The Ultimate Weapon

The Ultimate Weapon


(6 Reviews)
The Ultimate Weapon by John Wood Campbell







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The Ultimate Weapon


(6 Reviews)
The star Mira was unpredictably variable. Sometimes it was blazing, brilliant and hot. Other times it was oddly dim, cool, shedding little warmth on its many planets. Gresth Gkae, leader of the Mirans, was seeking a better star, one to which his "people" could migrate. That star had to be steady, reliable, with a good planetary system. And in his astronomical searching, he found Sol.With hundreds of ships, each larger than whole Terrestrial spaceports, and traveling faster than the speed of light, the Mirans set out to move in to Solar regions and take over.And on Earth there was nothing which would be capable of beating off this incredible armada—until Buck Kendall stumbled upon THE ULTIMATE WEAPON.

Book Excerpt

either leave, or come after us--" The T-247 had settled inside the lock now, and the great metal door closed after it. The whole patrol ship had been swallowed by a giant. Kendall was sketching swiftly on a notebook, watching the vast ship closely, putting down a record of its lines, and formation. He glanced up at it, and then down for a few more lines, and up at it--

The stranger ship abruptly dwindled. It dwindled with incredible speed, rushing off along the line of sight at an impossible velocity, and abruptly clicking out of sight, like an image on a movie-film that has been cut, and repaired after the scene that showed the final disappearance.

"Cole--Cole--did you get that? Did you see--do you understand what happened?" Kendall was excitedly shouting now.

"He missed us," Cole sighed. "It's a wonder--hanging out here in space, with the protector of the T-247's fields gone."

"No, no, you asteroid--that's not it. He went off faster than light itself!"


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As editor of Astounding Stories, John W. Campbell was a huge influence on the then new field of science fiction, but as a writer, he wasn't nearly as good. Originally serialized as "Uncertainty," this 1936 novel is a classic example of nuts-and-bolts SF — much more of it is explaining how things work than anything like character development. The explanations are usually delivered as lectures from the hero, Buck Kendall, a millionaire scientist who joined the Interplanetary Patrol on a bet. I suppose this "Beware the coming invader!" tale could be seen as a kind of prediction, based on the menacing factors that led to World War II: When his men are killed in a strange, brief encounter with a vast and powerful alien starship, Kendall can't get his superiors to believe in the threat, so he resigns and revisits the matter as an influential multi-millionaire. Of course, they listen to him then. That's about the end of anything that's not building and testing weapons of destruction against the coming invasion. The junior scientists of the day might have found it fascinating, but passages like, “The secret of perfect reflection lies at a molecular level in the organization of matter,” and “He's developed a system, which, thanks to the power we can get in that atostor, will sextuply ionize oxygen gas,” don't do much for me.I'm sure the science and engineering were as accurate as 1936 could postulate, and somebody with a better physics education than I have might be interested to see how close Campbell came, although even I can tell that much of it is dated. Anybody can see that having your year 2300 space patrol communicate by Morse code, sketch drawings on paper instead of using a camera, and carry half-dollar coins is dated. I overlook things like that in better stories, but this one doesn't have much else going for it. There is a certain amount of action as we see how far the aliens get in destroying "Solarian" stations around the solar system before the Earthmen (no women in this!) triumph, and that's no spoiler because what else would you expect in a 1936 story?
This book was one the first sci-fi books I read when I was a lad. It is still one of my favorites. Yes, the plot is simplistic by todays matured settings which are primarily based on political correctness. Yet the primary theme is based upon the "great unknown of outer space" and the thrill of "first contact" with an alien race. This deep space theme has since lost its luster to more mainstreamed UN type themed movies (i.e. like conflicts all over the planet today). I'm sorry but I'll take any great unknown story over the boooring sci-fi themes of today. Remember "Rendezvous with Rama". Great book!!! Mind you there are some exceptions to what has been written but mostily it's been boooring stuff.
I actually enjoyed this book, I love old sci-fi. It's style reminds me of another book by Campbell called the "Mightiest Machine".
Typical early SF pulp. Science is based on hugeness: thousands, millions and billions. The weapon of choice is the "ray". When Earth is invaded, the battle is lead by the eggheads in their labs. And topping it off is a hero named Buck. Skip it, unless you need help falling asleep.
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