Battle on Mercury

Here’s the first science fiction book I ever read, which I found in the YA section of the public library when I was eleven and which fascinated me.  It’s Battle on Mercury by Lester del Rey writing under the odd pseudonym Erik Van Lhin.  Curious to see if it holds up to reading as an adult, I got a copy through Interlibrary Loan (from Texas A & M – way to go A & M Science Fiction collection!)  Surprise – even though it was first published in 1953, and that shows, it’s still riveting in the darned-good-yarn sort of way. The plot is fast-moving with stakes rapidly ratcheting up.  Not only that:  there’s a sense of wonder, with molten metals and energy-based life forms called wispies on a Mercury that always holds one super-heated face to the sun.  Silicon-based life forms exist in the twilight zone at the edge of the hot face.  Far into the twilight, Mercury is so cold that oxygen is frozen solid.  Cool-!  Central to the plot is the relationship between a boy named Dick – the son of an engineer in a mining colony – and the wispie that Dick named Johnny Quicksilver.  Johnny evolves from trouble-making pet to friend to savior through the agency of an old robot that Dick repaired and that the wispie, it turns out, can operate – including operating the speech circuits.  Natural interplanetary wonders, technology and invention, and unexpected meeting of minds:  that’s good SFnal stuff.

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