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on 5 December 2011
John W. Campbell's novella "Who Goes There?" is a science fiction tour-de-force; a collection of 7 short stories which were primarily featured during the American magazine Astounding Science Fiction during the late 1930's. The legendary Isaac Asimov was quoted as saying that Campbell was "the most powerful force in science fiction ever, and for the first ten years of his editorship he dominated the field completely" and I would have to second this sentiment. For any young pre-published novelist wishing to delve into this complicated and sometimes overly used genre, I would heartily recommend that they pick up this novella as, personally, it is a pure and utterly brilliant lesson in science fiction.

Who Goes There

The first of the seven short stories and, what I consider the lengthiest, is a claustrophobic horror set amidst the barren, icy wasteland of Antarctica. A team of researchers discover a crashed alien ship and, with that, an alien which had been frozen for, seemingly, billions of years. As a decision is made to thaw the creature out for study, it becomes apparent that The Thing is not dead. Thawing revives the alien, a being which can assume the shape, memories, and personality of any living thing it devours, while maintaining its original body mass for further reproduction leading to the team questioning who is human and who isn't.

Blindness

Perhaps the shortest of those included in this novella, Blindness charts the life of a scientist, a dreamer, of a journeyman wanting to succeed in finding an infinite source of power whilst, simultaneously, discover the mysteries behind atomic power. In order to achieve his dream, he concludes that the Sun must hold the greater powers of all and, together with his ever-trusting assistant; he sets about designing a spaceship which would be able to approach the sun and collect the data they need. His work eventually leads him on his ultimate space flight and, at a sacrifice, finds what he is looking for.

Frictional Losses

Following an alien invasion across the entirety of the world, the survivors look to rebuild, to start again and look to move forward amongst their diminished numbers. Unfortunately, whilst the alien invasion was repelled, human losses were great and worry sets amongst the survivors that a second invasion is very likely. Old Hugh Thompson spends his days scavenging the ruins of the larger cities, attempting to research and build parts for restoring an alien weapon; however, he stumbles across something completely different which ultimately saves the last of human kind.

Dead Knowledge

An expedition to a neighboring solar system, finds a research team on a seemingly abandoned planet much similar to our own; with vast cities of towers, automobiles, streets, pavements, parks and tropical, heated climates. Immediately on setting down do our intrepid travellers come across the realisation that the city is not inhabited but what could have caused the population to have fled? There are no signs of war, threat or terror, nor are there any signs of wildlife; there are no birds or insects to be found. On further exploration, only do we begin to find out the chilling event that befell a great and once powerful race.

Elimination

John Grantland, an American patent-lawyer, is approached by an arrogant young inventor who claims to have discovered how to revolutionize energy and how to apply this. In his dissuasion, Grantland tells the tale of a couple of inventors he came across many years back who developed a television set that was able to see the entire history of time from its explosive beginning to the many thousands of possible futures.

Twilight

Jim Bendell, travelling late one night, stops to pick up a hitch hiker - one with an especially curious tale; he is a time traveller from a distant future where man has made an efficient and endlessly powerful machine that takes care of their every need. The hitch hiker goes on to explain of how he has seen the Twilight of humankind's civilization, on the verge of extinction in a world where they lack curiosity, vigor and the ability to reproduce. Ultimately quite a simple tale, this, however, is well-written and beautiful.

Night

Night is a sequel to Twilight and follows the exploits of a traveller who has returned to Earth in early 20th century, recounting his time at Night of humankind's civilization upon which he finds the sun and the earth, frozen and dying. Again, similar to Twilight, this is simple tale constructed in an expert fashion.

Each and every one of Campbell's short stories are well crafted, succinct and an absolute delight to read and, given the years in which he wrote them - some 80 years ago now, they still stand the test of time and seem as fresh now as when they were first published. The stories themselves have also clearly inspired science fiction throughout its history and it is only unfortunately that Campbell didn't decide to turn any one of his ideas into a fully fleshed out novel given their originality and potential depth in character and story.

Whether you are a fan of the genre or not, I highly recommend purchase of this 244 paged paperback novella to anyone with a love for well-written books.

5/5
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on 28 November 2000
If you like scary stories then this is one for you. This book is a collection of 7 re-printed stories written by James W Cambell in the times when he was writing for 'Amazing Stories'. The first one 'Who Goes There' was used by Howard Hawks for the original 'The Thing', but the new John Carpenter version follows this in greater depth and is definately one for sci-fi collectors. One point though, don't read it alone!.
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Shameful confession time: I have never actually seen John Carpenter's sci-fi/horror movie, "The Thing." But I have read John W. Campbell's classic novella "Who Goes There?", which the movie is based on -- a lean, dialogue-heavy novella that is brimming with paranoia and uncertainty. Even the reader won't know who is what.

