Thursday, October 16, 2008

Paperback 151: The Day the Machines Stopped / Christopher Anvil (Monarch Books 478)

Paperback 151: Monarch Books 478 (PBO, 1964)

Title: The Day the Machines Stopped
Author: Christopher Anvil
Cover artist: Ralph Brillhart

Yours for: $8

Best things about this cover:

  • Rockets explode! Planes disintegrate into patterns roughly resembling autumn leaves! And ... Wes and Earl have engine trouble.
Wes: "Gee, Earl, I'm stumped."
Earl, wagging finger at car: "Bad car! Bad, naughty car! Oh, why did I buy a used taxi!?"
  • If "Nature Reversed Its Laws," shouldn't Wes and Earl and everything else be flying up into space? Either that, or Wes and Earl should be making out.

Best things about this back cover:

  • It's all very amusing, but that third paragraph ... it's a little too close-to-home, frankly. All sounds eerily relevant / plausible.
  • I hate it when people malign the Dark Ages - they were perfectly serviceable Ages.

Page 123~

"Excuse me a minute." Brian's fists tingled. He was thinking of the last crack on the head, of all the insults and underhanded blows he'd experienced from Carl.



warren said...

# I hate it when people malign the Dark Ages - they were perfectly serviceable Ages.

Yes, but very, very dark.

It was often observed to be so by people who lived in those times: "Gee, it sure is dark, isn't it?" (Transliteration from Old-Timey Speech, which would have been more like, "Sooth, a'lo ’tis dusky, I warrant!")

The reason this fact is so little known is, of course, that no one wrote it down.

Far too dark, you see.

Anonymous said...

Oh, that Carl, what with the insults and underhanded cracks on the head, he just makes my fists tingle. He’s such a jerk, you know? Always striking with the overhand blows and belittling remarks. I swear, if Carl were on fire I wouldn’t piss on him, even if my bladder were really full, because my kidneys are still bruised from his flying jump kicks and cutting remarks. He just really gets on my nerves. Doggone Carl!

libwitch said...

Somehow, I can see Neil Gaimen taking that first line off the back and running with it:

"The day the machines stopped began in an ordinary way...."

"a few years ago, all the animals went away..."

LindsRay said...

I can't tell you how much I love these! :)

The.Effing.Librarian said...

"suddenly all electrical energy was destroyed on the planet.."
you mean everyone died because our brains run on electrical impulses?
"well, no. the other electrical energy..."
so there wasn't any more lightning or magnetic fields or anything?
"shut up."

Loramir said...

Until they were captured and forced to use their knowledge to help the ruthless power combine take the world back to the Dark Ages.

"The ruthless power combine" gives me a mental image of farm equipment run amok. I'm fairly sure this is not what the copy writer intended.

First time commenter, but I started reading when you started doing crossovers on Judge A Book by It's Cover. I think I've read your entire archive now... It's hilarious and addicting!

steve said...

You can read the whole thing for yourself; Baen published a book of Christopher Anvil and this is included as a free sample.

And, you know what? I like it very much.

I doubt that Christopher Anvil wrote that silly stuff on the cover of the paperback, and the story is quite good.

If you read the ending, you find out that the effect that halts the flow of electricity varies at different points on the Earth; at some points it would kill you by stopping your nervous systems, at some points electricity still works, and at points in-between wires stop conducting electricity but people don't die. It may not be likely but it's a solid hook upon which to hang a story, and I'll willingly suspend disbelief on one point to establish a story. (If the flow of the novel is a constant mish-mash of unlikely events, that's just bad writing. If the key to the story is a single unlikely event, and the ramifications of that event are coherently explored, I'm happy.)

I have to say, this is the most serious Christopher Anvil story I have ever read. Most of his stories are light and humorous, even when they involve things like aliens trying to conquer the Earth.