Mt. Holz Science Fiction Society
09/04/15 -- Vol. 34, No. 10, Whole Number 1874

Co-Editor: Mark Leeper,
Co-Editor: Evelyn Leeper,
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        Dilemma (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        The Ace Double (comments by Mark R. Leeper)
        Time Is Relative, and the Beloit Mindset List (comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)
                ELLISON (R) by Harlan Ellison (book review
                by Joe Karpierz)
        THE HARD WAY by Lee Child (book review by Dale L. Skran)
        PAPER PLANES (film review by Mark R. Leeper)
        Robot Overlords in New Jersey (letter of comment
                by Kip Williams)
        Japan and World War II (letter of comment by Kerr Mudd-John)
                (Volume IV of VI) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)
        This Week's Reading (THE SECRET OF THE NINTH PLANET and
                THE SECRET OF SATURN'S RINGS) (book comments
                by Evelyn C. Leeper)


TOPIC: Dilemma (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

An American is someone who does not know whom to consider more
credible, a radio astronomer or a TV doctor.  [-mrl]


TOPIC: The Ace Double (comments by Mark R. Leeper)

Here's a riddle for you, particularly for older science fiction
fans.  What kind of a book would you rarely find open to a page in
the back half of the book?  Well, you probably saw the title of the
article, which was a huge hint.  The answer, at least for science
fiction fans, is the Ace Double.  For the benefit of you who do not
know what I am talking about, this was a series of books published
by Ace Books from about 1953 to 1974.  The company known best to
science fiction fans for using this format was Ace Paperbacks and
the books are the old Ace Doubles.

Perhaps it would be more accurate to say they were pairs of books
bound together, back to back.  When you finish with one of the two
sub-books you turn the book over, top to bottom, and you are
looking at the front cover of the other sub-book.  The reason you
rarely would open to the back half of the book is because what you
would find there is the other book, printed upside-down.  These
were rarely full-length novels, certainly not as we think of them
today.  They were what the Hugo Awards calls "novellas".  That is,
it would be short novels.  Perhaps they were one-night reads.

This format is called in French "tete-beche" or "head-foot".  You
still see some magazines printed this way to effectively tell the
buyer that he/she is getting two different magazines for the price
of one.  A short education in the history of Ace Doubles can be
found in the article "Donald Wollheim and the Ace Double Novel" by
Andrew Liptak in the August 16, 2013, issue of Kirkus:

Pairs of books bound this way are something of a novelty today, but
back in the 1960s most of the science fiction fans I then knew or
would later know would have a soft spot in their heart for these
short trippy science fiction books that were so portable.

The format caused some problems.  The book would have two fronts.
That means it could be put on a bookstore shelf two different ways
and the book would at first look like two entirely different
novels.  That promised the publisher the possibility that the book
could end up with twice as much display space.  But at the same
time the customer could accidentally buy the same book twice.  Of
course the customer gets the joy of opening the front of a brand
new book twice.  Other publishers would publish their own doubles,
but only Ace would use tete-beche style.

Ace doubles were extremely hard to catalog since they have two
different titles.  If you wanted to use your catalog for reference
it was not clear which title a double should be cataloged as.  If
you looked up the book under one title you might be looking for the
wrong title.  You might not even remember the title you have a
given novel cataloged under.  Usually you would have to give up and
have two entries in your catalog for a single double book.

Truth be known the stories were more of the quality that would be
found in pulp magazines than they were like the best science
fiction being written.  The covers were also somewhat pulpish.

But many of the authors were already or would become some of the
major writers of science fiction.  Looking through my collection I
see Brian Aldiss, Poul Anderson, Leigh Bracket, John Brunner,
Philip K. Dick, Gordon Dickson, Andre Norton, H. Beam Piper, Eric
Frank Russell, Robert Silverberg, Clifford Simak, Wilson (Bob)
Tucker, A. E. Van Vogt, Jack Williamson, and last but certainly not
least Donald A. Wollheim.

