Crashing Suns by Edmond Hamilton
Posted January 7, 2017on:
first published in Weird Tales in 1928
where I got it – Three volume Hamilton set was a gift
That cover art looks familiar, doesn’t it?
Yep, “Crashing Suns” by Edmond Hamilton is the cover art I screen-grabbed years ago for a Vintage SciFi image. At the time, I had no idea who Edmond Hamilton was, and I was too busy with my own things to start meaningful conversations with people who took a look at the badge I’d photoshopped and said “Hey, I know that book!”. In my old age, I’m trying to get better.
A few years ago, I was gifted with a gorgeous three volume set of The Collected Works of Edmond Hamilton. The way our living room is set up, this is one of the first things you see displayed on top of the bookshelf when you walk into that room. The back of the volumes feature cover art of novels, chapbooks, and magazines in which these novels, novellas, and short stories were originally published, and as I was flipping through, I saw artwork that looked mighty familiar to me (because I stole it). So OF COURSE I had to read the story! The story behind the cover art is “Crashing Suns”, which is Hamilton’s first story in his Interstellar Patrol sequence of interrelated stories.
This was such a fun pulpy story! So many exclamation points, so many characters shouting, so many big bold adjectives. This is a story of big brassy sounds, saturated primary colors, and massive stakes (no there weren’t actually any brassy sounds or primary colors, but that’s my weird brain for you. But there are earth shatteringly large stakes for our heroes). At the beginning of the story, Earth gets news from an observatory that there is a star on a trajectory path towards our sun! And if it reaches here, obviously everyone will die!
The story is told from the point of view of Interplanetary Patrol Captain Jan Tor, and he is surprised and honored to be chosen to lead the mission to the star Alto and determine what can be done to change the star’s trajectory. He’ll be captaining a brand new cruiser that can travel at light speed and allow mankind to travel through interstellar space for the first time. Jan Tor will literally have the future of humankind in his hands. Also, thanks to this new ship design, the Interplanetary Patrol can become the Interstellar Patrol.
Forty days later, they arrive at Alto (which means Alto is actually really close to us!), and observe a solar system consisting of a very large inner planet, and over 10 smaller outer planets. As they are orbiting the large inner planet, the ship is captured by a tractor beam and crash lands. The crew is taken captive by the residents of the planet, who are described as six legged fleshy globs. Jan Tor and his crew nickname the aliens the “globe-men”. One of the scientists is able to initiate communication via drawing pictures and learns that the Globe-men’s sun is dying and cooling, and that they colonized planets closer and closer to their cooling sun to gain what heat they could. They’ve activated a projector beam towards their sun with the goal of crashing their sun into another sun to create one huge and very hot sun that gives off enough heat for all of their planets to sustain life.
Jan Tor and the rest of the survivors manage to escape the planet of the Globe-men and rush back to Earth to share what they have learned. It is decided to send the entire fleet to Alto to destroy or disable their projector beam, thereby changing the course of their sun so that it shoots by our solar system, but not close enough to harm anything. After doing the math, the scientists announce we only have 50 days to get the fleet to Alto and deactivate the projector beam.
This story has the scope and pace of a huge hollywood scifi action movie, and I mean that as a compliment. Everything is happening at breakneck speed, because if we don’t do it now, everyone will die! The fast pace is a ton of fun, the characters have to think on their feet, there is even some tragedy at the end (I won’t spoil it). Overall, a super fun pulpy large scale scifi adventure story. If you can find a copy of this story, I highly recommend reading it. The gorgeous Haffner Press edition I have may not be readily available, but Crashing Suns is available as an audio book, there are used paperback copies on the market, Baen published an e-book version, and you can read the first few chapters for free here.
“Crashing Suns” was first published in Weird Tales in 1928. My mom says I got my love of science fiction from her dad, who read every science fiction magazine and book he could get his hands on, and for many decades was able to every month read every short story in every science fiction magazine available in the US. I never got to know him very well, as he passed away when I was a little kid. He would have been about 17 years old when “Crashing Suns” was first published. I love the idea that maybe he read this story in Weird Tales in 1928. And now I’m reading it nearly 90 years later. I wonder what Grandpa thought of it? I hope it blew his mind, I hope he thought to himself “one day my kids will travel to the moon, one day we will go to the stars, one day we will meet aliens”.