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July/August 2012
 
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Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet, by Blake Savage (1952)

"COULD A green young Planeteer, just through his training, possibly carry out orders like these? Sunny space, what a trick it would be!" So says the cover blurb, and oh, boy, would it ever!

Rip Foster Rides the Gray Planet was what we used to call a "boy's book"; i.e., an adventure potboiler written to a fairly strict formula and never intended to be anything other than a couple of hours' entertainment for some star-struck kid on his way from The Cat in the Hat to Starship Troopers.

Written by Harold L. Goodwin (who also wrote the Rick Brant books) under the pseudonym Blake Savage, it fits comfortably in the middle of those extremes. Goodwin was a Marine during the war, and if that didn't influence the way he wrote Rip Foster, nothing did.

Here's the basic plot: the titular character, a newly minted Planeteer, is deployed to serve with the Space Force (think U.S. Navy), who, like all good sailors, enjoy a mostly good-natured rivalry with the astronautical equivalent of the Marines. Their common enemy is the Consolidated People's Governments, or "Connies." See where this is going?

Right. Published originally in 1952, this is definitely a Cold War boys' book, written smack in the middle of the Korean conflict and playing on the country's interest in—and fear of—atomic war. The two sides are both going after an asteroid that just happens to be pure thorium, which we want to use for peaceful purposes, of course, but they…well, it goes without saying, doesn't it? Sunny space, I guess it does!

—Bud Webster

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