Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Three to Conquer -- Eric Frank Russell

Back in the '50s there were a lot of books and movies like this one. Aliens were among us, and the scary thing was that they were nearly impossible to detect because they either assumed our forms, invaded our bodies, or attached themselves to us. They looked just like we did. My personal favorite has always been Robert Heinlein's The Puppet Masters, but I also like Jack Finney's The Body Snatchers. I like both movie versions of that one, too. Other movies on the same theme I like include It Came from Outer Space and Invaders from Mars. I'm sure there are plenty of others.

Three to Conquer
was originally a serial in Astounding, and the title there was Call Him Dead. I read it first in the edition in the picture, half of an Ace Double. The invaders are from Venus, and apparently they're some kind of microbial parasites that can take over human beings, and the only person who can spot them is the world's only (as far as he knows) telepath, Wade Harper. Who, of course, just happens to be in the right place at the right time, at the very beginning of the invasion. The story moves fast, in a no-frills semi-hardboiled style (with a few Britishisms along the way, a little distracting since the story's set in the U.S.). There's nothing fancy about it, and someone should have made a low-budget black-and-white movie of it in the '50s, with Frank Lovejoy.

I liked Russell's work a lot when I was a kid.
Wasp is my favorite of his books, and I remember several short stories ("Dear Devil," "Late Night Final") with affection. Most of the younger SF fans have probably never heard of him.

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