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The Legion of Space Paperback – 24 Mar 1977

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Paperback, 24 Mar 1977
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Product details

  • Paperback: 189 pages
  • Publisher: Sphere; New edition edition (24 Mar. 1977)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0722191715
  • ISBN-13: 978-0722191712
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 10.8 x 1.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,324,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Rod Williams on 8 April 2003
Format: Paperback
ER Burroughs employed a device of using a prologue to explain to the reader how his 'factual' accounts of John Carter's exploits on Mars managed to find their way to a publisher. Here, Williamson does much the same thing as the first chapter, set in a contemporary USA, tells of old John Delmar, who is convinced of the fact of his death within a matter of weeks. John Delmar, it transpires, is receiving telepathic broadcasts from the future and has been writing the future history of his family. Pioneers and scientists, they eventually found an Empire within the Solar System and become despotic and corrupt rulers before being overthrown and replaced with a democratic system.Our hero, John Ulnar, is a descendant of this future historian and is embroiled in a plot to restore the Empire. A young girl, Aladoree Anthar, is the hereditary guardian of the secret of a simple but devastating weapon known only as AKKA. To gain control of AKKA and implement a coup, the Ulnar family (unbeknown to John) have made an alliance with the Medusae from the hellish world which orbits Barnard's Star. Aladoree Anthar is kidnapped and it is up to John and his trio of companions to travel to the world of the Medusae, rescue Aladoree Anthar and stop the great tentacled beasties in their secret plan to invade and conquer Earth.It's a simple but effective tale which suffers from rather obvious errors such as humans being able to live and breathe in the open atop a three thousand foot building on the Martian moon, Phobos, or indeed on Pluto's moon, Cerberus. One also wonders why Williamson's Falstaffian character Giles Habibula is never told to shut up, since his rambling oratories and complaints appear with depressing regularity from his first introduction.Read more ›
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 10 reviews
13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
"Legion" a classic of pre-Campbell science fiction 14 April 1997
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Isaac Asimov was fascinated by "The Legion of Space" as a boy, but found it unreadable when he came back to it as an adult. This isn't particularly surprising. "The Legion of Space" is a perfect snapshot of 1930's space opera, or "super science stories" as they were known at the time. Reading it for the first time recently, I can only imagine what mind-blowing effect this breathless tale would have had on an imaginative twelve year old in Depression-era America.
No doubt inspired by the sort of adventurous, gadget-oriented science fiction that E.E. Smith began in the late 1920's with "Skylark of Space" and the stories John W. Campbell, Jr. was writing a few short years later, "Legion" takes us into the 30th century with a swashbuckling fight for the solar system. Owing much to "The Three Musketeers," the few remaining members of the Legion travel via hyperspace (remember, this is 1935!!!) to a wandering star populated by the Medusae, who are classic pulp BEMs (Bug Eyed Monsters), complete with gelatinous tentacles. They get to rescue a beautiful girl who is able to build a secret weapon known only as AKKA. Needless to say, the good guys win.
The "super science story" became comic-book fodder within a few years when John W. Campbell, Jr. became editor of "Astounding Science Fiction" magazine (later "Analog"). Campbell presented the world with Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert Heinlein, and a host of other writers who took science fiction in a much more serious direction. Williamson, unlike many others, managed to adapt to the world editor Campbell was building. Others did not, or didn't even try (like E.E. Smith).
I was struck by the parallels of "Legion" with the "Star Wars" series of films. The remnant of a kind of knighthood, the villainous relative who in the end redeems himself, and a secret weapon powered by (as we learn in the novel's 1936 sequel, "The Cometeers") "the force" . . . is the similarity a coincidence? Possibly.
Imagine it is 1935. You're twelve years old. You pick up a copy of "Astounding," and you discover within its covers a distant future, and a group of fierce Legionairres who are determined to save the world. Enjoy.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
When to be alien was to be evil 4 Feb. 2002
By jrmspnc - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Board book
It is always interesting to read science-fiction written before Childhood's End and Stranger in a Strange Land, back when anything that wasn't human was necessarily evil and bent on humanity's destruction. Most of today's sci-fi's writers go to great lengths to create and explain alien civilizations; not so in The Legion of Space. The aliens are ugly and they want to kill us. Period.
"A reader" has already accurately summed up the novel. I will add only that The Legion of Space is an interesting read for its gender portrayals. As one would expect from the 1930s, the male characters are all obsessed with how fragile and vulnerable the heroine is; they must do whatever they can to protect her and shelter her and the thought of her in danger or even uncomfortable fills them with chauvinistic horror. Williamson allows the men to carry on this way throughout the book, all the while giving us a woman character who needs no protection whatsoever and saves the day herself. No weeping in hysterics for this heroine; Leia-like she leads the escape from the alien fortress while the men hesitate. She and she alone has the secret to the weapon of ultimate destruction, and she unhesitatingly builds it and deploys it. Not bad for 1936, eh?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Good Old Fashioned Space Opera 4 Mar. 2005
By Bromptonboy - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jack Williamson is one of the most noted Grand Masters of Science Fiction. This is one of his earlier works, and has the unmistakeable feel of the era (Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers). It is very dated, but still a 'ripping good' read.

