enhanced] DD-B

Book Note: Stanley G. Weinbaum, The New Adam

I read this book about 8-Oct-2003. This is the first time I've read this book. The book is copyright 1939. This note was last modified Tuesday, 10-Feb-2004 23:35:22 PST.

This note contains spoilers for the book.


If Weinbaum is one of the three supernovas of science fiction (along with Doc Smith and Robert Heinlein), you'd think I'd have read everything of his, wouldn't you? In fact, I only remember "A Martian Odyssey". Weinbaum started being published in 1934, and died in 1935 (even younger than Mozart). So he's relatively early in Doc Smith's career, and completely before Heinlein's. And it looks like a lot of his work was published posthumously. If I've checked the publication history of all the 1934 works correctly, "A Martian Odyssey" was his very first published work.

Amazingly, there does not seem to be any reference on the web for this "three supernovas" concept; well, except one other reference I made to it. However, aRJay has found for me that Asimov said it (as just "nova", not "supernova") in his introduction to The Best of Stanley G. Weinbaum, copyright 1974. So now it should turn up the next time somebody needs it.

But I do have this volume in the shelves, and also The Black Flame. The copy I have seems to be the later edition with the complete novel (originally published as The Dawn of Flame and The Black Flame).

My edition of this one says "first paperback publication" on the cover (May 1969). That took a while.

But back to the topic. The New Adam is a super-man story, and very self-consciously so; it begins with a prologue explaining how others have done it poorly before him, and discussing the "fallacies" of Nietzsche and Wells. I guess ambition is a good thing in a writer (and remember when this was written; there wasn't nearly as much bad super-human SF back then).

Its treatment of evolution bugs the hell out of me. This superman comes into being all at once; that's bad enough (imagine how many mutations would be necessary at once!). But much worse, another super-woman turns up. And they're fertile with each other and not with humanity. So they both got the same set of crazy mutations suddenly! Yeah, right.

Another stale and annoying assumption is that the super-race would be less sensual. The man gets married to a human woman, and later when he finds a woman of his own species finds her much less attractive. I prefer Richard Balinger Seaton who's brilliant and physical, myself. On the other hand, it's kind of a tragedy in that regard. It also equates intelligence with unhappiness; is this a sign of just how many SF authors had unhappy experiences in schools?

On page 170 there's a reference to the Necronomicon (in an ancient French translation). (Lovecraft made it up. Really.) Credited just to "the Arab" (not the mad Arab).

Despite all this bitching, it reads rather well. The character himself is trapped, all his life, in various bad situations not of his own making, and he's shaped and driven by them to a poor end. A tragedy through and through, and done with considerable sympathy, so I feel for the poor guy. Then again, I think he should have been able to figure out ways to be happier than he was. I'd diagnose depression.

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David Dyer-Bennet