I emphasize Wollheim because he was, in some senses, the founder of
the feast.  He together with his partner Aaron Wyn founded Ace
Books in 1952.  Immediately they started publishing tete-beche
format books.  The first Ace Double was a mystery on one side and
western on the other.  That may have been a mistake.  A reader who
liked westerns might not want to buy a mystery novel and vice
versa.  Wyn and Wollheim soon decided that it made more sense to
put two science fiction novels together since if a customer wanted
one science fiction book would be likely to like another.  In
October, 1953 Ace tried their first science fiction double: A.E.
van Vogt's THE WORLD OF NULL-A and the same author's THE UNIVERSE
MAKER.  Soon they were publishing a double a month.  Ace continued
to publish doubles until August 1973.  Wollheim had left Ace 16
months earlier and gone on to found DAW Books.

Ace had problems finding authors willing to write novella-length
stories and they could not well fit two novels in a book the size
of one.  It may be that I am just the right age, but Ace Doubles
were popular when I was in my teens and I have a strong feeling of
nostalgia for them.  I am hoping some of my readers feel the same

What brings this up now is my discovery that the Ace Double format
is not dead.  A new publisher is making double novels in what looks
like a close imitation of the Ace Double style.  Sadly the price is
not as modest as they used to be.  A few look like they are a
direct borrowing from actual Ace Doubles.  See the ad at

This is in no way an endorsement, by the way.

[By the way, there is *another* book that would rarely be open to
the second half of the book.  It is Vega's Logarithm Tables.  You
might want to look up Benford's Law to find out why.  See]



TOPIC: Time Is Relative, and the Beloit Mindset List (comments by
Evelyn C. Leeper)

We think we understand timespans in history, but we haven't a clue:
Sometimes two events that seem far apart in time are really much
closer than we think:

- Best-known is that the last Civil War widow died in 2008.  As of
2013, there was still one child of a Civil War veteran receiving
government benefits.

- There are still twelve surviving veterans of the Spanish Civil

- John Tyler was born in 1790 and became our 10th President in
1841.  Two of his grandsons are still alive.

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., was born in 1841, when John Quincy
Adams was still serving in the House of Representatives, and in his
childhood Holmes was actually acquainted with him.  Holmes died in
1936, after Ronald Reagan began his career in films.

- When I was about ten years old, I saw (on television) someone who
had seen Abraham Lincoln assassinated.

On the other hand, some things we think of as very recent are
really much older, or seem that way to others--which is my lead-in
to this year's Beloit College Mindset; my favorite entries are:

0. Princess Diana and Mother Teresa have always been dead.

1. Hybrid automobiles have always been mass produced.

6. Hong Kong has always been under Chinese rule.

12. Ellis Island has always been primarily in New Jersey.

23. Kyoto has always symbolized inactivity about global climate

26. The eyes of Texas have never looked upon The Houston Oilers.

31. Fifteen nations have always been constructing the International
Space Station.

34. Scotland and Wales have always had their own parliaments and

42. Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have always been
members of NATO.

50. ...and there has always been a Beloit College Mindset List.

(And to show how out of touch I am with professional football, I
thought there still *was* a team called the Houston Oilers.)

[The full list is at .]



ELLISON (R) by Harlan Ellison (copyright 2014 Edgeworks Abbey in
association with Subterranean Press, Deluxe Hardcover Edition $45,
520pp, ISBN 978-1-59606-634-2) (excerpt from the Duel Fish Codices:
a book review by Joe Karpierz)

Harlan Ellison is simply one of the greatest writers of our day.
Since the 1960s, Ellison has been churning out mind-boggling,
thought-provoking, and award-winning fiction.  Not just science
fiction, not just fantasy, but *fiction* in general.  Much of what
he has written has fallen into the speculative fiction arena, and
we claim him as one of our own.  He certainly is one of the most
decorated writers in speculative fiction, and The Top of the
Volcano collects all his award winning fiction into one massive
volume.  The awards include the Hugo, Nebula, Locus Poll, Edgar,
Bram Stoker, Writers Guild of Canada, and inclusion in the Best
American Stories of 1993.

So yeah, he's pretty good.

It's interesting to note that even with all the stories that are
included in THE TOP OF THE VOLCANO, the collection is not
necessarily a "best of", as there are another few dozen or more
stories from his catalog that could be included in a book with that
title.  In fact, there are any number of collections of Ellison's
works that include many of the stories that are here as well as
many other memorable stories.

