The Men From Arcturus
Reviewed date: 2023 Jan 2
The Men From Arcturus is a rough book. It's published by Avalon Science Fiction and they seem to have a whole series of science fiction books, so they're not new to this field. But The Men From Arcturus feels like a science fiction book written for people who have never read science fiction. There are clumsy explanations sprinkled into the text that help guide novice readers who are unfamiliar with science fiction tropes, and it's just got an odd feel to it.
I'm not a stickler for realistic science in my science fiction, but the science in the book is complete junk. This feels less like genre science fiction and more like B movie material.
Also, the entire story happens on a single Kansas farm. The Arcturians land their spaceship in Stu Blosser's pasture and they never make it off his property. It's got a cozy feeling, almost like it's designed to be produced as a stage play. Rather than write up a plot synopsis, I'll just quote from the jacket blurb.
Ryklo was a scientist of Vroob, an Earth-type planet encircling Arcturus, a member of the self-styled Master Race, the Edaphi— which was, in fact, the dominant race in that system. An accident had opened up a tunnel through space-time, and Ryklo saw possibilities here.
One could travel to star-systems too far to reach in the lifetime of an Edaphi; one could, in fact, open up new worlds to be colonized. Every inhabitable planet in Ryklo's home system was already overcrowded. More than that, he thought, one could make a fortune in such a venture, if it were kept secret.
Ryklo would have to persuade the government to let him have a spaceship, and all manner of subsidiary equipment-including deadly weapons—for a scientific expedition, which would bring back information and specimens of life forms. Unfortunately, there was one hitch: the government sent one of their own men, Kintop, along with Ryklo. And Kintop was irritatingly honest and incorruptible.
So far, Ryklo had handled the problem. Among the lesser Edaphi devices was the pewor, a compact hand-weapon with which any form of life could be put to sleep, hypnotized, or killed. Kintop had been in pewor-induced sleep from the start of the voyage, but he would have to be awakened. In fact, he would have to be disposed of. Ryklo, as with all other Edaphi, had been psychologically conditioned against killing or directly harming members of his own race. He could think about murdering Kintop, plan it—but he would not be able to do it. However, if he could arrange an accident . . .
There might be vicious animals, even monsters, on this planet that Ryklo was approaching. Kintop could be exposed to them.
The Edaphi ship landed on the Blosser farm in Kansas on a summer night. Stu Blosser saw it, wondering if it were a meteorite, and started to investigate when it landed with a thud in the meadow. Jake, the hired man, and Maude, Jake's daughter, joined Stu. They saw that what had landed was an egg-shaped vehicle, and while they watched, a hatch opened and a furry, manlike thing emerged. It was a good seven feet tall. It saw them and pointed something at them . . . and that was all they knew.
Ryklo had adjusted the pewor to put these animals—as he thought of earthlings—to sleep. When they awakened, he would see if they were intelligent enough to assist him in his plan of exterminating most of the life forms from the Earth. Meanwhile, he took them into the farm-house, and started to look around.
They were primitive, but they had books, he saw. He could read any book as quickly as his eyes could focus on a page; in a few hours, he had digested a dictionary and encyclopedia. It would not be too difficult to prepare Earth for his plan of suburban development-perhaps retaining a few of these creatures as pets.
In the morning, Blosser, Jake, and Maude awoke to find themselves prisoners, and Ryklo's plan of conquest started. But the Edaphi had been lords of creation in their own world too long—and the man from Arcturus had some unpleasant surprises ahead of him.
The book reminds me a bit of Battlefield Earth, partly because Ryklo sounds like Psychlo (the enemy race in Battlefield Earth), partly because both books feature supremely arrogant aliens who consider themselves superior to all other forms of life. The way Ryklo converses with the humans reminds me of how Terl talks to Johnny in Hubbard's book.
The humans do get help from Kintop: he gives them pills that provide partial immunity to the pewor, which allows Stu and the others to attack Ryklo and end the threat. Later Kintop reveals that the pills never did anything—the power to resist the pewor was inside them all along. Humans are supremely adaptable, and their belief that they were resistant to the pewor was enough to trick their brains into manifesting that reality. Humans, being so adaptable, will soon become more powerful than the Edaphi, Kintop says.
The Men From Arcturus is not the worst science fiction book with the word Arcturus in the title—that honor belongs to A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay—but there's nothing special, unique, or interesting to recommend it, either.