Search The Sky by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth (book review).

I thought I had read all of the Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth collaborations until this one, ‘Search The Sky’, popped up in one of the books about Science Fiction. Wildside Press have printed this edition of this 1954 book. There are other copies available on-line but its nice to see its still in print.

Halsey’s Planet is one of several human colonised planets, the human population growth is in a big slump and corporation orientated. Interstellar spaceships are rare and take a long time to get around and when one arrives, it is only discovered when reading the log that it hadn’t gone to the other six destinations before getting here. Haarland, head of the main corporation, reveals to Ross, who is coming to work for him, that they do have one small ftl starship and he’s to use it to look at the other six planets and see what’s gone wrong. There’s a bit more detail there than that but that’s the gist of a detailed character plot.

Ragansworld is still populated and you have to be happy by order. Minerva is a female dominated society and men regularly get locked up and used as sex toys, quite advanced for the mid-1950s. Ross picks up Helena and Bernie from these worlds for not only helping him but unwise to leave them behind. There’s also the formula of nature: L_{T}=L_{0}e-{T/sN} which you’ll have to read to find out which is the root of the problem.

Thinking they have arrived on Earth, the description alone with the wrong colours informs the reader before the characters and Jones’ World is having a continual drunken party but they do get away with a drunken Dr. Jones. Then they finally get to Earth, but that’s another story.

In some respects, it would have been interesting to see how this collaboration went. Did each of them do different planets or did they blend on all of them. It is clear that it gave them an opportunity to look at different societies and why they didn’t work or plain dangerous.

Kornbluth is the stronger writer, having read his own work, but who did what is still pretty vague after all these years. Obviously none of their books is going to be as good as ‘The Space Merchants’ but the amount of story put into 135 pages would put most modern SF authors to shame. It even has some relevance to societies today when no attention is paid to keeping excesses under control and letting them become extreme and not caring. A useful subtext.

GF Willmetts

April 2021

(pub: Wildside Press. 138 page small enlarged paperback. Price: > ISBN: 978-1-47940-819-1)

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2 thoughts on “Search The Sky by Frederick Pohl and C.M. Kornbluth (book review).

  • This is available from Project Gutenberg, Search for release 52228. I’m pretty sure that’s where Wildside Press sourced it. I prefer the Gutenberg, because it has a working Table of Contents.

    What part of the collaborations are attributable to which author is a question I don’t think can be definitively answered. For many of them, Kornbluth had a better sense of structure, and provided the plot. For others, it varied, including “hot typewriter” where they worked in shifts. One would do X thousands of words, then the other would take over, repeat till done..

    • Hello Dennis
      I was just looking for a reading copy.
      From biographies, Kornbluth was the faster writer. Looking at Pohl from the period, as I am reading his ‘Midas World’ anthology, with material from 1954 and 1982, Pohl wasn’t a strong writer on his own until probably ‘Man PLus’ and the ‘Heechee’ novels.
      Other than them as collaborators, Hank Kuttner and Cathy Moore were always top of their game.


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