I can t understate how terribly this thing was written While the premise was interesting enough to create a classic in the hands of someone with a talent for the craft I m looking at you, John Carpenter , this original story fails on all levels The characters are flat and interchangeable, changing their minds in mid sentence and wandering through tangential info dumps and speculations that come out of nowhere Even stage direction is so lacking that you can t tell what s happening People appear and disappear from scenes, dropping in and out at the whims of the author between snippets of indecipherable action The story could be an excellent teaching tool in any class on fiction writing as its necropsy could likely identify all the horrible mistakes any budding writer could make I m flabbergasted.
Who Goes There , by John W Campbell Jr.
, is the novella on whichThe Thing , the 1982 film directed by John Carpenter, is based It was first published in the August 1938 edition of theAstounding Science Fictionmagazine, under the pen name Don A Stuart The story is set in Antarctica, where an isolated group of scientific researchers find the body of an alien creature in the ice They realise that its spaceship must have crashed there 20 million years before With misgivings, they proceed to thaw the creature, which then disappears The premise of the story is a good one, and there are lots of possibilities for tension and paranoia, all of which Campbell tries to create However it is now sadly dated and feels extremely overwritten Passages which should be chilling and horrific come across to a modern reader as unbelievable In its worst excesses it is so over the top as to be funny,They haven t seen those three red eyes and that blue hair like crawling worms Crawling damn, it s crawling there in the ice right now The broken haft of the bronze ice axe was still buried in the queer skull Three mad hate filled eyes blazed up with a living fire, bright as fresh spilled blood, from a face ringed with a writhing, loathsome nest of worms, blue, mobile worms that crawled where hair should grow The last I saw the split skull was oozing green goo, like a squashed caterpillarwandering around with a split skull and brain oozing outhas anybody seen it coming over here About four feet tall three red eyes brains oozing outpresumably this last was in case anyone had spotted a different scary alien and mistook it for the first one The fact that the story has been filmed several times shows that there is a good basic storyline material for a horror film The idea that the alien could mutate or morph into any other creature, is fodder for many imitations sinceEach of us with an eye on the other, to make sure he doesn t do something peculiarWho is the imposter Who can you trust And who is the alien It fed on the paranoia of the time between the two World Wars Here is a slightly less pulpy quote,The cells are made of protoplasm, their character determined by the nucleus Only in this creature, the cell nuclei can control those cells at willshape its own cells to imitate them exactlyThis is a member of a supremely intelligent race, a race that has learned the deepest secrets of biology, and turned them to its use In the end though, this story does not live up to its expectations Perhaps as modern readers we are now too cynical to enjoy pure pulp Just over forty years ago, in 1973, it was voted one of the finest science fiction novellas ever written, by the Science Fiction Writers of America But that time was slightly closer to when it was written than to the present, and the world has seen a lot of changes since John W Campbell Jr.
, himself was a revered and influential figure in American science fiction He was the editor ofAstounding Science Fictionas well as a contributor, from just before this story until his death He is generally credited with shaping what is called the Golden Age of Science Fiction Isaac Asimov said that Campbell dominated the field completely for the first ten years of his editorship, calling himthe most powerful force in science fiction ever Perhaps he should be remembered for his editorship, and this story remain firmly in its classic pulp magazine past.
The sole reason for wanting to read this book was for the titular novella Who Goes There most commonly known for the movie adaptation The Thing.
I was pleasantly surprised that this edition also included 6 other short stories.
Who Goes There is the main focus as it s the first in the collection, amassing 75 pages it s close to a third of the whole books page count.
It s certainly the strongest and most memorable story Even though it s quite telling by the prose that this was written in the 1930 s, I kept thinking it was so advanced for the time.
Science Fiction has borrowed a lot from this story, not only the scientists deciding to release the creature from the ice would be a good idea spoilers it wasn t but the way the way the alien could transform was incredibly creative.
The other 6 stories were so much shorter and in truth rather uninteresting, I felt the best way to look at them as additional bonus material.
I m so glad that the main story lived up to my expectations Carpenter s 1982 is very faithful and reflects why I rated this collection so highly.
A We found an unknown monster frozen in ice for 20 million years.
B Let s defrost it A Wouldn t the thing come to life or some unknown pathogen wipe out us all B Nah, worked for the snakes.
C Not on my kitchen table A Okay monster comes to life and rampages B Hit it with human immune rabbit blood A AAARGH dies C How do you know that the blood is a good indicator if one of us is a monster B I m a scientist, it will work.
C Isn t assuming things about alien life what got us into this mess in the first place everyone dies The premise behind Howard Hawks 1951 film The Thing From Another World one of my all time favorite films not the colorized travesty.