So, what's here?  Well, there are twenty-three stories in all,
starting with 1966 Hugo- and Nebula-winning "Repent, Harlequin!
Said the Ticktockman", and ending with the 2011 Nebula Award
winning "How Interesting: A Tiny Man".  That's right--45 years
after that first Nebula, he won his latest for a story he wrote
when he was 76 years old.  In fact, in this day and age of the
Internet anyone can find out what stories are in this book without
me having to list them out for you.  What's more interesting is the
variation and evolution of his writing style, what he chose to
write about, and how he chose to go about writing it.  Ellision is,
and never was, afraid to take risks.  The early stories here, such
as "I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream", about a sadistic computer
that has trapped the last of humanity within itself and is
torturing them, but not to death--a sort of metaphor for hell, I
suppose - or "A Boy and His Dog", are relatively straightforward
tales that can be taken on multiple levels, but they really don't
make you work that hard.  Later stories, like "Deathbird", or
"Croatoan", have layers upon layers; "Deathbird" is about the end
of the world, but there's so much there that when it's done the
reader finally realizes there was a lot more going on there than is
obvious, at least at first, and "Croatoan" clears up a colonial
legend in a heart-wrenching fashion.

But those aren't the only heart wrenching stories here.  How about
"Jeffty is Five", about a boy that remains five for his entire
life--and no, that's not a spoiler, or one of my all-time personal
favorites, "The Paladin of the Lost Hour", which is about as gut-
wrenching as it gets.  If you want another kind of gut-wrenching,
this time the kind in which terror is involved, try "The Function
of Dream Sleep", wherein our protagonist wakes up one day to find
something on his body that really shouldn't be there, which
eventually leads him to find out what the function of dream sleep
really is: or "Mefisto in Onyx", another one of my personal
favorites, which has such a nasty double twist at the end that the
reader ends up blinking once or twice and shaking his or her head
in disbelief.

And yet, there is whimsy, too.  "Djinn, No Chaser", is as amusing a
story as the title suggests, wherein a young newlywed couple comes
into possession of a magic lamp--and all the trouble that entails,
until the young bride comes up with a clever solution to the
problem.  There is melancholy, followed by joy, in the story "Count
the Clock That Tells the Time", about 34-year old Ian Ross who
wasted his life, but is given a second chance.  And, one of my
other favorite stories in this collection, "Adrift Just Off the
Islets of Langerhans: Latitude 38 degrees 54' N, Longitude 77
degrees 00' 13" W" about Lawrence Talbot (yeah, that Lawrence
Talbot, the Wolfman), a man, unable to die, enlisting the help of
his friend and scientist Victor (yeah, I'm guessing *that* Victor,
but it's never stated in the story) to find his soul and thereby
maybe find peace.

There are other stories here that are experimental, such as "The
Region Between", or "The Man Who Rowed Christopher Columbus Ashore"
(which I guess in retrospect may not be too experimental) that I
had a bit of difficulty with.  But that's okay, because if I wanted
easy reading this collection wouldn't be the place to go to find
it, I don't think.

I continue to look back at the table of contents and I keep
thinking to myself that I would love to comment on "The Whimper of
Whipped Dogs" or "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the
World", or "With Virgil Oddum at the East Pole", or ... well, you
get the idea.  I could go on for a very long time and still not be
finished with comments about this book.  It's just that good.  And
it's a great place to start if you want an introduction to Harlan
Ellison's work.  Just imagine how good the stories are that
*didn't* win any awards.  [-jak]


TOPIC: THE HARD WAY by Lee Child (book review by Dale L. Skran)

This seems like it is the tenth "Jack Reacher" novel, but the first
in the series that I have read, although I have seen the movie
REACHER (which is based on a different book, ONE SHOT, the ninth in
the series).  My wife, who has read/listened to a lot of the
Reacher stories, was not so happy with the movie, saying it
diminished Reacher as a detective.  I tend to agree after finishing
THE HARD WAY.  The title refers mostly to the difficulty of actual
detective work, of which quite a bit is on display here.  Unlike
some TV detectives who seem to immediately leap to a potted answer,
Reacher moves laboriously from one theory to the next, finally
discovering the real truth of things nearly at the end. The
detection/violence ratio is much higher than in the movie. There
are stakeouts and investigations galore.  Reacher's famous internal
clock is much used and quite important to the plot, although his
mathematical abilities are called into play more as applied logic.

