This book had a tremendous impact on me, when I first checked it out from my elementary school library back in the mid-1960s. This was the one that brought home to me the realization that our civilization is a complex and fragile entity, totally dependent on its technology.
Almost fifty years later, I still found "The Year When Stardust Fell" a gripping read. Most of its defects come from the fact that it was targeted toward the (as publishers thought) exclusively male juvenile SF market of its time, so women appear in a strictly secondary role, making sandwiches for the boys, etc. Other than that, though, this is a fine example of the "Broken Earth" school of SF, with an unusually bleak theme for a juvie.
The story is set in a small college town out West, as winter is coming on and the splendor of a closely-approaching comet illuminates the night sky. As the Earth enters the comet's tail, the town finds itself cut off from the world and thrown back on its own meager resources, when civilization suddenly collapses.
In a brilliant plot device by Jones, the cometary dust contains a strange molecule which causes the metal surfaces it contaminates to bond together. So in a couple of weeks literally every machine on Earth with moving parts is cold-welded into a useless hunk of junk. As the cities dissolve into rampaging mobs of desperate, starving people, a small group of scientists in the college town are the only ones left to identify the cause of the breakdown and then tackle the seemingly hopeless task of finding a way to counteract it.
Plus they'll have to fight to survive cold, famine, sickness, well-armed marauders from the city, and betrayal by their neighbors. And to retain their humanity in the face of some awful realities. There are some surprisingly grim and realistic passages in this novel, especially during the street-fighting when the marauders overrun the town.
All in all, this is a worthwhile and still timely read from one of the greats of SF's Classic era.
Essentially two narratives in one, this follows the adventures of a crew of explorers as they navigate their submarine under the ice to the open water at the North Pole. (Don\'t ask.) Meanwhile, their employer and inventor of their craft, who\'s following their journey from his digs in New Jersey via telegraph -- the submarine\'s trailing a super-light, super-strong telegraphic cable -- inadvertently drills a 16-mile-deep hole into the Earth, leading to a surprising discovery.
Unfortunately, the submarine plot line is distinctly sub-Vernian, nor are the doings back in New Jersey all that interesting, either. There is an odd little note of pathos in the polar narrative, though, as the explorers encounter the last surviving whale.
Although this doesn\'t measure up to \"The Great War Syndicate\", it still has its low-key charms for admirers of Late Victorian SF.
Intriguing, suspenseful tale of aliens plotting to exterminate humankind, and the desperate plight of the young woman who discovers their plan on the eve of the invasion.
Too congenitally cowardly to risk their own precious hides, the aliens plan to use a group of humans whom they\'ve abducted and raised since birth, who\'ve been brainwashed into believing Earth people are monsters, to do their dirty work for them. These shock troops have also been genetically modified to allow them to tap into an alien power source which endows them with terrifying, superhuman abilities.
But this best-laid plan is about to go astray. Twenty years earlier, during the last rash of saucer sightings, the aliens somehow managed not to collect one of the mutant babies. A week before their planned invasion, they switch on the power to give their mutants a chance to practice with it, and an unsuspecting young Earth woman suddenly finds herself possessed of incredible powers.
With this gift also comes the knowledge of what the aliens have in store for the human race. Can she evade an assassin who can walk through walls and make himself invisible, who can read her thoughts and know where she is at any moment -- and somehow convince the authorities -- before it\'s too late to stop them?
Excellent nuts-and-bolts Space-Patrol-style adventure, as the newly-minted Lt. \'Rip\' Foster of the S.O.S. takes on his first command assignment: Piloting an asteroid of valuable thorium from the outer edges of the Belt to Earth orbit. As if that wasn\'t tricky enough, he\'ll also have to fend off repeated hijack attempts by a nefarious Connie space cruiser.
Besides a few minor details, very little about this story seems dated, other than the obvious substitution of \'Connies\' for \'Commies\' (with the usual 50s Cold War tropes) and the lack of female characters.
Definitely worth a read.