This Island Earth (novel)
Dust-jacket from the first edition
|Author||Raymond F. Jones|
|Cover artist||Robert Johnson|
|Genre||Science fiction novel|
|Media type||Print (Hardback)|
This Island Earth is a 1952 science fiction novel by Raymond F. Jones. It was first published in Thrilling Wonder Stories magazine as a serialized set of three novelettes by Raymond F. Jones: "The Alien Machine" in the June 1949 issue, "The Shroud of Secrecy" in the December 1949 issue, and "The Greater Conflict" in the February 1950 issue. These three stories were later combined into the novel entitled This Island Earth in 1952. The novel became the basis for the 1955 science fiction film This Island Earth.
The story revolves around a race of aliens who, in recruiting humans for a group called "Peace Engineers", are actually using Earth as a pawn in an intergalactic war. Both the novel and the film contain some intriguing concepts that had not previously been considered by most science fiction of the time, but while the movie starts out in a very similar manner to the novel, it quickly goes its own way.
At Ryberg Instrument Corporation, engineer Cal Meacham has received a quartet of bead-like devices that are meant to replace the condensers that he ordered. Thinking it a joke, he tests them anyway and finds that they work just as well as what he had ordered. He orders more and with them gets a catalogue filled with electronic apparatus completely unfamiliar to him. His interest piqued, he orders the parts necessary to build what the catalog calls an interociter.
When he turns the completed interociter on he confronts a man who invites him to join a group called Peace Engineers. Knowing that he would not refuse, the group sends a pilotless airplane to pick him up and take him to a small village/factory complex in a valley north of Phoenix, Arizona. He is greeted by Dr. Ruth Adams, a psychologist who seems to be afraid of something. Dr. Warner, the man he spoke with over the interociter, tells him that he will be in charge of the interociter assembly plant. He also meets Ole Swenberg, who was his roommate in college.
Six months later he meets the Chief Engineer, Mr. Jorgasnovara, who describes the Peace Engineers in terms reminiscent of the Babbage Society in Michael F. Flynn’s novel, In the Country of the Blind. Later he overhears Jorgasnovara’s thoughts through the interociter in his laboratory. One night he and Ruth discover that the interociters are being shipped out, not by truck, but by spaceship. Again overhearing Jorgasnovara’s thoughts, Cal learns that the Peace Engineers are involved in an interstellar war.
Cal believes that all of Earth should be participating in the war that the Peace Engineers have somehow gotten us into, so he gathers documents and samples and takes a small airplane to fly to Washington. Halfway to his destination he and his plane are snatched out of the air by a spaceship and taken to the moon. There Jorgasnovara tells Cal, Ruth, and Ole that Peace Engineers is actually run by his people, aliens called Llanna, and that the Llanna are engaged in a millennia-long, intergalactic war with people called Guarra. Earth is now being used in that war as certain small Pacific islands were used in World War II.
Returning to Earth, Cal, Ruth, and Ole find the plant being sabotaged. The Llannans decide to abandon it, but before they leave, Cal and Ruth discover that Ole is a Guarra sleeper agent. As a consequence of the interociter-mediated battle that destroys Ole and his non-human henchmen Jorgasnovara dies.
Cal and Ruth are taken to Jorgasnovara’s home world and are told that Earth is to be abandoned completely, that the Guarra will destroy it, as they have destroyed so many other worlds. Cal protests but the Llannan Council tells him that their war computers have predicted that they would not defend Earth. But the Guarran war computers would tell the Guarra the same thing, so, Cal tells the Council, the best tactic is to do what the Guarra do not expect. The Llannans then agree to defend Earth and Cal and Ruth look forward to returning home.
Explanation of the novel's title
In explaining the cosmic war his people are waging Jorgasnovara compares Earth to a small Pacific island in the recently concluded World War II. He explains that the natives could not comprehend the conflict raging around them, but that they can, nonetheless, contribute something to the war effort, such as by building airstrips.