Things do end up in a blow-out violent battle at the end, which I
thought much the weakest part of the book.  Child's style is breezy
and engaging.  Unlike Clancy, we are not bored with long
descriptions of weapons and so on.  It is easy to see why Reacher
is such a popular character.  He falls in a long line of lone self-
made heroes Americans have loved, ranging from The Lone Ranger to
Repairman Jack to Batman.  Like these heroes, Reacher is not just a
good fighter or strong man.  His greatest weapon is always his mind
- and his detective abilities.  In his always-accurate internal
clock, nearly perfect memory, and skill with numbers, we have at
least the gloss of a Heinleinian superman.

In any case, I'd recommend THE HARD WAY to Reacher fans and those
who like this sort of thing.  [-dls]


TOPIC: PAPER PLANES (film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A boy who lost his mother in a car accident suffers from
the destruction of his family.  Then his fascination with flying
lead him to national and international competitions for design and
flight of paper airplanes.  It is hard to take the film seriously
with what look like CGI paper airplanes that do not seem to follow
the laws of physics.  The subject matter may be original, but the
plot is familiar and predictable.  Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or

There are children's films and family films.  A family film has to
be good for a wide range of ages.  Unfortunately, PAPER PLANES
makes some choices at the beginning that consign it to the
children's film category.  Early on a paper airplane makes a long
graceful flight many times longer than the laws of physics would
allow.  We see the plane in flight and it looks very much CGI-ish.
Children seeing this film may be able to suspend their disbelief to
not be turned off by the film, but even children will know what
they are seeing is not possible.  If director and co-writer Robert
Connolly wants to limit the film to fantasy, that is certainly his
artistic right, but it weakens the film and in specific the
positive messages the film has for the younger viewers.  This film
could have reached for the same power as Joe Johnston's OCTOBER SKY
or John G. Avildsen's THE KARATE KID, but it chose to limit itself
to fantasy--too little fantasy to compete with Disney but too much
to be accepted as real by kids.

Dylan (played by Ed Oxenbould) had recently lost his mother to a
car accident and his father (Sam Worthington of AVATAR) has
imploded and now drinks and morns so that he can barely get up in
the morning.  At school Dylan's mathematics teacher has the class
try throwing paper airplanes.  Dylan's plane rises up and stays
aloft almost supernaturally for many minutes doing things that
paper airplanes just do not do.  The teachers realize that Dylan
has a supreme skill for understanding paper airplanes and put him
on track for the national and international competitions for paper
airplane design and flying.  His understanding for flying things
may stem from his special friendship with a semi-tame kite-hawk he
passes on the way to school.  But he has always loved planes and he
fantasizes about being a World War II pilot (to the tune of Ron
Goodwin's music for BATTLE OF BRITAIN).  That flying fascination
will take Dylan to the World Paper Plane Championships in Japan.
Dylan's appreciation for some of the smaller things of life keeps
him off his Smartphone and instead thinking about paper airplanes.
He must be fascinated by the new culture when he gets to Japan.

This film's dialog is rather patronizing to the audience.  Children
talk to each other giving the same advice that adults would give
the children, adult arguments in children's mouths.  On the other
hand where the emotion of the film works best is in Dylan's
relationship with his father, bringing his young wisdom to the
emotionally wounded father.  It seems more like talking down to the
audience when Dylan and a newly found friend Kimi (Ena Imai)
discuss and try to tame bully, cheater, and fellow competitor,
Jason (Nicholas Bakopoulos-Cooke).  Jason is the son of a champion
golfer, but failed to learn sportsmanship.

Some of the audience in the US may have trouble penetrating some of
the thicker Australian pronunciation.  Also, a bit of origami in
the film should interest some outside the target audience.  I rate
PAPER PLANES a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10.  Did the
closing credit song really say, "Shake your booty, boys and girls,
for the beauty in the world."

Film Credits:

What others are saying:



TOPIC: Robot Overlords in New Jersey (letter of comment by Kip

In response to comments on robot overlords in the 08/28/15 issue of
the MT VOID, Kip Williams writes:

Robot overlords.  Oh, that reminds me! I don't recall you
mentioning the Morris Museum,, which
has a collection of automata.  As far as I know. I've seen it
mentioned from time to time at the Mechanical Music Digest (a
hobbyist BBS for all tunes mechanical), and I was going to go there
this summer, but we never took the NJ trip that was clearly in the
cards.  It evaporated, taking the cards with it.  I'm hoping this
won't be like 1997, when we were in York and we drove past The
Museum of Automata, which I made time for, and found to have closed
permanently just six months before we came along.

