My life in outer space

SeeTee Shock – Jack Williamson (1951)

Seetee Shock

‘Nick Jenkins mines volatile Seetee in the wastes of space – until interstellar intrigue threatens havoc. faced with his own certain death – and even crueller betrayal by the woman he loves – he has but one week left to save the solar system from total destruction.’

Blurb from the 1979 Jove omnibus paperback edition.

This rather disappointing sequel to ‘Seetee Ship’ introduces Nick Jenkins, a Seetee engineer on Freedonia, the asteroid base where Jim Drake has discovered how to work Contraterrene (CT) material or antimatter. Drake is on the verge of switching on a generator, powered by Seetee which will provide free unlimited power to the rest of the Solar System. However, while Jenkins is out in space collecting more Seetee, a traitor drugs the unsuspecting miners, steals a cache of Seetee weapons, and tries to blow up the plant.
Jenkins manages to rescue the comatose men, but he and they have received lethal doses of radiation. Jenkins is given only a week to live, in which time he must convince a woman that he is on the side of right, return to Freedonia and start the generator. Interplanet (the evil ‘Company’ which holds a monopoly on nuclear based power) does not want the generator started and so the race is on.
It is not clear why Williamson chose not to use any characters from the previous book. Rich Drake and Nick Jenkins are interchangeable cardboard heroes and Williamson could also have gotten far more mileage out of McGee, the strange asterite with an uncanny ability for space navigation.
McGee is discussed several times. Indeed, it seems that McGee is the first evidence of asterites evolving into humans suited for living in space. McGee also proves to be immune to radiation and thus provides a serum derived from his blood which finally manages to cure Jenkins and the other dying men from Freedonia. And yet McGee never appears in person. It may be that there were copyright problems with regard to using some characters from the previously serialised stories, but one would presume that would also apply to the locations and to ‘Seetee’ itself.
It’s an odd anti-capitalistic novel which at some points is bogged down with entire chapters of info-dumped backstory.
Nick Jenkins worships his uncle, Martin Brand, who – apart from being the author of a kind of socialist manifesto about the political destiny of the power industry – is pretty obviously the main villain in the piece. He is also the main perpetrator of ‘backstory lectures’ and one feels that, worshipped though he may be, someone should really have told him to shut up. (See also Giles Habibula in ‘Legion of Space’ for another over-verbose Williamson character)
Brand is also the archetype of the ‘good man who went to the Dark Side’ but manages to redeem himself in the rushed finale.


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