Friday, 3 September 2010

"VOR" by James Blish

I read my first James Blish novels working my way through the Sci-Fi Masterworks series, and it's been a pleasure to wander off the path and track down his other works. I found a few piles of Blish novels on my recent trip to San Francisco, and the last of these is "VOR", a short novel about a spaceship that crash lands on earth and its lone inhabitant, the first alien encountered by human beings.

On balance, this feels like a lesser work for Blish. There's nothing to surprise or stretch the imagination, none of the inventiveness, the philosophy, the scope of his more famous works. Except for the alien, the central character's main arc seems close to "Zero Hour" (the film on which "Airplane" was based, which was released the year before "VOR"), but without the tension or (laughable) melodrama. The ending seems like the sort of pat single twist you'd expect from a classic Trek episode. When it was released, I'd like to think it was better written than most pulp, and held its own with the films and novels of its day. It's not timeless, though, and unless you're a big Blish fan, you'll probably be a bit underwhelmed.

If you want something a bit more accessible, try "Spock Must Die" if you're a Trekker, "Dr. Mirabilis" if you're a history buff, and "Cities in Flight" if you haven't tried Blish before).

No comments: