When Worlds Collide

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Overview


A runaway planet hurtles toward the earth. As it draws near, massive tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions wrack our planet, devastating continents, drowning cities, and wiping out millions. In central North America, a team of scientists race to build a spacecraft powerful enough to escape the doomed earth. Their greatest threat, they soon discover, comes not from the skies but from other humans.
 
A crackling plot and ...
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Overview


A runaway planet hurtles toward the earth. As it draws near, massive tidal waves, earthquakes, and volcanic eruptions wrack our planet, devastating continents, drowning cities, and wiping out millions. In central North America, a team of scientists race to build a spacecraft powerful enough to escape the doomed earth. Their greatest threat, they soon discover, comes not from the skies but from other humans.
 
A crackling plot and sizzling, cataclysmic vision have made When Worlds Collide one of the most popular and influential end-of-the-world novels of all time. This Bison Frontiers of Imagination edition features the original story and its sequel, After Worlds Collide.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
The concept of Earth being struck by a large body from space has been a popular plot in several recent films. This 1932 volume, however, was possibly the first to present that scenario. Here, humankind races to complete a spacecraft--an airborne ark--that will carry an assortment of people to begin the population over again as a rogue planet on a collision course with Earth speeds toward a cataclysmic end. Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Revisiting Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer's science fiction classic When Worlds Collide is a wonderful, interesting experience. First, there are the numerous topics that would be looked upon today as politically, environmentally, and socially incorrect: the smoking of cigarettes, big-game hunting in pursuit of trophies, calling the Japanese Japs, the use of asbestos as insulation in spaceships, and reporters acting as reporters rather than makers of news. In addition, imagine what $10,000 was worth in 1932, and compare it to what that amount would be worth today! Second, the science set forth in the book is surprisingly accurate for stories written nearly 70 years ago. For example, the location and amount of seismic damage caused by the first passing of the Bronson planets are amazingly depicted, considering the location of the plate tectonic boundaries that we are aware of today—boundaries not recognized until the 1960s. Likewise, the probability of a major earthquake in the New Madrid, Missouri, area such as that presented in the novel is strong, although the likelihood of major lava flows is not. The presence of volcanoes around the Pacific Ocean, the "Ring of Fire," with ash drifting eastward, is well presented. The depictions of atmospheric processes, such as the hurricanelike winds in the Great Plains, also are realistic, and the design of the solar system that the Bronson planets came from is presented in a scientific manner.

Still, problems with the science that is presented abound. To name just a few, the finding of the type of metal that was used for the atomic engines in the story is difficult to understand, the projection of the earth's population at 1.5 billion isway short of the actual numbers, and the presentation of the age of the earth as 500 million years old is considerably short of the actual age believed today, 4.6-5.0 billion years old. Add to these the depiction of Pluto as being in the same orbital plane as the rest of the planets and the projection of Venus' temperatures as 151 degrees Fahrenheit (way short of the actual temperatures of nearly 900 degrees Fahrenheit, due to the large greenhouse effect on the planet), and it becomes quite clear that the novel is by no means contemporary.

Finally, John Varley's introduction is well written, presenting the important idea of trying to imagine what a number such as a decillion really means. One wonders whether anyone can imagine a billion trillion trillion! The discussion of this number is representative of the originality of the book. When Worlds Collide is as exciting and mind opening today as when it was originally written. Highly Recommended, Grades 5-College, Teaching Professional, General Audience. REVIEWER: Dr. Paul K. Grogger (University of Colorado)

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780803298149
  • Publisher: University of Nebraska Press
  • Publication date: 10/28/1999
  • Series: Bison Frontiers of Imagination Series
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 379
  • Sales rank: 318,376
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author


Philip Wylie (1902–71) wrote several classic works of speculative fiction, including Gladiator and The Disappearance, as well as a popular work of nonfiction, A Generation of Vipers.
 
Edwin Balmer (1883–1959), an engineer, was also a writer of detective stories and speculative fiction. Introducer John Varley is an acclaimed science fiction writer and a winner of the Hugo and Nebula Awards. His books include Wizard, Demon, and Steel Beach.
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
( 6 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 28, 2004

    Best Book Ever

    I have read a lot of books in the sci-fi, fantasy, and horror genre, and if I do say so myself, this is the best of the best. I couldn't put it down. It is an intriguing adventure story as well as a wonderful love story. I recommend it to everyone. I usually like fantasy and horror more than sci-fi, but this book just stands out among the rest.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 13, 2001

    Great reading, even though it is not up to date any more.

    I first read this book when I was in my teens and I am now 63 years old. I remember how drawn I was into a story of the last days of earth and how a new planet would save civilization. I also remember the hollywood movie made by George Pal and how it did the book little justice. Anyways, I still think it is a great book and the sequal 'After Worlds Colide' was an even better book to read. I recommend them both and I look forward to reading both books again.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 31, 2013

    I read this book when I was in the fourth or fifth grade and hav

    I read this book when I was in the fourth or fifth grade and have never forgotten it. I've owned in many different versions... a hardback with the two novels together and numerous paperback editions. Needless to say, the two books (When Worlds Collide and its sequel After worlds Collide) are my all-time favorite reads. It is exciting, and yes, while the science is suspect, the premise is not. I wholeheartedly recommend this boo!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 22, 2006

    Some details hard to swallow, but the big picture is relevant

    I just finished reading the two novels, ¿When Worlds Collide¿, and ¿After Worlds Collide¿, which are contained within this edition. I¿d been meaning to read it for quite some time, and when I discovered people discussing it enthusiastically on a forum, I took it as a signal to finally do so. First I will say that on the whole I think the story has great merit. I¿ll say secondly that I found disappointing the authors relied upon too many fortunate coincidences for my tastes. I¿ll get the coincidences out of the way, so that I can conclude on a good note. First among the unlikely coincidences is the encounter between the intruder-planets & Earth. It¿s prohibitively unlikely that a rogue object from interstellar space ¿in this case the co-orbiting planets Bronson-Alpha & Bronson-Beta- would just happen to come anywhere near Earth, and to compound this unlikelihood is that, after grazing Earth the pair then happen to swing around the Sun exactly such that one of them collides dead-on with Earth. But of course, one improbability is allowed, on the condition that it makes all else in the story possible. So I can¿t really fault the authors on this specifically. I was, however, very disappointed with the next fortuitous instance of serendipity. I don¿t want to give away any more than necessary, so it¿ll have to suffice to say that the salvaging of the human species depends upon perfecting a material able to withstand the immense temperatures generated by nuclear energy. (Real nuclear reactors were some years in the future when this book was written.) Instead of figuring out some clever engineering approach to this problem, the authors simply postulate that a heretofore unknown metal, with the requisite properties, is discovered occurring naturally, just in time to put it to use. Once upon one of the new planets, yet more coincidences crop up. Not wanting to tell too much, all I¿ll say is that they are too conveniently benevolent. On the other hand, I must hand it to the authors for using this story as an opportunity to question the nature of morality. It¿s very definitely discussed as to how current conventions of government & social structure may be just that- conventional. It¿s acknowledged that what we take for granted as socially proper, even necessary, can be a function of the circumstances in which we find ourselves. What we can afford to indulge here & now may be wholly ineffective, maybe even destructive, under more extreme hardships. Cultural absolutism is denied.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2000

    No more Lions

    An intrigiuing story of man's attempt to save civilazation. Good characters although there is some 'poltical incorrectness' in the use of stereotypes. Perfectally acceptable in the 30's when this was written. The sequal is a intriguing adventure of surival and interpersonal relatio

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 30, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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