Review: The Wanderer
The Wander by Fritz Leiber won the Hugo award in 1965 and, so far, is my least favorite of the Hugo award novels. In fact had I not been planning to write about it I would have quit this book at about a third of the way through. That said, this book did pick up in the second half as the story begins to explain what is going on rather than the characters simply trying to survive.
That is where the book has the biggest problem for me. This is largely a disaster story. It begins as something appears in space around the earth. It turns out to be a planet and very quickly the gravity of this planet begins to cause problems for the earth and even more for the moon which is broken up and begins to be absorbed by this planet which is called the wanderer. Though at first they do not even know for certain that it is a planet.
Gravity is the main issue at this point. The Wanderer is far bigger than the moon and causes a lot of problems including volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. The most important of these though is massive tides and much of the book is about trying to escape it.
Partway through the book space ships begin to be seen around the world. They appear to be trying to help. This makes things even harder to understand. At this point the story picks up as they are saved by one of the aliens who takes one of the men and drops a 'gun'.
The gun is effectively a repulsor If you point it at something and pull the trigger it pushes it away. This convinces them that they need to get it to a scientist which forces them to travel across the world letting them see a lot more of it.
The best part of the story is on the alien ship. The main alien is a cat woman who explains much of what is going on. She also explains what the wanderer is. It is a planet that can use Hyperspace to travel through the galaxy. The problem is that they are not supposed to do so. It seems that the government of the galaxy has limited hyperspace travel to official sources. Effectively meaning that only the government has the ability. You also learn that the galaxy is effectively immortal and becoming more conservative because the age of the citizens of the universe are getting older. In addition to stopping them from using hyperspace they seem to also limit things like privacy. It is because of them that the wanderer was was fleeing from them.
I have never cared all that much for disaster movies. They feel like they rely far too much on the spectacle and special effects and often they have character simply trying to survive with little or no explanation what will happen after the story is over. This book felt like one of those but without the flashy special effects to hold my attention because I really never cared about any of the people in this book and even less about what was happening most of the time. Still, this has some interesting ideas and I can understand why someone might like it, I just don't care a lot for Fritz Leibers style.