Space Tug by Murray Leinster (William Fitzgerald Jenkins) © 1953, this edition Pocket Books 1954 mass market paperback, science fiction – 2nd Joe Kenmore novel
Science fiction was an entirely different thing more than sixty years ago, which should come as no surprise. Today this novel of early space travel, culminating with man’s first landing on the moon, is considered a YA novel, in it’s time it would have been aimed at all SF readers.
Story: After the United Nations couldn’t build and launch a “space platform”, what we now call a manned satellite, due to vetoes by “certain powers”, the United States did it on their own. In the previous Joe Kenmore book Space Platform the building and putting into orbit was detailed. In this one, it’s now time to set up routine supply rockets to the Platform, and to protect it from the wrathful attacks of those certain powers, who fear the U.S. will try to force it’s will upon them. Defensive rockets must be transported to the platform at once in manned rocket transports. Joe will be the pilot, with his three-man crew.
An aside: This is certainly what would be described as “hard science fiction” today. Leinster, like most of the science fiction authors at the time, leans heavily on the science aspect and there are many paragraphs devoted to it, which give the book a strong believability if read with the 1953 level of science and knowledge in mind. Developments since have completely changed our views.
Story, continued: Joe and his crew endure high G forces on take-off, have to dodge hostile rockets, make adjustments to their course – not an easy thing – and then learn to deal with free fall and working on null gravity once on the Platform. The return trip to earth is even more harrowing.
My opinion: Remember, when this was written WWII was only eight years past, and when in a scene the characters drive somewhere they’re probably in a 1953 Ford. Read this one with the time it was written in mind and I think you’ll enjoy it.
“which give the book a strong believability if read with the 1953 level of science and knowledge in mind. ” I always try to keep this in mind when I’m reading older fiction – what did we know at the time, and what did we think we knew? What ideas would have been cutting edge at the time?
when I was a little girl visiting my grandparents, my sister and I found an old set of encyclopedias in their house. The encyclopedias were from the late 50s, and we laughed our heads off when we looked up “moon” and the entry was only a few sentences long.
Time seems to fly by, and we forget, or don’t notice the changes as we go. Reading these old SF novels is a good reminder of what was, and what we thought might be. This is another good example of hard science fiction making it’s best guess, and not too bad, after all.
I have read some early science fiction by Asimov and Heinlein, from about the same time, and enjoyed that, so I think I would like this too.
Great minds think alike, Rick. My FFB is also by Leinster, although it’s a western rather than SF: TWO-GUN SHOWDOWN, a slightly revised version of his 1933 THE GAMBLIN’ KID.
I know he wrote other things, but it’s his SF that I enjoy.
Interesting set of jags this week, with multiple Robert Howards, too.
Jenkins was hugely productive and diverse…I gather he mostly focused on sf by the end of his career.
Though as Jerry shows, he did write westerns, perhaps earlier.
Yes, mostly given up on those, I think, by the ’60s.
Nice choice. I really like the old Pocket Books – I have a bunch of the original 87th Precinct and other Ed McBain books in that format, as well as the early Richard Stark Parker books by Donald Westlake. I’ve enjoyed the Leinster stories (not novels) I’ve read. These two sound like fun.
OK, I just went on Amazon and “bought” copies of both books – for free!
Hope you enjoy them. Did you notice the cover artist on this one is the same as the cover of Sands of Mars I posted recently?
Great minds think alike. Jerry House reviewed a Murray Leinster western for FFB today. I read SPACE TUG way back in the 1960s. And, I’m working on a Murray Leinster project now so you’ll see a bunch of Murray Leinster on my blog in a month or two.
I’ll look forward to that.
I never have too much trouble reading older fiction…and certainly Jenkins tends to go down smooth…so much as having trouble when a writer decides what they’re writing is a lecture, and not an engaging one, rather than a novel. See: Ayn Rand, too much of Robert Heinlein starting with STRANGER and getting dangerous with GLORY ROAD and FANHMAM’S FREEHOLD, Philip Wylie’s lesser work, etc. Repugnant attitudes don’t help, either…though people sometimes misread some of our older writers, I think, not least Twain and Kipling.
Or, even, FARNHAM’S.
I have always preferred the earlier Heinlein, even the “juveniles “, over STRANGER and what followed.
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