Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Stanley G Weinbaum's "Parasite Planet": Very filmi romance - on Venus

This very dated-in-facts story is still quite readable.

There was one aspect I found a bit irritating - advocacy of East India Company style colonists, & the assumption that the big colonial powers of early twentieth century will always be the only ones that count. Ignore that, & it's an enjoyable story.

Full text of this story can be downloaded here.

Story summary.
Story is based on the assumption that Venus always shows the same face to sun; it's only local movement is a kind of wobble that produces 15 day seasons at the edges where day-side meets night-side.

And that its atmosphere is thin enough on planetary surface for naked humans.

And that it is teeming with local life that is biochemically compatible with earth life - so you can eat local food, & they can eat earth food. And that it has sentient life that humans can verbally talk to & trade with!

And that it has enormous amounts of water. I am not sure if this assumption is also dated now.

Based on this, the author has cooked up quite an adventure & romance in jungle.

Hamilton Hammond is a 27 year old trader from US - living alone in desolate frontier, & "trading with the natives for the spore-pods of the Venusian plant xixtchil, from which terrestrial chemists would extract ... the xixtline ... that was so effective in rejuvenation treatments... the treatments didn't actually increase the span of life, but just produced a sort of temporary and synthetic youth. Gray hair darkened, wrinkles filled out, bald heads grew fuzzy, and then, in a few years, the rejuvenated person was just as dead as he would have been, anyway."

We are told the Venus is full of subterranean rivers - some boiling hot, some icy cold. They often produce mudspouts - kind of landslide where the land under you caves in, & a kind of quicksand is produced - taking in everything on surface.

Mudspout of boiling hot nature occurs under Hamilton's hut, forcing him to leave. He survives with a few supplies & heads for the dangerous 200 mile trek to "American settlement Erotia". Trek is dangerous because the place is crawling with carnivorous plants & other life.

Mid way through, he comes across another hut. After a very filmi first encounter, he finds the owner is Patricia Burlingame, 22, a biologist, & the first human born on Venus. She is living alone "classifying Hotland flora and fauna".

While he is there, her hut is attacked by "doughpot" - a blind mindless creature that can grow very big & exists simply to eat everything in its path. Her hut becomes uninhabitable. So they will trek together to safety.

Rest is predictable romance. They think they dislike each other for a while. Meet many dangers together. Then fall in love. And a happy ending.

Fact sheet.
Parasite Planet, short story, review
First published: Astounding, February 1935
Rating: B

See also.

  1. Eric Frank Russell's "Symbiotica": Another story that has very extensive & malevolent plant life on an alien planet.
  2. All stories where Venus is a major element: part 1 & 2.