This book introduces one of my favorite characters in all Sci-fi: Gile Habibula - who is loosely based on Falstaff (according the JW himself).

Sit back with this book, and enjoy as the Legion legens (John Ulnar, Hal Samdu, and Giles) - fight the evil members of the reactionairy Purple Hall.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
"Poor Old Giles Habibula!" 12 Oct. 2011
By Paul Camp - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is a space opera in the grand manner, written in the days before the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr. made much of that genre obsolete. It was serialized in _Astounding_ in 1934, slightly expanded into a hardback published by Fantasy Press in 1947, and reprinted in various forms since that time. The edition that I have at hand is a 1967 Pyramid paperback with a Jack Gaughan cover.

Part of the novel's success rests on Williamson's decision to steal ideas from mainstream literature. The story is a reworking of _The Three Musketeers_. And the character of the roguish Giles Habibula (who steals the show from the others) was modeled partly on Shakespeare's Sir John Falstaff and partly on characters from Rabelais. Here he is in action, while being pursued by guards:

"Ah, poor old Giles is dying for a drink. Perishing for one blessed sip of wine! His precious throat is dry as leather. Poor old Giles; lame, feeble, sick old Giles Habibula-- he can't stand this any longer. Climbing till he feels like a mortal mechanical monkey!" (61)

Giles always manages to rise to the occasion, picking locks, refitting engines, fighting-- and whining and complaining every step of the way.

The style is an old-fashioned type that Williamson later outgrew. It is heavily visual, with sharp shapes and bold, strong colors. Here is a scene on a terraformed Phobos:

The _Purple Dream_ dropped upon the landing stage atop the square, titanic tower. Beyond the edge of the platform, when they disembarked, John Star could see the roofs of the building's great wings, glistening expanses of purple stretching out across the vivid green lawn and garden. Beyond, the woods and hills of the tiny world appeared to drop with an increasing, breath-taking abruptness, so that he felt as if he were perched insecurely on top of a green ball, afloat in a chasm of starry purple-blue. (46)

Old-fashioned, yes. But at times it comes to life. Colors follow a rough and unsystematic kind of symbolism. Purple is associated with the old Empire and aristocracy, and green with nature and the forces of democracy. Red and black are associated with the alien Medusae and with old age, disease and death. Yellow is associated with stagnant liquids and sewage.

The plot is simple and straightforward. Our hero (who at the outset of the novel is not the brightest laser in the ship's armory) allows the heroine to be kidnapped by aliens, along with the secret of a superweapon called AKKA. The rest of the novel consists of captures and escapes, flights and pursuits, and alarums and excursions as our heroes set out to rescue her. There is certainly nothing terribly sophisticated here. But Williamson keeps things moving with a fair amount of energy and zip.

