One in Three Hundred
Cover of 1st UK edition
|Author||J. T. McIntosh|
|Media type||Hardback, Paperback|
One in Three Hundred is a science fiction novel written by J. T. McIntosh. It was originally published as 3 novellas in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 1953-54 [One in 300 (F&SF, Feb 1953), One in a Thousand (F&SF, Jan 1954), and One Too Many (F&SF, Sept 54)], and was then published by Doubleday & Company, Inc.. During 1956 the novel was reissued by Ace as Ace Double D-113, in a dos-à-dos binding with Dwight V. Swain's The Transposed Man.
The original (first) novella was included in the anthology Best SF of 1954.
Set in the near future when a scientific principle has been discovered allowing exceptionally accurate predictions of solar flares and the occurrence of the Sun increasing its solar output. Applying this principle, worldwide consensus has determined which day, hour, and minute the Sun will brighten so much as to boil away the Earth's seas. Realizing that the heightened insolation will destroy life as we know it, the world's nations debate what to do when the Sun "goes off." Since the Earth's rotation continues at 360 degrees in 24 hours, it will take only one day to cause all of the Earth's oceans to boil away. Terrific hurricanes and tidal waves will also occur, causing all buildings to be destroyed. If there are any survivors, they will be in hardened bunkers deep underground, and they will only be able to last as long as their food lasts.
The unavoidability of the impending doom has caused some technologically advanced countries to look for sanctuary on another planet, such as Mars.
This is all scheduled to happen in a few years, and the exact minute and hour of the Sun's increase in radiance does not give the human race much time to devise a way of navigating space to an orbit as far away as Mars.
Nevertheless, massive building programs are initiated, and hundreds of spaceships are raised, many of them unfit for flight.
A series of national lotteries are established with grand prize being a ticket to ride a spaceship off the Earth, and possibly make it as far as Mars. Many spaceships, however, were built without landing gear. Although many ships were supposed to have shortwave radios to communicate with each other, many of the shortwave radios were simply empty cases as the tubes and wires had been left out.
The protagonist of the story has been elected into a position of authority, and must choose which people to take with him to Mars. He has only a limited number of tickets, and knows there will come a time when people with guns will storm their way on board, rather than stand in line until the tickets are depleted. The book is titled "One in Three Hundred" because only one in three hundred people in the United States will get a ticket to leave the Earth, and there is still a question whether the spaceships will have enough air, or even be able to travel to Mars in time, and nobody is certain whether the atmosphere of Mars is breathable, or whether Mars will even be habitable when they get there.
McIntosh is a gee-whiz writer...Build a lot of dinky little ships that can transport 11 people each? Great; this makes fully as much sense as building a lot of teaspoons to put out a fire with...Once our ship gets out and into space, the passengers discover it is too well insulated; they are slowly being roasted to death by their own body heat, until they take a couple of insulating panels off. Gee whiz!...At the time of the story, the author would have us believe, we have been in the spaceship business for some years; we've got a colony on Mars and regular, if infrequent, passenger service thereto -- and all this time, nobody had figured out a way to regulate the interior temperature of spaceships, untl this very moment? Really?...Most exasperating of all, not one of this story's flaws is essential to it. If they had all been corrected, the story would have been basically much the same; but it would have been a thousand times more plausible, a lot more fun to read - and beyond doubt it would have lived longer than it is now doomed to do.
Galaxy reviewer Groff Conklin more charitably described the novel as "a thrilling and tragic story." Anthony Boucher, who had published the original stories in F&SF, reviewed the novel as "McIntosh's best work and one of the most human science fiction stories by anyone." P. Schuyler Miller noted the popularity of the original stories and termed McIntosh "a writer to watch."