Sinister Barrier by Eric Frank Russell (The World’s Work, 1943) Russell’s first novel evinces nothing of his later puckishness. Instead it is a hardboiled SF invasion yarn that reads well under its own steam but less so when the characters act as mouthpieces for Russell’s Fortean beliefs, which informed the chilling concept.
Design for Great-Day by Eric Frank Russell (Planet Stories, January 1953); subsequently republished as ‘The Ultimate Invader’ [Novella] In several of his stories Russell took delight in sending up blinkered authority. In this novella he endowed his protagonist not only with the usual insouciance but also the ethical clout of a highly advanced multi-species commune. At first rib-tickling, then earnest.…
Men, Martians and Machines by Eric Frank Russell (Dennis Dobson, 1955) A fix-up novel in which Russell’s characteristic humour is tempered in favour of fully realised SF space opera. Few who’ve read these four interlocked novelettes/novellas will ever forget their mixed-species crew, nor the ingeniously bellicose alien environments that Russell conjures for exploration.
The Great Explosion by Eric Frank Russell (Dennis Dobson, 1962) The novel whose gentle drollery earned Russell a posthumous Prometheus Award for libertarian SF. Russell’s short stories often poked fun at authority. In this longer form his anti-conformist, anti-bureaucratic ribbing encompasses also a wistful sense of the individual’s place amongst the stars.
With a Strange Device by Eric Frank Russell (Dobson, 1964) Where Russell was renowned for humorous SF, this novel seems more in keeping with Cold War espionage stories (or within Russell’s spectrum, his early Fortean noir outings Sinister Barrier and Dreadful Sanctuary), and maintains its intrigue even upon second or third reading.
Three to Conquer by Eric Frank Russell (Avalon, 1956) Russell selectively breeds two SF storylines — alien body snatchers and telepathic outsider — to produce a memorable invasion tale, told in the manner of hardboiled detective fiction (itself melding lone wolf with FBI manhunt). Cited for possible adaptation during Doctor Who’s planning stages.
Sentinels from Space by Eric Frank Russell (Bouregy & Curl, 1952) Even if the intrigue generated by Russell’s shadowy, casually powerful protagonist transpires to be greater than the underlying premise — a conceptual stunner, much alluded to but then minimalist in denouement — the story’s (xeno-)sociopolitical setting alone offers plenty of mileage for intelligent exploration.