Friday, December 18, 2015

Forgotten Books: Last Call for Doomsday - Edmond Hamilton

I wrote about Leigh Brackett last week, so it seemed fair to read something by her husband Edmond Hamilton this week. LAST CALL FOR DOOMSDAY is a short novel that first appeared in the December 1956 issue of IMAGINATION under the house-name S.M. Tenneshaw. It uses the old plot of an asteroid closing in for a collision with Earth and the efforts to evacuate the planet's population, in this case to a colony that already exists on Mars.

Instead of focusing on the evacuation, though, Hamilton centers his story on those who don't want to be evacuated and who, in fact, believe that the whole thing is a hoax and Earth won't be destroyed. The astronomer who discovered the asteroid that's on a collision course has disappeared, and the novel's protagonist, an Earth official named Jay Wales, is given the job of finding him so he can convince the holdouts to go ahead and leave. Wales soon discovers that there's more going on than there appears to be, and he has to untangle a dangerous plot to get to the truth.

Even though Hamilton had been a very successful author of science fiction for more than a decade before he ever met Brackett, he credited her with making him a better writer, and I think he was correct. LAST CALL FOR DOOMSDAY has the great narrative drive of Hamilton's pulp work, but it also has decent characterization and some passages that are both poignant and evocative. Hamilton has long been one of my favorite SF authors, and while this novel may be one of his minor efforts (because it lacks the epic scope of his best work), it's still well written and quite entertaining. It's been reprinted as part of the Armchair Fiction line under Hamilton's name, and if you're in the mood for some fine SF adventure, it'll do very nicely.


George said...

I've read dozens of Edmond Hamilton works. Love his story-telling ability!

Adventuresfantastic said...

Was unaware of this one. Will have to track a copy down.

Barry Traylor said...

Quite few Hamilton yarns in this magazine and also Imaginative Tales. Edmond was the main reason I bought these magazines back then.

Ed Gorman said...

Excellent review, James, esp your note about Leigh Brackett. I bought every issue of Imagination and Madge Tales from 54 on. No wonder Im so crazy. :).

Charles Gramlich said...

I like Hamilton although he's not my favorite, and no Leigh Brackett. I do think she probably helped him though.

Paul R. McNamee said...

Those Armchair doubles look fun. I have a couple of their HORROR GEMS anthologies. I'd like to see a little more informative introductions. They mostly just package the public domain stories and nothing else. No frills. But, nice packaging and you can at least get the stories, so I can't complain too much.

Todd Mason said...

Wonder why it appeared as a Tenneshaw story...Hamilton's name was certainly a draw.

Todd Mason said...

Not because there was another Hamilton in the issue, at least...


6 • The Editorial (Imagination, December 1956) • [The Editorial (Imagination)] • essay by William L. Hamling
7 •  Cartoon: "I have a hunch we're in for a big time!" • interior artwork by Luther Scheffy
8 • Last Call for Doomsday! • novella by Edmond Hamilton [as by S. M. Tenneshaw ]
8 •  Last Call for Doomsday! • interior artwork by uncredited
63 •  Cartoon: "I wish you'd invent something practical for a change!" • interior artwork by Luther Scheffy
64 • The Alien Dies at Dawn • shortstory by Robert Silverberg and Randall Garrett [as by Alexander Blade ]
65 •  The Alien Dies at Dawn • interior artwork by uncredited
75 •  Cartoon: no caption • interior artwork by Bill Reid
76 • The Thing in the Truck • shortstory by Milton Lesser [as by Darius John Granger ]
77 •  The Thing in the Truck • interior artwork by uncredited
87 • Unguided Missiles • essay by uncredited
87 •  Cartoon: "Back so soon, dear?" • interior artwork by Luther Scheffy
88 • Lair of the Dragonbird • shortstory by Robert Silverberg
89 •  Lair of the Dragonbird • interior artwork by uncredited
98 • How Hot Is Hot? • essay by uncredited
99 •  Cartoon: "Well don't just stand there---blow it again!" • interior artwork by Bill Reid
100 • Revolt of the Brains • shortstory by Milton Lesser [as by C. H. Thames ]
101 •  Revolt of the Brains • interior artwork by uncredited
105 •  Cartoon: "I hate to think what would happen if these labels ever got mixed!" • interior artwork by Luther Scheffy
106 • The Inquisitor • shortstory by Randall Garrett
106 •  The Inquisitor • interior artwork by uncredited
113 • Photonic Amplifier • essay by uncredited
113 •  Cartoon: "Says we're on some planet called Krypton." • interior artwork by Bill Reid
114 • Fandora's Box (Imagination, December 1956) • [Fandora's Box (Imagination)] • essay by Robert Bloch
122 • Imagination Science-Fiction Library (Imagination, December 1956) • [Imagination Science-Fiction Library] • essay by Henry Bott
122 •   Review: The Dragon in the Sea by Frank Herbert • review by Henry Bott
123 •  Cartoon: no caption • interior artwork by Luther Scheffy
124 •  Letters from the Readers (Imagination, December 1956) • [Letters from the Readers (Imagination)] • essay by William L. Hamling
bc •  Tomorrow's Science: Mars, 4th Planet • interior artwork by Mt. Wilson and Palomar Observatories

