Tag Archives: 1962

[Nov. 15, 1962] Panic in Year One (the movie, This is not a Test)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

With nuclear bombers parked just 90 miles off the coast of Florida, and last month having seen the United States go to its highest military alert level since we were fighting the Japanese, its no wonder that The Bomb remains a popular cinematic topic.  In the last decade, most of the films that featured Our Enemy, the Atom starred horribly mutated monsters.  More recently, there has been a slew of films portraying a post-apocalyptic world, starting with On the Beach, including the excellent The World, The Flesh, and the Devil, and also the less than excellent The Last Woman on Earth.


This is a test… of your patience.

The most recent entry in this radioactive field is the Z-Movie This is not a Test.  Its “star” is Seamon Glass as Deputy Sheriff Colton, a lawman dispatched to establish a roadblock on a rural road at 4AM.  As the cars and trucks are detained, we learn that Colton is after a young murderer.  The manhunt is interrupted by a bulletin: A Yellow Alert; the nation is under attack, and missile impact is imminent.


Todd Stiles and Buzz Murdock as truck drivers…

After the first few minutes, the flood of vehicles abruptly stops, and we are left with our cast of characters.  There’s the estranged middle aged couple with a dog (the Young Traveler quickly dubbed it “Gertrude“).  There’s grandpa and his pretty, pious daughter.  There’s the rakish truck driver, in whose rig the murderer had been hitchhiking.  There’s the hip couple, just back from Vegas after having made it big.  Wrapping up the ensemble is the late-arriving young scooter driver with an intellectual mien and an amazing capacity for remembering all of his lines (and little else).


“Drink this, honey — it’ll help the movie go down.”

And so begins a sort of atomic 12 Angry Men, a one-set piece in which the interactions of the characters, such as they are, takes center stage.  Civilization breaks down in the sixty minutes prior to the Bomb’s fall.  The rake seduces the wife.  The milquetoast husband shoots himself rather than interfere.  The hipsters drink themselves silly.  The fugitive, clearly mentally challenged, makes a few languid ominous moves at the daughter…but mostly just wants his suitcase back.  The grandfather suddenly remembers the existence of an abandoned mineshaft and dispatches his daughter and the intellectual to it.


Our Kooky Kast.

The most interesting character is Colton, who is a moron and yet, by virtue of his position, in charge.  He orders the roadblocked travelers to give him their car keys, he smashes the liquour in the back of the truck (so as to keep people from drinking), and then directs the stranded civilians to empty the vehicle so that it can be used as a bomb shelter — though what good thin, above-ground metal walls will do is an open question.  Later, while panting in the hot bed of the truck, the Deputy decides to kill the puppy to conserve oxygen (yes, Gertrude dies in this film, too!)


This is the enemy.

At the film’s conclusion, looters show up and abscond with the wife.  The rest of the travelers close up the truck just before the bomb hits, leaving the criminal and the deputy out in the open.  Cue a bright flash and… The End.


And thus the movie ends as it began… with a whimper.

By any measure, This is not a Test is terrible, made on a shoestring, indifferently written, counterproductively acted.  Still, as bad as this movie clearly is, it does work.  Sort of.  It’s obvious within the first ten minutes that the only drama is that provided by the characters under increasing stress.  It’s strangely compelling and somehow keeps your interest from beginning to end.

Two stars.

And now for a view from the perspective of a teen: Young Traveler, take it away!


by Lorelei Marcus

You know what there aren’t enough of right now? Movies with people talking about what to do when a nuclear bomb hits! At least, that’s what the writers of This is Not a Test thought before writing this sorry excuse of a movie. That’s right, we’re back with another movie review, and this time the movie is really bad. Let’s start from the beginning.

This is Not a Test is about a group of people who get stranded on a mountain close to ‘ground zero’ just before the missiles hit. The entire movie is their discussion of how they will survive the blast. That’s it. Now this movie was made on a shoestring, so I can let some cheapness slide but the storytelling was just lazy! There was practically no plot! Sure there were a few conflicts here and there, but nothing I really cared about. “Oh no, that one guy’s wife is cheating on him. Oh no, that other girl’s dog died.” You’d think a movie about a nuclear bomb would manage to be a little bit thrilling, or even interesting, but I guess not.


“You think we’ll see the bomb?  Hear it?”  “Not on this budget…”

I think this movie is also made so much worse because we have an example of a really fantastic movie on this topic, also made on a low budget. Panic in Year Zero was an excellent film, made with little more than This is not a Test. It had a fascinating story, compelling characters, and thrilling conflicts. In fact, its as if someone saw Panic and said, “I want to make that… but worse!” It’s a bit uncanny how the events in Panic line up with the topics of discussion in Test so flawlessly. Hmm..


“Calling all cars.  Watch out for traffic jams and people pushing cars off roads.  We won’t show you, but you’ll hear about it.”

The plot wasn’t the worst part of the movie though. The entire movie had one set: an empty road on the side of some barren mountain. I’ve seen some very bad movies, but at least they gave me something to look at! For example, the movie Konga was one of the worst films I’ve seen, but at least it was awesome seeing the city getting destroyed by a giant ape! Instead, Test gives us a couple shots of a dirt hillside and some cars to look at for an hour and ten minutes.


“Kids, I just remembered that there’s an old mine nearby.  You might have to fight Ray Milland for it, though.”


A band of looters!  This isn’t anything like Panic in Year Zero

The acting was extremely dry, the story was unoriginal and terrible, and it was boring to look at too! The title might as well be This is Not a Film! I was thoroughly bored from beginning to end, and it was frankly a waste of (more than) an hour of my life. I give this movie 1 and a half stars.

This is The Young Traveler, signing off.




[November 12, 1962] HEADS ABOVE THE CLOUDS (the December 1962 Amazing)


by John Boston

Science fiction becomes science fact!  Well not quite, fortunately for us all.  It appears that we came to the brink of nuclear war last month but our leaders on both sides had sense enough to turn back from it.  These grave events reverberated even here, far from any population center or promising military target.  We were herded to a school assembly to be addressed by the principal, very briefly.  It went more or less like this:

“We, ah, don’t think . . . er, anything . . . is going to . . . ah, happen, but if, er, . . . something . . . ah, happens . . . classes will be dismissed and you will return to your homes” (these last clauses delivered with accelerating confidence, unlike the earlier ones).

Shortly thereafter, I was outside in gym class (physical education, as they call it here).  In a corner of the large outdoor area, the school’s paper trash was burning in a concrete enclosure.  (Isn’t there a better way of disposing of this stuff than burning it in the open air?  There ought to be a law.) The wind shifted, and fine bits of ash began drifting down on us.  “Fallout!” someone yelled.

