a review by Rich Horton
|(Covers by Harry Barton and ?)|
One reason I bought this Ace Double is oddly personal. A number of years ago my brother-in-law, knowing I know a lot about science fiction, told me about a book he read when he was a kid. Or partly read, I should say. It seems his father (my father-in-law, though he died before I ever met my wife), found him reading it, took it away from him, ripped it in half and threw it out, telling him he didn't want his son reading any trashy Sci-Fi stuff, or words to that effect. My brother-in-law didn't remember the title or author, just the cover -- a guy poling a raft through ruins. Somehow that triggered a memory in me -- I was sure I knew the book.
As you'll have guessed looking at the cover image displayed here, that book was Daybreak -- 2250 A.D. Probably a later single edition, not this Ace Double. I went to my favorite used book store a couple of days later, and sure enough, I found a copy of a later edition of Daybreak -- 2250 A.D. with the right cover. I presented it to my brother-in-law the next time I saw him, to gratifying astonishment. (Incidentally, I can't find out who painted that cover. And later Ace editions, from the '70 onward, have a different cover that is blatantly and crudely copied from the original.)
|(Cover by Nicholas Mordvinoff)|
I don't actually remember the novel that well, though I do remember enjoying it. It's about a young man in a post-Apocalyptic world who wants to be a "Star Man" like his father -- essentially, someone who visits the old radioactive cities to try to salvage valuable stuff. But he is rejected -- perhaps because of his white hair (inherited from his mother), and he ends up going off by himself (well, with his cat with whom he has a telepathic link) and meeting up with another loner from a different tribe ... and in the end there's a confrontation with the mutated "beast people", and then a "conceptual breakthrough" sort of revelation. But, really, better to check out what Judith Tarr wrote about it at Tor.com: After the Apocalypse: Andre Norton's Daybreak -- 2250 A.D.
|(Cover by Earle Bergey)|
Kuttner and Moore wrote some truly brilliant SF, but, sad to say, Beyond Earth's Gates doesn't qualify as such. It's told by Eddie Burton, a rising young Broadway actor. Lorna Maxwell is a "third-rate young ginmill singer" who has been pestering Eddie to help her get a leg up in her career. He doesn't want anything to do with her, but one night she comes over to his place -- and disappears. And of course Eddie is soon suspected in her disappearance.
Mixed in with this is Eddie's recollection of his Uncle Jim's stories of trips to a strange other world called Malesco. And Eddie's apartment was once his uncle's ... We know, of course, what's going on. Naturally, Eddie soon sort of stumbles -- falls -- through a dimensional portal into Malesco.
From there on the story is a fairly fast-moving thing about revolution in Malesco. This seems to be a parallel world, where history changed in roughly Roman times. It is now under the oppressive rule of the Hierarch, and his quasi-religious organization. Scientific knowledge is restricted greatly. and thus much less advanced than in our history. And, strangely, Lorna Maxwell has been co-opted by the rulers, and is nearly worshipped by the population, her glamor strangely enhanced. It seems our world is considered Paradise. Eddie is tangled up with some people in the hierarchy, and some out and out revolutionaries. But his only goal is to find Lorna, and bring her back, to clear his name.
All in all it's not really that interesting, unfortunately. You know how it ends, of course -- with Lorna and Eddie back in New York. And Lorna, strangely, trained perhaps by her star turn in Malesco, is now Malesca, the most beautiful woman in the world. And Eddie, who knows better, is unable to resist ...