Tag Archives | space travel

Wanderers of Time | John Wyndham

The cover of Wyndham's Wanderers of TimeGolden Age science fiction science fiction is fascinating. Imagine the challenge of writing about space travel when no human had yet escaped our planet’s atmosphere!

In “Derelict of Space,” one of five short stories in Wanderers of Time, Wyndham describes just what it’s like to match velocity and trajectory in an atmosphere-free environment. You can forgive Wyndham for imagining an almost-breathable oxygen level in the bottom of some of the moon’s craters (“The Last Lunarians”).

In “Child of Power” and “The Puff-ball Menace,” Wyndham first writes in short-story form about the ideas which would form his full length novels, Chocky and The Day of the Triffids. The title story, “Wanderers of Time,” takes cues from H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine in portraying a world no longer governed by homo sapiens.

Like much Golden Age science fiction, Wyndham doesn’t develop his characters (although he does attempt a secondary love story in “Wanderers of Time”). What these stories lack in character development, they repay in nineteen-thirties novelty.


Wyndham, John. Wanderers of Time. London: Coronet Books, 1973.

Stowaway to Mars | John Wyndham

The cover of Wyndham's Stowaway to MarsI love John Wyndham’s science fiction. I have been a fan since my college days when I read The Chrysalids (in an effort to read all the books I was supposed to read in High School).

Wyndham first published this work with the title, Planet Plane in 1936 under the pen name John Beynon. It was later published as a serial novel under the names The Space Machine and Stowaway to Mars. Stowaway is one of his first works, and it shows. The plot lacks the drive and balance of his later efforts.

The story centres around one person’s drive to be the first to reach Mars and return. Of course, there is a stowaway—a woman named Joan.

It’s interesting to see how Wyndham handled gender issues. On the one hand, Joan is portrayed as a tough woman who is determined to break free of preassigned roles (in contrast to the protagonists’s earthbound and pregnant wife). Her iconoclastic role is undermined, however, as the story continues.

The philosophic role of machines and technology in society is the most interesting part of the book. The protagonist is enamored with his machines and the accolades they have won him. His wife, on the other hand, is threatened by them. Martian society has fully accepted and allowed machinery to flourish. Joan, in a conversation with the Martian Vaygan questions his acceptance of them:

‘The Machines?’ Joan repeated. ‘What are the Machines? They are the puzzle which brought me here.’ She told him of the machine which had somehow reached Earth. ‘I felt nervous of it,’ she owned, ‘and I felt nervous of your machines last night. I think that is the first reaction of all of us to our own machines. Some never get beyond it, others get used to it, but when we think of machines we feel that in spite of all they have given us and all they do for us there is something malignant about them. Their very presence forces us down ways we do not want to go.’ (149)

Joan continues to question the Martian’s apparent subservience to their machines. Vaygan later admits:

‘In a sense the machine must rule from the moment it is put to work. One surrenders to its higher efficiency—that is why it was made.’ (168)

These thoughts anticipate the work of Jacques Ellul!

Stowaway is not one of Wyndham’s great stories, but it’s still a thought-provoking read.

—John Wyndham, Stowaway to Mars (London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1977).

Downward to the Earth | Robert Silverberg

Fantasy and Science Fiction are often kept in two separate sections of the bookstore. Silverberg marries the two masterfully in Downward to the Earth.

This book is essentially the sequel to Avatar. No, it’s not set in the same world, but the themes remain. In fact, I’d be surprised to find out that the script writers of Avatar had not drawn inspiration from this book.

In Downward to the Earth, the humans recognized the error of mining a world with sentient creatures on it so they gave back ownership of the planet. Now, a few years later, a former player during the mining days returns for some unfinished business. The contrast between the science fiction of space travel and the fantastic elements of native creature’s religion make a compelling story.

This is more than just another museum-piece science fiction novel. It’s a story about spiritual discovery with a few unseen twists along the way.

Chocky | John Wyndham

Chocky’s a fine science fiction tale. In it, a boy named Matthew begins to have conversations with an imaginary friend—who turns out to be more than imaginary. The back cover states that the friend, “was far too intelligent and frightening” to spring from the mind of Matthew alone.

This story pulls you in from the first couple pages. There’s an element of potential horror surrounding the plot that makes it compelling. There’s a some depth here, too. It’s interesting to hear about the family dynamics of Matthew’s mother. Wyndham could have made much more use of that side-story.

On the whole, this book ranks just slightly above average. The climax was a bit of a let down for me. Still, I love Wyndham, so it was a pleasant read. If you’re not a Wyndham fan, there are other more interesting books to begin with.

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