So much for existential terror, at least in the so-called real world.  There’s a fair dose of it in the December Amazing, however, and this issue is noticeably wider awake than its recent predecessors.

Raymond F. Jones contributes the lead story Stay Off the Moon! Jones is an intermittently prolific 20-year veteran who has produced a lot of cut-to-specs product but sometimes comes up with clever oddball ideas, and here’s one of them.  Our guys at Mission Control succeed in putting a remote-controlled mobile laboratory device on the Moon to take soil (i.e. rock) samples, analyze them, and transmit the results.  Turns out the atomic weights and energy levels are different from the matter we know.  How can that be?  The Moon must have originated a long, long way away, in a place where the laws we thought are universal don’t quite work.  Well, what else is going on up there?  Finding the bizarre but logical (and terrifying) answer is the rest of the story.  This is the kind of thing only an SF geek can appreciate, but within those bounds it’s imaginative and well done.  Four stars.

Roger Zelazny’s Moonless in Byzantium—his second Amazing story, fourth published—might have a broader appeal.  It’s a surreal riff on one of the more familiar plots in the warehouse, the lone rebel face to face with an oppressive regime, in this case the Robotic Overseeing Unit.  In this dystopia, machines are in charge, people are mostly machines, and our protagonist is charged with writing Sailing to Byzantium on a washroom wall.  He is also charged with illegal possession of a name—William Butler Yeats, which he appended to Yeats’s poem.  This is the world of Cutgab, in which language itself is drastically restricted and simplified, and writing forbidden.  ROU accuses: “You write without purpose or utility, which is why writing itself has been abolished—men always lie when they write or speak.” The outcome is inevitable save for the accused’s final and futile defiance.  This is one that succeeds on sheer power of writing; in theme and style, it suggests Bradbury with sharper teeth.  Four stars for bravura execution of a stock idea.

This month’s Editorial indicates that some readers thought that this Roger Zelazny was himself a fictional character, and prints Zelazny’s reassurance that he exists; his Polish ancestors were armorers and the name comes from the Polish for “iron”; he’s 25, and possesses an M.A. in English and Comparative Literature from Columbia University, military training as a guided missile launcher crewman, and his old copies of Captain Future.

The Zelazny is followed by Far Enough to Touch, by Stephen Bartholomew, who had a couple of stories in If and one in Astounding a few years ago.  A space mission is returning from the Moon, and suddenly one of the crew—the young one who seemed most entranced by space—has gone out the airlock in his spacesuit.  Rescued, he’s in an ecstatic delusional fugue, and stays that way.  And the point?  It escapes me, but the story is very smoothly written.  Two stars.

Stewart Pierce Brown contributes an equally well-turned but insubstantial story in Small Voice, Big Man, in which the voice of a washed-up singer suddenly is emanating from radios everywhere, to benign effect.  And the singer, Van Richie, is trying to make a comeback, but had a hard time singing loudly enough until the producer’s electrician rigged up an amplifier for him to wear.  OK, clear enough, but so what?  Two insipid stars—but this one is also smoothly written, not surprisingly from a writer who’s been in Bluebook, Collier’s, Playboy, and the Saturday Evening Post.

Marion Zimmer Bradley, who served up a dish of broken glass in the last issue, is back with something more soothing.  Measureless to Man takes place on yesterday’s Mars, where explorers travel on foot through the mountains with tents and sleeping bags, people get around by flagging down the mail jet, and the fauna include cute scaly sand mice and banshees, giant, stupid but dangerous flightless birds.  I suspect that this story was at least started a decade ago in hopes of a sale to the now-deceased pulps that Bradley admired.  Anyway, it concerns an expedition into the said mountains to the ancient city Xanadu, abandoned ages ago by the seemingly extinct Martians, from which no previous expedition has returned, and you can more or less guess what happens, in broad outline at least.  This used furniture is rearranged agreeably enough, with a slightly ironic, newer-style ending.  Three stars.

Sam Moskowitz’s “SF Profile” this issue is “Psycho”-logical Bloch, which is a little puzzling; Moskowitz readily concedes that Robert Bloch is a fairly inconsequential SF writer and that his main credentials are in horror and psychological suspense, at this point chiefly in film and TV.  Apparently Bloch is here in this series featuring the likes of Asimov and Heinlein because he’s popular among fandom.  But for a relatively pointless article, it’s perfectly readable and informative.  Three stars.

Finally, Frank Tinsley is back with The Mars Supply Fleet, doing his best to make space travel pedestrian again.  Two stars for making interesting information boring.

But still, cause for hope: two items in this issue poke their heads above the cloudbank of routine, in very different ways…




[November 10, 1962] Across the Ocean of the Night (the planet Neptune)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

In the last planetary article, I discussed the discovery and nature of the seventh planet, Uranus.  It was the first sizable member of the solar system to be found since ancient times.  And yet, its very discovery sowed the seeds for the quick locating of the next planet out from the sun. 

Shortly after William Herschel spotted Uranus and deduced what it was, other astronomers realized that the green planet wasn’t following a regular path around the sun.  Some invisible thing was tugging at it, causing it to deviate from its orbit.  Doing a little math, it was determined that this object must be a large planet, 30 times farther from the sun than the Earth, twice as far from the sun as Uranus! 

After a comparatively short search to find Planet 8, the Frenchman Le Verrier discovered it in1846, a very neat application of orbital mathematics and organized observation, the likes of which may never again be repeated.  The English wanted to name the planet “Oceanus,” but since the French found it, they chose the name: Neptune – Roman God of the sea and brother to Jupiter.

A wobble in Uranus’ orbit led to the discovery of Neptune.  And, in fact, Neptune itself has a little wobble that led people, around the turn of the century, to believe one or two planets lay beyond the eighth planet.  Those planets were sought for and one little world was ultimately found in 1930 as a result, but whether Pluto is actually the cause of the wobble remains an open question.  An exciting 1957 article suggests that Pluto was once a moon of Neptune, ejected early in the planet’s life, which could explain the smaller world’s eccentric orbit.

So what is Neptune like?  In some ways, Uranus and Neptune are of a piece, both midway in size between the terrestrial worlds and the true giants, Jupiter and Saturn.  Uranus shows up as a small pale green disk in a telescope; Neptune is a blue circle half that size.  Neptune is a little more massive than Uranus, but also a little smaller.  Where Uranus has five moons.  Neptune appears to have just two.  Backwards-rotating Triton has been known almost since Neptune’s finding, but little Nereid was just discovered in 1949.  Thanks to these moons, we know that Neptune has 17.26 masses of the Earth (compared to a little over 14 for Uranus).  Moons also tell us that Uranus is tipped over on its side; Neptune’s axial tilt is 27%, very similar to the 23.5% of Earth’s. 

