I first saw James Blish’s name on the shelves of a public library, in the form of a Star Trek novelization. I don’t recall that I knew much about Star Trek at the time – it seems unlikely. But I wasn’t impressed, didn’t borrow the book, and thereafter thought of Blish as ‘the Star Trek guy’. I found this book for free somewhere, and thought I might as well give a try.
I was pleasantly surprised. Blish is a better writer than I’d have predicted. That’s a pretty low bar, though.
The story is decent – UFO lands, inscrutable alien emerges. The actual SF part is pretty by-the-book – not exciting, not bad. The resolution fits a short story better than a short novel. The human part is better – the protagonist, an ex-air force and now reserve pilot has an unexplained reluctance to fly, and trouble with his wife. Blish does a fair job of balancing action with introspection. Unfortunately, while the flying problem is finally explained, the explanation is pretty thin, and not carried through consistently. The marital problem is just never explained. It’s too bad, because I found it the most interesting part of the book. The combination would have worked better a generation earlier.
All in all, a pleasant read, but nothing to go out of your way for. I picked up a number of his other books at the same time I go this one. I don’t see them going to the top of my list any time soon.