FFB: The Complete Venus Equilateral

this is the 70th in my series of forgotten books

The Complete Venus Equilateral by George O. Smith © 1942-1947, 1973 – Del Rey 1976 paperback, science fiction short story collection

best cover image I could find, my copy is really beat up

Having read a review of this on Friday Forgotten Books, I was sufficiently intrigued to find a used copy. It is a set of 13 short stories, all but one of them published in Astounding Science Fiction in the mid to late 1940s. This is hard science fiction in the best John Campbell (editor of Astounding) tradition. There were several times while reading this that I wished I had a better understanding of pre-solid state  electronics, though it isn’t necessary to follow the plots or enjoy the stories. I just had to assume that all the talk of diodes, tubes and capacitors,  not to mention voltage, meters and the rest, were factual or based on it.

The central concept here is that man has colonized most of the solar system, particularly Mars and Venus, and that to maintain communications while one or both of these planets is near or behind the Sun there needs to be a relay station in a specific spot equilateral to them and Earth, thus the name of the station and the book. The people running this station are technical wizards and in addition to keeping things operating properly they do research and are often coming up with inventions.

Some of these inventions make things better, some make things tough for only certain persons or companies, some threaten to change society. The stories are presented in order of events, not necessarily the order in which they were published, so it’s a straight telling, as if each story were a chapter in a longer book, and many characters – all of the principles – are found in each one. There is a light-hearted approach to most relationships, there’s little in the way of darkness, and lot of banter and good-natured joking. Which is not to say there aren’t the threats both of the outer space environment and from outsiders, each with a personal agenda not in the best interests of Venus Equilteral.

Contents:

  • QRM – Interplanetary (1942)
  • Calling the Empress (1943)
  • Recoil (1943)
  • Lost Art (1943)
  • Off the Beam (1944)
  • The Long Way (1944)
  • Beam Pirate (1944)
  • Firing Line (1944)
  • Special Delivery (1945)
  • Pandora’s Millions (1945)
  • Mad Holiday (1947)
  • The External Triangle (1973)
  • Identity (1945)

An enjoyable collection of good old hard SF from the past, worth your time if you enjoy this sort of thing, which I do.

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

links to all of this weeks Forgotten Book posts can be found
on Patti Abbott’s blog, Pattinase

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
This entry was posted in books, Friday Forgotten Book, reading, Review, science fiction and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

23 Responses to FFB: The Complete Venus Equilateral

  1. I read many of these stories, but I’m not sure I’ve read them all. I may have to track down this complete edition. As you pointed out, transistors and solid-state engineering changed the whole technology of communication.

  2. I’ve read some of these but I’d sure like to get this collection. I’ll have a look for it.

  3. I read this one years ago. I remember liking it a lot.

  4. Richard says:

    One of the FFB gang did this one not too long ago, but I can’t recall who it was. That got me looking for it, and I’m glad I did. I thought the last couple of stories were the weakest.

  5. Yvette says:

    I don’t actually read much sci-fi, but I still enjoyed reading your post. You never know when the sci-fi bug will hit. 🙂

  6. Steve Lewis says:

    I’ve had this collection since like forever, or whenever it first came out, but I’ve never read it. Shame on me!

  7. Richard says:

    Yvette, even a once-in-a-while SF reader might enjoy this one, and you can skip over the electronic stuff (I did, on several occasions).

  8. Todd Mason says:

    I remember Algis Budrys’s review, mentioning that the niceties of when capacitors could be tuned with a blowtorch are indeed a bit lost on even 1970s readers, but (as Budrys didn’t quite write) that if one was looking for further work in the metier of Campbell’s own Arcot, Wade and Morey stories…or wanted to see the connection between those and the neo-Gernsbackian work of the likes of James P. Hogan…

  9. Richard says:

    Todd, not sure if I can see the connection – even as tenuous as you suggest it – to Hogan, but it’s been a goodly while since I read any JPH. And of course Budrys had his biases. I didn’t start reading Astounding until the November 1948 issue, which I bought years later while filling out the back end, or would it be the front end?, of my run of 1950-1979 Astounding / Analog run, though I continued my subscription until well into the 1980s. I came across the 1949 issues and the Nov and Dec 1948. At that time there was a small used magazine shop in downtown L.A. that had the magazines in 12 issue bundles, very good condition, at a price even a high school student could afford.