The four terrestrial or rocky worlds are composed mostly of dense matter like metals and silicates, and the gas giants are made mostly of hydrogen and helium (like the sun).  Uranus and Neptune seem to be halfway planets, around 20% heavy stuff and 80% middling stuff, like methane, ammonia, and water – all of which, at the frigid temperatures of the outer solar system, should be in liquid or solid form. 

There is likely gaseous hydrogen and helium making up a tiny fraction of the planet’s mass.  Observations in 1950 suggested Neptune has twice the density of Uranus, which would mean the atmosphere of hydrogen and helium would be thin, indeed, over a slush of methane, ice, and pressure-metallized ammonia, which in turn covers a solid core of something, about twice the mass of the Earth.

How do we know what’s in Neptune’s atmosphere?  A spectrograph takes visible light and separates into its components, like a prism.  Every element has a distinctive pattern when it is run through a spectrograph.  Scientists try to recreate the patterns that they see in a controlled environment.  For instance, the patterns seen in Neptune’s diffracted light are most closely approximated by a mix of three parts helium to one part hydrogen at a temperature no greater than 78 degrees Kelvin (-351 degrees Fahrenheit).  Spectral “fingerprints” associated with methane have also been found.  This, then must be the general nature of Neptune’s visible layer of air.

The spectroscope also tells us, based on the shifting wavelengths of light from the planet’s edges (the Doppler Effect), that Neptune’s day is 15.8 hours long.  That rapid spin bulges the planet like an egg, though to nowhere near the extent of, say, less-dense Saturn. 

And… that’s it!  This is the entire sum of knowledge we have about the huge frigid sentinel near the edge of our solar system.  The blue orb is too far away for any surface features to be discerned, and no radio output has been detected.  Until we send a probe past Neptune, I’m afraid we will learn precious little more about the eighth planet.

Then again, at the rate our Space Race is going, Mariner 19 could be in the offing as early as the next decade…




[November 8, 1962] Late Night with the Journey (Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin… and Steve Allen!)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Victoria Lucas

When I got back from Stanford in June, I was ready for a little TV.  I didn’t take one to school and didn’t have time to watch it anyway.  I worked most of the time I wasn’t in class or doing homework so I could stay in school.  I got a student loan, and paying off that and paying the mortgage on my mother’s house where I lived is difficult, so I type papers and theses here. 

I’m often also at work evenings—my salary includes coming to work on weekends so I can run the box office for the Drama Department where I’m the secretary—and if I’m not doing that I often work on community productions, like the ones for Playbox or the dinner theatre, or act as a “clacker” for the Drama Department productions or others (clapping and laughing loudly).  And I go to concerts.

About the only time I have to watch TV is late at night — after I can’t type any more, the rehearsals are over, the concerts done with, the occasional parties over, the box office closed and plays over.  I used to watch Jack Paar on “The Tonight Show,” but I understand he walked out, and his last show was March 29.  I don’t know, I guess I tried some of the guest-hosts (Merv Griffin, Arlene Francis, et al.) they had on in his place, but none I watched caught my fancy.  (Griffin went into daytime TV, interviewing people.)

I understand Johnny Carson finally replaced Paar October 1.  But he didn’t catch my fancy either.  I think only of seeing him in “Who Do You Trust?” his daytime show I would see when sick at home with the TV for company, and I don’t like the way he mocks housewives.

So I twiddled the dial and into my room at the back of the house walked Steve Allen, laughing.  He used to be the host for “The Tonight Show.” In fact, he started the thing.  But now he has the theatre where the show is taped named after him and can do pretty much anything he wants.  Carson wears tailored suits that look expensive and his humor—what there is of it—is deadpan.  That’s OK, but by the time I turn on the TV at night I want laughter, lots of it.  I want Steve Allen yelling “SMOCK SMOCK” back at the audience when they make bird noises at him.  I don’t mind if he dives into a pool full of Jello or his other opening stunts.  (It gives me time to get settled until the screaming dies down.) I want Steve Allen leaving the studio to accost some unsuspecting passers by on the streets outside or at the very least making fun of the people at Hollywood and Vine. 

OK, there’s an occasional guest, but between guests and his piano music, he laughs and does crazy stuff and breaks himself up laughing when he sees himself on a monitor.  And I love it when he has his wife Jayne Meadows on.  One word that has been applied to him explains why I like to watch Allen: unpredictable.  I like music that surprises me, theatre/movies with endings I can’t foretell, jokes with punchlines I can’t anticipate.  Wrap all that up with intelligence, eloquence, musicianship, and a sense of humor that won’t quit, and you’ve got Steve Allen.  If you aren’t watching him already, I suggest you start.

Incidentally, Lionel Van Deerlin won his seat in the California election for the 37th District Tuesday.  I didn’t stay up eating a pomegranate while waiting for election results the way I used to when I was younger, but kept an ear out for the results.  Remember, he’s the guy who was newscaster and news director for local television after an unsuccessful run for Congress 4 years ago.  It’ll be interesting to see what a Democrat from the usually Republican San Diego will do for a change.

[Sadly, but expectedly, the unincorporated community of Vista will be represented henceforth by James B. Utt, who is somewhere to the right of Atilla the Hun.  At least Governor Brown trounced Tricky Dick! (Ed.)]




[November 6, 1962] The road not taken… (Philip K. Dick’s The Man in the High Castle)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

What if the good guys had lost World War 2?

Imagine a United States split in three pieces: the East Coast is a protectorate of the Reich.  The West has been colonized by the Japanese.  A rump free state sprawls across the Rockies and western Plains.  The Holocaust has extended to Africa, and the two fascist superpowers are locked in a Cold War with stakes as high, if not higher than in our real world.

