No Truce With Terra

by Philip E. High
Reviewed date: 2021 Jul 5
Rating: 1
110 pages
cover art

What we have here is a short story's worth of plot padded to novel length. The entire Shaldron subplot needs to be removed. Cut out Collard and Dyson. Just have Lipscombe, and let him be the clever man who figures out how to psychologically manipulate the aliens into leaving.

Aliens from another dimension invade England. The alien life is electric-based, and the invasion is slow but inexorable: after establishing a beachhead at Lipscombe's house, the invaders are content to allow their flora and fauna to slowly grow and outcompete Earth's natural biosphere. And it won't take long: the electric plants and animals are impervious to anything Earth can throw at them, up to and including nuclear weapons.

So of course Lipscombe, brilliant scientist, enlists the help of some other smart scientist friends--namely, one Stanley Dyson--and they reverse-engineer the aliens' interdimensional transport technology and build a copy of it. They open a door into another universe.

It's not the alien universe, but a third world. This isn't a way to fight back against the aliens, but rather, at best, it's a refuge to escape to.

On this other world they encounter a race called the Shaldron, who are coincidentally exactly human down to the smallest detail. (Except they are so very much smarter and more perfect.) The Shaldron explain that the dimensional door is like a time bomb, building up energy that will eventually explode. If they keep it open too long, it will blow up the whole galaxy--in both universes.

The Shaldron kindly offer to help save Earth.

Which they do. They don't have the power to fight the electric aliens and defeat them in a pitched battle, but they can do a few things. They deduce that these aliens are conflict-averse. That's why they let their ecology win the planet for them. So at the first sign of any real resistance, they'll retreat and never come back. So the Shaldron use their fancy technology to put the fear of God (so to speak) into the aliens, who promptly tuck tail and run back to their universe. With the aliens gone, a few H-bombs take care of the remaining electric vegetation. Earth is saved.

Also, Collard is in love with one of the Shaldron so he leaves with them.

Also, it's pretty sexist. Sure it's from the 1960s, but most 1960s science fiction was sexist by just leaving women out entirely, not by making the main character deliberately sexist and hanging a lantern on it:

[Carol] fulfilled to the utmost the subtleties a man expects with his wife but usually finds with his mistress, but beyond that … beyond that Carol was purely decorative. God alone knew what she would do without gadgets to cook for her and devices to keep her skin flawless and her body beautiful.

"My dear, you are slow." She placed a cigarette between her lips and lit it carefully. "A wife wants to be told that her husband loves her first." She exhaled smoke. "Again, a wife wants to know that her husband needs her and you don't; that's why we've drifted apart."

"That's a damned lie," he said furiously.

"No." She shook her head. "You think I'm stupid. Too stupid to share your life with you. How often have you said, 'It's a technical problem; you wouldn't understand.' As if I were some sort of idiot-wife who must be shut out or locked up in a place of safety. It's true I'm not an electronics expert but you could have given me the chance to learn and help. You could have taught me enough to help you with all those papers you used to bring home, but no, I should mess them all up." She sighed, faintly. "You never tried to know me, did you, Mike? You bought a house we really couldn't afford, crammed to the roof with gadgets because you said it would help me. What you really meant was that I'd leave the place a pigsty if I had to manage on my own."

He stared at her, feeling lost and shocked. It was true, every word of it was true but he'd thought--

So a better man than Mike Lipscombe would allow his wife to learn a little electronics so that she could help him with work he brings home from the office, and he would trust her to keep house. I guess that's a 1960s male view of feminism.

Anyway. Several pages later Carol gets to make a token suggestion to the men when they forget to build in a safety cutoff in their new electronic gizmo, and Lipscombe is suitably chastened at ever having thought his wife was stupid. And now that the author has demonstrated his commitment to women's equality, Carol never does a single thing in the rest of the story except cling to her man and dispense womanly wisdom about true love.

There is another woman in the book: Vrayle, one of the Shaldron. She has an actual sciencey-type job and does useful things to help stop the invasion of Earth. But alas, her real reason for being in the book is to fall in love with Collard.

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