Alexei Panshin's The Abyss of Wonder



    I'm enclosing the carbon of my Herald Trib review (as by H.H. Holmes, of course) of Starship Troopers.  I'd be happy if you used this in your symposium -- especially since the H Trib omitted the 3d paragraph and thereby made the review seem much more unfavorable (even) than it is.

    I think (as much as one can be certain of one's own attitudes) that my dislike of the book does not stem from my vehement dislike of most of its ideas.  It's a bad book from a purely esthetic standpoint; so I don't need (as a reviewer) to get involved in the "moral responsibility" problem.  (F&SF version was, if only because shorter, very much better; but even there . . .)

    My review mentions the question of which audience it was primarily aimed at.  The H Trib sent it to me for adult review.  Putnam's catalog, however, lists it twice: once as an adult book, once as "12 & up."  So there's not much doubt that the latter is the prime objective.

    Once again let me express my enjoyment of & admiration for PITFCS.

There once was a journal named PITFCS,
Delightful to all Sci. & Lit. bucks*
      For its shrewd analytics
      Of writers & critics
And chortling explosions of wit (yucks).
*& does.

    This should settle any question as to the pronunciation of the acronym (reminds of the girl from Pitlochry).

    [THE HERALD TRIBUNE review follows.  T.R.C.]

    "It is hard to tell whether Robert A. Heinlein's Starship Troopers (Putnam's, $3.95) is intended as a novel for adults or as one of Heinlein's mature novels for teenagers.  Its aseptic sexlessness might indicate the latter; but the question isn't important.  For the unfortunate fact is that this is not a novel at all, but an irate sermon with a few fictional trappings.

    "Mr. Heinlein, an Angry Middle-Aged Man, wishes to denounce the decadence of mid-Twentieth Century America and to advocate a more spartan civilization.  Many of his points are highly debatable (especially his restriction of franchise to veterans and his insistence upon the virtues of war as man's "noblest fate") and usually very well debated; but the author is so intent upon his arguments that he has forgotten to insert a story or any recognizable characters.

    "The book opens with a brilliantly written description of future infantry combat; and there are many other excellent descriptive passages, particular in the exploration of future weapons and armor.  But Heinlein the didactic moralist is oblivious of the old techniques of Heinlein the novelist: time and background are fuzzy, and exposition is inserted in large indigestible chunks.

    "A mercifully abridged version appeared in Fantasy & Science Fiction as 'Starship Soldier.'  Only the specialist need investigate the complete book."

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Originally published in The Proceedings of the Institute for Twenty-First Century Studies #133, February 1960.


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