Philip K. Dick has returned to us after a long hiatus with a novel, The Man in the High Castle.  It is an ambitious book, long for a science fiction novel.  Castle‘s setting is an alternate history, one in which the Axis powers managed to defeat the Allies…somehow (it is never explained).  Dick explores this universe through five disparate viewpoint protagonists, whose paths intertwine in complex, often surprising ways:

Major Rudolf Wegener: An agent of the Abwehr, the German foreign espionage service known for its subversive, anti-Nazi activities. Wegener is desperate to make contact with the Japanese government to inform them of a German plan to turn the Cold War hot – a conflict the Japanese cannot win.  His contact intermediary is…

Nobusuke Tagomi: Head of the Japanese trade mission in San Francisco, a deeply spiritual and traditional man who abhors violence.  Like many Japanese posted in the former United States, he has an outsized fancy for American antiques such as those provided by…

Robert Childan: A prissy antiques dealer, who accepts the superiority of the ancient civilizations of the Far East, having adopted the Japanese mindset almost entirely.  He is resolved to dismantle the cultural heritage of his nation one little treasure at a time – that is, until he discovers a new American culture growing like a flower in a footprint, a culture represented by the art whose creator is…

Frank Frink: Formerly a forger of American historical artifacts, he has turned his expertise to the creation of exquisite modern jewelry.  He is a Jew in a world where being a Jew is a capital crime.  He is married to but long-separated from…

Juliana Frink: A ravishing beauty and Judo expert living on her own in the Rocky Mountain States.  She links up with a mournful Italian truck driver who turns out to be an SD (Nazi secret police) assassin tasked with murdering the author of…

The Grasshopper lies heavy: A sort of sixth character that unites the protagonists.  It is a novel of alternate history in which Germany and Japan lost the Second World War.  Banned in the Reich and Reich-controlled countries, it is a best-seller elsewhere.  Its window on a world in which fascism did not triumph offers a scrap of hope, a vision of a world where sanity prevailed.  It is interesting to note that the timeline of Grasshopper is not that of our universe, but one in which the British and Americans are the post-war superpowers. 

There is a strong suggestion that what makes the world of Grasshopper so compelling is that it is, in fact, the real world.  This goes beyond wishful thinking.  At one point, Tagomi actually wills himself away from Castle’s timeline.  Castle’s author, Hawthorne Abendsen confesses that he did not so much write Grasshopper as simply draft it per the dicta of the I Ching, an ancient Chinese oracle book whose use is widespread in the Japanese-influenced regions, and which Abendsen consulted throughout the writing of his book.

Castle takes a good third of its length to really get started.  Ostensibly a thriller of an alternate Cold War, it is really a character study focused on the myriad minutiae of interaction.  How do conqueror and conquered interact?  How complete can cultural assimilation be?  What is the character of pride in a defeated race?  These are all good questions, and Dick does a decent job giving his take on their answers.

There are significant problems with Castle, however.  For one, it suffers from lazy worldbuilding.  The book is an opportunity for Dick to draw a wide cast of characters and depict their complex web of interactions.  But the underpinnings of the world they inhabit are implausible.  First and foremost, it would have been impossible, logistically, for the United States to have fallen to the Axis Powers.  For that matter, I have doubts that the Soviet Union was ever in existential danger.  Certainly the Reich never came close to making The Bomb – their racial theory-tinged science wouldn’t have allowed it.  It is sobering when you realize that the Allies managed to fight two world wars and develop the most expensive and powerful weapon ever known all at the same time.  An Axis victory in World War 2 resulting in the conquest of the United States is simply a nonstarter.

Setting that aside (since we’d have no book otherwise) the Nazi feats in Castle, accomplished in just 17 years and including the colonization of Mars, Venus, the moon; as well as the damming of the Mediterranean(!) are just silly.  In fact, a clever touch would have been to suggest that those feats were actually purely propaganda.  They might well have been, but Dick plays it straight in the book. 

Dick also seems to have not done much homework before writing Castle.  The politics and depictions of Nazi characters could have been (and likely were) derived from a cursory read of Shirer’s recent instant classic, Rise and Decline of the Third Reich, without much elaboration or extrapolation.  Fair enough.  Dick spends most of his time in the Japanese-occupied Pacific States of America, anyway, so he doesn’t need to develop the German side too much. 

There again, however, we have no depth.  The inner monologues of the Japanese (and the most Nippophile of subjects, Childan) are distinguished mostly by Dick’s eschewing of the definite article.  In other words, there is no “the” and precious few pronouns.  That is technically how the Japanese language works, but it’s not as if those concepts don’t exist – they’re simply implied.  Moreover, it doesn’t make sense that Childan would speak and think this way.  The execution is clumsy.  It makes the Japanese come off as pidgin-speakers, incapable of erudition in English.

The Japanese and Easternized Americans also exhibit a painful stiffness, and utterly spartan adherence to the ancient arts and ways.  It’s as if Dick had read Suzuki’s Zen and Japanese Culture (one of the recent wave of books the Japanese have released to rehabilitate the image Westerners have of them) and took it as representative of all Japanese culture.  I’ve been to Japan ten times.  I’ve studied Japanese for two decades.  I have a great many Japanese friends.  They are as varied as any other set of people, and this monodimensional portrayal does them no favors – nor does it interest particularly. 

Add to this the sterile, detached atmosphere of the book, as if the words were cloaked in gauze, and it makes for an often sloggish read.  I understand that the style underscores the bleak hopelessness of life in the new America, but there should have been some variation among the characters.  They all think similarly.  A sort of cynical weariness.  It’s even justifiable, but it’s oppressive and monotonous. 

The reason for Dick’s long absence from the science fiction genre (alternate history is not strictly science fiction; one of Dick’s characters even says as much in Castle, but let’s not split hairs) is that he, like Sturgeon and many others, tried to make it big with a mainstream book.  Like Sturgeon, he was not successful, so it appears he has tried to bridge the gap between SF and the mainstream by picking a particularly popular topic.  Shirer and Suzuki have certainly plowed the field for Dick, and early buzz around Castle is strong. 

But unlike Heinlein’s mainstream success, Stranger in a Strange Land or Sturgeon’s less successful (but better) Venus Plus X, I find it difficult to discern an overall message in Castle.  I find myself comparing Castle unfavorably with Orwell’s 1984, a book that was not only an excellent novel, but also a profound cautionary tale against Communism and the pursuit of power for power’s sake.  Castle doesn’t really say much other than “life under the Japanese would be pretty lousy, albeit better than under the Nazis.”  The interesting relationships between characters, and what Dick tries to convey through them, are subverted by the lack of plausibility of Dick’s alternate 1962 and by the flawed and flat portrayals of those who live in it. 

Of course, maybe these flaws are intentional.  The ending suggests that the world of Castle isn’t even real, just some sort of half-baked flight of fancy.  One might conclude that all of the stereotypes, all the shallow history, the mind-numbing sameness of the characters are just beams to support the structure of a colossal cosmic joke.  That Castle really is just a Dickian daydream set to paper, and that the styling of its components is designed to underscore the unreality of the story’s proceedings.  Seen in this light, Castle would be subtly brilliant.

However, I suspect that gives Dick too much credit.  I think Dick was really just throwing vague ideas out there and hoping we’d Rorschach them into something coherent.  Castle is a readable book, a well-timed book, and it knits a number of characters together somewhat entertainingly, at times profoundly.  But it’s also a sensational, shallow book.  An overwrought, affected book.  It’s not bad – Dick is never bad – but it is not the masterpiece I think many people feel it is destined to be. 

Three stars and a half stars.