For those closer to Williamsburg, VA, there's a museum of automatic
instruments and perhaps others, a little north of town, that used
to consist of a few interesting pieces over Parker Music (back when
they were in Newport News).  They relocated to quarters that may
have been bigger, though the old place had a cavernous second
floor.  I visited the store and enjoyed looking at instruments they
had around the sales floor and upstairs, and they've apparently
made the museum sufficiently separate that it has its own name and
web page and I don't know
what else, because I haven't been there to see it.  [-kw]


TOPIC: Japan and World War II (letter of comment by Kerr Mudd-John)

In response to Mark's comments on Hiroshima in the 08/21/15 issue
of the MT VOID, Kerr Mudd-John writes:

[Mark wrote:] "The Japanese people did not know at the time, but do
know now, that their people committed real atrocities in Nanking,
in Manchuria, in prison camps.  It would be hard for them to defend
a stance of moral superiority."  [-mrl]

This is not so widely known. Japanese schools skip that bit when
teaching history.  [-kmj]


(Volume IV of VI) (comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

[continuing my comments from last week]

"An aspiring candidate may be tempted to build his greatness on the
public confusion, but it is the interest as well as duty of a
sovereign to maintain the authority of the laws.  The first edict
of Justinian, which was often repeated, and sometimes executed,
announced his firm resolve to support the innocent, and to chastise
the guilty, of every denomination and *colour*.

E: This policy has been re-affirmed by many governments established
after the overthrow of tyrannies of privilege, but not always
carried out.  In Justinian's case, one must note that the "colour"
here mentioned is not skin color, but faction color (i.e., blue
versus green)!

"I am not insensible of the benefits of elegant luxury, yet I
reflect with some pain, that if the importers of silk had
introduced the art of printing, already possessed by the Chinese,
the comedies of Menander and the entire decads of Livy would have
been perpetuated in the editions of the sixth century."

E: This is the lament of the scholar, and I have to say I agree
with it.  One might extend this to current policies and suggest
that while not being insensible of the benefits of extracurricular
activities. if the time and money spent on them was dedicated to
the actual education of students, we might be better off.

"... public discontent is credulous; private malice is bold; and a
lover of truth will peruse with a suspicious eye the instructive
anecdotes of Procopious.  The secret historian represents only the
vices of Justinian, and those vices are darkened by his malevolent
pencil.  Ambiguous actions are imputed to the worst motives; error
is confounded with guilt, accident with design, and laws with
abuses; the partial injustice of the moment is dexterously applied
as the general maxim of a reign of thirty-two years; the emperor
alone is made responsible for the faults of his officers, the
disorders of the times, and the corruption of his subjects; and
even the calamities of nature; plagues, earthquakes, and
inundations, are imputed to the prince of the daemons, who had
mischievously assumed the form of Justinian."

E: For "Justinian", write "Obama" and for "Procopius", write the
name of any number of right-wing pundits, and this will sound eerily

"A magnificent temple is a laudable monument of national taste and
religion; and the enthusiast who entered the some of St. Sophia
might be tempted to suppose it was the residence, or even the
workmanship, of the Deity.  Yet how dull is the artifice, how
insignificant is the labour, if it be compared with the formation
of the vilest insect that crawls upon the surface of the temple."

E: Gibbon wrote after the Scientific Revolution and before
Romanticism, but this passage seems to be of both: an understanding
of science, yet a romantic or poetic view of it rather than merely
a mechanistic one.

"Not a vestige can be found of the art, the knowledge, or the
navigation, of the ancient Colchians: few Greeks desired or dared
to pursue the footsteps of the Argonauts; and even the marks of an
Egyptian colony are lost on a nearer approach.  The rite of
circumcision is practised only by the Mahometans of the Euxine; and
the curled hair and swarthy complexion of Africa no longer
disfigure the most perfect of the human race."

E: Well, if you had any doubt that Gibbon was bigoted, this passage
would dispel it.

"The Decemvirs had neglected to import the sanction of Zaleucus,
which so long maintained the integrity of his republic.  A Locrian,
who proposed any new law, stood forth in the assembly of the people
with a cord around his neck, and if the law was rejected, the
innovator was instantly strangled."

