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Author: Harry Harrison (Henry Maxwell Dempsey)
Published: 1960
Language: English
Wordcount: 58,470 / 171 pg
Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease: 89.5
LoC Category: PS
Downloads: 16,415
Added to site: 2009.03.17 23713

Some planet in the galaxy must--by definition--be the toughest, meanest, nastiest of all. If Pyrrus wasn't it ... it was an awfully good approximation!

Show Excerpt

They came up a natural seven and Jason smiled.

When he scooped them up the smile slowly faded. The dice were transparent, finely made, evenly weighted on all sides--and crooked.

The pigment on the dots of five sides of each die was some heavy metal compound, probably lead. The sixth side was a ferrous compound. They would roll true unless they hit a magnetic field--that meant the entire surface of the table could be magnetized. He could never have spotted the difference if he hadn't looked at the dice with his mind. But what could he do about it?

Shaking them slowly he glanced quickly around the table. There was what he needed. An ashtray with a magnet in its base to hold it to the metal edge of the table. Jason stopped shaking the dice and looked at them quizzically, then reached over and grabbed the ashtray. He dropped the base against his hand.

As he lifted the ashtray there was a concerted gasp from all sides. The dice were sticking there, upside down, box cars showin

Reader Reviews

Average Rating of 4.3 from 15 reviews: *****
Henry L. Ratliff

(1960) Sci-fi (Other world) / Adventure (Survival/War) / Mystery (Source of unrest)

R: * * * *

Plot bullets

  • Life on Pyrrus is hard, dangerous and often deadly. Why anyone would want to live on such a planet is hard to understand. But the inhabitants are tenacious and resolved to conquer the plants, animals and even the planet itself.

  • Even young children are schooled to fight for their lives against the flora and fauna that shows no mercy.

  • Kerk, an inhabitant of Pyrrus, wants to stake a well known adventurer and gambler to a night at the tables, to increase a large but currently inadequate sum for planet defenses. It takes a lot o money to fight a whole planet.

  • Jason wins the sum necessary, and some for himself, but insists on going back to the planyt with Kerk. All the descriptions of the dangers, that Kerk describes, will not deter Jason.

  • Pyrrus is a savage world where the ruling inhabitants must live in a protected shell.

  • Jason thinks he knows why this planet seems to be a continuous battleground.

  • Old ways are hard to change and opposition is thrown in his way as he tries to make changes. Centuries of prejudice, are hard to overcome.

  • Jason sets out to force his knowledge on the inhabitants, for their own benefit. He firmly believes that Pyrrus does not need to be a Deathworld.

JoJo Biggins

Possibly the best read on this site. Interesting plot, well-written, good and long, and a decent ending.

Sardo Weems

An absorbing story of a planet redesigning itself to kill human colonists. Good characters, a lot of whom die. The hero has a lot of trouble walking around in two gravities with normal reflexes.

You won't be bored.


A fun and easy read. A bit of nostalgia for the days when it was just assumed that mankind would be colonizing planets across the galaxy. Interesting to see how how different the future looks 50 years later.


Despite some of the negative comments below this book is a great read. I first read it in 1960 and it is still a first rate book.


I was very surprised to find this book out of copyright and available for free. I still have a copy of the Jan. 1960 Astounding SF magazine, which contains the first half of Deathworld. Through many moves and packing up boxes of books, this little magazine always went onto the "keep pile". Van Dongen's illustrations are very good and it is too bad they are not included in the ebook. This book is an action packed page turner. But more than action, there are some very thoughtful ideas at the core of the plot. Highly recommended, and thanks to manybooks for making this available.


Think "Avatar" for this novella. I suspect Cameron got some of his ideas for the film from this story.

Dan R

It is not brilliant, has many flaws, but somehow keeps you curious to find out what will happen next.

overall, i think this book is good to pass some time but passable.


I read this book 30 years ago and still remember the page turning effect it had. It was fun to find it on the net now and it got downloaded and read in a single sitting!

I doubt it would win any litery prizes although the theme it covers is way ahead of it's time. It is however excellent "entertainment" of the written variety!

In some ways it is way ahead of it's time; using iPads! In others it missed the point, still using "computer tapes"

It would make a truly brilliant film, I'm suprised it hasn't already been done... Think along the lines of Jason played by;
Vin Diesel? :-)
Kerk? Stallone!
Meta; Carrie-Anne Moss

CGI could do amazing things with the training and battle sequences.

Another review describes it perfectly, A very good "romp",
well worth reading.


Pyrrus; a nasty planet named for the type of victory that king Pyrrus of Epirus enjoyed when he defeated powerful Rome, but lost all his forces and kingdom doing so.

That's what the settlers of Pyrrus are facing. They are dealing with not only a tidal and volcanically dangerous planet, but an incredibly hostile array of native life which is continuously evolving ever deadlier forms. Despite training to kill from infancy, and constant ferocious battling, they are not making headway. The more they kill, the more of them are killed. They enlist a somewhat shady gambler who uses his telekenitic powers to win at dice. He contracts to cheat and win them a pile of sheckels to buy the equipment of conflict they need.

He wins the money, but, being a curious adventurer type, insists he wants to go back with them to Pyrrus despite the dangers.

He undergoes extensive training just to stay alive. Then he has revelations about just what is making the planet's indigenous lifeforms so hateful and aggressive to humans. Follows his leads......and makes this story a good read.

Comment; a few of the side trips and the ending are weak, but all in all a good and constantly developing adventure that will hold your interest.

Leah A. Zeldes

A professional gambler, on a whim, goes to a deadly planet and gets in the middle of a grisly war. Some interesting ideas, if you can get past the one-man-against-all-odds plot.

d lefler

I expected something much different and got something surprisingly better. I won't say too much, but you'll recognize the underlying theme, nature turns mean, as something you've seen several times since this work was published -- and not done as well. A good read.

R Stephan

The ending was not satisfactory but the rest is worth reading. I thought the ending was typical of that time, and probably forced on the author by time or space constraints.


Better than the title would suggest, this is a good romp.

C. Alan Loewen

Deathworld was written by Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey, March 12, 1925) in 1960 and is the first of four novels (the last actually a short story).

Jason dinAlt (that is not a typo) is a professional gambler who uses his latent psionic powers to beat the house odds. Approached by a resident of the planet Pyrrus to turn a large sum of money into a huge sum of money, he accompanies his employer to what is known as the most deadliest planet in known space.

Wikipedia describes Harrison's work as "often hinges around the contrast between the thinking man and the man of force, although the "Thinking Man" often needs ultimately to employ force himself," and the story is a fun read as dinAlt struggles to solve the mystery of Pyrrus through brain and not brawn.

The novella is well worth the read.



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