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Sci-Fi Undercover — Christopher Anvil / Kelly Freas

September 12, 2013

Title:  Pandora’s Planet (Unofficially Book 1 of Pandora’s Planet Series)

Listed Author:  Christopher Anvil [1925 – 2009] (wikipedia) — pseudonym used by Harry Christopher Crosby.

Original Publishing info:  DAW Books, 1972

Pages:  192

Cover Artist:  Kelly Freas [1922 – 2005] (official website) / (wikipedia)

[Link to larger image of cover]

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          I decided to do something differently this time around–instead of giving the author sole billing in the preview post title, I’ve included the cover artist as well.  Though the goal of Sci-Fi Undercover is to bring attention to works and authors that may be out of print and out of mind, it’s the artist who dictates which book I read.  Especially after my recent and revealing Q & A session with illustrator David B. Mattingly, I will try to paint a fuller picture of the novel.

Unfortunately, this time, there is no chance at a Q & A since both artist and author have passed away.  I encourage you to visit the website of artist Kelly Freas listed above–he enjoyed an incredibly distinguished career and a lot of his artwork is on sale.  Besides being elected to the Science Fiction Hall of Fame (which is a real thing and I now have to go), Freas has won the Hugo Award for Best Artist eleven times.

I couldn’t find the cover to Pandora’s Planet on sale, which is a shame because:

•  there’s a beat-up, dour lion holding an automatic weapon

•  there’s a beautifully seductive human opening Pandora’s Box

•  and these two images are the most concise explanation of the entire plot of the book

Also:

•  I’m pretty sure Karl Marx’s face appears on the right side, along with other famous people that I can’t place (yet)

Karl Marx fits with the story, too.  After I realized Pandora’s Planet was the book for me, (it only took one glance at the lion-man-WWII era depressed alien), I read the back cover.  An excerpt:

“. . . [Earth] surrendered and decided to give their leonine conquerors everything humans could wholeheartedly grant.  So they exported installment payments, loan sharks, communism, fascism, planned obsolescence, food fads, religious cults, and all the other delights we are so accustomed to on our home world.”

          Where are the grotesque aliens?  The space ships and laser guns?  Where is mention of the lone hero, and the impossible odds he must overcome?  Am I really going to read a novel about bureaucracy and American culture–about administrative management?  The answer is yes, and after now having read the first 50 pages, I’m happy with my choice.  Pandora’s Planet is not your typical 70s Sci-Fi story–it focuses on the aftermath of a defeated Earth, the stubbornness of man, and the viral nature of our culture.  The cultures of Earth ARE incredibly infectious, and when viewed from the perspective of ignorant aliens–incredibly dangerous.  There are enough similarities to Harry Turtledove’s alternate history series Tilting the Balance to keep me intrigued.   The war is over . . . or has it just begun?

         Check back later to learn what exactly was in Pandora’s Box, and find out if it was too much for our unfortunate large-cat invaders.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited to read about office drudgery and economic theory–as viewed by aliens.

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