I wasn't much of a reader when I first picked up this book in Junior High School, but it quickly grabbed my interest - I couldn't put it down! It wasn't until later that I learned it had a sequel, which I promptly read. Over the years, I have read it over and over again, until the library decided to take it out of circulation. I look forward to the opportunity to buy a copy for my personal collection, and share it with my children.
This Bison Books edition of the 1932 collaboration is an attractive item in its own right and includes a foreword by John Varley and the sequel ‘After Worlds Collide’ A courier carrying photographic plates from South African astronomer Professor Bronson to Cole Hendron, his colleague in New York, is offered increasingly alarming sums of money to give exclusive information to various newspapers. The papers do not have long to wait for the terrible news. A gas giant and an orbiting smaller world are heading in from outer space on collision course with the Earth. Professor Hendron confirms from the plates that the pair will swing past our world, causing massive earthquakes and tidal waves and then swing round the sun. On the return journey Bronson Alpha will hit the Earth head on. However, the scientists (hiding behind the not-so-subtle name ‘The League of The Last Days) have a plan to build a ship, carrying a chosen few to the new world of Bronson Beta, which is predicted to break free of its large companion following the collision and take Earth’s place in its orbit. Most readers will be more familiar with the George Powell movie; a production more or less faithful to the novel, but lacking much of the suspense and sense of wonder of the original. Despite some examples of what we see from today’s perspective as scientific hokum, the effects of the passing of the large planet are well described and seem accurate enough. The scenes describing ever-increasing tides invading New York and drowning the streets, leaving the skyscrapers sprouting from the sea are, in an odd sense, quite beautiful. Likewise, the eventual destruction of the Earth viewed from the rocketship by the survivors, provides for the reader a kind of smug satisfaction. Typically for the times the survivors consist almost entirely of White Americans of the right sort. One South African is of course, white, well built, handsome and courageous. The two remaining aliens – the hero’s Japanese valet and a French scientist – are mere gross caricatures and employed only to provide light relief. There is an attempt to discuss new forms of society and marriage in order that Humanity might multiply on the new world, but the authors never venture far in that direction. However, it is still an engrossing and thrilling read.
Written in the thirties, When Worlds Collide is a dated and somewhat wordy apocalyptic novel. Even so, it is well written and less dated than other sci-fi of the time. The concept is fascinating and the story well told by a collection of stiff upper lip characters.
What if the world had the chance to start all over again knowing what we know today? Wylie has this special way of writting! When you get to the end of the book you feel like you read a good story and a philosophy treaty and the insight of a man that always kept a lucid and critical eye on his own time...