E: Well, that is one way of getting rid of lawmakers wasting time
by suggesting laws they know will not pass for the sake of putting
on a show for their constituents (or whomever).  I will grant,
however, it is a bit extreme.

"The rude jurisprudence of the decemvirs had confounded all hasty
insults, which did not amount to the fracture of a limb, by
condemning the aggressor to the common penalty of twenty-five asses
[a unit of currency, not the animal].  But the same denomination of
money was reduced, in three centuries, from a pound to the weight
of half an ounce; and the insolence of a wealthy Roman indulged in
the cheap amusement of breaking and satisfying the twelve tables.
Veratius ran through the streets striking on the face the
inoffensive passengers, and his attendant purse-bearer immediately
silenced their clamors by the legal tender of twenty-five pieces of
copper, about the value of one shilling."

E: Although here the problem seems exacerbated by either the
abasement of the currency or the repeated dimunition of the fine
designated by law, this highlights a more basic problem: In a
society of people unequal in wealth, the use of fines as a method
of punishment is not really fair.  Consider a parking ticket in Los
Angeles.  In 2014, it cost $63.  Now, if Donald Trump's limousine
parks illegally and he gets a ticket, is he going to care?  I don't
think so.  But if someone getting by on minimum wage (currently $72
for a 8-hour day before taxes in California) parks illegally, it
costs her almost an entire day's pay.  I don't know who Veratius
was, but I'm guessing he was nowhere near as rich as Donald Trump.

"[One of the] nine crimes of a very complexion are adjudged worthy
of death [included] Nocturnal meetings in the city; whatever might
be the pretence, of pleasure, or religion, or the public good."

E: I have no idea what constituted a "meeting," or for that matter
"nocturnal."  Is it possible that one could not even have a party
that went past sundown?  This seems unlikely, so nocturnal may have
meant after (say) midnight.  The mention of "meetings" for pleasure
does appear to indicate that parties did count.  Note this is not
the same as a curfew--people could travel at any time; they just
could not meet.

"The Barbarous practice of wearing arms in the midst of peace, and
the bloody maxims of honor, were unknown to the Romans; and, during
the two purest ages, from the establishment of equal freedom to the
end of the Punic wars, the city was never disturbed by sedition,
and rarely polluted with atrocious crimes."

E: Though Gibbon earlier seemed in favor of the Second Amendment,
here he makes an important qualification. Namely, that while the
people may *possess* arms, they do not wear them in everyday life,
either concealed or openly.

"Religion pronounces an equal censure against the infidelity of the
husband [as of the wife]; but, as it is not accompanied by the same
civil effects, the wife was never permitted to vindicate her

E: The religion here is Christianity, and Gibbon's point is that
while the religion may treat men and women equally in the matter of
adultery, the state did not, and women were severely punished,
while men were not (unless the woman they committed adultery was
married, in which case, they did (supposedly) suffer the same

"After the extinction of paganism, the Christians in peace and
piety might have enjoyed their solitary triumph.  But the principle
of discord was alive in their bosom, and they were more solicitous
to explore the nature, than to practice the laws, of their

E: This is one of Gibbon's main theses--that the internal disputes
of the Christians, such as whether Jesus was created by God, or
*of* God ("begotten, not made"), and whether he was of the same
substance ("homoousis") or a like substance ("homoiousis").  On the
other hand, and as many people throughout the centuries have
complained, Christians rarely seemed to follow to precepts Jesus
laid down.

"A metaphysical religion may appear too refined for the capacity of
the negro race: yet a black or a parrot might be taught to repeat
the words of the Chalcedonian or Monophysite creed."

E: Yet another example that Gibbon's opinions are not to be
entirely trusted.

"During his government of twenty-five years, the penalty of death
was abolished in the Roman empire, a law of mercy most delightful
to the humane theorist, but of which the practice, in a large and
vicious community, is seldom consistent with the public safety."

E: It does seem as though this abolition would be "practicing the
laws" of Christianity's founder in a way that Gibbon seemed to be
promoting just a few pages earlier, but faced with the actuality of
it, Gibbon must have decided it was not expedient.

