Monday, January 28, 2019

Sci-fi book cover: "The Escape Orbit"

  • Title: The Escape Orbit
  • Cover blurb: "Marooned on a prison planet"
  • Author: James White (1928-1999)
  • Cover artist: John Brian Francis "Jack" Gaughan (1930-1985)
  • Publisher: Ace Books (F-317)
  • Cover price: 40 cents
  • Publication year: 1965
  • Publication history: Novel was originally published in the United Kingdom as Open Prison.
  • Pages: 188
  • Format: Paperback
  • Back cover blurb: "When the survivors of his starship were taken prisoner by the insect-creatures against whom Earth had fought a bitter war for nearly a century, Sector Marshal Warren expected to be impounded in a prison camp like those the Earthmen maintained. But the 'Bugs' had a simpler method of dealing with prisoners — they dumped them on an uninhabited planet, without weapons or tools, and left them to fend for themselves against the planet's environment and strange monsters. A 'Bug' spaceship orbited above, guarding them. Escape was impossible, the 'Bugs' told them — but it was absolutely necessary, for reasons Warren couldn't tell even his own men."
  • Dedication: "To Walter Willis for all the reasons usually mentioned in a Dedication and more."
  • First sentence: When Warren had been taken as a prisoner of war along with the other survivors of the erroneously named Victorious, he had thought that he knew what to expect — his expectations being based on the knowledge of how enemy prisoners were handled by his own side.
  • Last sentence: It was the sight of a roomful of Civilians standing rigidly at attention while the Fleet Commander, old man Peters himself, tore off a salute to the Marshal which was the tightest, smartest and plainly the most respectful salute that Kelso had ever seen.
  • Random sentence from middle: This was not surprising, because the job of guarding a planet called for a phlegmatic disposition and a capacity to resist boredom rather than sharpness of intellect.
  • Goodreads rating: 3.70 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Goodreads review excerpt: In 2018, Ghanima wrote: "The story is very detailed, and the tensions between the characters were worked out very well. The ideas about women are a bit old fashioned, and can get a little annoying despite the fact that White tries to have the men treat the women as equals. This was a very enjoyable read."
  • Amazon rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5.0)
  • Amazon review excerpt: In 2013, 2theD wrote: "The novel's premise is simple and alluring. The actual plan for escape is logical and appealing. The on-goings are feasible and compelling. It's all a bit too neat, however."
  • Notes: A Goodreads reviewer writes that "James White was one of the nicer writers in the science fiction genre" and his Wikipedia profile adds that "White abhorred violence, and medical and other emergencies were the sources of dramatic tension in his stories." Along those lines, here's an excerpt from a 2016 article about White's most famous series, the Sector General stories:
    "As a pacifist who was greatly influenced by the Troubles in Northern Ireland, White deftly manages to condemn violence without demonizing its practitioners. The antagonists of the series are largely acting out of ignorance instead of evil. Much of the series revolves around the struggle to educate newly-discovered species in the face of barbarism and superstition. Wars in the series are always met with a sense of profound disappointment by bleary doctors struggling to patch together those who could not bridge their differences peacefully."
  • Bonus side-by-side teeth comparison: If there are any doubts Gaughan drew the cover, here is a side-by-side comparison of his monster teeth on The Escape Orbit (left) and the August 1962 cover of Galaxy Magazine...

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