how they went home. But it's a Hal Clement book. Happy endings for all. :)

Anyway, I strongly recommend Hal Clement books for young teenagers of all ages. He used to check experimentally all the weird atmospheres and reactions he reported (except probably Mission of Gravity).


More Hal Clement books I've enjoyed: Mission of Gravity, it's sequel Starlight, Close to Critical, Nitrogen Fix and even Iceworld, whose gangsters and cops aliens compensate for the thoroughly dated humans in it.

More books/stories about intelligent alien symbionts: Damon Knight's series CV, The Observers and A Reasonable World, which feature their own set of baffling humans and straightforward symbionts. Robert Silverberg's stories, Amanda and the Alien, in which again, Amanda is the weirder, and The Symbiont, a creepy piece that will stay with you long after it's done (both stories are in his collected stories vol 1: Pluto in the Morning Light).

No comments:

Post a Comment