Friday, July 28, 2017

Forgotten Books: Children of the Sun - Edmond Hamilton

"Children of the Sun" is the second of the Captain Future novellas to appear in the pulp STARTLING STORIES (the May 1950 issue) after the character was on a long hiatus. In this one, Curt Newton, the adventurer/scientist known as Captain Future, and his three friends, brain-in-a-box Simon Wright, android Otho, and robot Grag, are searching for a fellow scientist who disappeared while doing research on Vulcan, a planetoid circling the Sun inside the orbit of Mercury.

Author Edmond Hamilton, with a likely assist from his wife Leigh Brackett, does a great job of world-building in this story. It seems from the context that Vulcan appeared in an earlier Captain Future yarn, but if that's the case I don't know which one. That background isn't necessary to enjoy this story, which does a perfectly fine job of getting the reader up to speed. Vulcan is an interesting world and seems at least sort of scientifically plausible. It's one of those inner worlds like Pellucidar and Skartaris and is inhabited by primitive descendants of colonists from the Old Empire, which collapsed millennia earlier, as well as the strange creatures known as Children of the Sun.

It's not really a spoiler to say that Captain Future and his friends find the scientist they're looking for, although how they go about it requires some heavy-duty suspension of disbelief. To be honest I kind of struggled with that, which is the main reason I didn't like this story as much as the previous one. But it's very well-written, has the same sort of epic scope to it despite the relatively short length, and once again uses a poignant, offbeat ending to great effect. This is intelligent, big-idea, well-written space opera, just the sort of science fiction I like.


Todd Mason said...

At one time, Vulcan was a posited actual planet (some time before STAR TREK, or this CF story).

I wonder if it was a pity STARTLING gave up on Cap Fut not long after. I think I would've liked more Hamilton space opera and planetary romance that wouldn't involve their old star attraction...

George said...

I have the Haffner Press volumes of CAPTAIN FUTURE. I need to read them after enjoying your fine review!