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When Worlds Collide (1932)

by Philip Wylie, Edwin Balmer

Series: Bronson Beta (1)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3981354,388 (3.73)60
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.… (more)
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This review is written with a GPL 4.0 license and the rights contained therein shall supersede all TOS by any and all websites in regards to copying and sharing without proper authorization and permissions. Crossposted at WordPress, Blogspot, & Librarything by Bookstooge’s Exalted Permission
Title: When Worlds Collide
Series: Bronson Beta #1
Authors: Philip Wylie and Edwin Balmer
Rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Genre: SF
Pages: 225
Words: 83.5K

Synopsis:

From Wikipedia.org

Sven Bronson, a Swedish astronomer working at an observatory in South Africa, discovers a pair of rogue planets, Bronson Alpha and Bronson Beta, which will soon enter the Solar System. In eight months, they will pass close enough to cause catastrophic damage to the Earth. Sixteen months later, after swinging around the Sun, Bronson Alpha (a gas giant) will return to pulverize the Earth and leave. It is hoped that Bronson Beta (discovered to be Earth-like and potentially habitable) will remain and assume a stable orbit.

Scientists led by Cole Hendron work desperately to build an atomic rocket to transport enough people, animals and equipment to Bronson Beta in an attempt to save the human race. Various countries do the same. The United States evacuates coastal regions in preparation for the first encounter. As the planets approach, observers see through their telescopes cities on Bronson Beta. Tidal waves sweep inland at a height of 750 feet (230 m), volcanic eruptions and earthquakes add to the deadly toll, and the weather runs wild for more than two days. As a token of things to come, Bronson Alpha grazes and destroys the Moon.

Three men take a floatplane to check out conditions across the United States and meet with the President in Hutchinson, Kansas, the temporary capital of the United States. It is discovered that the entire Southeast region flooded, the Great Lakes rose and emptied into the Saint Lawrence region, and Connecticut has become an island archipelago. All three are wounded fighting off a mob at their last stop, but manage to return with a precious sample of an extremely heat-resistant metal one of them had noticed. This solves the last remaining engineering obstacle, as no material had been found before to make rocket tubes capable of withstanding the heat of the atomic exhaust for very long.

Five months before the end, desperate mobs attack the camp, killing over half of Hendron's people before they are defeated. With the rocket tube breakthrough, the survivors are able to build a second, larger ship that can carry everyone left alive (instead of only 100 of the roughly thousand people Hendron had recruited). The two American ships take off, but lose contact with each other. Other ships are seen launching from Europe; the French ship's tubes melt, causing it to explode in the upper atmosphere. The original American ship makes a successful landing, but it is unknown if anyone else made it. The survivors find that Bronson Beta is habitable. They also find a road.

My Thoughts:

This is the 3rd “Official” time that I've read this book but I know I read it at least once in Bibleschool and two or three times in highschool, so we're talking at least six times. And I realized that I enjoyed it just as much this time as I have in the past, so its rating got bumped up to 5stars.

This is completely a comfort read. It has the 1930's American mindset, so not only is Scyenze going to save humanity, but humanity is going to save itself. And they do a fine strapping job of it, with brawn, panache and manly friendship overcoming even jealous love interests. You don't get stuff like this anymore. I know because of the review for a book that is coming up for Wednesday :-/

Everyone involved is a paragon of virtue. Even when they struggle with wanting to do the wrong thing, they realize it is wrong and fight and overcome it. Scientists are pure of motive and have no underlying idealogy outside of Truth Seeking, just like how we want them to be even today. The men are brawnly and smart, the women kind and gentle.

The disaster is fantastic, I have to admit. When Bronson Alpha passes Earth for the first time and destroys the moon and causes complete havoc on earth, the authors do a fantastic job of describing the cataclysmic occurrences in such an understated manner that it's not horrifying until after you've read it and think about what just occurred. It's described in a macro enough scale that as long as you have a rough idea of world geography (in terms of land masses and bodies of water) then you too can join in on the horrifying fun of it all.

Of course, the absolute nonsense about Bronson Beta having a breathable atmosphere and even having cities that survived is just something you have to put up. Hence the “scyenze” tag. But it's no more fantastic than John Carter waking up on Mars and marrying a Pod Woman Princess.

★★★★★ ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Nov 22, 2021 |
This is an older story but it has for the most part survived the aging that some sci-fi doesn't. I am not familiar enough with the astrophysics to make a judgement one way or another, but it works for this story. The other sciences have been somewhat been superseded, but the social science hasn't. People are portrayed in ways that could be expected were the world to end, from self sacrifice to survival of the fittest. If you would like to get some vintage sci-fi this is a pretty good one to read. ( )
  GlenRH | Jul 26, 2021 |
The Earth is being side-swiped by a passing gas-giant planet that happens to have a companion satellite of the same size as Earth. The premise is only hokey when you take into account a) the gas giant has an Earth size planet for a satellite; b) the gas giant approaches just near enough the Earth on the first pass to shake up the Earth and allow some people to fly across to colonize the newly warming gas giant’s satellite; c) the gas giant completely destroys the Earth on its return orbit around the sun, before continuing on into space forever; d) the satellite Earth-type planet is caught and manages to stay behind to eccentrically orbit the sun. This scenario is so far-fetched that one is amazed when the various protagonists don’t see anything special about this astronomically impossible occurrence and give zero credence to mention of “divine intervention” from any one, be it God or a superior civilization in space.

Wylie and Balmer have decided to base their story on just this one premise and only ask us to accept the possibility and explore their potential survival scenario with that caveat. So, if we suspend disbelief for a few pages, and accept the stereotyped attitudes of the ‘30s as presented, I think it is a great story. ( )
  majackson | May 17, 2020 |
Read January 2005
Read October 2009

October 2009 Review:
the world is on a collision course with 2 planets heading into our solar system. A group of scientists gather a group of select people and work on a rocket ship to take them to the second, smaller, hopefully inhabitable planet. For something written back in the 1930's, this was good stuff, not pulp fiction'y' at all. ( )
  BookstoogeLT | Dec 10, 2016 |
I can't honestly remember just how much I liked this, sorry. Maybe four stars. It's so great to be on goodreads now and reviewing every book I read so that I don't have this kind of forgetfulness. ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Philip Wylieprimary authorall editionscalculated
Balmer, Edwinmain authorall editionsconfirmed
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This entry represents editions containing only "When Worlds Collide". A number of editions using this title have been published containing both "When Worlds Collide" and "After Worlds Collide". If you have one of these editions, please separate it and combine with the omnibus entry.
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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.

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