- The Alien Machine (June 1949)
- The Shroud of Secrecy (December 1949)
- The Greater Conflict (February 1950)
The story was subsequently published in book form:
- 1952, USA, Shasta Publishers, Pub date Dec 1952, Hardback (220 pp)
- 1953, USA, Shasta/SFBC, Pub date Sep 1953, Hardback (220 pp)
- 1954, Sweden, Lindqvist (Atomböckerna), Hardback (208 pp), as Universum Ockuperat (Universe Occupied)
- 1955, UK, T.V. Boardman, Hardback (220 pp)
- 1955, USA, Shasta, Hardback (220 pp)
- 1955, Italy, Arnoldo Mondadori Editore (I Romanzi di Urania #96), Paperback digest (128 pp), as Il cittadino della spazio (The Citizen of Space)
- 1956, France, Gallimard (Le Rayon Fantastique #37), Paperback (253 pp), as Les survivants de l’infini (The Survivors of the Infinite)
- 1956, Germany, Pabel Verlag (Utopia Grossband #37), Paperback digest (89 pp), as Insel zwischen den Sternen (Island Between the Stars)
- 1957, Spain, Editora y Distribuidora Hispano Americana, S.A. (Colección Nebulae #41), Paperback, as Esta Isla la Tierra (This Island Earth)
- 1977, Italy, Libra Editrice (I Classici della Fantascienza #28), Pub date Oct 1977, Hardback (280 pp), as Il cittadino dello spacio (The Citizen of Space)
- 1991, UK, Grafton Books, ISBN 0-586-21050-4, Pub date Mar 1991, Paperback (191 pp)
The book is listed at
- The Library of Congress as http://lccn.loc.gov/53005746
- The British Library as UIN = BLL01001898141 (1955, T.V. Boardman edition)
- Mark Rensberg at Imagination (Jun 1953)
- The Editors (Boucher and McComas) at The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction (May 1953)
Boucher and McComas found the novel disappointing; after starting "with some fine technological gadgetry," it "becomes ultimately incredible in its galactic wildness (and offensive in its extreme labor-baiting)."
- Groff Conklin at Galaxy Science Fiction (Aug 1953)
- P. Schuyler Miller at Astounding Science Fiction (Oct 1953)
- Kenneth F. Slater at Nebula Science Fiction (Number 13, 1955)
- Leslie Flood at New Worlds Science Fiction, #33 (Mar 1955)
- Igor B. Maslowski in Fiction, #32 (1956, in French)
- In the Kirkus Review the reviewer wrote:
- "An incredible bit of technology lures engineer Cal Meacham to work for Peace Engineers and soon leads him to track down the truth behind the organization. He is apprised of the great, ageless conflict being waged for the universe, is unable to fend off the threat of the Guarra but turns the tables when he does persuade the Llanna to change their tactics and defend the Earth. United nations – stellar division."
- In the Saturday Review for June 13, 1953 Fletcher Pratt wrote:
- "Theme: What happens when machines are in control. Handling: Galactic; fast pace, but with too many loose ends left dangling. Rating: Buildup dandy; resolution ho-hum."
Universal-International produced a movie version of This Island Earth, released June 1, 1955.
- http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/title.cgi?9893 Retrieved March 1, 2015
- "Recommended Reading," F&SF, May 1953, p.91
- https://www.kirkusreviews.com/book-reviews/raymond-f-jones/this-island-earth/ Retrieved March 1, 2015
- http://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1953jun13-00041 Retrieved March 1, 2015
- Chalker, Jack L.; Mark Owings (1998). The Science-Fantasy Publishers: A Bibliographic History, 1923–1998. Westminster, MD and Baltimore: Mirage Press, Ltd. p. 593.
- Clute, John; Nicholls, Peter (October 23, 2014). "Jones, Raymond F.". In Clute, John; Langford, David; Nicholls, Peter; Sleight, Graham. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Gollancz.
This Island Earth (stories June 1949 – February 1950 Thrilling Wonder; fixup 1952) begins with beleaguered Aliens secretly using human scientists in order to resist an enemy in an intergalactic war which threatens to engulf Earth. The protagonist finally persuades them that, by allowing their tactics to be dictated by vast Computers, they have become predictable to the enemy. But he may be too late. The film version, This Island Earth (1954), begins well but loses interest when it diverges – perhaps inevitably – from the book, which became quite famous, all the same, due to the commercial impact of the movie.
- Tuck, Donald H. (1974). "This Island Earth". The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy. Chicago: Advent. pp. 247–248. ISBN 0-911682-20-1.