THE PLANET JUGGLER (1908) – Written by J. George Frederick. An early space opera set in an undesignated future year. Absurdly enough, Esperanto has become the global language in a reflection of the high hopes held by Esperanto speakers at the time this book was written.
An alien from the planet Canopus broadcasts a message to the entire Earth, in Esperanto of course. The extraterrestrial demands 500 million tons of gold or else it will send the Earth hurtling into the sun.
The Planet Juggler claims to have monitored Earth people for a decade, thus accounting for their fluency in Esperanto, but world leaders are skeptical that it’s all a hoax perpetrated by someone on our own planet. To disabuse Earthlings of that notion, the alien entity shuts down all of the electricity in and around New York.
Later, to convince any remaining doubters, the Canopian throws the Earth out of its orbit just enough to make their point. World leaders surrender and claim to be mining enough gold to meet the demanded 500 million tons. Secretly, the scientist Elverson and a network of other brilliant minds desperately struggle to devise a solution to this crisis.
At last the Brain Trust perfects a means of blocking out energy transmissions from Canopus to Earth, making our planet immune to the danger of being thrown into the sun. To counter that move, the Planet Juggler sends Mars – which is inhabited by scientifically advanced giants in this story – toward the Earth to wipe out both planets.
The malevolent alien entity plans to ultimately destroy all of the universe’s “lesser races” anyway, so it has no qualms about how many planets it may have to destroy to achieve its own ends. Gold is rare on Canopus, but the Planet Juggler knows they can find it on other worlds instead of Earth.
Earth strikes back at this move by developing our own means of moving planets and simply have our world skedaddle out of the way of the approaching Mars. Earthlings share the scientific secret with the huge Martians, who make the Red Planet as immune to energy broadcasts from Canopus as Earth has become.
In a weirdass maneuver that came decades before Space: 1999, the entire planets Earth and Mars travel through interstellar space to take the war to Canopus. (And I used to think it was silly when just the Moon was be-bopping around the cosmos.)
Along the way, another alien planet, this one called Achernar, joins forces with Earth and Mars against the common enemy on Canopus. The beings who inhabit Achernar are intelligent gasses, in an imaginative touch.
Luckily – or anticlimactically depending on your point of view – the interplanetary war is brought to a close when it becomes clear that the Planet Juggler is just a rogue Canopian and does not represent the entire planet. The government of Canopus deals with the criminal itself and the conflict is over.
The Planet Juggler, despite being written in the early 20th Century, has the feel of something penned in the mid-1800s or earlier. Regular readers of my Ancient Science Fiction blog posts will be aware of the way many pre-1908 stories tried to be a little more grounded than this novel’s absurd concept of planets flying off on their own around the universe.
This is a fun read, but if you’re not in the mood to make allowances for its age you should avoid it.
FOR TEN MORE EXAMPLES OF ANCIENT SCIENCE FICTION CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/2014/03/03/ten-neglected-examples-of-ancient-science-fiction/
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/