Williamson could not do scientific doubletalk as smoothly as Doc Smith or John Campbell. And he didn't have their sense of _bigness_. But his characters were well-drawn. And like his friend Edmond Hamilton, he knew how to tell a story that still swings a bit today.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Thrilling Generation After Generation For 75 Years Now 1 Feb. 2009
By s.ferber - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
"The Legion of Space," the opening salvo of a tetralogy that Jack Williamson wrote over a nearly 50-year period, was initially released as a six-part serial in the April-September 1934 issues of "Astounding Stories." (This was some years before the publication changed its name to "Astounding Science-Fiction," in March '38, and, with the guidance of newly ensconced editor John W. Campbell, Jr., became the most influential magazine in sci-fi history.) It was ultimately given the hardcover novel treatment in 1947. One of the enduring classics of swashbuckling "space opera," "Legion" is a true page-turner, written in the best pulp style. Though Williamson had only sold his first story, "The Metal Man," some six years before, by 1934 he showed that he was capable of coming out with a blazing saga of space action to rival those of E.E. "Doc" Smith himself. That elusive "sense of wonder" is much in evidence in "Legion," and the book's relentless pace, nonstop action, incessant cliffhangers, and remarkable panache make it truly unputdownable. Simply put, the book is a blast.

In it, we meet young John Ulnar, a recent graduate, after five years of training, of the Legion Academy. His initial posting as a Legionnaire is the planet Mars, where his supremely important duty is to guard beautiful Aladoree Anthar, keeper of the secret of AKKA, the system's ultimate superweapon. Three fellow Legionnaires (read: 30th century musketeers) are detailed to the same assignment, and so we get to meet, for the first time, the perpetually cool Jay Kalan; a redheaded giant of enormous strength, Hal Samdu (yes, an anagram of "Dumas"); and the perpetually complaining Giles Habibula, a master lock picker and a character universally described, in the 75 years since his initial appearance, as "Falstaffian." When Aladoree is kidnapped by the Medusae--enormous, levitating, jellyfishlike aliens from the dying world around Barnard's Star--with the help of some traitorous Legionnaires, the quartet embarks on an interstellar quest, against tremendous odds, to rescue her and save the human worlds from invasion. Before all is said and done, Williamson has dished out several space battles, a nebula storm, a raid on Pluto's moon, and a transcontinental slog across the Medusan homeworld, fighting various alien flora and fauna (including a giant amoeba!), not to mention the elements themselves, the entire way, all culminating in a suicidal incursion into the Medusans' miles-high city. This is truly red-blooded, rousing stuff, guaranteed to pump the adrenaline of all readers who are young at heart. "The single most popular science fiction novel serialized during the '30s," sci-fi great Alexei Panshin has written of it, and is it any wonder?

"The Legion of Space" is not for everyone, however, and does admittedly come with its share of problems. The book is inelegantly written, to put it mildly, and those readers who prefer their sci-fi to seem more like prose poetry should stick with the likes of Ursula K. LeGuin or J.G. Ballard. Several passages contain instances of fuzzy writing (such as the descriptions of the space cruiser The Purple Dream), and there are also some instances of faulty grammar, such as misplaced modifiers. Some of the action in the book will most likely strike readers as being highly improbable. (Is it really possible to climb down a 5,000-foot-high drainpipe in the pouring rain? Or construct a glider from the wings of a giant alien dragonfly and some lumber?) And time, it must be said, has rendered many of Williamson's scientific/historic pronouncements...well, dated. Man did not colonize the Moon before the 1990s, and the distance from the Earth to Mars is not the 100 million miles stated in the novel, but, at the most, 63 million. The Martian moon Phobos is not 20 miles in diameter, as Williamson has it, but a mere seven. And Williamson gives the planet Pluto a moon in his story, called Cerberus, although no moon had been discovered as of 1934. It would not be until 1978 that Charon was discovered, and then Nix and Hydra in 2005. Still, the grammatical goofs, improbabilities and scientific/historic blunders all somehow fade into nothingness while the reader is engaged in flipping those pages. The book is utterly engrossing and utterly fun, and has been thrilling generation after generation of readers since it first appeared. The secret of AKKA, and that unusual acronym, is NOT revealed in this book, I should add. Readers are advised to proceed on to book two in the series, "The Cometeers," for further explication....
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