Review: Planets of Adventure

Planets of Adventure - Murray Leinster, Eric Flint, Guy Gordon

Planets of Adventure is an anthology of short stories.  It contains one almost full-length story and several shorter stories, all of which are based on the theme implied by the title.  The quality of the stories was pretty consistent – they weren’t terribly engaging, but they did hold my interest well enough for short bursts of time.  

The first story in the book, The Forgotten Planet, was the larger story, taking up about a third of the book.  It was about a planet that had been forgotten in the middle of the terraforming process, and it ended up populated with gigantic insects and dangerous plants.  A small group of people crashed on the planet and survived the harsh environment, barely.  Apparently the survivors though it would be a great idea to have children so that they too could suffer through a life of terror on this harsh world.  The story followed a small group of their distant descendants who, by this point, were quite primitive and knew nothing of their origins.  

The story was basically a survival story with a great deal of detail about insect behavior.  Although insect behavior isn’t high on the list of things I find fascinating, I found the story surprisingly interesting and I liked it the best of the bunch.  However, the main character, Burl, was obnoxious.  He made a discovery, which led to more discoveries, and this resulted in improvements to the lives of the small tribe of humans he lived with.  Burl then became quite full of himself, wanting glory and admiration for everything he did, and he made dumb decisions as a result.  Most of his accomplishments were a combination of dumb luck and of seizing his opportunities.  When the people from his tribe learned from his accomplishments and accomplished significant things on their own, he showed jealously rather than pride. I guess this behavior may have been expected given the culture of his people, but it still annoyed me.

The next four short stories in the book were related to each other but not to the first story – they followed the same main character, a man responsible for surveying planets that were nearly ready for colonization.  His job was to make sure everything was up to specs and that the planet was safe enough for a larger population to move to.  In each story he went to evaluate a different planet, and in each story there was some sort of catastrophe on the planet that he had to solve so that everybody didn’t die and so the colony could be salvaged.  Unlike the first story in this collection, I found the main character in these stories to be pretty likeable.  The stories themselves were also pretty interesting.  However, they contained quite a lot of technical details, some of which I didn’t find very interesting, so I had more trouble getting through parts of these stories.

The remainder of the book consisted of standalone short stories, none of which were particularly memorable to me, but all of which held my interest while I was reading them.