[October 31, 1962] Trick and Treat! (A Halloween candy wrap-up of the Space Race)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

Halloween is normally a time for scares — for us to invoke, dress up as, and tell stories of various ghosts, ghoulies, and goblins.  But let’s face it.  We’ve had quite enough fright for one month, what with the Free and the Communist worlds just seconds from Midnight over the Soviet placement of nuclear missiles in Cuba.  Thankfully, that crisis has been resolved peacefully, with the Russians agreeing to dismantle their weapons and return them home (who knows what unreported concessions we may have made to assure that outcome).  Nevertheless, with our heart rates still elevated, I think the best remedy is to skip terror this time around and focus on the things that make us smile:

Candy and space missions!

Niña and Pinta sail the magnetic oceans

Last year, I gushed rhapsodically about the voyage of Explorer 12, a vessel designed to map the contours of the Earth’s magnetic field.  The results did not disappoint; thanks to that little probe’s journey, we now know that there is a sharp boundary between the our planet’s magnetosphere and the magnetic emanations of our sun.  This, then, is the map of our unseen ocean, as of this year:

But how constant is this border, this magnetopause, between ours and the solar magnetic sea?  What are the mechanisms of its flow?  Moreover, what of the three charged “Van Allen” belts girdling the Earth?  And what impacts do our atmospheric atomic tests have on them, short and long-term?

That’s the nature of science.  Early experiments tend to provide more questions than answers!  Explorer 12, which ceased operations in late ’61, won’t be answering any more of them; however, NASA launched two more Explorers just this month to pick up where the magnetic Santa Maria left off.

Explorer 14 was launched October 2.  Like Explorer 12, it has a highly eccentric orbit in which the 89 pound spacecraft zooms 60,000 miles into the sky before flying near the Earth.  This takes the probe through all of the layers of the Earth’s magnetic field.  The experiment load is largely the same as Explorer 12’s, with a couple of additional sensors. 

Explorer 15 is a different kind of ship.  It only goes up to about 10,000 miles, and its mission is more focused on the artificial particle fields created as the result of nuclear explosions.  Unfortunately, when the spacecraft launched on October 27, it did not extend its “arms” — little weight-bearing spars — to slow down the spin imparted to it by its rocket.  Like an ice skater with her arms tucked in, Explorer 15 is spinning much faster than intended.  Nevertheless, good data is being gotten from five of its seven experiments.

Watch this space for exciting updates.  Between the new Explorer twins and the Venus probe, Mariner 2, now several million miles from Earth, the age of space magnetic exploration is truly underway!

Chocolate Arms Race

Since early this century, two superpowers have faced off, each developing a physical and sociological arsenal designed to sway the world into one’s camp or the other’s.  I am not speaking of the mortal struggle between Communism and Democracy…but that of Pennsylvania’s Hershey Company versus Minnesota’s Mars, Incorporated.

On the one side, we have the eponymous Hershey Bar, the conical Hershey’s Kisses, the peanut-infused Mr. Goodbar, the rice-included Krackel, etc.  On the other, the Milky Way bar, the Three Musketeers Bar, and most importantly (at least to this column’s editor) the peanutty Snickers Bar.

Of course, this oversimplifies things.  There are plenty of “Third World” candy makers, including Nestle’s (Crunch), Necco (Clark Bar), and Peter Paul (Mounds and Almond Joy).  In fact, my favorite chocolate-based candy is Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, made by Harry Burnett Reese Candy Co.  Harry died six years ago, but I think we can trust his six sons to carry on the independent tradition that has made these confections so delicious. 

In fact, I wholeheartedly support greater parity among the world’s chocolatiers.  After all, we’ve just seen what crises can result in a bipolar world…

Canada joins the Space Race!

Typically, a Thor Agena B launch from Southern California means yet another Air Force “Discoverer” spy sat has gone up; such flights are now weekly occurrences.  But the flight that went up September 29 actually carried a civilian payload into polar orbit: Alouette 1, the first Canadian satellite. 

Alouette is designed to study the ionosphere, that charged layer of the atmosphere hundreds of miles up.  But unlike the sounding rockets routinely sent into the zone, Alouette will survey (or “sound”) the ionosphere from above.  Canada is particularly interested in understanding how and when the sun disrupts the region, interrupting radio communications.  Our neighbor to the north is a big country, after all, and it is the Northern Hemisphere’s first line of defense against Soviet missiles and bombers.  Radio is, therefore, vital to both defense and civilian interests.

According to early data, it looks like the highest “F2” layer of the ionosphere is as reflective to radio waves from the top as the bottom.  Alouette has also, by beaming multiple frequencies down to Earth, helped scientists determine what radio wavelengths aren’t blocked by the ionosphere. 

Sometime next year, Alouette will be joined by an United States “sounder” mission with a different experiment load.  Then we’ll have two sets of space-based data to corroborate with ground-based measurements.  Soon, one of the more mysterious layers of the atmosphere, one completely unknown to us a century ago, will be well understood.

Sweetly Sour

Some people love chocolate.  Strike that — most people love chocolate.  But I tend to favor fruit-flavored candies.  For instance, Smarties, Pixy Stix, the recent Starbust Fruit Chews, and brand new for this year: Lemonheads!

Made by Ferrara, the same folks who make Red Hots (which I also love), Lemonheads are a delicious hard candy mix of sour on the outside, sweet on the inside.  I have now made myself sick at least twice on these things, and I firmly intend to do so at least twice more.  I’m an adult, and no one can stop me.  Besides — it keeps me away from Candy Corn…

The Moon claims another Victim

Speaking of sour…first it was the three Air Force Pioneer missions launched in 1958 – none of them made it even halfway to the Moon.  Then the four Atlas Able Pioneer missions of 1959-60 didn’t even got into Earth orbit.  Now five out of five Ranger probes launched over the last year have failed. 

Launched October 17, the fifth of the Rangers went on the fritz just a few hours after take-off.  On the way to the Moon, the solar power transformer went kaput, leaving the spacecraft on battery power, which rapidly depleted.  Two days later, the silent ship sailed 9,000 miles over the surface of the Moon, after which ground-based ‘scopes quickly lost sight of it. 

Ranger 5 marked the last of the “Block II” line.  The two Block I spacecraft were supposed to stay in Earth orbit and do sky science, but neither of them lasted long enough.  None of the three Block IIs succeeded in their mission of smacking the Moon with their bulbous noses, filled with sensor equipment.  I suspect NASA is going to do a lot of work making sure the Block III craft, armed with cameras, reach their destination alive and snapping photos.  That is, if Congress doesn’t cut their funding.

Happy Halloween, and don’t let the news get you down. 




