enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Stanley G. Weinbaum, The Black Flame

I read this book about 21-Oct-2003. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1936. This note was last modified Wednesday, 22-Oct-2003 23:26:26 PDT.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


Two related pieces, copyright 1936 and 1938, published in magazines in 1939 (in the other order), looks like a book in 1948. And now the first paperback (April 1969).

This is a pretty normal early post-holocaust world. Lots of people suspicious of technology, completely redraw political boundaries. It was a less drastic collapse than later ones -- this is pre-atomic bomb (despite having something in the book called that; and using fusion power).

The first part takes place relatively early in the expansion of the Urban Empire (expanding out from the city of Urb, don't you see). They have some interesting tools -- a device that detonates gunpowder at a distance, ionic disruptor pistols (they seem to be tasers using ionized air paths rather than wires to conduct the electricity). A large, strong, not brilliant (but not stupid) man is confronted with the Black Flame, the Princess Margaret of Urb, an immortal and trans-human beauty (the beauty is natural, so far as I can tell). He pretty much loses his soul. And the empire expands.

The second part takes place much later. A man executed for murder in the electric chair wakes up after 1000 years. The people who nurse him back to health end up enlisting him in their attempt to revolt against Urb (headquartered roughly in New Orleans). He runs into the Princess Margaret again, and things get complicated. He ends up on her side, in fact it looks like he's going to marry her and become an immortal. And he's probably right, too.

The most annoying archaism in these is the very explicit assumption that Princess Margaret needs to be "tamed" to have a satisfactory relationship with a man. She even believes it herself. Scary stuff. Other than this, and some tech issues (the "atomic bomb" explosion he runs through to rescue the princess at one point, for example; but remember the date it was written), these are really pretty good stories. The complexity of the societies and characters are up where I like them in much more modern SF.

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David Dyer-Bennet