  10. SteveHL says:

    I read this when it came out back in 1976 and while I recall few of the details, I definitely remember liking it.

    Does anyone remember one of Smith’s novels, THE FOURTH “R”? I loved it back when I was about 11 years old and have never reread it. I doubt it was anything like as good as I thought then but maybe…

  11. Todd Mason says:

    Well, Budrys didn’t make that connection, I did…Arcot, Wade and Morey were a bit more likely to save the Universe, but that’s why the Smith stories, with a similar camaraderie you describe and less hugger-mugger, were the next step forward…and Hogan wasn’t quite as interested in putting forth that good-fellowship, but was as fascinated by the pre-superscience puzzle as his two predecessors.. Budrys, like Smith for a long stretch an ASTOUNDING guy, was particularly struck on rereading by how central that relation between the characters was, when the theoretical focus was whatever problem they could solve (much as AC&W had complementary trans-competence that allowed Those chums to save the day).

  12. Carl V. says:

    Oh I’m liking the sound of this one. I like short story collections in general and when they work towards a greater overall story, like Jack Vance’s The Dying Earth or James White’s Hospital Station, I REALLY like them. I was just thinking yesterday that I need to put together a list of books to check for the next time I go to the used bookstores. This one is going on the list.

  13. Richard says:

    SteveHL, that’s not one I’m familiar with, I’m afraid. Anyone?

    Todd, true enough, though of course this entire approach is so seldom seen these days that it might as well be invisible. Too bad, there are many elements of it I think could improve todays layer-driven stories of tech – or society – gone bad.

    Carl, I hope you find it, I think you’ll get a kick out of it.

  14. Carl V. says:

    I found it today but it was pretty messed up, but then I actually found another version of these stories and compared the two and it looked like there were only a couple of stories missing from the one I went ahead and picked up.

  15. Todd Mason says:

    Sorry for not replying earlier…I haven’t read THE FOURTH R, but certainly remember its Dell paperback edition (I believe it was, and possibly not its first), from my first flush of buying new books aimed at adults in the late ’70s.

  16. Richard says:

    Carl – which ones appear to be missing?

    Todd, well, by “the 70s” I was graduated from college and grad school, in the working world and splitting y time between rock ‘n’ roll and SF, buying things at a good sized local paperback book store. I was as deep into the giants (Asimov, Clarke, Heinlein) as I could get and reading Aldis, Simak and anyone else I could find. Smith, nope.

  17. Carl V. says:

    I’ll have to look again at the table of contents for both, but it seemed to me that it was either the first or last story in your collection.

  18. Richard says:

    Carl, If it was the last, there’s no loss whatever, as that one takes place long after the rest, to a different generation of the main character, and, frankly, is the weakest story in the collection.

  19. Pingback: Trip to the Outer Rim | Stainless Steel Droppings

  20. Stan says:

    I’ve read the Fourth R, though not in years. It was a pretty good book, and I think a Ballantine Books original, but I think his best is Highways in Hiding. I used to have an autographed first of Venus but sold it years ago to pay medical bills. I still have firsts of a lot of his other books, and I suspect I have this collection.

    Venus was the ultimate vacuum tube novel . . .

    Stan

  21. Richard says:

    Stan, you are so right. I’ll have to hunt up Highways in Hiding.

  22. Zeno says:

    I have just started this. It looks promising.

  23. Richard says:

    I think you’re gong to enjoy it, Zeno.

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