display | more...

Back in January, I read The Pirates of Zan, by Murray Leinster. It was the longest half of an Ace Double, with the other half being "The Mutant Weapon". I read the first chapter, but put it down to go on a trip.. I then came back and read the rest. The eventful weeks between cast a new light on what otherwise would have been a short science-fiction novella.

"The Mutant Weapon" takes place in the same loose shared universe as "The Pirates of Zan". It features Med Serviceman Calhoun, (no first name given), who works for something akin to an intergalactic Doctors Without Borders, flying across the universe with only a pet dog tormal for company. On a regular journey to a planet, his ship is attacked when he tries to land. After a crash landing, he finds the body of a man who has died of a mysterious disease, emaciated despite being surrounded by fields of food. He finds that the planet is in the grip of a mysterious disease, and he must solve the mystery of where it comes from, and why his ship was attacked. Like in The Pirates of Zan, our hero is a hard fighting man who confines himself to non-lethal means of combat, and whose highest priority is saving people's lives through medicine. Since the novella is less than 90 pages long, both the world building and character development are a little thin. Hero solves the problem than rides off into the sunset, in a nutshell.

What is interesting about this book is that it is about a planet-wide plague. Something that in January of 2020, ages ago, was as quaint as rocket ships and planetary colonization. The subtitle of this book is "quarantine for an empty planet", and while the book doesn't actually talk much about quarantine, it still talks about things that are more familiar to me now then they were two or three months ago. Murray Leinster was born in 1896, and would have been a young adult during the 1918 Flu Pandemic. Those memories were probably an important background for the writing of the book, and something that would have escaped me if I had read this book in late January.

In general, it is interesting to me how many works of literature that mention plague and quarantine are going to be newly relevant to readers. People of my grandparent's generation would have never seen large scale quarantines (and certainly not a worldwide one), and now in 2020, people of my generation and younger are experiencing one. Hosts of seemingly antiquated stories in books are now going to be understandable to a new generation.

Log in or register to write something here or to contact authors.