Space Train! Sabotage sent them to the skies…

I will review Terence Haile’s 1962 novel Space Train in my February reviews, but you can get a pretty good idea of the story from these extracts. The whole book is like this. I’d say this post contains spoilers but I’m not entirely certain that’s possible.

The Blurb, which has been called the best part of the book:

He caught sight of a gigantic claw, then a scrambled vision of crab-like features [I want to use this description of someone one day, but I do wonder about the background of a character who can instantly recognise a crab’s features – especially scrambled] passed over the window. To his astonishment, other crab-like shapes appeared from all sides. But such crabs! [Best line of book] They were as large as buses, and a distinct brown colour [I love the abrupt mundanity of this detail] in the reflected light of the rocket’s [=train] interior illumination.

Due to the Current Economic Situation, supplies of apostrophes are limited – please restrict use of contractions:

“Mr. Glyce, you are a brainy man I can see!” he said still somewhat overwhelmed by the immensity of the project. “If this thing comes off you will receive the title of genius!” p88

In which bystanders fail to say “old chap”:

Several disingusihed-looking [sic] city gentlemen exchanged apprehensive glances. “I say, where has this absurd story come from?” p104

Sole instance of humour, deployed in entirely the wrong circumstances:

Pandemonium broke loose. Crowds ran over the lines, round the platforms, climbed the bridges and generally showed the kind of behaviour usually associated with well-drilled football multitudes. It was an awe-inspiring sight, but Alice and Mrs Glyce just felt sick and empty. p105

I don’t think vacuums work like that:

The cloud of foul air hung in space, and Mike wondered, idly, if some future generation of space-adventurers would find that tiny pocket of air in the gigantic vacuum of the universe. It might even be the means of saving someone’s life! 117
He could see sunshine, filtering through the crab’s claws on the window. Had they landed? On earth? It was too incredible! It couldn’t be, surely. Yet that was sunshine, and he was thinking clearly.

Or science:

And, knowing all the secrets of this engine, he could have rapidly established a position in which he would have been supreme scientific dictator! [Mwahahaha] p154

Or magnets:

When he switched off the magnetic-track control in the sealed room at the London station, to which only he had admittance, knew that no one would ever connect him with the rocket-train’s disappearance. Released from the magnetic pull, the rocket, at its terrific speed, had soared upwards out of this world forever, in Mediu’s [I knew he was the bad guy because he has a foreign-sounding name] estimation. He had expected the whole thing to disintegrate in space; so that, when he replaced the magnetic-track control switch in its correct position, he had not anticipated that the action would have an immediate effect on the Glyce rocket, exerting its powerful pull on the heavily magnetised under-track of the train.
By a queer trick of fate, the moment of arrival on the track of the ‘space-rover’
[I wonder what the earliest use of that term is] had been a second or two before the arrival of Mediu’s own train on the spot. This was explained, in theory, by Mike’s formula, which Aubrey Bender had partially worked out the night before the return of the wanderers.
Like poles repel; unlike poles attract. The trains were unalike because of the ‘Crab-ballast’ carried by Mike’s rocket. Otherwise, there would possibly have been no smash.

Or politics, but it’s an ill wind that blows no good:

So, in spite of everything that had gone wrong previously, Mike had indirectly wrought a fundamental change in the pattern of British politics! p155

23 thoughts on “Space Train! Sabotage sent them to the skies…

  1. :)
    I’ve been howled down for saying it would work quite well as an old episode of Doctor Who, if it had Doctor Who in it (although there is a reference to a little box lost in time and space). Not good old Doctor Who, just old Doctor Who. Will – it would film very easily as a very low-grade 60s SF film.

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  3. Thanks, Vanessa! I still don’t know why your comments always get diverted to the post before – I’m not sure if I can fix it, but I’ll try.

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  6. Wow! I remember that book!
    So I didn’t imagine the surreal awfulness of the writing after all….
    I remember I kept coming across copies of it in second-hand bookstores, as if people couldn’t get rid of it quickly enough.

    It’s up there with a hardcover omnibus I have of: “The Scariest Ghost Stories Ever Written” (or words to that effect). It’s a splendid collection of the most boring and decidedly non-scary short stories ever put into print by a Non-Vanity publisher, I’m sure:-)

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  8. Despite the awesome power of eBay, I have yet to track down a copy of Space Train. When will it come out on Kindle, that’s the question on everybody’s lips….

  9. Sorry, I didn’t intend to post so soon. Did you know that Terence Haile has written not one, but TWO SF novels?! Here’s an extract from a review of his second published work:
    ” ‘Galaxies Ahead’ (1963) is similarly implausible, with space travellers attaining ridiculous longevity – over a million years – not through any Relativistic effect or Stasis Field but simply because “we were in an air-locked compartment and did not do anything but sleep for most of the time, thus conserving our energy . . .”

  10. I eventually secured a copy on eBay, and you’re right, there is no biographical info. So touching to learn that Admiral Aubrey Springer finally achieved his heart’s desire :-)
    Gawd; what a drawn-out conversation this has been….

  11. I recently re-made the acquaintance of another lost classic of my boyhood: “When the Moon Ran Wild” by Ray Ainsbury. This concerns the post-Apocolyptic world created by “A world Power” exploding a 10,000 megaton atomic bomb behind the moon, pushing it closer to Earth and doubling its orbital period to twice a day, rather than its normal “once per day”. (Er …WHAT?!)It is a truly bizarre work, combining old-fashioned derring-do with a complete indifference to scientific fact. If nothing else it introduced me to the concept of “Putrified Tripe”. Hope this link works :-)

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