Monday, March 22, 2010

"A Matter of Matter" by L. Ron Hubbard

"A Matter of Matter"
by L. Ron Hubbard
Multicast performance
Produced by Galaxy Audio
Approx. 2 hours

Once again I get the chance to revisit the days when sci-fi ruled. Going back to the Golden Age of sci-fi you have to remember that then the stories were sold to various pulp magazine publications such as "Astounding Science Fiction," "Startling Stories," and "Thrilling Wonder Stories." Through these pulps you could get your weekly fix of some great science-fiction through various authors. L. Ron Hubbard wrote hundreds of stories during this time and many in the sci-fi genre. Galaxy Press has started releasing a line of books (12 titles/year since 2008) each with a collection of Hubbard's short stories. These books are released in their own "pulp" version or as audio books.

This audio book contains 4 stories including the main title, "A Matter of Matter," with a cast of performers and narrated by R.F. Daley. Daley delivers the stories in a manner that immediately blasts the listener back to a simpler time, when these stories could have been aired on a nightly radio broadcast. The entire production reminds me of the old radio shows yet they still have a fun modern feel to them.

One thing I have gathered from listening to these audio books is that L.Ron Hubbard knew how to throw a twist on a story. The events of the stories are a great tale in and of themselves but Hubbard throws a wily twist at the end that could put an old "Twilight Zone" episode to shame. These twists are not entirely out of the blue, yet they do keep the listener guessing.

Here's a rundown of each story in this collection.

"A Matter of Matter"
First appearing in "Astounding Science Fiction" in August of 1949, this story tells of a young man eager to become king of his own world and through an advertising flyer he finds he can purchase a planet. There are many planets out there so the capitalists on Earth have decided to sell them off. Chuck Lambert is one of those suckers, er, uh, I mean customers. The day comes when Chuck's final payment is made and he blasts off for his planet. According to the contract he must spend 11 years on the planet. He lands on the planet to find out he's been suckered. Everything is opposite for him on this planet. The air suffocates him, yet there is green grass and plants, the water is refused by his stomach and the gravity makes him float. Chuck has been suckered. Or has he?

"The Conroy Diary"
First appearing in "Astounding Science Fiction" in May of 1949, tells of a man whose outer space adventures are a series of outlandish and comical tales that there is no way they can be real. Everyone laughs at the stories being published, then when the author of these stories is taken to court for unpaid taxes he is forced to reveal his sources and income. This could lead to the fall or surge of the exploration of space depending on how the case comes out.

"The Planet Makers"
First appearing in "Thrilling Wonder Stories" October, 1949, is the perfect story of how some folks will do anything to get out of a contract. A major corporation has paid to have a planetoid terraformed, but the contract says if ahead of schedule the contractors will be paid millions in bonuses, if late the corporation gets the planet for free. Sleepy Mcgee the head engineer, never gets upset when delays happen and equipment breaks down, even when the corporate big wig yells and screams, he just goes on playing poker via radio link with another engineer. Will the plantoid ever get completed?

"The Obsolete Weapon"
First appearing in "Astounding Science Fiction" May, 1948, is a great time travel story. A young soldier fighting Germans in WWII Italy finds himself blasted back to the time of Nero and finds himself as a spectacle in the Colosseum. With his modern weapons of war, the lions, elephants and slaves are no match, but when Nero feels threatened and sends out the legions he finds himself in need of a miracle.

All four of these stories make for a great 2 hours spent listening to some "old timey" science fiction that is very enjoyable.

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