[Oct. 29, 1962] Treading Water (the November 1962 New Worlds)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Mark Yon

As we enter November here in England, it’s clear that Winter is definitely on the way. The nights are longer and the weather is definitely colder. We’re getting a fair bit of fog too in my home town. It means that waiting for the bus to take me to and from work is definitely chilly.

Of course, the good news from this is that this means more time for reading, watching television or going to the pictures!

Since we last spoke, of course, the news has been full of the Cuban Crisis, which I’m sure you know more about than me. When the BBC mentioned the first signs of trouble brewing a few weeks ago I felt that the British public were not too concerned about events happening elsewhere. How different things are now! Personally, I am pleased that things seem to be calming down now, though there is always the risk that with US/USSR relations being decidedly chilly (like our weather!) things could suddenly change again rather quickly.

Here, one of the effects of these international events is that in London we have seen major marches and protests against nuclear weapons, I guess much like your recent protests for Black Rights in the Mississippi. We have had hundreds of people march — peacefully, mind you — in protest at the escalation of the willingness to use nuclear weapons. Men, women and children — even if you don’t agree with their views, it is still impressive to see democracy in action.

Pop music-wise, Telstar is still at the top of the UK charts, having been in the charts for over ten weeks as I type and having had five weeks at Number 1. I suspect that it will be a contender for one of the best-selling singles of the year at this rate. It’s appropriate — the satellite bridged the Atlantic Ocean, and its namesake song soared to the top of the charts on both sides of it.

OK: to this month’s New Worlds Magazine. In this edition, the November issue, the recent changes in the covers continue. This month it is less garish than the October edition, though still underwhelming to me: a white cover but with yellow boxes and one main photograph.

The big news this month is that it is guest-edited by perhaps our most famous advocate for science fiction today, Mr. Arthur C. Clarke. The main photograph shows Mr. Clarke meeting someone he is clearly pleased to encounter — a certain Mr. Yuri Gagarin, who is, I guess, currently putting our dreams into practice.

I was quite excited by this, as Mr. Clarke is one of my own personal favourite authors. I loved his novel A Fall of Moondust, published last year. However, sadly, the New Worlds editorship does not bring us more new fiction, but merely a transcript of the speech Mr. Clarke gave on his acceptance of the 1962 Kalinga Award for the popularisation of science. It is as we expect — erudite, humorous and emotive. Clarke says that science fiction is pre-eminently “the literature of change” and therefore has a place in the future. I can’t disagree with that.

Having enjoyed Mr. Clarke’s rallying call as an editorial, I must admit that I found the rest of the magazine a disappointment. There was nothing particularly bad, but a lot that wasn’t great. It did feel a little like the magazine is marking time a bit.

We did get a Postmortem letters section, which continued the ongoing debate between different factions of fandom. Lots of discussion on the “controversial” guest editorials. As I rather suspected, Mr. John Baxter’s editorial back in August bemoaning the state of s-f and attempting to suggest that s-f should be more literary and more mainstream seems to have had a mixed response. Most noticeable here was a letter from another previous guest editor of New Worlds, Mr. Arthur Sellings, who argued that Mr. Baxter’s viewpoint reflected a “Britishers’ approach” and what is needed instead is more of a middle-ground approach which caters for a broad range of interests.

We also have Book Reviews from Mr Leslie Flood this month as well. Ms. Naomi Mitchison’s Memoirs of a Spacewoman was “superbly original and alien”, if “at times positively distasteful.” The anthology Spectrum II by Messrs. Kingsley Amis and Robert Conquest was crisp and varied. Most noticeable was the comment that s-f may now be reaching the mainstream as Messrs’s Wyndham and Parkes’s The Outward Urge which was in the top 10 bestsellers in Britain in August. This was the first time a science fiction book has been in this category — hopefully a sign of good things to come.

To the stories:

Lucky Dog by Mr. Robert Presslie
This is the big novelette for this month, written by a New Worlds regular. It’s one of those “Jekyll-and-Hyde” type stories about the results of taking psychomimetic drugs to study the effects of schizophrenia. It starts well but towards the end descends into such implausibility that it nearly undoes all the good work done at the beginning. The ending is weak, which, when combined with an uninspiring connection to the title, left me very disappointed. 2 out of 5.

Just in Time by Mr. Steve Hall
Another story from a relatively new writer for New Worlds. This one was a lighter and more fun story of a group of skilled thieves and their imaginative use of a time machine that arrives in their hotel room. 3 out of 5.

Life-Force by Mr. Joseph Green
An anthropologic short story reminiscent of those of Mr. Chad Oliver, though with much less panache. It’s a story centred around telling a story, where a visitor sees a re-enactment of a tribe’s life-story and heritage. Rather unpleasant, and clearly designed to shock with its matter-of-fact depiction of child rape and cannibalism. 2 out of 5.

The Method by Mr. Philip E. High
This is Mr. High’s first story since Dictator Bait in May 1962. I had high hopes (forgive the pun!) for this story, but like Lucky Dog it started well but sadly ends on a risible pun that made me rather begrudge the time lost spent reading it. Not one of Mr. High’s best efforts. 2 out of 5.

Who Went Where? by Mr. Ross Markham
A story of planetary discovery, about explorers finding a civilised city intact yet devoid of life. The story is therefore the mystery, which in the end isn’t really. Solid yet undemanding. 2 out of 5.

The Warriors by Mr. Archie Potts
I liked this one, a science experiment gone wrong tale, of experimentation with ants and the inevitable consequences on a retired scientist. A salutary lesson, enjoyable if brief. 3 out of 5.

All in all, this was an issue that felt as if it should have been better than it actually was. Perhaps it was the mention of Mr. Clarke that got me excited. There were parts that I enjoyed whilst other stories were rather annoying. Dare I say it, the November 1962 issue of New Worlds is an issue that appears to be treading water a little. I hope that it is better next time.
And that’s it for this month. Happy Halloween, all!




[Oct. 25, 1962] The Cold War is all wet (Dean McLaughlin’s Dome World)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


by Gideon Marcus

There is one singular difference between the Cold War and all conflicts that have preceded it: for the first time in history, both adversaries have the power to wipe each other out utterly.  Direct conflict is madness, and indeed, while we may rattle the sabers incessantly, it is this mutually assured destruction that may preserve the peace for longer than in any era before it.  Perhaps the Chinese and Indians, whose border is seeing the greatest conflict in the world since Korea, need their own atomic bombs.  On the other hand, the deployment of Russian nukes in Cuba, and the responsive blockade, may well turn our Cold War hot any day now, so the jury is still out on the deterrent value of the weapons.