A team of scientist in Antarctica discover a strange alien craft, buried in the ice for millions of years. After they accidentally destroy the craft, they find a frozen alien creature and take it back to the base -- only to discover that it's not truly dead. When the ice thaws, the creature vanishes out from under their noses.

But soon the scientists discover that the creature is very much alive -- and even worse, it can absorb and mimic living creatures perfectly. Nobody on the base is free of suspicion, and they must find and kill every part of "the thing" before it has a chance to spread across the Earth. If they don't, all life is doomed.

"Who Goes There" is a story with no padding -- every character has a reason to be in the story, and every scene ramps up the intensity and paranoia. It's kind of top-heavy with dialogue (there are several scenes with just people hanging around asking, "What should we do?") but at least the dialogue is all necessary.

And Campbell does a brilliant job with the simple plot, slowly building up the sense of suspense and paranoia -- one person goes nuts and hides in a room singing hymns, while others just lie in their bunks and throw up. It especially helps that this is a third-person narrative, so even the READER doesn't know who is an alien and who isn't.

Campbell also errs on the side of leanness when it comes to the characters. We don't hear anything about their families, pasts or personal quirks -- he shows what their mettle is by what they say and do over the course of the story. And really, it works.

The only problem is the test the scientists perform on the dog -- it doesn't seem to make sense in context, and creates a plot hole near the end.

Considering that two successful movies were spawned by it, "Who Goes There?" is kind of underrated. But it's also a tight, lean little horror/sci-fi novella.
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on 8 July 2012
I first read this story whan I was still in school, back in the early 1970's and at that age, it creeped me out. It remained with me for years, and I re-read it several times, without once losing the building sense of horror that Maxwell managed to invest in the story. When I saw John Carpenter's 'The Thing', I felt an eerie sense of deja-vu, and it took me a while to realise I had read the source book all those years earlier. For me, 40 years later, the story has lost none of the power I felt as a young teenager, and I would thoroughly recommend reading this as a precurser to watching any of the 3 movies based around this story. I have also recently had the opportunity to watch Hawks' version (The Thing from Another World)for the first time, and feel they made a fair old stab at it (apart from the hokey dialogue and wobbly sets!). For those of you who compare the writing (unfavourably) with the clipped prose of modern sci-fi and hard-fi writers, try and remember that this was written at a time when realising a story like this on-screen would have been both unthinkable and technically impossible, dealing as it did with concepts that were completely beyond the ken of the average reader (remember, even jet-engines had not yet made their appearance), so the wordiness perhaps enabled the contemporary reader to more readily visualise the action and the back-story of the trapped alien and the men it overwhelms in its attempts to survive. From our modern standpoint, the story may seem wordy and simplistic, because we are used to seeing outlandish concepts being made flesh on a daily basis, and unthinkingly handle everyday objects that are thousands of times more advanced than anything people of that time could have envisioned. The 1930's reader had no or very little technological exposure. The handheld video communicator, or devices that contain 1,000 books are commonplace items today, who could have even visulised them in 1936, let alone described them to an uncomprehending readership?
The book itself is good value for all the other extras, such as the alternate screenplay treatment appended, and is in my opinion one of the worthiest sci-fi novellas to have come out of the 'Rockets & ray-guns' era.
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VINE VOICEon 17 May 2015
I have to say that I came to this novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell by seeing it on the credits of one of my favorite 50's Sci-fi movies with James Arness, "The Thing from Another World" (1951). Of course the movie had to stay true to its time and was loosely based on this story it still stands as a great presentation of its own. In 1982 John Carpenter took it on himself to add a few more of the original elements of the story. Unfortunately he had to bow to the gooey gory monster era and missed much of the original story including the fact that our antagonist was able to read minds and project thoughts. Not to distract from the two movies but it would be nice if someone tried again to portray this story. Carpenter also leaves his movie with an excellent potential for a sequel "Two things are better than one".

