Harrison, Harry: Deathworld v1 21 aug 2009
Harry Harrison (born Henry Maxwell Dempsey, March 12, 1925) is an American science fiction author best known for his character the Stainless Steel Rat and the novel Make Room! Make Room! (1966), the basis for the film Soylent Green (1973). He is also (with Brian Aldiss) co-president of the Birmingham Science Fiction Group.
Deathworld is the name of a series of science fiction novels by Harry Harrison including the books Deathworld (first published 1960, anthologized in Astounding Science Fiction), Deathworld 2 (1964) and Deathworld 3 (1968) which along with the short story "The Mothballed Spaceship" (written as part of a tribute to John W. Campbell) are the only books available in English with the rest being published in Russian. The central hero is a gambler who becomes involved with colonists of an extremely hostile planet.
There are several hints that the novels take place in the same universe as Harrison's The Stainless Steel Rat series; however, other hints suggest a similar universe but not exactly the same one. For example, at several points in the Deathworld series, the novels mention the Special Corps with Inskipp as its leader; however, the story "The Mothballed Spaceship" mentions an armada about to attack Earth - a planet that is long destroyed in the time of The Stainless Steel Rat universe.
Deathworld centers on Jason dinAlt, a professional gambler who uses his erratic psionic abilities to tip the odds in his favor. He is challenged by a man named Kerk Pyrrus (who turns out to be the ambassador from the planet Pyrrus) to turn a large amount of money into an immense sum by gambling at a government-run casino. He succeeds and survives the planetary government's desperate efforts to steal back the money. In a fit of ennui, he decides to accompany Kerk to his home, despite being warned that it is the deadliest world ever colonized by humans.
Pyrrus has a gravity of 2 g; its 42° axial tilt creates severe weather; it is very active tectonically, with frequent earthquakes and volcanic eruptions; and it possesses two moons, Samos and Bessos, comparable in size to Earth's in separate orbits, each creating its own tides that sometimes combine into rises and falls of up to 30 meters, that have been known to flood active volcanoes and create even more violent weather. Finally, there have been numerous supernovae in its vicinity, meaning that planets in the area are rich in radioactive ores. Pyrrus is the only habitable planet in the area, and the only one from which efforts to mine the area's ores can be sustained, making it a world of incredible potential value. It also means the planet's environment contains high levels of radiation.
Everything on the planet is predatory, and capable of killing an unwary human instantly. All large animals are strong enough to destroy small vehicles. All small animals have neurotoxic venom. All plants are carnivorous, even if only by fiat - their victims fertilize their soil. All microorganisms consume insufficiently protected tissue as quickly as acids. On top of this, all the aforementioned life evolves so quickly that even Kerk and his Pyrran crew have to be retrained upon their return in order to survive.
This etext was produced from Astounding Science Fiction January, February and March 1960. Extensive research did not uncover any evidence that the U.S. copyright on this publication was renewed.