Nicholas (nwhyte) wrote,

Beyond This Horizon; Second-Stage Lensmen; and the 1943 Retro Hugo finalists for Best Novel

Beyond This Horizon, by Robert A. Heinlein

Second paragraph of third chapter:
In the nucleus of every cell of every zygote, whether man or fruit fly, sweet pea or race horse, is a group of threadlike bodies—chromosomes. Along the threads are incredibly tiny somethings, on the order of ten times the size of the largest protein molecules. They are the genes, each one of which controls some aspect of the entire structure, man, animal, or plant, in which the cell is lodged. Every living cell contains within it the plan for the entire organism.
This is early Heinlein, his second novel for adults (after Sixth Column/The Day After Tomorrow, the one with the racist ray). Here we have a future society whose population has been and is being shaped by genetic engineering, which raises interesting questions about accountability, which are not really answered. The plot starts promisingly but diverts often into info-dumping and runs out of steam entirely about half-way through. A side-theme is the universal use of fire-arms, at least by men; this is the source of the infamous quote “An armed society is a polite society.” Heinlein's writing style is already lucid and effective, but he hadn't yet found the knack of pulling story elements together to a coherent whole at novel length. But if you want to, you can get it here.

Second-Stage Lensmen, by E.E. "Doc" Smith

Second paragraph of third chapter:
Reasoning from analogy, Kinnison quite justifiably concluded that the back of the drug syndicate had been broken in similar fashion when he had worked upward through Bominger and Strongheart and Crowninshield and Jalte to the dread council of Boskone itself. He was, however, wrong.
I tried the first three Lensman books a decade ago, and bounced off them so heavily that I wimped out of reading Gray Lensman when it was up for the Retro Hugo two years ago. (It came within 28 votes of beating Slan.) Having started this year's reading early, I thought I should give Smith another go, and did in fact get two thirds of the way through Second-Stage Lensmen before I realised that I was appalled by the prose, didn't care about the characters and was not even slightly excited by the plot. So, that's an easy decision then. If you want to test for yourself, you can get it here.

Which means my overall votes for the 1943 Retro Hugo for Best Novel are as follows:

7) Second-Stage Lensmen, by E.E. "Doc" Smith (see above)

6) Beyond This Horizon, by Robert A. Heinlein (see above)

5) Darkness and the Light, by Olaf Stapledon

4) No Award

3) Donovan's Brain, by Curt Siodmak

2) The Uninvited, by Dorothy Macardle

1) Islandia, by Austen Tappan Wright

2018 Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Related Work | Graphic Story | Dramatic Long | Dramatic Short | Professional Artist & Fan Artist | Series | Young Adult | Campbell Award
1943 Retro Hugos: Novel | Novella | Novelette | Short Story | Dramatic Short | Fan Artist

Tags: bookblog 2018, hugos 2018, retro hugos 1943, writer: ee doc smith, writer: olaf stapledon, writer: robert a heinlein

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