When Worlds Collide Review (Classic Sci-Fi)

  • Title: When Worlds Collide | Series: When Worlds Collide #1 | Authors: Philip Wylie (wiki) & Edwin Balmer | Original Pub. Date: 1933 | Ed. Pub: Bison Books | ISBN13: 9780803298149 | Pages: 192 |  Genre: Science Fiction | Language: English | Triggers: None | Rating: 5 out of 5 | Source: Christmas Gift | Purchase on Amazon |

When Worlds Collide

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.  – Goodreads (note: I am reviewing ONLY the first book at this time.)Book cover for When Worlds Collide by Philip Wylie

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When Worlds Collide Review

When Worlds Collide is a book that delighted me on basically every level. It completely caught me up and swept me away. Once I was immersed within it, the world that has developed since the 30s ceased to exist. A delightful surprise. I wasn’t expecting much going into this. I’ve just come off reading an H.G. Wells novel that was a mire to wade through at times (In the Days of the Comet). I was kind of expecting antiquated language and ridiculous execution. Wylie and Balmer defied my expectations in the best of ways.

The drama — Oh, the drama! When Worlds Collide is obviously going to be full of dramatic happenings, but it is written in a way that drips with it. Each word seems carefully chosen to wrest every bit of emotion from the situation. If it was something written today, I’d probably roll my eyes at it. (Actually, I might have rolled my eyes once or twice while reading it.) Mostly, though, I just grinned and gave into the cheese. It flipped my ‘bad SyFy movie lover’ switch early on, and I had no problem basking in the gloriousness of it for the rest of the book.

Now, obviously given the time this was written in, there are going to be some things that offend modern sensibilities. The fact that the main female character is lauded for how unusual she is in the fact that she ‘thinks like a man’. The eager-to-please “Jap servant”.  I’m not going to talk about them too much because this book was written 85 years ago. It was very much a different time then, and to fuss about the content in a pulp book written that long ago seems silly. We’ll just say that yes, there are issues that definitely exist, and leave it at that.

The science of When Worlds Collide is… interesting? Interesting is a good word for it. Much more apt than “accurate”.  Most of it is good, but there were a few things that even had me giving it the stink-eye.  However, this is one of those cases where two things step in and save the day. Firstly, it was such a good read that I just didn’t care. Secondly, it was written 85 bloody years ago. I’m gonna cut them some slack.

This is the one of the earliest written ‘end of the world’ novels that I have read. (The other two were both by H.G. Wells: War of the Worlds, The Time Machine). It is also the only one I’ve ever read that dealt with the passage of another planet bringing an end to life as we know it. Asteroids, zombies, nuclear war, etc, have all had their day in the sun, but stray planets get little love.

Overall, I expect that When Worlds Collide will end up being one of the best novels I’ve read this year. It’s a wonderful book that bulls-eyed me right into my happy zone. I highly recommend it!!