AROUND A DISTANT STAR (1904) – Written by Mrs Muirson Blake under the alias Jean Delaire.
This British novel features the brilliant Royal “Roy” Staunton and his old school friend Delafield. The latter returns to Great Britain after 7 years in India and renews his acquaintance with the scientific genius.
In the intervening years Roy studied the works of Tesla, Kelvin, Roentgen and other giants of science and developed plans for several futuristic inventions of his own. He has been sitting on the plans for awhile because he wants to secretly carry out a project with Delafield at his side.
Staunton has perfected a means of electronically-powered space travel which will propel his two-man vessel at a speed of TWO THOUSAND TIMES THE SPEED OF LIGHT. Previously he used another of his inventions, a “super-telescope” to discover a distant planet capable of sustaining human life.
Royal has his old school chum fly off with him to that planet, which he has named Kallistos, and which is 2,000 light years away from our planet. Though it is just one of 25 such life-sustaining worlds discovered by Staunton with his super-telescope, Roy insists on exploring Kallistos before any of the others precisely because of its distance from the Earth.
Upon arrival on that far-off planet after their voyage of light-warping speed, Staunton and Delafield assemble one of Roy’s super-telescopes. Since light from Earth is just now reaching Kallistos from roughly 1900 years in the past, Royal plans to be able to use his ‘scope to observe the suffering and crucifixion of Jesus Christ, whom he has come to regard as the greatest person who ever lived.
Ignoring the most obvious problems inherent in such a plan, the narrative throws a whole different obstacle at our heroes. They’ve landed in the wrong part of Kallistos for them to be able to scrutinize events from Earth’s Middle East of long ago once the light DOES finally reach the planet.
Their space craft is no good for purely intra-atmospheric flight, so the pair set about a Fitzcarroldo-style quest to manually transport the super-scope equipment to a different hemisphere. Along the way they deal with the simple-minded ape-like beings on Kallistos as well as hostile life-forms like tentacled man-eating plants which induce hallucinations to lure human/ primate prey.
Staunton and Delafield at last succeed, using wheeled vehicles and boats, then patiently wait. Using the super-scope with its incredibly tight focus they observe in the delayed light-waves the betrayal in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ march toward Calvary, the crucifixion, death AND the resurrection.
Ready to share this confirmation of the events with the entire world, the duo prepare to return to Earth in their interstellar craft. Royal reveals to his longtime friend that he (Royal) must stay behind because he needs to operate the dynamo which will send the spaceship back toward their home planet.
Staunton shares the Earthly location of his scientific papers and tells Delafield that he is happy to stay on Kallistos, studying the animals, plants and especially the development of the semi-human apelings.
Delafield returns alone to the Earth and publicizes the results of his and Royal’s journey. He also publishes his old friend’s papers, which revolutionize science. Based on Staunton’s discoveries and inventions, humanity is moving into a Golden Age, complete with plans to travel to all the planets the scientific genius discovered and more.
Around A Distant Star is a lot of fun with its eccentric blend of science fiction and religion. It’s not really all that heavy-handed with the proselytizing so I’m perplexed by its lack of wider fame. +++
FOR MY ORIGINAL LIST OF TEN DIFFERENT WORKS OF “ANCIENT” SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE *** FOR THE FOLLOWUP LIST OF EIGHT DIFFERENT WORKS OF “ANCIENT” SCI FI CLICK HERE *** AND FOR TWENTY MORE CLICK HERE
FOR WASHINGTON IRVING’S 1809 depiction of an invasion from the moon click here: https://glitternight.com/2014/05/05/ancient-science-fiction-the-men-of-the-moon-1809-by-washington-irving/
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