Monday, November 5, 2007

First on Mars by Rex Gordon (1957)

First on Mars, by Rex Gordon, a pseudonym of Stanley Bennett Hough (1957).

At left: 1957 paperback edition (New York: Ace Books, 1957), #D-233, 192 p., 35¢. From the back cover:

"One man alone on an alien world. He crash-landed on Mars fifteen years ahead of any other Earth expedition. He was without communications, without supplies, and with nothing but the wreck of an experimental rocket for resources. What is more it was the planet Mars as astronomers know it really to be – not just a fictional fantasy background for glamorous adventure. It was barren, cold, more grimly inhospitable than the top of Mount Everest. And if it had inhabitants, they were conspicuous by their absence. The story of how one determined man set out to survive on a world whose very air he couldn't safely breathe is an astounding science-fiction saga of the most grippingly realistic type … a novel to be remembered.”

While the book’s cover trumpets Gordon Holder, the main character, as “The Robinson Crusoe of The Red Planet,” the copyright page contains the following verse:

Poor old Robinson Crusoe,
How ever could they do so?
They made him a coat
From an old nanny goat,
Poor old Robinson Crusoe
."

This verse, of course, is a variation of Poor Old Robinson Crusoe, the Mother Goose nursery rhyme based upon Daniel Defoe’s British novel, Robinson Crusoe (1719).

Originally published as No Man Friday in Great Britain in 1956, First on Mars was reprinted by Avon Books in 1976 as part of its Science Fiction Rediscovery Series.

Interestingly, a Paramount Pictures film, Robinson Crusoe on Mars, was released in 1964. Shot in California’s Death Valley, the film was based upon both Defoe’s classic novel and Gordon’s science fiction book. It starred, among others, Adam West, of Bruce Wayne fame.

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