Sunday, March 18, 2007

Number 108

Scholastic Fantastic!

OK, so this is not a comic book subject. So I'm stepping outside the boundaries of my blog to bring you something that is — gasp! — written in prose, and typeset rather than hand lettered. Hope you guys can stand it. In my defense I'll say I'm doing this unusual blog because I think — or hope — kids who read comics were also reading — gasp! — prose. I'll get back to traditional comics in the next posting, I promise.

Several times a year I encounter Scholastic Book Fairs in the schools I visit. More than 40 years after my first purchases from them Scholastic is still there, pitching books that kids actually want to read. Now they're known as the American publishers of the lucrative Harry Potter series, but in the past they published juvenile editions in several genres. I liked their science fiction books, and a lot of others must've liked them too because they aren't hard to find in used bookstores or thrift shops.

I heard an author say once that he thought juvenile novels were the best novels of all because they were "about something." I appreciate the best of them because they are told concisely, have strong plots and characters. You can fool an adult with a pretentiously written bad story, but you can't fool a kid.

The books I currently have on hand make a partial "Who's Who" of classical science fiction authors. Gordon R. Dickson was a prolific author; Jack Williamson died at age 98, yet was still writing into his old age. He was first published in the earliest days of the science fiction magazines. Lester Del Rey had a publishing imprint, Del Rey Books, which he ran with his wife, Judy-Lynn Del Rey.

Robert Silverberg is a prolific writer in several genres. Besides writing juvenile non-fiction, like Treasures Beneath The Sea (1960), Silverberg also wrote sex paperbacks, and so many short stories he had to use a stable of pen names. Silverberg's main claim to fame is his science fiction, though, and a number of his books are considered some of the best the genre has ever offered. Revolt On Alpha C was his first published novel. I've posted both front and back covers, and it's worth noting that Larry Stark is a real name of a real person, appropriated (maybe as an inside joke) for this novel. He is probably most well-known to comics fans for his insightful and critical letters to EC Comics during their heyday .

Tunnel Through Time was published the same year the television series, The Time Tunnel premiered on television. This book had nothing to do with that series. To add to the confusion, Murray Leinster (another famous s-f author) published a book called The Time Tunnel in 1964, and also did the novelization for the television series in 1968.

Click on pictures for full-size images. Captions below the pictures are from the original back cover blurbs.

Tunnel Through Time By Lester Del Rey (1915-1993). 1966, Scholastic Books. 160 pages.

Has the experiment failed? Why hasn't Doc Tom returned through the time tunnel? "He's hours overdue," says Bob grimly. "Where is he?"

"Back 80 million years in time," says Dr. Miller. "Back in the age of the dinosaurs."
What has gone wrong? Is it too late to save Pete's father? There is only one way to find out. Pete and Bob must go through the time tunnel.

The Runaway Robot By Lester Del Rey. 1965, Scholastic Books. 188 pages.

"We're returning to Earth," Paul's father tells him. Paul is wildly excited, for all human beings on the planet Ganymede dream of going back to Earth some day. Then Paul finds out that he cannot take his robot Rex with him. Rex has been his constant companion for sixteen years. Leave him behind? Never!

So begins a breathtaking adventures in space as Paul and his robot Rex attempt to outwit the forces that seek to separate them.

Trapped In Space By Jack Williamson (1908-2006). 1968, Scholastic Books. 128 pages.

Astronaut Ben is lost--a million miles from Earth! His last message: "Strange life forms here . . . we're under attack . . .!"

Jeff sets off to rescue him, but soon his own crippled starship is caught in the same eerie web of a monstrous creature from outer space!

Secret Under the Sea By Gordon R. Dickson (1923-2001). 1960, Scholastic Books. 128 pages.

Why is the dolphin acting so strangely? Something must be wrong.

It is the year 2013, and Robby lives in an Underwater Research Station with his scientist parents. Most of the time he has fun exploring the ocean caves with the dolphin who is his favorite companion.

But something has frightened the dolphin, and Robby sets out to investigate. Then he finds the giant footprints. And he knows that something enormous and unknown is walking across the bottom of the sea!

Lost Race of Mars by Robert Silverberg (b. 1935). 1960, Scholastic Books. 124 pages.

Are the Old Martians really a lost race--just withered mummies lying in dark caves? Or are they still alive--somewhere on the red planet?

Sally and Jim must find out. They must help their father if the Old Martians still exist. His life work as a scientist is at stake!

But it's not easy. They are only visitors to the Mars colony in the year 2017. And no one really wants them there.

Revolt On Alpha C by Robert Silverberg. 1955, Scholastic Books. 118 pages.

With a mighty twist, the Space Ship Carden lunges into overdrive and shoots out into space. Ahead lies Alpha C IV, eerie world of three suns.

But the Carden arrives on Alpha C right in the thick of a revolution against Earth. Treason!
Then young cadet Larry Stark finds himself caught up in the revolution...on both sides!

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