As luck would have it, the Cold War has crept into my SF reading, too.  Dean McLaughlin describes a new variety of the conflict in his new (and first!) science fiction book, Dome World.  Deep sea dome cities have been set up by the world’s new superpowers — the United States of the Americas and the African Union.  Their tenuous peace is deteriorating fast as both powers escalate claims over the rich mineral deposits on the ocean floor.  The fragile domes are vulnerable to even the slightest attack.  As the warships start to circle overhead, what can anyone do to preserve the existence of the undersea communities?

Dome World is really two stories in one, the second half taking place some time after the first.  Part I was originally the March 1958 Astounding novelette, The Man on the Bottom — a piece of which I have no recollection whatsoever.  Set at the beginning of the above-described conflict, it is up to Mason, the manager of the American Wilmington dome to find a middle path between the nuclear Sympleglades on either side of the Atlantic.

Part II is entirely original to the novel.  Years after Mason’s solution, conflict is brewing again.  This time, it is between newly independent domes and those settled by Mainlanders.  Macklin, a producer of private bathyscapes with a bad heart, is tapped to negotiate a peaceful settlement to end the increasing Mainlander raids on seabottom dwellings.  Can he succeed before time runs out…for his community and himself?

Mclaughlin’s undersea world is beautifully detailed, a logical extrapolation of the Aquanaut exploration of the ocean floor that began just this year.  His protagonists are weary, guilt-soaked men thrust into positions of moment by history — or are they in those positions because they are great men to begin with?  Neither Mason and Macklin asked for the responsibility of saving their respective peoples, and neither relish their positions.  Yet, they feel compelled to act, nevertheless.  The Journey’s editor recently observed that leaders are those for whom the drive to act is greater than the fear that they might be taking the wrong action.  That fear acts much like an atomic barrier — an electron jumps levels only in extraordinary circumstances, and similarly, it takes an extraordinary person to jump out of her/his level to the next.

Dome World’s stories are really quite good.  Unfortunately, McLaughlin tends to get in his own way.  Perhaps because he didn’t have enough material to fill a novel, he frequently repeats himself.  His sentences are redundant.  He says the same thing in slightly different words.  Often.  At first, this feels like a deliberate attempt to convey the ponderous inexorability of the upcoming war and the bone-tiredness of Mason.  It’s constant throughout the book, however, and smacks of padding.  Also, as William Atheling, Jr. pointed out in the August issue of AXE, McLaughlin also has a perverse aversion for the word “said.”  I’m as much a fan of creative dialogue as anyone, but McLaughlin takes it to extremes.  Particularly bad are the questions that characters “wonder” to others rather than say.  Wondering is something I take to be internal, not spoken.

In any event, if you can tolerate these literary tics, Dome World actually moves pretty briskly, and the two mysteries that are Mason and Macklin’s solutions are worth waiting for.  Three and half stars.




[October 22, 1962] Hiding from the World (November 1962 Fantastic)


by Victoria Silverwolf

As I prepared this article, I listened to President Kennedy’s speech on Cuba, which was broadcast on radio and television throughout the nation.

Although many of you no doubt heard this address to the American people, I feel compelled to transcribe its shocking opening words:

This Government, as promised, has maintained the closest surveillance of the Soviet military buildup on the island of Cuba. Within the past week, unmistakable evidence has established the fact that a series of offensive missile sites is now in preparation on that imprisoned island. The purpose of these bases can be none other than to provide a nuclear strike capability against the Western Hemisphere.

As the speech continued, it became clear to me that the world is closer to the brink of nuclear war than ever before.  I was already in a state of anxiety, ever since China escalated a border conflict with India into open warfare two days ago by invading on two fronts.

As if international conflicts were not enough, the riot that exploded when James Meredith (shown here escorted by Chief U.S. Marshall James McShane and Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights John Doar) enrolled in the University of Mississippi filled me with shame and fear for my country.  After two deaths, hundreds of injuries, and the necessity for Meredith to be guarded twenty-four hours a day by Federal troops, I have to wonder sometimes if the United States is heading for a second Civil War.

It seems likely that the threat of violence, which hangs over our heads in these troubled times, makes it necessary for us to make light of traditional terrors.  We laugh to keep from screaming.  As an example, on the same day that China invaded India, Bobby Picket’s novelty song, The Monster Mash, reached the top of the charts.

Appropriately, the latest issue of Fantastic features another comic version of old-fashioned horrors.

It’s Magic, You Dope! (Part 1 of 2), by Jack Sharkey
Lloyd Birmingham’s cover art, which reminds me of the macabre cartoons of Charles Addams, captures the spooky but laughable nature of this short novel by editor Cele Goldsmith’s resident comedian.
The narrator pays a visit to his girlfriend at the home of her parents.  He leaves after a lovers’ quarrel, but quickly turns back.  To his amazement, the house is gone.  Phone calls reveal that nobody remembers the home or its inhabitants.  It soon turns out that a sinister pair used a weird device to transport the family to another dimension, one full of monsters and magic.  Things become much more complicated when a wood nymph and a faun (who seem to be weird, alternate versions of the girlfriend and her little brother) show up.  The two evil men wind up in the other world, as does the narrator and his two new companions.  What follows is a wild struggle for survival in a place full of bizarre and deadly creatures, some from folklore and others that only exist in the mind of the author.  Although the plot seems to be little more than one strange, random event after another, it holds the reader’s interest.  Three stars.

Awareness Plan, by David R. Bunch

The magazine’s most controversial writer – a fact noted in the introduction to this story – returns with another eccentric, mysterious tale.  Two men discuss how to deal with a conquered people who do not show the proper respect for their masters.  What elevates this vignette above its minimal plot is the author’s unique style, use of strange words, and satiric edge.  It’s definitely not for all tastes.  Two stars.

Planetoid 127, by Edgar Wallace

This issue’s Fantasy Classic comes from the pen of an extremely prolific author whose works have been adapted into many movies in the United Kingdom and Germany.  He is best known in the United States for his work on the screenplay for King Kong.  This story, reprinted from 1924, deals with an astronomer who has an uncanny ability to foresee future events.  This allows him to acquire a vast fortune through investments, which attracts the attention of an unscrupulous businessman who will stop at nothing to acquire his secret.  This is a typical pulp crime story with a single science fiction element, not revealed until the end.  Unfortunately, the introduction by SF historian Sam Moskowitz spoils the story by describing the gimmick in detail.  Two stars.
(There’s one strange thing about the interior illustration that appears with this story.  It obviously depicts a scene that appears in the story Black and White by Marion Zimmer Bradley, published in this month’s Amazing.  Looking back at that issue, it’s clear that the illustration that accompanied Bradley’s story shows a scene from Wallace’s tale.  Somebody at the art department of Ziff-Davis is likely to get in trouble for mixing up the two.)

