Murray Leinster
Planet Explorer (1957)
Incorporates the winner of the 1956 Hugo Award for Best Novelette.
Reviewed: 2002-06-30

Ugh. I should stop reading novels from the 1950s. This atrocious example, which has also been published under the alternative title Colonial Survey, is a fix-up of four novelettes:

The stories chronicle the adventures of a Senior Colonial Survey Officer by the name of Bordman, whose principal job is making degree-of-completion surveys to open up new colony worlds to safe settlement, trade, etc., and who turns into a troubleshooter for the colonization of marginally habitable planets. Whether an unexpected overlap of solar cycles threatens to wipe the settlers off an ice world, sand drifts destroy a colony on a desert world with the prospect of all settlers perishing, migrating carnivores of great ferocity render a planet useless, or the soil on a small island is about to drop into the ocean covering the rest of a water world, in each case Bordman's ingenuity saves the day.

The book is painfully 1950-ish in all its attitudes and technological outlook. Half a century later, the result is barely readable. Kindly phrased, the characters are paper-thin, the role of women and the depiction of racial characteristics manifestly outdated. "Exploration Team" was awarded a Hugo, and indeed it is easily the best story of the lot, which doesn't mean much. Bordman is forced to team up with an illegal colonist and his troop of mutant animals. While the men fight their way through a hostile environment, we are witness to growing bonds and some exchanges of seeerious thoughts.

Leinster was the author of such great or at least influential stories as "Sidewise in Time" and "First Contact", and I suspect that Planet Explorer is in fact quite good for its time, but from today's point of view I have to pity the trees that had to die for this crap ever to be printed.

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Christian "naddy" Weisgerber <>