The first science fiction books I ever read were Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer’s When Worlds Collide and After Worlds Collide, back when I was nine years old. (Yes, I was annoyingly precocious.) They hooked me for life on the genre. They’re period pieces, quite dated in terms of social values, particularly the role of women, but given that they were written in the early days of the Depression, that’s to be expected. Re-reading them (the original and the sequel) over the years, they seem quaint but they’re still highly entertaining, and in my view brilliant works for their time.

Reading them for the first time in the 1950s, aside from the great adventure of escaping Earth as it was being destroyed and reaching another planet safely, I was struck by the authors’ prescience.  In After Worlds Collide, each of Earth’s major powers sends a mission that establishes a settlement on the new planet, so we have the Americans, the Brits, the French, (who, of course, crashed,) the Germans, Italians, and Japanese, (the Chinese burned up in the atmosphere).  Amazingly, writing in 1933, the authors predicted World War II played out on the new planet with startling accuracy, even to the extent of Italy starting out on the side of Germany and Japan, and switching sides in the middle of the war.  That blew my young mind (I was ten by then) and as I said, I was forever hooked. But then, Philip Wylie was a pretty sharp guy.

If you know any young people (or older people, for that matter) who are looking for something different, I highly recommend these two books.

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