S. Craig Zahler said...

This seems like a potentially cool tale--facing planetary threats in this kind of situation can be interesting. Donald Wandrei handles a different variation on the meteor threat very poetically, intelligently, and wonderfully in Black Fog, which ranks up there with The Dunwich Horror and The Wendigo as perhaps my favorite short story ever.

I have limited exposure to Edmond Hamilton, and only through Weird Tales, where I found even his short work repetitive--- 'The Man who Returned" and 'Thundering Worlds; were both obvious tales that grew tedious as they churned though similar events, though I did very much enjoy his wacky sci-fi extrapolations in his Burroughs styled Uranus adventure, "The Terror Planet." What is generally considered Hamilton's best work in Weird Tales and afterwards?

James Reasoner said...

I wondered the same thing. Was there ever any rhyme or reason behind which house-names went on which stories in Hamling's digests and the Ziff-Davis pulps? Earl Kemp might know.

There's a BEST OF EDMOND HAMILTON collection edited by Leigh Brackett. The contents:

ix • Fifty Years of Wonder • (1977) • essay by Leigh Brackett
1 • The Monster-God of Mamurth • (1926) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
15 • The Man Who Evolved • (1931) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
32 • A Conquest of Two Worlds • (1932) • novelette by Edmond Hamilton
61 • The Island of Unreason • (1933) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
79 • Thundering Worlds • (1934) • novelette by Edmond Hamilton
106 • The Man Who Returned • (1934) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
119 • The Accursed Galaxy • (1935) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
136 • In the World's Dusk • (1936) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
148 • Child of the Winds • (1936) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
167 • The Seeds from Outside • (1937) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
172 • Fessenden's Worlds • (1937) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
185 • Easy Money • (1938) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
199 • He That Hath Wings • (1938) • novelette by Edmond Hamilton
221 • Exile • (1943) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
226 • Day of Judgment • (1946) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
239 • Alien Earth • (1949) • novelette by Edmond Hamilton
263 • What's It Like Out There? • (1952) • novelette by Edmond Hamilton
284 • Requiem • (1962) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
301 • After a Judgement Day • (1963) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
312 • The Pro • (1964) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
324 • Castaway • (1969) • shortstory by Edmond Hamilton
331 • Afterword (The Best of Edmond Hamilton) • (1977) • essay by Edmond Hamilton

I think "What's It Like Out There?" is regarded as one of his best stories. I like just about everything in this collection, though.

S. Craig Zahler said...

Mr. Reasoner,

Thanks for the information!

Dark Worlds Club said...

These later space opera tales for Hamling are something special. A seasoned veteran doing intelligent adventure fiction is a thing to see. Hamilton went through many phases but this is one of my favorites.