Saturday, September 29, 2012

Douglas Drew's The Carbon Eater (novelette, chemical warfare, free): Neutralizing a carbon-eating poison gas

Illustration accompanying the original publication in Astounding Science Fiction magazine of short story The Carbon Eater by Douglas Drew
This appears to be a fairly oft-cited story. And from an author who was far from prolific.

I noticed at least 3 different things here:
  1. Arguments justifying colonialism. Didn't go down very well with me.
  2. A "carbon eating" gas that sounded somewhat like aliens' "iron mining" in one of the "doc" Smith's "Lensman" novels. In this case, it's an extremely active gas & liquid. Martians employ it as a weapon to rid themselves of carbon-based human colonists. A lakeful of this material, with a little electrical stimulation, is producing enough gas to kill all humans on the world. Our chemist hero, of course, will save most humans, except for early casualties.

    I liked this part though the details are hand-wavy.
  3. Hero against the bull-headed establishment, & winning in spite of them. Lot of action in later parts.

See also.

  1. Murray Leinster's "Tallien Three" (download in 4 parts, beginning here): Hero is forced similarly to burn a lot of infrastructure near end, to similarly save a cityful of lives.

Fact sheet.

First published: Astounding, June 1940.
Download full text as part of the scans of Astounding (British Edition), June 1940.
Rating: A. 
Among the stories from Astounding/Analog issues edited by John Campbell.