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Fury
Henry Kuttner
Victor Gollancz, 208 pages

Fury
Henry Kuttner
Henry Kuttner was born in 1915 in Los Angeles, California. He moved to New York in 1940 after his marriage to C.L. Moore to be nearer the writing markets. Joint works included collections like Line to Tomorrow, Ahead of Time, and Tomorrow and Tomorrow and well-know short fiction like "The Twonky," "Don't Look Now," "A Gnome There Was," and "Mimsy Were the Borogoves." After burning out as writer, he used the GI Bill for a college education at the University of California. A few years thereafter, they worked doing in radio scripts and screen-writing when Kuttner died in 1958.

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Past Feature Reviews
A review by A.L. Sirois

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Henry Kuttner has long been a favourite writer of mine, but somehow in a reading career spanning almost five decades I have managed to overlook Fury. I'm happy to have rectified that omission.

Originally published in Astounding in 1947 under the pseudonym Lawrence O'Donnell (Kuttner co-authoring with his wife, Catherine L. Moore), the book is set on Venus several centuries after an atomic Armageddon has destroyed Earth. Mankind lives in a series of domed undersea Keeps, because the land-life is so virulent (ála Deathworld -- although Kuttner is never clear about why Venusian sea life isn't as nasty) that earlier attempts to settle there have all failed. The race is slowly stagnating inside those domes, despite the more or less benevolent wardship of the Immortals, a group of long-lived mutants.

There are several families of mutants, including the Harkers. They all enjoy great privileges. Kuttner does a good job of differentiating their experience from the common human one, and succeeds very well at making them into something more than human.

There is a faction among the Immortals, though it be a faction of one. Robin Hale is an Immortal, but he had been a fighting man -- one of the Free Companies, mercenaries who, in the service of warring Keeps, had tried to carve a land-based colony out of Venus's savage jungle. When the Keeps unified, the Companies were dissolved and Hale and his men found themselves out of work. Now long years have passed and Hale, though Immortal, chafes under the forced inactivity of the Keeps. He seeks help from the Logician, which he -- and everyone else -- believes to be a computer, but which is actually a folksy Immortal named Ben Crowell. Crowell's ability is to intuitively know the answer to just about any question. It's not the same as knowing the future, he says, because that would require too many variables. He counsels Hale to go landside once again -- Mankind is stagnating in the Keeps and needs to regain its lost capability for conquest and exploration.

Sam Harker's mother dies birthing him, and his father, Blaze, takes out his rage on the infant by having him surgically altered to be short, squat and bald -- very much a freak in Keep and Immortal terms. This is all against the will of Blaze's family, including his father, grandfather and great-grandfather. But having the considerable Harker family resources behind him means that even a psychotic like Blaze can keep Sam's whereabouts a secret. Especially if Sam himself does not realize who and what he is. As Kuttner puts it, "A culture catering to hedonism has its perversions of science. And Blaze could pay well."

Sam, handed over to a family named Reed, grows to adulthood in ignorance of his Harker heritage. He is an amoral man, filled with rage and always willing to sell his acute brain-power for a price. Sam Reed becomes rich and powerful in this way, until his path crosses with that of Kedre Walton, a former lover of his grandfather Zacariah Harker -- Blaze's father. It's rare for Immortals to form liaisons with the short-lived -- and Sam soon learns that Kedre's meeting with him was no accident.

She takes him to Haven, where the Immortals hang out. There, Zacariah Harker and other Immortals reveal to Sam that even though Robin Hale's idea of a surface colony has public support, they are convinced that no one really understands how dangerous it is on the surface. The Immortals don't believe that the Keeps are ready for the sustained effort a landside colony will require. To squelch the growing enthusiasm, they want to hire Sam to kill Hale.

Sam, though, has other ideas. He's under no illusions about how long he will live after he completes this job for Harker and the others. So he tells Hale what they have planned for him, and offers an alternative.

The trouble is, even as Sam is double-crossing the Immortals, someone else is arranging a double-cross for him, one that will take him out of action for 40 years...

The book is a tad dated in places. Venus, for example, is not a jungle world with a breathable if thick atmosphere. There is also notably clunky scene where existing videotapes are edited together, using archival footage projected on -- wait for it -- a sculpted head, then tweaked to add missing words and syllables. Oy! Today, of course, a writer would simply have all this done digitally.

But these minor quibbles shouldn't dissuade you from reading this well written, laconic, and fast-moving book. You might also look up a volume of Kuttner's short stories, often written (again, with his wife C.L. Moore) under the name Lewis Padgett. I recommend Return to Otherness, despite it being out-of-print, or Robots Have No Tails.

Copyright © 2002 A.L. Sirois

A.L. Sirois has been reading and writing science fiction since he was in single digits. He is now closer to triple digits than he cares to think about. His personal site is at http://www.alsirois.com.


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