The Worlds of Eclos is a short novel by ‘Rex Gordon’, the pseudonym for Stanley Bennett Hough.
I discovered Rex Gordon last year when I found a copy of No Man Friday. I looked him up and that that was the second book in a list on Wikipedia. Utopia 239 being the first I sought out a copy of that, enjoying it too, and when I discovered January was Vintage Sci-Fi Month I ordered a copy of the third book on the list, The Worlds of Eclos, since it was published in 1959.
Each of these books have a common theme which the author seems to enjoy; the idea of being the first. Utopia 239 is about the first time travellers (although the fourth book seems set to repeat that concept), the second, as its alternative title reveals, is First on Mars and is very much like the later book and movie The Martian (more on that in a moment). The Worlds of Eclos’ alternative title is First to the Stars and instead of it being about a single man that ends up jetting off into outer space, it is a man and a woman, therefore we have their relationship dynamics to contend with.
Since this was book was written in a time when men and women were treated somewhat more differently, I found it somewhat amusing. These two people were placed together in a rocket and blasted off into space; the idea being that a man couldn’t survive without going mad if he was sent on his own, or should he be sent with another man they would end up trying to kill each other. It not being feasible to manage the weight of three or more people these two were selected and it was somewhat odd (and seemingly unprofessional by today’s standards) that they hadn’t got used to each other prior to their mission. The amusing part came when just three short chapters in and the guy contemplating slapping the woman, as if that was a totally understandable thing to do. Naturally the woman despised the man and her task for the first part was to avoid him trying to have his way with her (his being to wait for the time when she will love him), although that seemed to be an expected part of the mission, and ultimately happened once they crash landed on a distant planet and their survival, as the only members of a species on that world depended on it. Of course, the woman held ‘all of the cards’ exclaiming “If I can forgive you for not letting us die, we’ll make out.” This book would clearly make a great movie because there there always has to be sex, or at least making out when a man and a woman experience such a near-death experience, or kill baddies or something like that (probably two people with the same genitalia also but that would be pointless for the plot here and not something I think you’d expect to read in 1959).
How this couple ended up on this distant world so far from Earth was explained with, I suppose, a crude rendering of Einstein’s Theory of Relativity merged together into what the author termed ‘time shifting’. It was quite like reading a physics book on what would probably happen if you could travel into a black hole, and also reminded me of the pilot episode of Farscape where John Crichton gets shot through a wormhole. When crash landed on this world in The Worlds of Eclos though, complete with its two suns (because every habitable alien planet has to have those) it was more like Star Wars when Luke Skywalker’s craft sinks in the mud, but no use of the Force here; the craft is lost and the two people are left to survive with nothing.
Magically they do survive; they can eat and drink what they need to with no ill effects. Similar to how Matt Damon has all the necessary skills he needs in order to survive on Mars until his rescue, this couple combined have those skills; him the practical mechanic and her a biologist. The problems arise when the woman gets pregnant (because Matt Damon couldn’t do that on his own) and it is sad to read that the woman dies shortly after giving birth. Also magically though, an alien race is spotted nearby who just happen to be visiting that planet, and the very same area, at the time so the guy takes his newly born daughter to them as his only chance for her survival.
The pair of them get taken off to this alien race’s planet where they live for some 14 years, she learning more about their ways than he, before being brought back to our solar system, which due to the concept of Time Shifting, is now some 200 years in the future.
If all of that sounds a little silly and far-fetched, well, it’s not actually that bad. I enjoyed the read and the author does quite well to make is ideas sound plausible. In addition him relaying his understanding of the Theory of Relativity (even if bent and twisted to his own use) he seems to like playing around with topics of gender since the alien race have three. He also gives some thought-provoking and philosophical topics, and I particularly liked his imagined alien race and the details he comes up with for those. I’ll leave you with this quotation from the book:
“The attachment of the human peasant to his soil seemed to me to have been a cul de sac of evolution, keeping men in one place, making them conservative, and setting their minds against all progress.”