The Plot

(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

This story, although serialized in 1934 and 1935, did not see book publication until 1947. It was one of the last of John W. Campbell, Jr.’s fictional works to be published under his own name.

Of the three chief protagonists, the principal character is Aarn Munro, a human born and raised on Jupiter. Jovian gravity has resulted in his unique physique. Although he is five feet, seven inches tall, he is almost five feet in circumference, weighs three hundred fifty pounds, and is strong enough to lift and walk off with a ton and a half of lead. He is also a brilliant physicist. Don Carlisle is a genius in chemistry, and Russ Spencer is owner of the Spencer Rocket Company.

As a result of the inventions of Munro and Carlisle, Spencer is able to build a remarkable new spaceship, the Sunbeam, which obtains its power from the Sun via Munro’s “transpon,” a beam that reaches out to, and transports energy from, the Sun. Other inventions, such as antigravity devices, “accumulators” to store vast amounts of energy, and a “magnetic atmosphere” that protects the ship from meteorites and other missiles, make the new ship appear invincible. On its maiden voyage, however, as it travels at about forty-two thousand miles per second, it collides with a 100,000 ton meteorite.

The impact throws the ship into a universe of supergiant stars, where it is attacked immediately by six spaceships of unknown origin and design. Damage inflicted during the meteorite impact puts...

(The entire section is 616 words.)