Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Tomorrow People: 1960 SF novel by Judith Merril

The Tomorrow People, a novel by American and Canadian science fiction writer, editor, and political activist Judith Merril.

Pictured: Paperback (New York: Pyramid Books, 1960) #G-502, 35¢. Cover art by Robert E. Schulz.

Blurb from the back cover:
There was something on Mars that killed people.

One expedition vanished without a trace. Out of another, only one man came back. That was Johnny Wendt—the only man who had seen Mars and lived. His knowledge could be decisive in the desperate East-West race for Space. But Johnny didn’t know what it was that made Mars a death-trap … and he didn’t know that he’d brought it back with him!

Judith Merril’s anthologies and short stories have won her a unique place in science-fiction. Now, in he second full-length novel, she has turned in a top-flight dramatic narrative of the near future.
According to the cast of characters printed just inside the front cover of the novel, “The Tomorrow People” are:
Johnny Wendt: The world’s first Space hero—until he became an alcoholic drifter.

Lisa Trovi: She gave up a career to salvage Johnny, the she went to the Moon to help him—but found something there more important than love.

Phil Kutler: His job was to find out what Space had done to Johnny—and see that it didn’t happen to the next Spacemen.

Congressman McLafferty: He was out to grab the Space program for himself—and his dreadfully effective weapons were headlines.
Wikipedia sez that Damon Knight wrote in In Search of Wonder: Essays on Modern Science Fiction (1967): “Parts of this book [The Tomorrow People] are relatively painless to read: the only irritants in the dialogue are coyness, feminine overemphasis and an unaccountable sprinkling of 1960 jive talk... What is objectionable in the book is its lack of any internal discipline, either in the writing or the thinking. Under the crisp surface it is soft and saccharine: wherever you bite it, custard dribbles out. Is this the "woman's viewpoint"? I don't believe it; I think it is the woman's-magazine viewpoint, from which God preserve us.”

Less critical is a recent review of The Tomorrow People by New England Science Fiction Association (NESFA) member Elisabeth Carey, who concludes: “Despite some obvious changes in background assumptions (the Cold War, and what a pregnancy outside of marriage means socially), this is still a solid, interesting, enjoyable short novel.”

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