Everything Is Nice

Beating the nice nice nice thing to death (with fluffy pillows)

‘Surface Tension’ by James Blish

with 4 comments

I’ve read this before, right? Or have I just read Stephen Baxter’s version? He did one, right?

Anyway, this is a stone cold classic, both of science fiction and hard SF. A small group of colonists crash land on a planet with is almost entirely covered in water. They know they are going to die, they take this in their stride and they seed the planet with a microscopic version of humanity. Many years later this new form of humanity reaches for the stars.

The hard SF path of heroic endeavour is all here: the universe is a harsh, unforgiving vacuum; up by his bootstraps; per ardua ad astra; etc, etc. ‘Surface Tension’ also reconfigures the familar (the story takes place in a small puddle) into the utterly alien. A joy to read and larded with enough of Blish’s professional background in microbiology to skim of any holes in the plausibility of the scenario.

Quality: ****
Hardness: ****

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Written by Martin

24 September 2010 at 10:21

4 Responses

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  1. Baxter has written a whole bunch of them, both short stories and at novel length (Flux). As you’d expect, some are better than others. The original is superb, though, you’re right. I must read more Blish.

    Niall

    26 September 2010 at 09:42

  2. I think this is the first Blish I’ve actually liked. A Case Of Conscience starts well but once it goes beyond the original novella it goes off the boil, Cities In Flight was immensely dull and the less said about ‘Beep’ the better. Any suggestions for good Blish short stories?

    Martin

    27 September 2010 at 08:22

  3. You found Cities in Flight dull? Really? Patchy I’d go with; but stretches of it are like your imagination taking a deep breath of fresh air.

    A Case Of Conscience: hmm. Possibly I overrate this novel, since it perfectly illustrates my own critical thesis that SF begins, and is still marked by in myriad deep, buried ways, a Reformation theological anxiety about the uniqueness of Christ’s substitutionary atonement.

    Adam Roberts

    27 September 2010 at 12:27

  4. [...] Do Awful Things To Rats’ by James Tiptree Jr. ‘In the Year 2889′ by Jules Verne ‘Surface Tension’ by James Blish  ‘No, No, Not Rogov!’ by Cordwainer Smith ‘In A Petri Dish Upstairs’ by [...]


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