I first read this book more years ago than I care to mention. When I found it again while looking for something else it was like becoming reacquainted with an old friend. The story revolves around humans shipwrecked upon a planet whose dominant population is insect, magnified horribly by an environment perfectly suited to their needs. 20 generations or more down the years we meet Burl, who, along with his small tribe group struggle to survive. Things occur that require Burl to think, evaluate, and eventually to return to the thinking state from which he descended. The story is imaginative, exciting and filled with horrible monsters whom, in their diminutive state, can be found in your own back yard. A good read.
On a purely personal level, I would probably rate this book as a 5 star, since it was the first SF book I ever read. that was in 1956, the year the book was published. Pretty heady stuff for a young teen. On a more objective level, the story has several anachronisms, such as a society that has Faster Than Light travel is using punch card data processing. The writing is in the style of 1920s SF, rather than the 50s. It is a story of human accomplishment and struggle against a dverse conditions and their eventual success.
This is one of my favourite vintage Si Fi. I read it many years ago an my copy was falling to pieces. Murray Leinster wrote many books and most are quite good. They are often labelled somewhat juvenile,but I enjoyed then when I was in my teens and now that I am eighty I do still. It is set in a world where humans struggle against against huge insects and spiders.
When my nine year old daughter saw me reading this book and she saw the front cover with a picture of a man fighting a giant spider, she exclaimed: Dad! How immature of you! Why are you reading a book about people fighting giant spiders with spears? I explained to her that thing about not judging a book by its cover. Likewise, should you not judge this book based on my brief synopsis. Hopefully my full review will give the right impression.
Humankind was spreading throughout the galaxy; turning suitable but barren planets into planets fit for life and human population. A seed ship, Orana, lands on an unnamed planet and plant spores, microorganisms, plankton, and fungi. Subsequent seed ships plant fish, plant life, insects and other arthropods. However, due to a clerical error the planet is "forgotten" and the process is never finished. This allows fungi, plants, and insects to grow far beyond their normal size over centuries. The planet becomes a planet with giant mushrooms, giant insects, millipedes, and spiders, but without mammals, birds, or reptiles. The space ship Icarus crash lands on this planet filled with monsters and the crew is lost and forgotten. Through the generations the knowledge of civilization is forgotten and the descendents of the ship wrecked turn into savages. The story is about Burl and his tribe and how they begin to rediscover human knowledge in this brutal world where humans are nothing but vermin and insect feed.
About the book:
The story telling is fast paced and there is stomach churning action on basically every page. It is the type of book that is hard to put down. Even though the premise may seem childish and some of you may have frowned while reading the synopsis, the book is far from a simple minded action read. The description of the insects and the spiders and how they behave and look like is based on the author's expertise in Entomology. The clear descriptions of the arthropod world and how it would look like enlarged was fascinating. His description of how people would live and survive in such a world was also gripping and believable. Well we know that creatures with exoskeletons cannot grow to the sizes described in the book, but I thought this inconsistency was easy to swallow considering all the other quality science. The author is clearly very knowledgeable and he has great skill in realistically portraying a micro world as a macro world.
The book was also about rediscovering civilization and how this could happen. The author's descriptions of the circumstances, the events, and the feelings and thoughts of the protagonist, Burl, were believable and engaging. Rediscovering civilization is not an easy feat. There are habits, feelings, and thought patterns that have to be overcome in addition to discovery and invention. This can only happen under special circumstances with the help of people with suitable personalities.
The book seems like a childish book at first. However, this book was a nice surprise that I enjoyed reading very much. "The forgotten Planet" is a "forgotten masterpiece". I also think this book would make a good movie. I hope a movie producer will consider it one day.