In this bi-weekly series reviewing classic science fiction and fantasy books, Alan Brown looks at the front lines and frontiers of the field; books about soldiers and spacers, scientists and engineers, explorers and adventurers. Stories full of what Shakespeare used to refer to as “alarums and excursions”: battles, chases, clashes, and the stuff of excitement.
Science fiction was born in the days of the pulp magazines, a time when those magazines were all competing for the attention of readers (and their nickels and dimes). The stories were designed to grab and hold the attention of a reader, and they did this with fast-paced adventures, lurid descriptions, and simplistic plots. One of the classic tales of this era was Jack Williamson’s The Legion of Space, where the first trip to another star leads to a first contact situation. The aliens immediately decide to remake the Earth to their own specifications, even if that requires the eradication of the entire human race. Only a single ship and a handful of Legionnaires stands between humanity and genocide!