11 May 2012

SF keeps December warm in the northern hemisphere

Science Fiction | Harry Harrison
Since I posted last, I reread Harry Harrison's The Jupiter Plague.

Harry Harrison has written an incredible number of books, ranging from silly easy reads to thought-provoking easy reads. He's written science fiction, comedy (the Revenge series, e.g. Queen Victoria's Revenge), and comic science fiction, and goodness knows what else besides, not only in English but in Esperanto. The Jupiter Plague is straight science fiction.
It features Dr Sam Bertolli, an ex-UN Army man who becomes a late student. As an intern on the ambulance detail, he gets to meet up with the long-missing and recently returned "Pericles", a ship that actually landed on Jupiter and returned. A member of the crew emerges, falls sick and dies despite the best efforts of Sam and Nita Mendel, a pathologist, dies. And he's locked the ship tight. Everyone worries about another plague (there was one when the first expedition returned from Venus), and a team is formed to analyse this new disease. Next you know, birds are dropping dead. Infected birds infect humans and birds, but humans don't infect humans. So, they try to cull all the birds. Ha, you say to yourself, like the bird flu thing a few years ago. Yeah, but this book was written in 1965 and revised in 1982.

Anyway, some people protect their birds, but others attack them. Then the whole area goes under quarantine, but a mob breaks out. And in the meantime, dogs start getting it from birds, and transmitting back to humans.

OK, so in the 1960s, humans were special, and a plague would naturally attempt to attack humans, right? Not fish or prokaryotes, right?

Never mind. At some stage, Sam realises that he needs to reexamine the ship before the panicked world leaders camped in Geneva drop an atom bomb on the city.

OK, OK, you don't want any more spoilers. :)

A thought-provoking book with a nice open ending.

Another of my favourite Harry Harrison fast-action-think-later books is Invasion Earth, where again the woman in the story has a totally different view of the situation, partly 'cause she's Russian--maybe. And it has two different, new aliens.

Other Harry Harrison books which are great fun are the Stainless Steel Rat series, the Deathworld trilogy, and One Step from Earth. His series on Bill the Galactic Hero is a comic army story based in the far future, but it's basically different episodes of the same concept, and the first in the series is the best. (And, yes, the artist who drew the cover can draw well; read the book if you don't believe how well).

If you haven't read Harry Harrison, start now.

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