Reviewed date: 2004 Jun 03
SEETEE (from CONTRATERRENE, CT; ANTI-MATTER). An inverted type of matter, foreign to the Earth but forming many meteors, comets, and asteroids.
When matter and anti-matter touch they annihilate and convert entirely into energy. Jack Williamson's story assumes the presence of a relatively large amount of anti-matter, or CT, asteroids in the asteroid belt. In a world where the planets are starved for fission power, the lure of a controlled CT power plant is overwhelming. But CT's volatile nature makes it too dangerous, both because of its explosiveness and because it threatens the fission monopoly of the Interplanet Corporation. Thus CT research has been forbidden.
Outlawing CT doesn't stop our heroes from experimenting. They manage to set up a laboratory on a distant asteroid, attracting the attention of the Interplanet authorities. When a nearby CT asteroid explodes despite there being no evidence of it coming in to contact with any terrene matter, things start to get really interesting. Ships show up millions of miles off course, make strange radio transmissions, and then hours later end up back on course with everyone on board denying any knowledge of what happened. A strange ship appears with the survivors of a wrecked military spaceship when no known military vessels are lost, and when no military ships were even in the area. And there is something just too strange about that remaining fragment of the CT asteroid--now it's a race to see who can get there first and discover the terrible secret of space. Will our heroes make it first? Or will Interplanet beat them too it?
Seetee Ship is a fun read, but it has faults. In the great tradition of space operas, the characters are one-dimensional (you'll notice I didn't mention their names; they are easily forgetable, as with most cardboard cutout characters), the dialog is stilted, the science is far-fetched, and the plot devices are transparent. The attitudes, ideas, and writing styles of the late 1940s clearly show through this book. It's a fun read, but it has too many problems for me to recommend it.
Speaking of transparent plot devices, I picked up on the "terrible secret" after about the third big clue. That meant that during at least half the story I already knew what was going on, which killed the fun for me. Fortunately it is a short book--only 220 pages.