Thursday, September 24, 2009

When Shadows Fall by L. Ron Hubbard

As noted in both a previous review (If I Were You) as well as in the interview with John Goodwin, President of Galaxy Press, the aforementioned publisher is in the middle of a series entitled Stories from the Golden Age, a republishing in 80 volumes of the complete pulp-era short stories of L. Ron Hubbard. In their latest volume in the Science Fiction category, When Shadows Fall, we are given three short works. After the series introduction by Kevin J. Anderson, the tales begin.

“When Shadows Fall”: The title story of this volume follows an Earth that has reached its end, and is slowly drying up. In a last ditch effort, three separate expeditions are sent out through the galaxy, seeking aid. This was a slow start to the volume, as all of the action happened off-scene, and the conclusion seemed a touch predictable.

“Tough Old Man”: The longest tale in the collection, this story follows George Moffat, young new officer in the Frontier Patrol, as he meets his match in Old Keno Martin, the aged an over-the-hill constable on a planet of bizarre extremes. This story picks up significantly from the previous, moving quickly through the plot as our protagonist fights to figure out what makes this old man so much better than him. The conclusion was not a surprise, as it seemed to have been intended to be, but it added to the nostalgic touch of the story in a nice way.

“Battling Bolto”: The best story of the bunch, “Battling Bolto” tells the tale of a man who was tricked into working for a shady robot salesman as the titular hero, a robot fighter that wins matches to prove how great the robots his boss sells are. Disillusioned upon discovering the secret of the trade, our hero tries to right his wrongs, in an exciting, extremely entertaining tale.

After these three tales, we are given a preview of the next volume in the Science Fiction branch of the series, One Was Stubborn, a glossary of some of the more archaic words that might be found in fiction from the first half of the twentieth century, and finally an extended about the author section and listing of the stories to appear in Stories from the Golden Age.

These three stories, but in particular the last two, held exactly what I was hoping to find here: the style that emanates pulp fiction, the tumultuous hero, and action-filled plots, that, when read, can’t help but leave the reader with a nostalgia-filled trip to a time when fiction was fun, fast, and free of restraint. The pulp era stories are exactly what Luke Reviews is all about: reading for the sheer joy, pleasure, and fun that good escapist fiction is all about. This is a wonderful addition to a solid series.


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