However, if I had read this novella first, I probably would ve hated it The film does not follow the story very closely but it does keep the skeleton of the story This is one of these classic premises A group of people isolated and trapped with a killer Yet, they don t know who the killer is They can t trust each other, yet they have to trust each other to survive I listened to this in one afternoon and loved it For a book written in 1938, it really holds up Even the science is not too dated and the plot is riveting and it is nicely paced.
One of the things that surprised me about this 1938 Hugo winner was its conformity to modern science I am not enough of a historian to always remember at what point people knew what facts, so I was a little surprised at the references to atomic power, and fairly advanced discussions of biochemistry Physicists or biologists would probably find some fault with the technical details in this novella, but it reads as quite a plausible, relatively hard SF story given that the premise is a shapeshifting alien being thawed after spending 20 million years frozen in Antarctica.
This novella is better known, of course, by the movie based on it, John Carpenter s The Thing, which was a remake of 1951 s The Thing from Another World.
Characterization is sparse, as is typical of 1930s sci fi The team of scientists and research camp staff are not much than names and roles which isn t much of a fault in a story where most of the characters are expendable What s notable is how much Campbell does convey in his sparse descriptions Vance Norris moved angrily He was comparatively short in this gathering of big men, some five feet eight, and his stocky, powerful build tended to make him seem shorter His black hair was crisp and hard, like short, steel wires, and his eyes were the gray of fractured steel If McReady was a man of bronze, Norris was all steel His movements, his thoughts, his whole bearing had the quick, hard impulse of a steel spring His nerves were steel hard, quick acting swift corroding After finding an alien spaceship that was generating a magnetic field strong enough to distort their compasses from miles away, they bring back a frozen thing in a block of ice Obviously, such a remarkable scientific discovery cannot just be left alone they make plans to bring it back to New York Which means thawing it out How the hell can these birds tell what they are voting on They haven t seen those three red eyes and that blue hair like crawling worms Crawling damn, it s crawling there in the ice right now Nothing Earth ever spawned had the unutterable sublimation of devastating wrath that thing let loose in its face when it looked around its frozen desolation twenty million years ago Mad It was mad clear through searing, blistering mad Hell, I ve had bad dreams ever since I looked at those three red eyes Nightmares Dreaming the thing thawed out and came to life that it wasn t dead, or even wholly unconscious all those twenty million years, but just slowed, waiting waiting You ll dream, too, while that damned thing that Earth wouldn t own is dripping, dripping in the Cosmos House tonight Obviously, this is not going to end well Despite the biologist s confident assurances that the thing couldn t possibly still be alive after being frozen for 20 million years, they are soon playing a game of Monster, monster, who s the monster This story reminded me quite a bit of H.
P Lovecraft s At the Mountains of Madness not just because of the Antarctic setting, but also the stark terror of ordinary, rationalist minded men facing alien, cosmic horror Campbell did a lot with psychological suspense, though, as the survivors eye one another knowing that one or of them is actually an alien.
A classic for good reason, and the remote, Antarctic setting, not changed all that much in the decades since, means it hasn t aged too badly.
Who Goes There The Novella That Formed The Basis Of The Thing Is The John W Campbell Classic About An Antarctic Research Camp That Discovers And Thaws The Ancient, Frozen Body Of A Crash Landed Alien The Creature Revives With Terrifying Results, Shape Shifting To Assume The Exact Form Of Animal And Man, Alike Paranoia Ensues As A Band Of Frightened Men Work To Discern Friend From Foe, And Destroy The Menace Before It Challenges All Of Humanity The Story, Hailed As One Of The Finest Science Fiction Novellas Ever Written By The SF Writers Of America, Is Best Known To Fans As THE THING, As It Was The Basis Of Howard Hawks The Thing From Another World In , And John Carpenter S The Thing In With A New Introduction By William F Nolan, Author Of Logan S Run, And His Never Before Published, Suspenseful Screen Treatment Written For Universal Studios In , This Is A Must Have Edition For Scifi And Horror Fans Okay, maybe to some, this is an obscure short story from an obscure writer better known for thriller science fiction than long involved novels Or maybe, he s a household name in household s other than my own Either way, I really liked this story It s short It s scary It has a creative villain that is, perhaps, ahead of his time At the heart of it it evokes man s fear of the unknown and pits his instinct for survival against his desire to understand the universe around him Above all, it s a fun read Five stars with a short review Not a first, but, please, don t come to expect it I ll be properly wordy and verbose for the next review I promise Oh, and by the way view spoiler The second movie The Thing, based on this story, staring Kurt Russel was true to the book than the original movie in black and white staring James Arness and Denver Pyle Yet it was such a great movie wasn t it hide spoiler