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Book Note: John Taine, The Iron Star

I read this book about 12-Feb-2006. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1930. This note was last modified Saturday, 18-Feb-2006 11:08:37 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Part of the Christmas haul, I've been wanting to add this to the collection for a while, since it's one of his more famous books but hasn't been reprinted so much recently.

Well, I'm glad to read it. It's well enough written, but it's really replete with racist statements (and not just by the characters). Because they've travelled to Africa, and because the topic is human "devolution" under the malign influence of Asterium, a metal carried to Earth in an ancient meteor, perhaps it has more opportunity to show than in his other books.

For example, here on p.115 it says "As quickly as possible the party with their guides and carriers bundled into dugouts and gave chase. Rather, they gave crawl; it is impossible to make a black man hurry when he wants to loaf."

Meanwhile, on another group, it says here on p.140 that "Miss Meredith is no fool, for a girl" (this a statement by Dr. Colton).

Interestingly, the character Swain who first gets them involved in this mess started his life committed to disproving evolution -- a task the author clearly regards as silly.

On p.190, he says "they were steel, in fact flattened rifle bullets." But any vaguely ordinary rifle bullets aren't and never have been steel -- most especially not in 1930. I guess even in 1930, professors of mathematics who wrote adventure novels didn't know much about firearms.

Hey, look, the Irish, too: p.22, "He had an arm with a punch in it, an expressive kick, a dumb fidelity, and he understood practical politics better than any Irishman ever born. Witness his handling of the debate in the ravine." That debate in the ravine -- he lost his temper and killed every one of his companions on both sides of the conflict.

Of course the anti-evolutionist is brought very low in the end, and deservedly so. The girl marries the doctor, and the Earth is saved from the deadly emanations of Asterium.

The physics aren't up to modern standards, but, well, 1930. There haven't been that many paradigm shifts since then, but we know a lot more about nuclear reactions than they did then. I wonder if he chose iron because of its position of stability in the middle of the elements, or just for its usual associations plus the commonness of iron meteors?

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David Dyer-Bennet