Invaders from the Infinite
by John W. Campbell
 

Review by
Ron Grube
Amazing Stories Quarterly, Fall-Winter 1932

Gnome Press
Hicksville, New York; 1961

189 pages February 2002

  

Invaders from the Infinite is the third volume of John Campbell's Arcot-Morey-Wade science fiction series, following The Black Star Passes and Islands of Space. Written when Campbell was still a very young man, these books chronicle the adventures of three young scientist-inventors as they almost single-handedly save the Earth, Venus, people of another galaxy, and in this final volume, seemingly most of the known Universe, from one set of baddies or another. All of the books stand alone nicely, but it's more fun if you read them in sequence. John Campbell had great faith in science's ability to solve any problem, and his young heroes fit right in this mold. Whatever comes along, Arcot, Morey, and Wade take the lead in producing new inventions to handle it. One reason I'm so fond of the books is Campbell's emphasis on self-reliance, responsibility, respect, and simple gentlemanly conduct, things seldom seen in more modern books.

The first two volumes progress from giant three-thousand-passenger propellor-driven planes crossing the country, to a heat-powered molecular motion drive, to superconducting energy storage, to a galaxy-crossing space warp drive. What could be left? Well, Campbell hasn't run out yet. The cover on my Ace paperback edition, by longtime SF illustrator Gray Morrow, shows a somewhat sentient-looking spaceship doing battle with a giant winged dragon. A little hint — this isn't just artistic license!

Invaders from the Infinite opens with Rocket Squad member Russ Evans happily goofing off, watching for a girl on the rooftops of New Jersey from almost a billion miles out in space with a telectroscope, an electronically-enhanced telescope, when he suddenly feels very tired:

Half conscious, fighting for his faculties with all his will, the pilot turned to the screen. A ship! A strange, glistening thing streamlined to the nth degree, every spare corner rounded till the resistance was at the irreducible minimum. But in the great pilotport of the stranger, the patrol pilot saw faces, and gasped in surprise as he saw them! Terrible faces, blotched, contorted. Patches of white skin, patches of brown, patches of black, blotched and twisted across the faces.

Evans' life seems to flash before him, then oblivion.

Invaders from the Infinite - John W/ Campbell - Ace cover by Gray Morrow Our young scientists are busy at their research on Earth as the alien vessel lands on top of the Arcot Research Building. Discussion via telepathy reveals that the invaders are a friendly race evolved from canines, and have come to warn of an evil, destructive race spreading rapidly across the stars, with near-unstoppable weapons. Of course, this is nothing but a challenge to the abilities of Arcot, Morey, and Wade, and new ships and weapons are soon in the works.

In the previous books, planes and space vehicles started with conventional metals such as steel and aluminum, progressing to fantastically strong metals made of light photons compressed to such a degree that they became a solid. These lux metals are not even enough for the coming battle, and cosmium, made of tightly compressed cosmic rays, is brought forth as space armor. Alliances are made with the canine people, the Ortolians, and others including the old enemies from the Black Star, the Nigrans; and the war is on!

Yup, it's space opera, but of such a scope that it never ceases to hold your attention. There's a new invention around every bend, and an affirmation of man's capabilities runs throughout. Arcot invents the ultimate force, the ultimate weapon, and worries about the consequences if it ever reaches the wrong hands. The whole series has war and destruction as part of the plot, but Invaders from the Infinite gives more thought to innocent lives lost, including mentions of families, women, and children (not to ignore Russ Evans' girl in the opening pages).
  

About that Morrow cover painting, of a spaceship battling a dragon — Arcot's arsenal includes being able to create almost anything out of "artificial matter" or space itself, and the final battles are fought with a gigantic thought-controlled cosmium spaceship and thought-controlled creation of almost anything from artificial matter, including the stuff of enemies' nightmares. No one can accuse Campbell of thinking small! It's great adventure, full of optimism for man's future, again setting the example of competent, self-reliant people being able to face any odds and win. Well worth reading.

  

© 2002 Ron Grube


  
Ace cover by Gray Morrow

The Arcot-Morey-Wade series
(including Campbell's 1953 introduction) is collected in —

A John W. Campbell Anthology: Three Novels
by John W. Campbell
Doubleday: New York; 1973

1. The Black Star Passes
2. Islands of Space
3. Invaders from the Infinite

 

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