Science Fiction Though the Decades

Sunday, August 5, 2012

1955: The Big Jump (Brackett, Leigh)

Unique take on transuranics, but lacks in development (3/5)
From April 22, 2011

I was unfamiliar with Brackett's work before eying this $1 purchase. Leary of it's 1955 initial publication, I was pleasantly surprised by the rigorous details of the greater plot. If this is typical of Brackett's work then I'd love to indulge if she can only refrain from making an irksome last page or two.

Rear cover synopsis:
"Mankind had finally made the Big Jump. But when the first expedition to another star system returned, only one man was aboard- one man mad with pain and nearly dead from an unknown and ghastly form of radiation sickness... No one could learn what became of the rest of the crew.

Arch Comyn had to find out what happened, and eventually he made the second Big Jump himself- and came face to face with the secret horror that awaited all men in the other reaches of the universe."


A rather thin, 148-page book, at first glance, looks like a pulpy sci-fi novel. Within the first quarter of the book, there is very little characterization of Comyn or very little merit given to his pursuits, except that one of the crewmen once saved his life in unspecified circumstances. Comyn isn't physically described or developed; only his choice of career, workboss, had been given. I'm assuming this is an appeal to generally characterize Comyn as rugged, crass and, indeed, it falls this way.

If motivation and characterization aren't you're thing, then it'll definitely be the greater plot which will summon your readership: the one man (Ballantyne) coming back from the voyage to Bernard's Star is in a coma, his body chemistry slightly askew and laying derelict in his secure hospital bed, being kept from the eyes of the media. It's only Comyn who succeeds through his determination and bullying to gain entry to the hospital room where Ballantyne awakes to the sound of security drilling through the door and burst forth a stream of barely intelligible words including transuranics.

Comyn's antics infuriate the mega-corporation of the Cochrane family and eventually come to terms with his limited knowledge and allow him to join the second secret mission to Bernard's Star. Interfamily grudges abound, putting strain on trust and reliability, ultimately putting the mission at risk.

I liked the second mission, the details of the drive and the effects experiences from the drive, from the exit of hyperspace and the effects the planet has on humans. It's a fairly exciting and unique book and granted it's from 1955, the science is remarkably not too geeky or cheesy. The transuranics elements are an interesting device not very well explored by science fiction and Brackett does a good job of keep tabs on speculation.

For what it makes up in originality, it loses in character development... and a poor, poor dismount with the last two pages (eye-rolling, why-did-you-end-it-this-way kind of frivol).

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