The Mozart Annuity, by Arthur Porges

Finishing the issue is the story of a conductor who worships the music of Mozart.  His biggest regret is that the composer died at an early age, before he could create even greater masterpieces.  His brother happens to be an inventor who has come up with a time machine of sorts.  It can only transport small, nonliving objects back in time.  The brothers come up with a plan to send silver back to the time of Mozart’s childhood, with a letter to a bank explaining that it is to be used to provide a steady income for the young musician, allowing him to avoid the poverty that led to his death.  The consequences are unexpected.  This is a clever story, if superficial.  Three stars.

Overall, a mediocre issue with no outstanding stories.  However, I recommend it as a way of keeping your mind off the much more frightening things in the real world.

[Oct. 20, 1962] Yes, please! (The first James Bond movie, Dr. No)

[if you’re new to the Journey, read this to see what we’re all about!]


By Ashley R. Pollard

With the days drawing in, marking the beginning of Autumn, and the evenings becoming longer, I know I look forward to going to the cinema more.  I was very fortunate to be able to get a ticket to the premier of the first James Bond film, Dr. No, which was shown at the London Pavilion, and therefore I saw it three days before its general release to the rest of the country.

There was quite a buzz surrounding this film, but before I go into my piece let me give you some context to the books behind the movie: Ian Fleming’s James Bond series.

It may be confusing to some Fleming fans to see Dr. No presented as the first James Bond film, because the title and plot are from the sixth book.  So six is number one, but chronologically the first James Bond novel was Casino Royale, which came out in 1953.  I understand that Casino Royale was adapted as an episode of an American television called Climax! (which sounds rather racy to my ears) and that the rights to the name of the first James Bond book are therefore tied up.

Anyway, in Britain, Ian Fleming’s books have always sold well, and Fleming may rightfully be described as the inventor of the Cold War spy thriller genre, which while set in the mundane world has themes that require elements of science and technology for the plots to work.

Up to now Fleming hasn’t taken American by storm, but I think that will change when Dr. No is released in America next year.  It will not probably hurt that President John F. Kennedy has been quoted as saying that Fleming’s fifth James Bond novel, From Russia, with Love, was one of his top ten all time favourite books.

Given that the title of the next James Bond movie is From Russia, with Love, I fully expect American audiences to take to reading James Bond as readers over here have.  Last year, the ninth book in the series, Thunderball, featuring the capture of a NATO fighter, sold out of its initial print run of 50,938 hardbacks and has had to be reprinted to meet demand.  Reviews have said it is the best since Diamonds Are Forever, the fourth book in the James Bond series.

To say Ian Fleming is prolific is I think over-egging it a bit, but he can certainly write, and his writing improves with each book.  I have watched Fleming adding depth and character, to what would otherwise be a cipher who only served the whims of the author.  Fleming has made James Bond more than that.  He’s the man every man aspires to be, and the bad boy that every woman wants to be chased by.

And here I am, and I haven’t even started to tell you all how wonderful Dr. No is.  A caveat though, it’s not a direct translation of the novel to film.  For a start it has a scene near the very beginning that introduces our titular hero with the quote, “My name is Bond, James Bond,” which I’m pretty sure is lifted wholesale from Casino Royale.  Other small changes have been made to the story too, but these do not detract form the central thrust of the plot, the machinations of Dr. No who wants to sabotage the American space race.

A very timely plot, apposite even, given the setbacks that NASA have suffered over recent years.

The film has a very stylish opening sequence that culminates in a stunning shot down the barrel of a gun that shows James Bond turning to fire at his assailant before they can fire.  This is followed by a quirky fade to the tune of Three Blind Mice that leads to the opening that sets up the action when three apparently blind men assassinate the British MI6 Station Chief in Jamaica.  Then we cut to Britain and the introduction of our hero, played by Sean Connery.  It’s all very suave and sophisticate, in keeping with Fleming himself, and the way he writes about things.

Bond is sent to Jamaica to investigate, and we are introduced to M, the head of MI6, and Miss Moneypenny, M’s secretary.  For fans of James Bond this just feels so right, and M ordering Bond to stop using his Beretta in favour of a Walther PPK (first issued to Bond in the book, Dr. No) sets the tone perfectly.  When Bond arrives in Jamaica, things go from bad to worse with the first of several attempts on his life that don’t end well for his would be assailants.  Warning, the spider scene is also not for the squeamish.  Fortunately, I find spiders to be nice creatures, but some of the audience gasped in shock when it crawled across the screen.

From there the mystery develops and ultimately leads to Dr. No’s secret lair, where the fellow is using a nuclear reactor to power a transmitter that can jam US missiles and cause them to crash.  All very exciting, and I’m avoiding giving away too many spoilers here, because I feel that people should be allowed to experience a story for themselves.

There’s enough differences between the novel and the film to make both distinct, with each enhancing the enjoyment of the other format.  So, the North American premiere is set for the 8th of May next year, and I can really recommend going to see this film.  I know I enjoyed it, and I imagine you all will too.

And while I am on the subject of cutting edge technology…

When you think of aircraft flying mostly straight up and down, helicopters (or if you’re old enough, autogyros) come to mind.  But the so-called whirlybirds now have stiff competition.

This year, the Farnborough Air Show showcased the amazing XP831 Royal Airforce prototype Vertical Take-Off and Landing jet (VTOL).  The Hawker P1127 is the result of nearly ten years of engineering development.

The idea of a winged aircraft that could take-off and land vertically goes back even further to the dark days of World War Two, but it wasn’t until 1955 that Rolls-Royce produced a test bed for vertical flight.  It became known as the Flying Bedstead.  It was difficult to fly, ungainly to look at, and had a propensity to crash, killing two test pilots in the process.

Not an auspicious start, but Dr. Alan A. Griffiths, a pioneer of British jet technology came up with the idea of a liftjet, which was small engine designed to specifically provide thrust to all the aircraft to take-off vertically.  This led to the Shorts SC-1, which first flew in 1957.  However, having five engine in an aeroplane where four of them only provided thrust during take-off meant that while useful data could be extracted from the flights, it wasn’t in and of itself a practical prototype aircraft.

Enter the Hawker P1127 using a Rolls Royce Pegasus jet engine, a marvel of British engineering that has nozzles that divert the thrust from the engine to allow vertical take-off using only one engine.  Furthermore, Hawker are also working on developing a larger P1154, which will be able to go supersonic.

I can only imagine how exciting it would be for one of these stunning aircraft to make a debut in a spy thriller.  Perhaps in a few years, when VTOL jets have become commonplace enough to pass into private ownership, we’ll see one featured in a James Bond movie… perhaps Thunderball?