Placing Earth in peril of cosmic collision has become almost a cliché in science fiction. When Worlds Collide remains the version against which all others are measured, in part because of the influence of producer George Pal’s 1951 film adaptation.
Astronomer Sven Bronson discovers two wandering planets moving toward the solar system. He sends photographic plates of the planets to American astrophysicist Cole Hendron so that Hendron can confirm his calculations that the approaching planets will pass close enough to Earth for the gas giant Bronson Alpha to cause earthquakes, tidal waves, and volcanic eruptions. These disasters are likely to leave only a fifth of the world’s population alive. The two worlds will then circle the Sun and return, at which time Bronson Alpha will smash into Earth. The smaller and more Earth-like Bronson Beta will then move into an orbit similar to Earth’s. Hendron and other scientists organize the League of the Last Days to build an atomic rocket capable of carrying perhaps a hundred people to Bronson Beta to preserve a remnant of humanity.
Most of the story is seen through the eyes of Tony Drake, a young Wall Street financier in love with Hendron’s daughter, Eve, a scientist in her own right. Hendron forbids their romantic involvement, explaining that the concept of marriage and monogamy may have to change to re-establish the race on the new planet. Dave Ransdell, the flier who delivered Bronson’s photographic plates to Hendron, also falls in love with Eve. In the grim...
(The entire section is 629 words.)