Gunner Cade Critical Essays


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

Gunner Cade fits in the mold of works that appeared under the editorship of John W. Campbell, Jr., who encouraged from his writers extrapolations that embraced not only technical matters but also social implications. The central speculation in Gunner Cade concerns social fallout from nuclear warfare, as experienced in a time so distant from the present that the nuclear weapons themselves have vanished from memory. Fear of attack from the sky becomes a building block for the Realm of Man, and that fear is not challenged for ten millennia.

Gunner Cade was the second and last novel collaboration between Kornbluth and Merril, preceded by Outpost Mars (1952; serial form as Mars Child, 1951; republished as Sin in Space, 1961). Although a success, with a long history of reprints, Gunner Cade has been overshadowed by the success of another Kornbluth collaboration, The Space Merchants (1953), with Frederik Pohl. Structurally, Gunner Cade anticipates the later novel.

Gunner Cade fits within Kornbluth’s works in its strong thematic concern with the redemptive power of historical knowledge. In his 1949 short story “The Only Thing We Learn,” Kornbluth similarly posits a decadent and static society being challenged by rebels from the frontier and portrays the situation as a cyclic occurrence in history. His 1952 short story “The Luckiest Man in Denv” not only...

(The entire section is 444 words.)