Space Station #1 by Frank Belknap Long
Published by Ace Books, Inc., 1957. Paperback of 157 pages at 35¢.
Note: This is an Ace Double book. It can be flipped over for an additional story, which is Empire of the Atom by A.E. van Vogt.
The cover: Corriston and Helen look out the window of their shuttle at the massive Space Station that orbits the Earth. I like the look of surprise on their faces, with their hair, especially hers, floating about due to lack of gravity. I also really like the mechanical stuff in foreground before the man and above the characters; it has no purpose but to look really cool. The view out their window looks very sci-fi/fantasy, with the frisbee shaped station and some crystal structure in the bottom. The colors out the window are also really bright, with explosions of violet. This is what I expect of a cool 1950’s science fiction novel. Overall grade: A
The premise: From the first page, “Tremendous and glittering, the Space Station floated up out of the Big Dark. Lieutenant Corriston had come to see its marvels, but he soon found himself entrapped in its unsuspected terrors. For the grim reality was that some deadly outer-space power had usurped control of the great artificial moon. A lovely woman had disappeared; passengers were being fleeced and enslaved; and, using fantastic disguises, imposters were using the Station for their own mysterious ends. Pursued by unearthly monsters and hunted with super-scientific cunning, Corriston struggles to unmask the mystery. For upon his success depended his life, his love and the future of Earth itself.” Action and intrigue on a space station is enough to get my attention. If there’s some good action and a decent mystery, I should be a happy reader. Overall grade: B+
The characters: David Corriston is the protagonist who is a man no one will believe given the things he’s seen and experienced. He’s smart when his back is to the wall, he’s an able fighter, and he wants to see the law upheld. On his way to the station he makes small talk and flirts quite a bit with Helen Ramsey. She goes to the ladies room and disappears. There’s much more to her than Corriston ever imagined. Jim Clakey is Helen’s bodyguard. He speaks with David while Helen is away and something happens to him that sets the entire plot in motion. Stephen Ramsey is Helen’s father, a gazillionaire who’s making a name for himself for a, possibly, nefarious reason. How Helen fits into his scheme causes difficulties for Corriston. There are other minor characters, who enter and exit the story quickly, but these four have the most impact on the story. These stock characters are enjoyable, but not ones that will stick in your mind a week later. Overall grade: B
The settings: There are only two: the ship taking its passengers to the station and the space station itself. I like how big the ship was, allowing for a large space for the opening action sequence and also huge enough to require some time to search for a missing character. It was very unlike the small ships that today’s science fiction uses for jaunts into Earth’s orbit. Space Station #1 is a massive structure, with several rooms visited, as well as air ducts (“Come out the coast.”) and secret spaces. It was a believable location and had the book gone on longer I would have been willing to see other locales within it. Overall grade: A-
The action: The book opens with a knife fight between Corriston and an unknown assailant in the dark. This was a great way to pull the reader in, then moving to a flashback to show how he got in this position, and then moving back to the present when the mystery truly kicks in. There’s a major moment when something plows into Earth that would be killer in a movie. There are some other action sequences in the book, but Corriston is a man on the run on the station. The masks that many characters employ are an excellent device to make the reader as paranoid as Corriston. Overall grade: A
The conclusion: I had to go back to the book five days after I finished it because I couldn’t recall how it closed. That should tell you all you need to know. I did remember that it ended well for the leads. Overall grade: D
The final line: An enjoyable read with some clever elements, though the ending is forgettable. I would definitely read anything else written by Long because while I was reading I was having a good time. Not a bad way to waste two hours. Overall grade: B-
To see the cover on my beat up copy visit my Instagram account: patrickhayesscifipulse
To read the review for the flip book go to https://scifipulse.net/in-review-empire-of-the-atom/