The Cranky Old Reader

I'm a Goodreads refugee, looking for a new home. Old books for children, science fiction, fantasy, mysteries, and humor are my main areas of interest. I've little interest in books that were written after 1975 or so, and prefer books that are older still. There are, however, a few still-living authors that I respect.

Escape Orbit

Escape Orbit - James White James White was one of the nicer writers in the science fiction genre. He wrote relatively straightforward but intelligent stories with protagonists who were decent, human people (even when they weren't human); not supermen, nor antiheroes. Just ordinary, decent beings with consciences, intelligence, and the wish to use both to create the best outcome for everyone (in that regard, he reminds me strongly of Lloyd. G. Biggle, Jr.).White is best known for his Sector General series, of course. The Escape Orbit isn't part of that series; it has no major medical aspects. It represents a relatively early work from White (it was originally published in 1965). As such, it's a bit less sophisticated than some of his later works. But you don't read White for sophistication. He was not a latter-day Oscar Wilde, not by any stretch of the imagination. But he delivered thoughtful and thought-provoking stories, well-told, for many years.The Escape Orbit is the story of a prison planet. In an interstellar war between humans and an alien race, human prisoners of war are being dumped onto a formerly-empty planet. The prospects for escape are daunting, to put it mildly. Divided into opposing camps - those who are attempting to make the best lives that they can on the planet, and those who are still trying to escape - relations between the two groups are just short of open hostility.The protagonist arrives to find himself in the middle of this mess. How he resolves it, and the entire situation, makes for an interesting story.Some may view the male-female relationships presented in the books as being sexist. This is, I think, unfair. They're old-fashioned, yes; but there is no deliberate sexism, and in fact White spells out several times that the women are, in fact, equal to men. The problem is rather the sexism of the males as they relate to females. But some of the language and attitudes between men and women in the book are admittedly corny and dated.The resolution frankly surprised me. It was deeper and more thoughtful than was customary for most science fiction of that time. I don't want to spoil it, however, so I'll leave it at that.The Escape Orbit is definitely not one of White's best works, for all that it was apparently short-listed for a Hugo award. But even his lesser works are well worth reading. You may not come back to the book again and again, but not every book has to be a classic that will live through the ages. This is a well-written novel, very short by modern standards, with some thoughtful elements that any science fiction fan is likely to enjoy.

Currently reading

Basic Roleplaying: The Chaosium d100 system (Basic Roleplaying)
Sam Johnson, Charlie Krank
A Paradise Built in Hell: The Extraordinary Communities That Arise in Disaster
Rebecca Solnit