[to be continued next week]



TOPIC: This Week's Reading (book comments by Evelyn C. Leeper)

I read THE SECRET OF THE NINTH PLANET by Donald A. Wollheim (no
ISBN) in honor of the New Horizons fly-by on July 14, 2015.  There
is a secret on Pluto, all right, but most of the novel consists of
the main characters traveling to all the other planets (or their
moons) in a sort of "Grand Tour" of the solar system.  It has the
usual structure of a juvenile of the time--a teenage boy who
somehow manages to get included in some adventure.  There are
actually two subsets: the youth is included because he is traveling
as part of his family and accidentally gets sucked in, or the youth
somehow gets included in an expedition as an adult (albeit more
like a cadet than a full-fledged member).  In this case it is more
the latter: while on an archaeological expedition to the Andes with
his father young Burl Denning accidentally acquires the power to
shut down the newly discovered "sun-stealers" that are somehow
sucking up the energy from the sun that is reaching Earth, and
threatens to bring on a new ice age.  It turns out there are such
machines on many bodies in the solar system, and Burl's power means
he has to go along on the expedition to shut them down.  Adventures
ensue, and Burl is always at the center of them.  Ironically, not
much time is spent on Pluto, simply because they have to visit
everywhere else.

THE SECRET OF SATURN'S RINGS by Donald A. Wollheim (no ISBN),
another book in the same series, is both a period piece and very
contemporary, For example, the first sentence in the introduction
says that only one planet in the solar system has rings.  Actually,
four do: Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune.

The second sentence in the actual book says, "It was high school
graduation day, a day when the boys in [Bruce Rhodes's] class came
in for the last time, held their final assembly, received their
diplomas and were given their entrance listings for college."
Apparently girls don't go to high school in the future.  (Even
private schools are rarely all-male, and when they are, they are
called prep schools or academies--"high school" tends to imply co-
ed.)  Bruce does have a mother, who says all of nine sentences to
him before disappearing from the plot, which for the remaining 148
pages is resolutely all-male.

On the other hand, the events in the plot are triggered by Bruce's
father's discovery that the deep-core mining being planned for the
moon by Terraluna Corporation will result in the moon being blown
apart.  "Some bits of this lunar bombshell would hit the Earth,
causing great damage.  Most of these pieces would continue to fly
along the moon's orbit and form a ring.  But the effect would be
just as terrible as if they had struck our world.  With the release
of the moon's pull, the tides would cease and the waters of the
world equalize.  This will flood great parts of the world's
surface, wipe out hundreds of cities and drown millions.  Great
quakes will probably destroy the rest as the Earth6s bulk is
released from the strain of its satellite and readjusts itself.  I
would say that probably nine-tenths of humanity would die;
certainly civilization would be totally destroyed!"

Now, while this is a bit more drastic (and quicker) than the
current global climate change predictions (and admittedly based on
hand-waving science), the predictions for coastal cities is eerily
familiar.  And in the universe of the book, we must accept the
science as part of our "willing suspension of disbelief."  So when
Dr. Rhodes tells Terraluna this, what is their reaction?  "They
refused to accept my figures, plain as they were.  ...  People are
sometimes blinded by their own selfishness...  Terraluna wants to
get at that treasure at the moon's heart.  Its directors are not
interested in how they get it, they want only the results.  When I
presented my studies of what would happen, they could not bring
themselves to believe it.  They called it wild, imaginary, just the
product of an old man's frightened mind.  They had some of their
scientists, men of my own staff actually, go over the figures.
These men sought only for their own advancement, ... they felt they
could take a chance with Earth's welfare.  So these men made light
of my findings, said they were extreme, ridiculed the possibility
involved, and denied the discovery."  After this, Terraluna fires
Rhodes, spreads all sorts of lies and rumors to discredit him, and
makes all sorts of legal (and extra-legal) attempts to prevent him
from collecting data that might support his theory.

But while the aspects of "period piece versus contemporary story"
are interesting, the actual book is not.  There will be a little
bit of action, then a lot of expository lump, then a little bit of
action, then a lot of expository lump, and so on.  And the action
relies incredibly heavily on coincidence--Bruce always just happens
to be looking at the absolutely right spot in the sky to see what
he needs to foil the villains and move the plot along.  [-ecl]


                                           Mark Leeper

           God was satisfied with his own work, and that is fatal.
                                           --Samuel Butler