Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Jack Williamson's "Gateway to Paradise" (novel, doomsday, free): A British invasion of US in future

Illustration accompanying the novel Gateway to Paradise by Jack Williamson in 1953 anthology Wonder Story Annual, Vol 2 No 1, edited by Samuel MinesI'll call it a "time pass" story - to use a colloquial term popular in India. Leave your brains somewhere, & enjoy the generally mindless adventure. I actually started liking it once the adventure really began, but it's a mindless story anyway.

Story summary.

A passing Dwarf sometime in 1940s sucked away earth's atmosphere, oceans & moon, leaving earth sterile of life. Everywhere except in US, where someone with forethought to cover in some kind of a force field ("Ring", "Barrier") that bars any kind of material transfer. So now, 200 years later, US continues to live happily in its transparent cocoon, but there is no life anywhere else.

OK - there is life elsewhere. Some British survivors built domed cities of New Britain somewhere on the now dry Atlantic bed - some 3000 miles from US eastern shore.

And these Britishers are angry at US - for having survived. So they're out to destroy the machine that keeps the US screen. And they've found a way to cross the Barrier.

Of course, a US hero will save the motherland. And because the enemy is Britain (rather than Russia - see similar Murray Leinster stories, e.g.), US continues to have friendly feelings towards attackers. And of course, we later discover the British aren't all evil - only some are extremists (& they too are finally converted).

Happy ending for all, as the lost moon returns now - on an impact course with earth! Which makes both sides join hands to shift its trajectory - Britain for its rockets, US for its force field that can be made to even stop gravity transfer across the screen! Earth will get some of its atmosphere & water back, & become habitable again as moon breaks up on near approach. You see, moon was hoarding part of earth's atmosphere sucked away earlier! And didn't you know moon is mostly ice?

See also.

H G Wells' "The Star" (download as part of a Wells' collection at Project Gutenberg) is probably the most widely read story of a large cosmic body passing near earth & wrecking havoc here due to gravitational interference.

A transparent force-field barrier covering a part of space is a very common trope. Some stories that immediately come to mind:
  1. Arthur Clarke's "The Sentinel" & "What Goes Up": Former has a barrier aliens erected around one of their artifacts on moon. Later has a spherical barrier created by a nuclear accident in Australia.
  2. James Blish's "Cities in Flight" series of stories has whole cities covered in a barrier that keeps atmosphere etc & then plucked off ground, to wander through space! Most stories are told from the point of view of this avatar of Manhattan part of the New York city.
  3. Murray Leinster's "Invasion": A single invader immobilizes most of US air force using such a barrier.

Collected in.

  1. Samuel Mines (ed)'s "Wonder Story Annual, Vol 2 No 1 (1953 Edition)".

Fact sheet.

First published: Startling Stories, July 1941.
Download full text as part of a larger package.
Rating: B.
Related: Stories of Jack Williamson.