We find that thousands of years ago a rocket crashed and was buried in the Polar Regions. It was found due to a magnetic disturbance. On extraction there is an accident. We find a being from another world and another time. The being has powers of deception and shape shifting. Yet the story is not really of supernatural beings as it is of the people and their relationship to each other. As with many great mysteries it is always the last person you suspect. That is one of the strong points of Sci-Fi, not the technology as it will come about soon enough; what it is really about is how we deal with our fellow humans under duress.
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VINE VOICEon 12 May 2015
I have to say that I came to this novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell by seeing it on the credits of one of my favorite 50's Sci-fi movies with James Arness, "The Thing from Another World" (1951). Of course the movie had to stay true to its time and was loosely based on this story it still stands as a great presentation of its own. In 1982 John Carpenter took it on himself to add a few more of the original elements of the story. Unfortunately he had to bow to the gooey gory monster era and missed much of the original story including the fact that our antagonist was able to read minds and project thoughts. Not to distract from the two movies but it would be nice if someone tried again to portray this story. Carpenter also leaves his movie with an excellent potential for a sequel "Two things are better than one".

We find that thousands of years ago a rocket crashed and was buried in the Polar Regions. It was found due to a magnetic disturbance. On extraction there is an accident. We find a being from another world and another time. The being has powers of deception and shape shifting. Yet the story is not really of supernatural beings as it is of the people and their relationship to each other. As with many great mysteries it is always the last person you suspect. That is one of the strong points of Sci-Fi, not the technology as it will come about soon enough; what it is really about is how we deal with our fellow humans under duress.
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VINE VOICEon 1 August 2013
I have to say that I came to this novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell by seeing it on the credits of one of my favorite 50's Sci-fi movies with James Arness, "The Thing from Another World" (1951). Of course the movie had to stay true to its time and was loosely based on this story it still stands as a great presentation of its own. In 1982 John Carpenter took it on himself to add a few more of the original elements of the story. Unfortunately he had to bow to the gooey gory monster era and missed much of the original story including the fact that our antagonist was able to read minds and project thoughts. Not to distract from the two movies but it would be nice if someone tried again to portray this story. Carpenter also leaves his movie with an excellent potential for a sequel "Two things are better than one".

We find that thousands of years ago a rocket crashed and was buried in the Polar Regions. It was found due to a magnetic disturbance. On extraction there is an accident. We find a being from another world and another time. The being has powers of deception and shape shifting. Yet the story is not really of supernatural beings as it is of the people and their relationship to each other. As with many great mysteries it is always the last person you suspect. That is one of the strong points of Sci-Fi, not the technology as it will come about soon enough; what it is really about is how we deal with our fellow humans under duress.
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VINE VOICEon 31 July 2013
I have to say that I came to this novella "Who Goes There?" by John W. Campbell by seeing it on the credits of one of my favorite 50's Sci-fi movies with James Arness, "The Thing from Another World" (1951). Of course the movie had to stay true to its time and was loosely based on this story it still stands as a great presentation of its own. In 1982 John Carpenter took it on himself to add a few more of the original elements of the story. Unfortunately he had to bow to the gooey gory monster era and missed much of the original story including the fact that our antagonist was able to read minds and project thoughts. Not to distract from the two movies but it would be nice if someone tried again to portray this story. Carpenter also leaves his movie with an excellent potential for a sequel "Two things are better than one".

We find that thousands of years ago a rocket crashed and was buried in the Polar Regions. It was found due to a magnetic disturbance. On extraction there is an accident. We find a being from another world and another time. The being has powers of deception and shape shifting. Yet the story is not really of supernatural beings as it is of the people and their relationship to each other. As with many great mysteries it is always the last person you suspect. That is one of the strong points of Sci-Fi, not the technology as it will come about soon enough; what it is really about is how we deal with our fellow humans under duress.
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on 11 October 2011
I got the audiobook version from audible.com and i DO NOT REGRET IT, great book, which lead to a great film.

I was a massive fan of john carpenters film, I bought it on three formats (hd-dvd,dvd and now blu ray) so i had to get to listening to the audiobook...it doesnt disappoint.

Has all the suspense of the film, you can't work out who is who, my only issue is that the scene they find out whos who is too short and felt abit rushed, I wish this was longer than it is, the story has so much more you could do with it
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on 11 May 2015
Arrived a day before estimated, so quite happy. So far, I've nearly finished the story which inspired The thing, and so far, it is a good read. One thing to note is that this is a science fiction novella. What that entails isn't something simply adds lazers or big, space battles to a story, but one that tried to be scientifically accurate. You can tell this from the dialogue of the characters, which although may not come off as natural to your average laymen in science, is meant for people who are well read in the subjects. Despite this, I feel it doesn't come off as too words, or too much like some sort of exposition or useless information. The only real reason to which this only gets four stars is from the length of the novella, and that as a big fan of the film based on it (i could argue it as probably the greatest science fiction horrors ever made), I feel that the novella will make me want a story that develops the characters, the background, the environment and the tone a lot more, as opposed to making a scientifically sound book.
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